'Haunted Mansion' director brings iconic Disney theme park ride to life with star-studded new film

Haunted Mansion is the last ride that Walt Disney had a hand in developing.

ByAlicia Vitarelli OTRC logo
Tuesday, July 25, 2023
'Haunted Mansion' director brings iconic Disney ride to life
Haunted Mansion is the last ride that Walt Disney had a hand in developing.

The iconic Disney theme park ride "Haunted Mansion" is coming to life in a brand new, live-action film.

The star-studded cast includes Jamie Lee Curtis, Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson, Tiffany Haddish and Lakeith Stanfield.

The man responsible for this ghoulishly good cast also happens to be one of Disney's biggest fans.

Director Justin Simien says he is "obsessed" and his extensive research started as a child, and the "billion" times he's been on the ride at both Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

"When I was nine, my mom saved up and took us to Walt Disney World," Simien says. "It was one of the first rides we rode. I'll never forget coming out of the ride and really, really wondering if that hitchhiking ghost was still hanging out with me."

The answer was "yes." It seems that the hitchhiker has been hanging out with Simien since.

"As I got older, I ended up working at Disneyland," he says. "I used to ride Pirates of the Caribbean and I used to ride Haunted Mansion and go, 'How do I do this in a movie?' It is wild to literally have this assignment."

Simien assembled an A-list cast and even arrived at the D23 Expo in a Doom Buggy attraction vehicle with Jamie Lee Curtis, who plays Madame Leota.

"Whose head would look cooler in a crystal ball," he laughed. "Absolutely nobody."

Haunted Mansion is the last ride that Walt Disney had a hand in developing.

Simien took great pride in preserving every detail, from the busts to the wallpaper.

"I had already obsessed over this ride and rode it countless times," he says. "When we did start making the movie though, they toured us through it with the lights on, which is wild. It takes the magic away, but it also reveals that there's so much going on in that ride. You don't even notice because it moves by you so quickly. We got to thoroughly investigate this thing."

With that, Simien created the story of this mansion, its 999 happy haunts, and why "there's always room for one more."

"There are a lot of questions that are left unanswered on that ride," he says. "To actually go in like a fanboy ... was really, really fun."

"Haunted Mansion" opens in theaters only on July 28.

Disney is the parent company of this ABC station.