Haunted Mansion 40th Anniversary

“When hinges creak in doorless chambers, and strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls, whenever candlelights flicker where the air is deathly still, that is the time when ghosts are present, practicing their terror with ghoulish delight.”


Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion in California is celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2009, and they’ve invited back one of their favorite illustrating artists, Josh Agle (aka Shag) to commemorate the event. In August, Shag will capture the ghoulish delights of Haunted Mansion and Shag fans alike with the release of 13 original paintings portraying Disney’s famous haunted attraction. Each original painting tells a chapter of the experience in a way only Shag can illustrate, taking us step by step through the beloved attraction, which has been haunting fans since 1969.




It’s no wonder Disney selected Shag as the artist to commemorate the Haunted Mansion anniversary. In 2001, Shag created The Coolest Ghouls, a tribute with clear inspiration from Disney’s Haunted Mansion poster featuring the hitchhiking ghosts. Shag has also worked with Disney before, creating original works to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Enchanted Tiki Room, and more recently recreating the Five Original Lands posters in celebration of Disneyland’s 50th Anniversary.


In the first painting of the Haunted Mansion series, Shag has painted a long-gone, dearly departed Ghost Host, dressed in traditional Haunted Mansion cast member garb.


Guests at the mansion are immediately reminded that some encounters might be of passed-on loved ones. The entry takes you by the pet cemetery, which Shag has painted in the second original, The Dearest Departed. Keep alive, and you might just see some of the happy haunts smiling at you from the porch. Several of Shag’s paintings show materialized spirits in a way they might have been illustrated in the 1950’s and 60’s, an era Shag has taken much inspiration from.


Shag takes us inside the Haunted Mansion’s foreboding gallery, where he has replicated paintings of past guests as they appeared in their mortal state. The haunted room appears to stretch while the ghost host offers a most Dismaying Observation (painting 3),  pointing  out that the chamber has no windows, and no doors. In Disney’s attraction, the ghost challenges the visitors to find a way out, and suggests they try his way. Shag translates the suggestion in the detailed painting where a swinging body is revealed within the ceiling when lightning strikes with thunderous alarm.


The Haunted Mansion’s guests find their way out through the Portrait Hallway (painting 4), which features several prominent ghosts who have retired within the mansion. Four of the 999 happy haunts are portrayed in the gallery, and Shag has captured them well through individual portraits of their post-corruptable state.




Shag has materialized the disembodied in many of his paintings, beginning with his fifth painting Madam Leota, who has a remarkable way of establishing contact with the dearly departed. The Leota painting brings together all the elements to awaken the spirits with music from regions beyond. Shag has paid special attention to many of the details, especially down to the ornate woodwork in the Victoria-style chair, adorned by a black bird also found perched on the chair in the ride.




Shag has assembled the spirits within the mansion in classic form, illustrating their participation of Ghoulish Delights (painting six) in great detail – A sword wielding spirit with wine glass in hand, down to the deceased lady making a birthday wish. 




Shag’s depiction in the seventh painting, Swinging Wakemirrors the lively ballroom scene, from the organ, organist and details in the chair, to the tall ghostly-tuned pipes, with spirited skulls floating up like deceased musical notes.


Visitors exit the mansion through the haunted estate’s attic, where Shag is able to utilize his amazing eye for architectural detail and feminine portrait. The slanting attic roof is draped with happy spooks, peering at the Gruesome Widow (painting eight), where her heart still beats for her headless husband.


Upon exiting the attic and entering the mansion’s graveyard, visitors encounter a wide array of spooks, ghouls and lively statues. Shag’s depiction of the famous Singing Busts portrays each of the happy haunts vocalizing for the swinging graveyard wake. And in classic Shag form, a black cat is strategically placed in the Singing Busts painting, leaving us no question that we are within a lively colored painting created by no other than Shag himself.




Continuing through the ride, visitors come across a full moon climbing high over the dead oak tree, creating weird glows over the creaking crypt doors and the harmonizing Graveyard Band. Shag pays special attention to detail, down to the peering owls overlooking five fancy hat-wearing musicians.


Shag has painted spooks of every size, including the operatic fat lady in his detailed painting The Fat Lady Sings. He has masterfully captured the weird gleaming glow where the spirits dwell, painting each grinning socializing ghost just as they are found in the attraction.


And not forgetting to mention the little matter of hitchhiking ghosts, Shag has painted the concluding experience in A Ghost to Follow You Home, the widest of the 13 paintings.




For those not lucky enough to acquire an original from the series, there will be an opportunity to purchase a limited edition serigraph of We’re Dying to Meet You. And for the first time, Shag will be offering a giclee on canvas reproduction of three originals, including Ghoulish Delights (pictured above). The lasting quality of inks in serigraph production, and the crispness of the lines has been a proven and preferred method of Shag’s. However, the richness and lasting quality of inks used in producing giclees have come a long way, as proven in Disney’s release of Amanda Visell works commemorating the Enchanted Tiki Room’s 45th anniversary.


Disney and Shag will also be releasing a wide array other merchandise, including coasters, mini-prints and an urn cookie jar. You can see all the merchandise here.




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