Wednesday, February 17

Master of the Mansion

Haunted Mansion
Magic Kingdom, Walt Disney World
Katy 2008

Over the years, cast members (and more than a few guests) have mistakenly believed that “Master Gracey” was the master of the Disney Haunted House attraction—thanks to a tombstone in the graveyard written by X Atencio, Imagineer and show writer for the attraction, that declares: “Master Gracey, laid to rest, no mourning please, at his request.” (pictured above)

Its been said that the aging “Dorian Grey” style portrait is a representation of “Master Gracey” or that the hanging man in the stretching gallery is the “master.” None of those assumptions were intended by the original Imagineers, but these legends are so in trenched in Disney lore that Cast Members are known to place a rose on Master Gracey's tomb from time to time. Even the craprrific live-action movie staring Eddie Murphey, and based on the Disney attraction, tried to make the lore officially part of the story. (If you haven't seen this movie, don't).

In truth, X Atencio was using the turn of the century, term “master” (as in a boy too young to be called “mister”) to offer a tribute to His fellow Imagineer, the boyish Yale Gracey.

Gracey was called an “Illusioner” in the days before the term “Imagineer” was coined. But for those who worked with him, Yale’s love of magic and the creation of unusual effects made him a modern Merlin the magician. His work can be seen through out the many classic Disney attractions.

Of course, his most famous work comes from when he was teamed up with Rolly Crump to assist Ken Anderson and later X Atencio, Marc Davis and Claude Coats with telling the story of a haunted New Orleans mansion. Unfortunately, many of the most fantastic (and never re-created) effects that Gracey and Crump developed were never used in the attraction when it was changed from a walk-through event (with more time for guests to see an effect evolve) to a moving vehicle, which meant the animation had to be short cycled because it could not be determined whether a guest would see the beginning, middle or end of the cycle of action.

Imagineer Bob Gurr, who was instrumental in the design of the omnimover system which eventually carried guests through the Haunted Mansion, recalls working with Gracey in an interview with "The E Ticket" magazine: "Yale was always at the studio. He'd literally sit in his room and fiddle with stuff, and occasionally invent something. Walt was totally happy with that... Yale was good at figuring out physical gags. Then somebody working on a project would find a way to weave Yale's gag into their show story. He would often have things on the shelf that we could use later."

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