The Haunted Mansion
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRob Minkoff
Screenplay byDavid Berenbaum
Based onThe Haunted Mansion
by Walt Disney[1]
Produced by
CinematographyRemi Adefarasin
Edited byPriscilla Nedd-Friendly
Music byMark Mancina
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures[1]
Release date
  • November 26, 2003 (2003-11-26)
Running time
86 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$90 million[3]
Box office$182.3 million[3]

The Haunted Mansion is a 2003 American supernatural comedy horror film directed by Rob Minkoff and written by David Berenbaum. Loosely based on the Disney attraction of the same name, it stars Eddie Murphy as a realtor who, along with his family, becomes trapped in a haunted mansion. Terence Stamp, Nathaniel Parker, Marsha Thomason, and Jennifer Tilly appear in supporting roles.

The film was theatrically released in the United States on November 26, 2003, to mostly negative reviews from critics and grossed $182.3 million worldwide on a $90 million budget.


Jim and Sara Evers are successful realtors with two children, Michael and Megan. A workaholic with little time for his family, Jim misses his wedding anniversary and tries to make amends by suggesting a vacation to the nearby lake. Sara is contacted by the occupants of Gracey Manor, located in the nearby bayou; Jim, eager to make a deal after learning where the mansion is, takes his family there, meeting its owner, Edward Gracey, his butler Ramsley and his other servants; maid Emma and footman Ezra.

When a rainstorm floods the nearby river, Gracey lets the family stay for the night. Ramsley takes Jim to the library to discuss the deal with Gracey, but Jim becomes trapped in a secret passage. Gracey gives Sara a tour of the mansion, discussing his past and his “grandfather”'s death after the suicide of his lover, Elizabeth Henshaw. Megan and Michael follow a spectral orb to the attic, where they find a portrait of a woman that bears an almost identical resemblance to Sara. Emma and Ezra appear, and identify the woman as the late Elizabeth.

Meanwhile, Jim meets Madame Leota, the ghost of a gypsy whose head is encased in a crystal ball. He runs into Emma, Ezra and his children, and returns to Leota for answers about Elizabeth's likeness to Sara. It is then revealed that the mansion’s inhabitants are ghosts, cursed a century ago by Elizabeth's and Gracey’s untimely deaths, and can only enter the afterlife when the lovers are reunited; Sara is believed to be Elizabeth's reincarnation. Leota sends the Evers to the mansion's cemetery to find a key that will reveal the truth about Elizabeth's death. In a crypt beneath a mausoleum, Jim and Megan find the key, but inadvertently disturb its undead residents. However, they escape with help from Michael, who overcomes his arachnophobia.

Leota leads them to a trunk in the attic, which Jim unlocks to find a letter Elizabeth wrote to Gracey, revealing she truly loved him and wanted to marry him, indicating that she did not commit suicide as everyone believed. Ramsley then appears and reveals he murdered Elizabeth to prevent Gracey from abandoning his heritage, as he believed their relationship was unacceptable. To hide the truth, Ramsley traps the children in a trunk and literally throws Jim out of the mansion. As Gracey and Sara rendezvous in the ballroom, she is confused when he asks if she recognizes him, and he insists she is his beloved Elizabeth. The room fills with dancing ghosts as Gracey reveals his ghostly self, but Sara denies being Elizabeth. This gives Gracey second thoughts, but Ramsley insists that Sara is Elizabeth and, in time, she will remember. Ramsley then blackmails Sara into marrying Gracey in exchange for her children's safety.

Encouraged by Leota, Jim manages to re-enter the mansion, rescue his children, and stop Sara and Gracey's wedding. He gives Gracey Elizabeth's letter and Ramsley's crime is exposed. As Gracey angrily confronts Ramsley, the latter rages at his master's apparent selfishness for loving Elizabeth and summons wraiths to attack the group. However, with the truth revealed, a fiery entity emerges from the ballroom's fireplace and drags Ramsley down to Hell to face eternal punishment. Ramsley attempts to take Jim with him, but he is saved by Gracey. Sara collapses, having been poisoned by Ramsley during the wedding ceremony, but the spectral orb appears and possesses Sara. The orb is revealed to be Elizabeth's ghost, who could only be released from her current form once the truth was revealed, and thanks Jim for saving her. Elizabeth and Gracey reunite as Sara is subsequently revived.

With the curse finally lifted, Gracey gives the Evers the deed to the mansion and departs to Heaven with Elizabeth, Emma, Ezra, and the mansion's other inhabitants. The Evers drive across the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway for a proper vacation, accompanied by Leota and four singing busts that they encountered while searching for the mausoleum, strapped to the back of their car.


The film's chief makeup artist Rick Baker appears in the graveyard scene as a ghost behind a tombstone, using an appearance based on a portrait of the Ghost Host seen in the attraction. The cast also includes an uncredited Martin Klebba as Pickwick, one the ghosts in the graveyard, albeit unnamed and only known as "Happy Ghost" and director Rob Minkoff's nephew, who appears as the paperboy in the opening scene.


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The mansion scenes were filmed at Sable Ranch in Santa Clarita, California. The main building was constructed over a period of weeks while the cupola and chimneys on the top of the mansion were computer-generated. The rest of film was shot in New Orleans and surrounding areas. The mansion's architecture is Renaissance-influenced with a mix of antebellum and Dutch-colonial revival architecture. One evidence of this is the exterior design, which is a mix-up of the attraction's exteriors in both Disneyland and Walt Disney World, with the conservatory being a nod to the latter.[citation needed]

Five Hidden Mickeys are seen throughout the film; the most notable ones being the padlock at the mansion's gates, the second when an axe wielded by a animated suit of armor nearly hits Jim, and a third which is briefly seen when Ramsley poisons a goblet of wine during the wedding ceremony. Two other hidden mickeys are the couch in the library and the windows on the doors Jim passes when he is chased by musical instruments summoned by Madame Leota. Before leaving the mansion via a hearse to find the mausoleum, Ezra exclaims "there's always my way," a pivotal line of dialogue from the attraction.

The costume and special effects designers wanted the ghost characters to become "more dead" the farther they were from the mansion. While Ezra and Emma look human in the house, their leaving it causes them to become blue and transparent. The zombies in the mausoleum were described as the "deadest as they are farthest away". Rick Baker, the chief costume designer, did the prosthetic makeup for the zombies in the mausoleum, using skull heads for the zombie design. He also designed one of the zombies as an elderly man holding a cane in order for the mausoleum scene not to be too frightening to viewers.

This was the first film to air on Disney Channel to contain any profanity besides "hell" or "damn", the "Big ass termites!" line uttered by Jim when he sees the breathing door.

In the opening scene of the film, Nathaniel Parker had great difficulty trying to carry Marsha Thomason up the staircase, which is shown on the expressions of his face. This was due to her slippery silk dress.[citation needed]


The teaser trailer debuted in October 2002 with Tuck Everlasting and on VHS in February 2003.[citation needed]


Box office

According to Box Office Mojo, The Haunted Mansion grossed $24,278,410 on its opening weekend with an average of $7,776 per theatre in the United States. With the domestic gross at $75,847,266, the film gained more than a quarter of the earnings of its theme-ride predecessor Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. The film achieved better in other markets, with an international total of $106,443,000.[3]

Critical response

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On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has a rating of 14% based on 140 reviews and an average rating of 4.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Neither scary nor funny, The Haunted Mansion is as lifeless as the ghosts in the movie."[4] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 34 out of 100 based on 34 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[5] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B" on an A+ to F scale.[6]

Jeremy Wheeler of AllMovie gave the film his below average star rating and described it as a terribly flawed fantastical comedy that neither entertains nor creeps.[citation needed]

Home media

The film was released on VHS and DVD on April 20, 2004. The DVD release came with several special features, including a behind-the-scenes look at the film's production, describing how the zombies were created, and how certain visual effects were performed or produced; a scene anatomy of the graveyard; a virtual interactive ride of the film's Haunted Mansion with Emma and Ezra as hosts; a single deleted scene; an outtake reel; and a minute and a half long video about the attractions. This release was also THX certified and consisted of widescreen and pan and scan fullscreen versions.[7] The film was released on Blu-Ray disc on October 17, 2006.[citation needed]


Main article: Haunted Mansion (2023 film)

In July 2010, it was announced that a reboot adaptation based on Disney's The Haunted Mansion was in development with Guillermo del Toro as writer and producer.[8] del Toro stated the project would not take place in a real-world setting, but in a heightened reality one. He revealed that the Hatbox Ghost would be one of the main characters, and said the movie would be "scary and fun at the same time, but the scary will be scary."[9][10] In June 2011, Walt Disney World Imagineer Jason Surrell was brought onto the project as a creative consultant.[11] In August 2012, del Torro submitted the final draft of his script to Walt Disney Studios, intended for a PG-13 rating.[12][13] By July 2013, del Torro announced he was no longer the project's director, but remained as co-writer and producer.[14] In April 2015, Ryan Gosling was in early negotiations to star, while D.V. DeVincentis was hired to rewrite the script.[15] In September 2016, Brigham Taylor was hired as an additional producer.[16]

In August 2020, it was announced that writer Katie Dippold would write a new screenplay, and that Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich would co-produce.[17] In April 2021, Justin Simien signed on as director. The project will be a joint production between Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures and Rideback.[18] In July 2021, details emerged with the premise focusing on a single mom named Gabbie and her son purchasing the estate and hiring a tour guide, a psychic, a priest and a historian to help exorcise the ghosts. Tiffany Haddish and Lakeith Stanfield entered negotiations for the roles of the psychic and tour guide characters, respectively.[19] On September 1, 2021, it was announced that not only were Haddish and Stanfield officially cast, but that production would begin next month under the working title Joyride.[20] Shortly afterwards, Owen Wilson and Rosario Dawson joined the cast.[21][22] In mid-October, Danny DeVito was also added as a "smug professor".[23]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "AFI Catalog".
  2. ^ "The Haunted Mansion (PG)". British Board of Film Classification. December 2, 2003. Retrieved October 12, 2016.
  3. ^ a b c "The Haunted Mansion". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved July 7, 2010.
  4. ^ "The Haunted Mansion (2003)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved July 21, 2021.
  5. ^ "The Haunted Mansion Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved November 27, 2016.
  6. ^ "CinemaScore". Archived from the original on February 6, 2018.
  7. ^ "The Haunted Mansion DVD Review -".
  8. ^ Radish, Christina (July 27, 2010). "SDCC2010: Guillermo del Toro Interview DON'T BE AFRAID OF THE DARK; Plus Info on THE HAUNTED MANSION, FRANKENSTEIN and HELLBOY". Collider. Retrieved July 29, 2010.
  9. ^ Schwartz, Terri (July 24, 2010). "Guillermo Del Toro Dishes On 'Haunted Mansion' Remake". MTV. Retrieved July 25, 2010.
  10. ^ Warmoth, Brian (July 22, 2010). "'Tron Legacy' Stars Get Comic-Con Crowd Involved In The Movie". MTV. Retrieved July 25, 2010.
  11. ^ Armstrong, Josh (May 14, 2012). "Jason Surrell assembles The Art of Marvel's The Avengers". Archived from the original on May 21, 2012. Retrieved June 21, 2012.
  12. ^ "Del Toro Talks "Mansion" & "Madness"".
  13. ^ "Guillermo del Toro Talks HAUNTED MANSION and His Love of HARRY POTTER".
  14. ^ Chitwood, Adam (July 10, 2013). "Guillermo del Toro Gives Updates on JUSTICE LEAGUE DARK and HAUNTED MANSION; Confirms He Won't Direct HAUNTED MANSION". Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  15. ^ McNary, Dave (April 9, 2015). "Ryan Gosling to Star in Guillermo del Toro's 'Haunted Mansion'". Variety. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  16. ^ Marshall, Rick (September 4, 2016). "'The Jungle Book' producer on talking animals, 'The Rocketeer' sequel, and Del Toro's 'Haunted Mansion'". Digital Trends.
  17. ^ Kit, Borys (August 28, 2020). "'Haunted Mansion' Movie in the Works With Writer Katie Dippold (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 28, 2020.
  18. ^ Kroll, Justin (April 22, 2021). "Disney's 'Haunted Mansion' Pic Finds Its Director In 'Dear White People' Helmer Justin Simien". Deadline. Retrieved April 22, 2021.
  20. ^ Pillot, Dempsey (September 1, 2021). "Disney's 'Haunted Mansion' Reboot Begins Filming Later This Month!". The Disinsider. Retrieved September 1, 2021.
  21. ^ Kit, Borys (September 8, 2021). "Owen Wilson to Star in Disney's 'Haunted Mansion' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 8, 2021.
  22. ^ Hipes, Patrick (September 9, 2021). "Rosario Dawson Books A Room In Disney's 'Haunted Mansion' Movie". Deadline. Retrieved September 9, 2021.
  23. ^ Pillot, Dempsey (October 18, 2021). "Disney's 'Haunted Mansion' Adds Danny DeVito". The Disinsider. Retrieved October 18, 2021.