12/5/12

Guillermo Del Toro's "Haunted Mansion" Movie Finally Happening?

When Ain't It Cool posted this little tid-bit today, I got pretty worked up. What are the odds that this project is Del Toro's long-rumored, and at one time a couple of years ago, definitely confirmed, Disney Haunted Mansion film?

With Favreau doing his "Magic Kingdom" movie, it's seems like Disney is placing bets on high quality directors with specific visions. Here's to hoping that Del Toro is still on board! 

At the very least, we know that Del Toro loves the haunted house genre enough to visit and re-visit it's themes and scenes time and again. 

Portions of the "Hellboy" movies play out like little haunted vignettes. (I'm thinking of those pesky little tooth fairies, the labyrinth at the end of the first movie, etc.) Then there was, "Don't Be Afraid of the Dark", which was another classic example of the story structure. (Haunted house stories, if you didn't know, sprang from the period of gothic literature. When the idea of outdoor adventure was considered taboo or for the lower classes and certainly not acceptable for women, an entire genre was concocted that brought the adventure indoors. I wrote a really long obnoxious academic paper about it HERE.) 
That's all I've got for you on the newsy aspect of Del Toro and the Haunted Mansion. The rest is just yammering blog. You've been warned...
  
"Hill House has stood for 90 years..."
I'm a gigantic "Haunted Mansion" nerd. It's not even the ride itself, though I admit that it's pretty rad that I now live about a half an hour away from my all-time favorite theme park ride and I can go anytime I want. (When my car cooperates.) I'm still fangirling out about that. 

In fact, my workaholism constantly fights with my inner-fangirl over how to spend my time where I live nowadays. Workaholic always wins, but I need to bring some balance to that soon. What's the good of moving to your dream locale if you never go to the beach or visit any of the features that make the place famous? Anyway...

The first two screenplays that I ever sold, the only two screenplays that I've sold so far, were inspired by the haunted house stories I grew up loving. The original "The Haunting" is still the movie that scared me the most upon first viewing. So it was VERY cool to read in the AICN article that Del Toro is sourcing that film for inspiration. 

This morning, I broke out my Haunted Mansion playlist for the first time in several months. It has over twenty songs and sound effects from the ride in it's various incarnations at different parks. (The Disneyland Paris "Phantom Manor" soundtrack is my favorite.) 

As I let go of some stress I've been carrying in my life since moving away from Indiana a year and a half ago and begin to return to some of my more quirky artistic habits, I find that I'm mentally revisiting some of my more concentrated seasons of creative inspiration from my past. When you're a creative type, writer, artist, whatever...the world will try to tell you that you're a little bit nuts for spending time the way you do. Because you are. 

Also, because they are well meaning and they are trying to help you to be more normal. (It's worth noting that as I proofread this aloud, I said "Nore Mormal".) However, being normal is exactly what you should avoid if you intend to continue to grow as an artist. Give up the dream of fitting in and go ahead and latch on to the idea that if you can't fit in, you might as well be the most concentrated, weird, eccentric, truthful version of yourself that you can be.  

Stand your ground once you know your identity and once you know what habits work for you. What works for me is my fangirl-ness. Climbing into inspiration and letting it fuel me. Allowing myself quick and concentrated phases of obsession, leading to research-based mini-adventures (conventions, theme parks, museums) followed by long periods of productivity on original works of my own. 

Then it will be on to the next thing. 

In short, I'm a writer. 

I was talking to a friend today, someone I respect very much, and I copped to the idea that maybe my weirdness is some parts nature as well as nurture. My Grandpa was a graphic designer, my grandma was an oil painter. One of my uncles is a brilliant wood sculptor and house-builder who lives off of his art. Another uncle makes computer chips for the government in his garage. My mother ran a singing telegram business by herself for twenty years. Maybe it's in my blood to hole up and work on my own projects.  I grew up in art studios, woodshops, sewing rooms, and rehearsal spaces. 

So why do I bother fighting who I am? Fighting what feels natural and works best for me? That's a question I can't seem to answer no matter how hard I try. I can't seem to stop jumping on other people's bandwagons. I call it "side-kicking". But I want to be Batman next time, not Robin. Or for crying out loud, can I at least be Catwoman in my own daydreams?

My mother would work on seemingly separate pieces of a puzzle throughout her day as a stay-at-home Mom and entrepreneur. She'd practice singing in the kitchen over making lunch, she'd hunker down over white cards writing down jokes that came to her as she watched Peter Sellers movies for inspiration in the afternoon and she'd practice applying stage makeup for a new character at night sometimes. Then on a day when she had a telegram, she would emerge from our front door as some new person and go perform. Fearlessly. 

What if she had let an outside observer in on her working time? What if someone had pronounced her "weird" over her joke cards or her songs or her makeup kit and she never went back to performing again? 

I spent the better part of graduate school writing my thesis on what it was like to grow up "weird". As I get older, I'm thirty now, I still find that my central fight in life is wanting to be accepted as a normal person.

The Haunted Mansion, to me, is lightning in a bottle. A house full of stories. Endless writing possibilities. Tone incarnate. I find myself magnetically drawn to researching it down to every last details.  

But my relationship with that ride has spurred a handful of published magazine articles, one work trip to California, two screenplays, the chance to write a foreword in a book on the history of the ride, a handful of freelance videos and several of my better stories back in graduate school, one of which I was asked to read aloud at a writing festival. 

I realize that I must sound like a snob saying all that. But I'm trying to remind myself, re-train myself, that it's okay to be a quirky artist. It's okay to return to a level of creative obsessiveness that works for me. It's worked for me in the past and it will work for me again.   

I guess I'll just say this, inspiration counts. It matters. Following it takes you down the rabbit hole to wonderful places. If that means you have to ignore your inner sensor or any accidental outer sensors who pop up in your life, if that means you feel like a "weirdo", then okay. So what?

All of that came rushing back to me over one little headline today. I wonder what new inspirations could be ahead and where they might take me next? The trick is that I have to let them take me out of this wretched desert period. 

What's your "weird" obsession and where has it taken you?

P.S. If you've never seen "The Haunting", let me tempt you with the opening five minutes...




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