Walt Disney Pictures is going back to the theme park.
The studio announced today that it was developing a new film based on its Haunted Mansion attraction, a live-action monster picture that uses characters and elements from the haunted house. Upping the news — and intrigue — level is the filmmaker taking it on: Genre auteur Guillermo del Toro will direct the film and co-write it with his “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” co-scribe Matthew Robbins.
The news quells, at least for the moment, speculation about Del Toro’s next move after unexpectedly leaving “The Hobbit” last month, though it’s still conceivable the director could take on another development project.
The announcement came at the end of Disney’s Comic-Con panel for “Tron: Legacy,” catching some fans by surprise. After the panel ended, Del Toro emerged to explain his fascination with the “Mansion” property and his plans for adapting it.
“We are doing this by reintroducing the mythology in the mansion,” the “Pan’s Labyrinth“ filmmaker said, noting that the character of the Hatbox Ghost will be the focus of the film. “We’re making it scary and fun. But the scary will be scary.”
The studio released a “Haunted Mansion” seven years ago; that film starred Eddie Murphy and flopped at the box office. This film is expected to start from scratch — Del Toro even joked that he wouldn’t be returning Murphy’s calls.
Disney has of course had success developing theme park rides, with the fourth installment in its blockbuster “Pirates of the Caribbean” franchise set to hit next May; “Country Bears,” however, was a concept that might have been better left in hibernation. Disney teased that “Pirates” installment, which is being directed by Rob Marshall, at the end of “Tron” as well, showing a clip of Johnny Depp in Jack Sparrow garb inviting the audience to have a few “Bloody Marys on the Mouse.”
— Steven Zeitchik
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Photos: Guillermo del Toro (Stephen Osman/Los Angeles Times); A poster for the Haunted Mansion attraction. Bottom, Ian McKellen in the “Lord of the Rings” franchise (New Line)
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