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Easter Eggs And Small Details You Missed In Haunted Mansion

Contains spoilers for "Haunted Mansion"

Though it's been largely overshadowed by the "Barbenheimer" phenomenon, Disney's "Haunted Mansion" isn't a movie to sleep on. A fun, playful throwback to the days when family films didn't need to be part of massive franchises, director Justin Simien's kid-friendly spookfest is a theme park ride in all the right ways — including a bunch of Easter eggs and small details for Disneyland fans to keep their eyes peeled for.

Starring a top-of-his-game LaKeith Stanfield as Ben, a former scientist who becomes a disillusioned paranormal investigator, the film features an ensemble cast of talented stars. Tiffany Haddish, Rosario Dawson, Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, and Jamie Lee Curtis all bring their goofy, spooky A-game, alongside young newcomer Chase W. Dillon. Together, they play a hodgepodge assembly of ghost-adjacent characters, all gathered in the eponymous haunted mansion on a mission to break its strange curse.

If you're a fan of the original Disneyland ride, or the one found at Disney World in Orlando, "Haunted Mansion" becomes a kind of scavenger hunt. From familiar ghosts and spooky portraits to stray lines of dialogue, the film makes constant, subtle references to its source material, as well as a number of other things. Here are some Easter eggs and small details you may have missed in Disney's "Haunted Mansion."

A very familiar house

One of the first and most glaring Easter eggs in "Haunted Mansion" is the mansion itself, the design of which is taken right out of Disneyland in Anaheim, California. Marked by four white Doric columns that herald its main entryway, the mansion of the film features two floors of wrap-around balconies and a number of other distinctive architectural features above.

Looking at comparison pictures between the movie version and the actual mansion at Disneyland, you'll notice that all of these identifiers are taken straight from the theme park ride. The overgrown gardens surrounding the manor are faithfully recreated in the film as well. Even the queue for the park mansion stretches out to the same side of the building as the driveway in the movie, adding an extra level of accuracy.

If you're more of a Disney World aficionado than a fan of Disneyland, you unfortunately may not be as familiar with the house in the movie. The two parks have nearly identical rides on the inside, but the external facades are quite different. However, there is a resemblance between the old Crump Manor visited later in the film — the one with a guided tour by Winona Ryder's cameo character — and the mansion in Orlando.

Some very familiar lines

The Easter eggs in "Haunted Mansion" are mostly visual, but there are a few notable lines as well. The most obvious one for fans of the ride comes when Jared Leto's Hatbox Ghost threatens the cast with a permanent stay at the mansion. "There are 999 souls here," he says spookily, "but there's always room for one more." This, of course, is a slight tweak on one of the most iconic lines from the theme park ride, which goes, "We have 999 happy haunts here, but there's always room for a thousand. Any volunteers?"

In the movie, the Hatbox Ghost — aka Alistair Crump — speaks the line, whereas the Ghost Host character (generally accepted to be Master Gracey, also in the movie) says it on the ride. Both the Gracey and Crump names are taken from actual Disney Imagineers who helped design the theme park attraction: Yale Gracey and Rolly Crump.

The haunting "Return" refrain spoken frequently by Crump in the movie also has its origins in the ride. As guests' cars reach the end of the attraction, they see themselves in a long mirror, which reveals a few "hitchhiking ghosts" sneaking a ride in the backseat. "They'll haunt you until you return," the Ghost Host says. In the movie, this backseat mirror gag is used multiple times, but it plays a larger role in the story. It's specifically because the ghosts follow them home after visiting the mansion that each character is forced to return and break the curse.

Theme park ghosts

One of the main attractions of the Haunted Mansion ride is, of course, the ghosts themselves, and that remains true in the movie. With 999 spirits dwelling within the walls of the house, the film has plenty of creative opportunities to show off wacky specters. As you might expect, many of those ghouls are taken directly from the Disneyland ride.

The giant, animated suit of armor; the gravedigger and his skinny hound who warn Ben of his potential fate; the Werecat Lady, shown lounging and shifting between her human and animal forms — all of these characters seen in the film are lifted straight from the ride. And that's just some of the more ancillary ones.

The Hatbox Ghost is featured in the ride, but he becomes far more important in the movie. His design stays much the same, though. After all, why mess with a good, spooky thing? The Hatchet Ghost, famous for beheading her many husbands, also plays a major role in the movie, as Ben ventures into her attic at one point. This makes sense, as the Hatchet Ghost's lair is one of the main sections of the ride. Both versions feature a series of portraits where the ghoul's husbands lose their heads. Fortunately, like those who venture onto the ride, Ben manages to make it out in one piece.

Kent is a big basketball fan

It turns out that Owen Wilson's Father Kent is not a real Catholic priest. As he reveals at the end of the movie to Ben, he created the persona as a scam to make some easy money doing fake exorcisms. To be fair, he doesn't act all that priestly for most of the movie, so you might have been able to guess that he wasn't the real deal. Kent shows more knowledge and love of pop culture than he does of scripture or hymns, and in particular, he appears to be a bit of a basketball fan.

In Kent's first scene, when he recruits Ben to come and check out the haunted mansion, he tries encouraging him with a Michael Jordan reference. Invoking Ben's scientific past and the paranormal camera he created, Kent says that Ben leading half-baked ghost tours is like Michael Jordan playing baseball. Of course, Michael Jordan did play baseball from 1993 to 1995, temporarily retiring from the NBA after his first three-peat with the Chicago Bulls. The diamond wasn't as much his venue as the hardwood, however, and he returned to lead his old team to another three championships in 1996, 1997, and 1998.

Later on, Kent references '90s basketball again by referring to the collection of characters at the mansion as the "Dream Team." Though it's become a common phrase, that title most famously refers to the 1992 U.S. men's basketball Olympic team, which Jordan was also on.

Action Guy

Ben's relationship with Travis, Gabbie's nine-year-old son, is arguably the emotional core of "Haunted Mansion." Ben sees something of his young self in Travis — a quirky, socially anxious kid who just wants to find a way to be accepted for who he is. Over the course of the movie, the two develop a powerful bond, much of which is represented by them playing together with action figures.

Travis loves his action figures, but he's not familiar with the one Ben played with as a kid: Action Guy. Apparently a cheap dollar-store knock-off, Action Guy fights his enemies with a shoe while spouting his famous catchphrase, "Say it again!" It's not a real brand, but it could be an intentional reference to Action Man, an official G.I. Joe affiliate sold in the U.K.

At first, Travis finds Action Guy strange and prefers his own figures, who resemble Marvel mainstays like Storm and Namor — characters who also, of course, fall under the Disney umbrella. However, after being gifted an Action Guy figure by Ben, he becomes fond of it. We later see Travis playing with his figures and saying Action Guy's catchphrase, suggesting that the discount figure has in fact become his new favorite. It's only appropriate, then, that Ben finishes off Crump at the end of the film by kicking him into a hole — technically defeating him with his shoe, which is Action Guy's signature weapon.

Madame Leota's séance room

Though much of the house in "Haunted Mansion" is pulled straight out of the Disney theme park ride, there is perhaps no bigger reference in it than Madame Leota's séance room. The medium, played in the film by Jamie Lee Curtis, is a key part of the theme park attraction, and she appears in the movie in much the same way — trapped in a massive crystal ball in the middle of a spooky séance room.

That room becomes central to the plot of the movie, as it's where the assembled "dream team" convenes to solve the mysteries of the house. It's all recreated quite faithfully, from the lights and spooky nooks and crannies around the edges of the room to the large table featuring Leota at the center. Leota herself is also faithfully resurrected for the movie, with her billowing hair filling her glass prison just as it does on the ride.

Other familiar haunts

In addition to large areas like the front of the house, Madame Leota's séance room, and the Hatchet Ghost's attic, there are also a ton of smaller locations in "Haunted Mansion" that are pulled out of the Disneyland attraction. For instance, during the film's climax, Travis and Ben have to escape a room that continues to grow taller as they climb. Beneath them, pools of quicksand and vicious alligators lie in wait.

All of these features are also in the ride, albeit not quite in the same way. The room that grows taller is one of the earliest parts of the attraction, and as it stretches, the portraits in it reveal hidden bottom halves. These include the aforementioned quicksand and alligators, which take real, physical form in the movie. Even the gargoyles that Ben and Travis use to climb out are taken from the ride.

Other details, like the floating candelabra that Ben sees at one point down a hall, are also iconic elements of the ride. The hallway where the two dueling brothers shoot each other every night isn't exactly part of the attraction, but the characters and their portraits are featured there as well. This attention to detail even extends beyond the main mansion, as Travis discovers an entire graveyard beneath Alistair Crump's old estate. The gravestones have grim rhymes emblazoned upon them, which will evoke some additional nostalgia from Disney park regulars.

Smart social commentary

Amidst all the spooks, goofs, and theme park Easter eggs, "Haunted Mansion" also manages to work in a few brief bits of social commentary. This is Justin Simien, after all — the writer-director who previously helmed both "Dear White People" and "Bad Hair." As you might expect from someone with that filmography, he has some things to say in "Haunted Mansion" too.

Though subtle, the film has an undercurrent of American racial commentary. At the beginning, Ben is shown leading an obnoxious tour group of mostly white guests who repeatedly interrupt him. One of the women is even wearing a shirt with "Stop hocking my maracas" emblazoned on it — a nice little bit of cultural appropriation to demonstrate the kinds of people Ben has to deal with every day. Later, right before the big climax of the movie, Ben tells Travis to wait in the car and call for help if necessary. "If we're not back in two hours," he says, "and I never thought I'd say this, call the police." 

These little asides ground the characters, and they also carry on the legacy of the 2003 "Haunted Mansion" film, in which historical racism played a key role in the story. On the other hand, when trapped in the Hatchet Ghost's attic, Ben even tries to avoid her wrath by declaring himself "an ally to you and all women."

Is it a sequel?

The 2023 "Haunted Mansion" isn't a sequel to the 2003 movie, but it does share a lot of the same DNA. In addition to both being based on the eponymous Disneyland ride, the two movies are similar in regard to the house itself. Master Gracey appears in both films as the former owner of the estate, and his story is largely the same — grief-stricken by the death of his beloved, he's cursed to wander the halls of his manor in sorrow for all eternity. In the 2003 film, the death of Gracey's lover is at the core of the story, and the mystery surrounding it takes up most of the plot. It's less central in the newer version, but Gracey's plight remains mostly similar.

There are also a few subtle nods to the Disney animated film "The Princess and the Frog" in the new "Haunted Mansion," including what appears to be part of the villainous Shadow Man on the side of a truck in one shot and numerous references to the "other side" (though to be fair, that's a pretty common phrase). As both films take place in and around New Orleans, this makes sense. It's not even the first time that Shadow Man has been made part of the "Haunted Mansion" lore, as he's previously been featured in campaigns involving the ride.

Clever callbacks

Katie Dippold's script for "Haunted Mansion" is full of clever setups and callbacks. During the first ghost tour we see him leading — a job he clearly hates after the death of his wife — Ben has a brief meltdown and tells all the tourists that humans are "dirt," and that when they die, they simply go back in the dirt. This same line is brought up during the climax by Crump, who's trying to convince Ben to willingly go over to the other side. It's unclear how Crump would have known to push that specific button, as he wasn't present for the tour, but it's safe to say that he got a pretty good read of Ben's soul in the house.

The death of Travis' father is also foreshadowed early on. Ben doesn't realize until the end that his dad is actually dead, but Gabbie alludes to it multiple times in conversation. She doesn't say it outright, but that's because it's too painful for her to discuss. This also explains why Travis says that her knowing he's been talking to his father would make her sad.

Another nice moment is the flashback that shows Ben proposing to Alyssa. The first time we see it, he gets down on one knee, only to rise with his new ghost camera instead of a ring. However, we later see that he did indeed propose on that same day, which means that the fake-out was an intentional ruse building up to the actual proposal.

A finale fit for a ride

The final scenes of "Haunted Mansion" are jam-packed with Easter eggs. The climax in the graveyard utilizes the exterior themes of the ride in a cool way, bringing in all the familiar ghosts who pop up throughout the movie. Later, we see the whole crew reassemble at the house for a Halloween party, which is held in the ballroom. This part of the mansion is faithfully recreated from the ride, right down to the flying, waltzing ghosts. And of course, a version of the ride's iconic theme song, "Grim Grinning Ghosts," plays at the end of the movie.

All these little details help send the movie out on a fun note, all while paying proper homage to the source material. Watching the end of "Haunted Mansion" really recreates the feeling of getting off the ride. You'll be sent home with some spooks (and maybe a few hitchhiking ghosts in the backseat), but mostly, the vibe is fun and whimsical. "Haunted Mansion" blends all of that with an effective story about dealing with grief, making it a great family film in the vein of the Disney classics.