Instead of actors, ‘Haunted Mansion’ premiere haunted by costumed characters, influencers

A man dressed in skeletal face paint, a white wig and a white top hat stands in front of a backdrop.
Kurt Tucci arrives at the world premiere of Disney’s “Haunted Mansion” on Saturday at Disneyland in Anaheim.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)
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Disney’s upcoming horror comedy “Haunted Mansion” premiered Saturday with influencers and ghoulish costumed characters from the Disneyland theme-park attraction walking the red carpet instead of the film’s Hollywood stars.

The live-action film — which stars LaKeith Stanfield, Rosario Dawson, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson, Danny DeVito, Jamie Lee Curtis, Chase Dillon, Daniel Levy and Jared Leto — premiered Saturday at the Disneyland Resort without its A-list cast, who sat out the event in solidarity with last week’s call for a SAG-AFTRA actors’ strike. The film’s writer, Katie Dippold (“The Heat,” “Ghostbusters”), also was not in attendance amid the WGA writers’ strike, which has been underway since May.

Jamie Lee Curtis, LaKeith Stanfield and Owen Wilson suited up at Disneyland as Curtis dropped a hint about another highly anticipated sequel in the works.

June 26, 2023

At the festivities in Anaheim, the sweltering heat did not keep some of the guests from donning their ride-inspired finest. Besides those in period-specific garb — such as top hats and vests — attendees in costume as the attraction’s infamous bride were spotted at New Orleans Square outside the stately mansion attraction where the red carpet was rolled out. “Haunted Mansion” director Justin Simien walked the red carpet with a billowing floor-length cape.


Among those milling about for photo ops with people dressed as the Evil Queen and Maleficent were guests wrapped in dresses printed with the mansion’s iconic wallpaper design. One of Disney’s original Imagineers and theme park consultant, Bob Gurr, the film’s composer, Kris Bowers, executive producer Nick Reynolds, producer Jonathan Eirich and producer Dan Lin were also in attendance. Content creators such as Kurt Tucci, Kristina Menissov, Jake Diaz, Brandi King and Wes Armstrong were among some of the costumed guests who walked the red carpet too. (But much debate has erupted about whether their participation can be seen as breaking the strike.)

Actors from the 'Haunted Mansion' movie looking upward on set
From left to right, “Haunted Mansion” stars Rosario Dawson as Gabbie, Tiffany Haddish as Harriet, LaKeith Stanfield as Ben and Owen Wilson as Father Kent in Disney’s live-action film.
(Jalen Marlowe / Disney)

In character or not, those who attended the premiere were able to ride the Haunted Mansion ride in Disneyland’s New Orleans Square before seeing the movie at the Hyperion Theater across the resort at Disney’s California Adventure Park.

During his opening remarks inside the Hyperion, Simien — who used to work at Disneyland — acknowledged the evening’s events were happening during “a weird time in the industry.” After throwing in a “RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars” joke, he praised Dippold and her script, as well as his cast, including Stanfield, Dawson, Haddish, Wilson, DeVito, Curtis and Dillon, and expressed solidarity with the striking writers and actors. And, most important, he thanked his mom, who was in attendance.

SAG-AFTRA has approved a deal from the studios to end its historic strike. The actors were on strike for more than 100 days.

Nov. 10, 2023

Simien’s adaptation hits theaters 20 years after Eddie Murphy starred in the 2003 original. The “Dear White People” writer-director appeared to have mixed feelings about the cast’s absence but supported them nonetheless. (The Directors Guild of America narrowly avoided a similar strike in late June.)

“It’s very bittersweet, but also at the same time, it’s not sad because what they’re fighting for is so important. And this is where I can be to help that fight to call out these amazing, amazing artists without which this movie would not be interesting or special,” Simien told the Associated Press on the red carpet.


“Maybe it would look cool because I’m here,” he quipped, “but the best special effect on any screen is the performance. So sad that they can’t be here to celebrate it, but their work I think really speaks for itself, and I hope people see the work that they put into it.

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“These are real actors. They want to sink their teeth into the material. They want to work. They want to play. They want to set and make things even better than they already were. That was phenomenal to learn from them,” he said.

Simien also lauded comedian Haddish and “Atlanta” star Stanfield — both of whom he said he’s been “obsessed with for years.” Haddish plays the psychic medium Harriet in the film and Stanfield plays astrophysicist-turned-tour guide Ben Matthias. The comedy follows single mom Gabby (Dawson) who enlists them, as well as a priest (Wilson) and a historian (DeVito), to exorcise her new abode after learning that it has been overrun by ghosts (including Leto’s take on the attraction’s iconic Hatbox Ghost).

Stanfield, Wilson and Curtis notably plugged the film in late June when they hung out in New Orleans Square and served as “honorary Disneyland cast members,” working the Haunted Mansion attraction and surprising the park’s guests.

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The writers’ strike has already halted several productions, but the actors’ strike that began last week catalyzed the shutdown of even more movie productions, such as “Deadpool 3,” “Gladiator 2” and “Paddington in Peru,” and a number of TV productions.

The cast of Christopher Nolan’s “Oppenheimer” walked out of the London premiere of the film last week minutes before the actors’ strike was called.


Times staff writers contributed to this report.