Things You're Just Supposed to Know

Most of the time, Long-Forgotten assumes that readers are already familiar with basic facts
about the Haunted Mansion. If you wanna keep up with the big boys, I suggest you check out
first of all the website, Doombuggies.com. After that, the best place to go is Jason Surrell's book,
The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic (NY: Disney Editions; 2015). That's the
re-named third edition of The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (NY:
Disney Editions, 2003; 2nd ed. 2009). Also essential reading is Jeff Baham's The Unauthorized
Story of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion (USA: Theme Park Press, 2014; 2nd ed. 2016).

This site is not affiliated in any way with any Walt Disney company. It is an independent
fan site dedicated to critical examination and historical review of the Haunted Mansions.
All images that are © Disney are posted under commonly understood guidelines of Fair Use.

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Sunday, September 1, 2013

The Black Prince


.                         
.                                            The first thing to be said is that there is no doubt that this changing portrait
.                                            is called "The Black Prince." It's labeled that way on Marc Davis's concept art.

(Hat tip to GRD)

But no one uses that name.  Everyone calls him something more generic, like "The Knight," or "The Black Knight," or "That guy on the horse."  Even on the blueprints, he's just "Horseman."  But Davis says he is "The Black Prince," and that name refers quite specifically to Edward of Woodstock, Prince of Wales, Duke of Cornwall, Prince of Aquitaine, sire of King Edward III, warrior of renown (1330-1376).  We mentioned him briefly in a former post, but we did not go into any detail.  Very good at slaughtering the French, he was.  For his portrait, Davis probably drew inspiration from a late 19th c. sketch by Walter Paget showing Edward at one of his most celebrated triumphs, the Battle of Crecy.

There was bludddd in the saddle...


The pose is rather conventional, of course.


At least until October of 2015, there didn't seem to be anything mysterious or particularly interesting in tracing the artwork for the Black Prince.
It was another case of Davis nailing it the first time out. There isn't a lot of difference, for example, between his preliminary sketch . . .


. . . and his finished concept paintings, just as there aren't any important differences between those paintings . . . 


. . . and the paintings actually used in the attraction, which were done by Ed Kohn.  There is one amusing difference, however.


Mr. Kohn has discreetly moved Edward's scabbard over to the correct side (actually, you
can't even see it). Edward was a righty, and his scabbard therefore belongs on the left.

As long as we're tittering over mere trifles, here's another tidbit of trivia you might find amusing. Disney artist Collin Campbell was never one to let an unused piece of Marc Davis artwork go to waste. Take for example these nightmarish Davis ghosties. They were never used, but I would point to them as further evidence that Marc wasn't just a jokemeister but was committed to making the Mansion a scary place as well, as I've argued elsewhere.


Anyway, if they seem familiar, that's because Campbell used them in his artwork for the "Story
and Song" souvenir album. I don't know what those things are, but funny is what they are not.


Well, in the case of the Black Prince portrait, Campbell lifted the skeletal horseman from Davis's
original concept painting and this time found a completely different use for one of Marc's creations.


Busted!

Okay, let's get back to the portrait.  Unlike the case with so many of the other changing portraits, there is no evidence that Davis originally planned anything for the Prince other than what we got: a two-stage lightning shift from living horse and rider to skeletal figures.  In other words, there would seem to be no surprises to report at this stage of the game either.  But a major surprise in the history of this portrait was revealed, as I said, in October of 2015. You can read about it HERE.


What Are You Doing Here, Ed?

The only real mystery with Edward the Black Prince is this:  Why is he in a haunted house at all?  There are no ghost stories or anything else supernatural connected with him, so far as I know.  We can, if we wish, visit his impressive tomb in Canterbury Cathedral in search of clues.


.  There we find this epitaph:

.          Such as thou art, sometime was I.
.          Such as I am, such shalt thou be.
.          I thought little on th'our of Death
.          So long as I enjoyed breath.
.          But now a wretched captive am I,
.          Deep in the ground, lo here I lie.
.          My beauty great, is all quite gone,
.          My flesh is wasted to the bone.

Sober, yes, even grim, but there's nothing there that would give you goosebumps.

If Edward isn't a ghost, neither is he generally included with "famous villains of history," which was another admission ticket to the Mansion during this period of its development.  Quite the contrary, Edward is regarded as a legendary warrior from Britain's past, a mighty hero . . . more or less. The "less" comes with acknowledging that Edward did have a dark side.  Something about slaughtering women and children now and then, but sheesh, who hasn't done that?  It's so unfair.  One or two massacres and right away you're the bad guy.  But seriously folks, could it be that this less palatable dimension of his story, plus the "Black Prince" title itself (allegedly because he wore black armor), have gradually pushed him over into ambiguous territory, making him villainous and scary?

Probably not.  The problem is, this sort of historical revisionism doesn't seem to have destroyed Edward's reputation (yet?), and it certainly had not done so during the time period we are dealing with.  Ten years before Marc's portrait of the Black Prince, Hollywood had put Edward's story on film in The Dark Avenger (1955), with Errol Flynn in the title role.  Edward looks pretty mean and nasty in the movie poster, but the Black Prince is still very much the swashbuckling good guy in the film.  It's Errol Flynn, remember?


As a matter of fact, if we're looking for possible artistic influences on Davis beyond
the Paget print, could that movie poster right there be a candidate?  Um...maybe.



For Some Reason, Beauty is Deceptive

With no obvious justification for his inclusion, Edward the Black Prince is an intriguing and puzzling member of the Mansion family.  Not surprisingly, this complicates our attempts at interpreting the painting.  All of the other changing portraits present us with something pleasant that transforms into something horrifying. In doing so, every one of them demonstrates the truth that beauty is deceptive, but curiously enough, they offer two distinct arguments in support of that claim.

"Beauty is deceptive because it does not last" (April-December, Master Gracey, the "Flying Dutchman" as a handsome ship destroyed by a storm).

"Beauty is deceptive because it can mask something evil" (Medusa, Cat Lady).

Furthermore, a lot of unused changing portraits could also be cited which fall neatly into one or the other category.  The wilting bouquet of flowers is obviously part of the first group.  So is this unused concept, a terrestrial counterpart to the Flying Dutchman painting.  Call it "Dustbowl," or "The Little Farmhouse that Couldn't." (For both of these, see now the November 2015 updates HERE.)


Several unused "femme fatale" portraits featuring charming young women
taking a homicidal turn just as obviously belong in the second category.

Scroll if you must.

Taking it a step further, one could argue that the two responses can be reconciled as essentially one by recognizing Death as our enemy and never our friend, whether he comes softly with the creeping decrepitude of age and disease or suddenly and violently at the hands of another while we are still in the bloom of youth.  The cold-hearted spirit who animates the homicidal maniac is the same one who patiently takes you apart piece by piece until you can't go another step, even if it takes 99 years. That is a distinctly Christian view of Death. There are many attempts in many religions and philosophies to appease the Reaper, or to ignore him, or to negotiate with him, or to soften him, or to stoicly accept him, or to outright embrace him.  Many attempts.

Screw 'em all. Death must die. In the Eastern Church, and curiously enough also in the writings of the Puritan American Jonathan Edwards, "beauty" is a theological category, a fundamental dimension in spiritual reality.  Consider this: We cannot help mourning over the transitive nature of earthly beauty.  We're always a little sad when our flower does what all flowers do, always a little shocked and disappointed when we see old photos of our various heroes in their youth and compare them with their grayed and brittle-boned present.  But if it has always and ever been thus, why do we stubbornly continue to feel this sense of loss, almost a betrayal?  It's because we know something, instinctively.

Divine beauty never can and never shall deceive. It is Beauty who whispers to us that Death is an alien presence, a mocker, an enemy.

Okay, is he done?  I think he's done.


Part of the Team, or an Outlier?

Is the Black Prince portrait also a commentary on the deceptiveness of beauty?  If it is, which of the two statements does it make?  This is the most interesting thing about the portrait for me.  You can make a case that this changing portrait is like all the others, but to do so you have to claim that (1) the first phase of the painting presents a form of beauty, and that (2) the second phase either foreshadows Edward's tragic mortality ("beauty doesn't last") or reveals Edward as a fiend in human form ("beauty can mask evil").

It's a stretch no matter which way you go.  With regard to the first point, it's true that those scowls don't necessarily mean he's a bad guy.  Witness that movie poster.  And you can claim that what you're seeing is the handsome image of a tough, brave and determined warrior.  And it's true enough that Edward the Black Prince has always been presented as a fearsome fighter but basically a good guy, so why should this be any different?  

Against all this is the fact that we are given no clues whatsoever to help us identify the figure as Edward in the first place, and you have to admit that he looks not just brave but pretty scary with those orange, madman eyes and those bad teeth.


If we're supposed to like him, why not give us something a little more cuddly, like the guy in
the Paget print?  He looks like he could be the lead singer in the latest boy band sensation.


As for the second point, only the fiendish interpretation is really defensible.
No way can this be taken as just another wistful example of memento mori.



If it's ridiculous to look at that and see only a sober reminder that beauty is destroyed in death, it's just as hard to see a shocking, vivid contrast between it and the first phase of the painting, where one is pleasant and positive and the other unexpectedly horrific.

Let's face it; the Black Prince is not like all of the other changing portraits.  I suspect that Davis used extant portraits of Edward only as artistic models for a ferocious horseman and wrote "The Black Prince" on his sketch without giving it much thought, knowing that it didn't matter, because no one would have enough clues to identify the knight with a specific historical character anyway.  If that's the case, we should ignore the title and just concentrate on the portrait itself.

I don't think we're seeing any sort of commentary on beauty at all.  It's something else.  It's a BGGB.


The BGGB Portrait

The Black Prince is hard to place because it represents the only surviving example of something that currently lacks a name.  I do hereby dub this genre, "BGGB changing portrait."  That stands for "bad guy gets badder."  A portrait of someone who is sinister but nevertheless human transforms into something far worse.  Most BGGB's start out with a recognizable historical or literary villain, soon to be revealed as a strange and diabolical creature in human guise.

Originally, there were lots of BGGB's.  Some were never used, and some ended up among the "Sinister 11," following you with their eyes but not transforming.  Among these would be Dracula, the Witch of Walpurgis, Rasputin, and the Wolfman.  (These are all discussed HERE and HERE.)  All look human, and all change into something inhuman.

These BGGBs will give you the Heebie Jeebies

There are other BGGB's, but those are the plainest examples.  The only one of them that starts out with a nameless, generic character is the Witch of Walpurgis, so she would be the closest parallel to the Black Prince if he's going to be read as simply "a fierce and frightening horseman."

That's my explanation, but who knows?  You may come up
with a different solution to the puzzle of the Black Prince.