The origin of the Grim Organist can be traced back to Doug Ferguson and Phantasmechanics. Doug's experimental animatronic was then realized by Tom Marchak's Ghostly Grim Organist Baron Flesh Von Riptopen; Dan Oberley's Grim Organist; Brent Ross' Skeletal Organist; and Mike Fox's Nimble-Fingered Organist.
Walt Disney’s Haunted Mansion Organ and Organist
Ever since we first saw a Grim Organist, we've envisioned building a “replica” (well, at least a close approximation) of the pipe organ in Disney's Haunted Mansion. From the first three pictures, you can see that the Haunted Mansion organ was originally used in the making of 20,000 Leagues under the Sea and is sometimes referred to as Nemo's Organ.
Wicked Stone’s Grim Organ and Organist
We commissioned Darren Perks of Dynamic Design International to make the organist mask. The mask was to be in the spirit of the Walt Disney Haunted Mansion organist mask, however, Darren was given artistic freedom to incorporate his own style. This is a picture of Darren's sculpt,
The organist will be decked out in a Dicken’s Victorian cape, tuxedo, goth shirt and partially-crushed Reggie hat. The cape was purchased (new on Amazon.com) from 911 Costume,
The tuxedo and partially-crushed Reggie hat were purchased (used on eBay) as part of the InCharacter Ghostly Gent Adult Halloween Costume,
The white goth shirt was purchased (new with tags on eBay) from NawtyFox,
Disney's Haunted Mansion organ was reportedly based on a Robert Morton console similar to this one,
We learned our lesson after spending over five months and $2,000 building the Wicked Stone Computer-controlled Coffin. We weren't about to build the organ from scratch! This is our starting point,
It’s a Wurlitzer 4520. We found it in the parking lot of our local Colton Piano & Organ. Who knows how long it had been there. We were told that if we hauled it away that we could have it for free. The funny thing is that when we got it home, it actually worked!
We have gutted the organ. The organ was filled with rather dated, bulky electronics. We removed all of the electronics in order to lighten up the organ. There are six speakers (including two sizable woofers) that are mounted behind the cloth under the keyboards. We plan to preserve the speakers. We have bought a pair of three-way crossovers from Radio Shack that we hope to use to re-wire the speakers.
We plan to strip the paint from the organ and stain the underlying wood.
The legs of the Haunted Mansion organ were actually made from a pair of corbels. This corbel was one of a matching pair made by JMK Sculpture specifically for Nemo's Organ that resides in France,
– Please let us know if you’re aware of affordable corbels similar in size and style to the corbels used for the Haunted Mansion organ legs.
We feel that the towering pipes are what make the Haunted Mansion organ so imposing,
Here’s the anatomy of an organ pipe,
1. Pipe body or resonator
2. Upper lip
4. Lower lip
6. Toe hole
Here’s our drawing (approximately to scale) of the Haunted Mansion organ pipes,
We are toying with the idea of building organ pipes out of varying diameters of PVC pipe. It's a little unclear as to how we will achieve the taper at the bottom of the pipes. Grafton Piano & Organ made a mold from a real organ pipe,
These photographs are from Grafton Piano & Organ.
This is an excellent technique, however, you must first secure real organ pipes from which to make the mold. Ideally, we’d like two organ pipes in each of six different diameters. It’s hard to justify the time and cost of making six molds to only pull two casts of each mold.
– Please let us know if you’re aware of design plans for making faux organ pipes like the Haunted Mansion organ pipes (pictured above).
The pipes will sit in a “wind chest” mounted on top of the organ.
Here’s the profile of the wind chest,
We have removed all of the brightly colored knobs, levers and switches from the face of the organ. We will replace the levers with ivory draw knobs. This will relieve the organ of its "high-tech" look. Here is a picture of the draw knobs we will use,
This picture depicts the relative position of the draw knobs,
We plan to build out the front of the organ, including the "boxes" to the left and the right of the keyboards.
Bat Sheet Music Holder
We plan to build a bat sheet music holder as depicted in this blueprint and picture,
Here is the initial draft of our bat sheet music holder pattern,
Here are pictures of the clawed feet which hold the sheet music,
Disney’s Haunted Mansion organ bench is very ornate. We certainly don’t expect to incorporate this level of detail in our bench, at least not in the initial conjuring.
– Please let us know if you’re aware of an affordable bench similar in style to the Haunted Mansion organ bench.
We considered three different approaches to animating the Wicked Stone Grim Organ and Organist,
· Pneumatics with Pepper’s Ghost Illusion
· Pneumatics in Direct View
· “Hologram” Projection
Pneumatics with Pepper’s Ghost Illusion
Of course, our first consideration was the Pepper’s ghost illusion used in Disney's haunted mansion ballroom,
This illustration is from Haunted Dimensions.
The organist is animated out of sight of the audience. The audience views the reflection of the animated organist through a large piece of glass.
We will need a body form for the organist. In 2003, we purchased a thick latex-skinned, dense foam-filled male body form from Michael Burnett Productions at the TransWorld’s Halloween & Attractions Show in Chicago for the Wicked Stone Thrash ‘n Burn,
We would animate the organist using pneumatics. A cylinder would be used to lift and lower each hand. These cylinders would attach at the wrist. This is a picture of one of the cylinders,
This picture shows how the cylinder would be oriented along the face of the keyboard,
A rodless cylinder would be used to move each hand left and right. The two rodless cylinders would mount flush under the keyboard. This is a top view of one of the rodless cylinders as it would be mounted under the keyboard. The rodless cylinder is approximately 1/2" thick,
A cylinder would be connected between the organist's spine and his crotch in order to lean the organist forward. One cylinder would nod the head and a rotary cylinder would rotate the head.
We’d use a combination of five-port, three-position and five-port, two-position solenoid valves. The five-port, three position solenoid valves would be used in conjunction with those cylinders over which we hope to have digital control. Of primary importance are the cylinders that would move the hands left and right and the rotary cylinder that would rotate the head.
Small solenoid valves and air cylinders would be used to animate several organ keys corresponding to each hand.
· Tip of the (Reggie) Hat – The use of Pepper’s ghost illusion pays homage to Disney's haunted organist.
· Ghostly – The reflection of the animated organist in the glass creates a ghostly image. Controlling the lighting between the main viewing room and mirror-image room will make the organist gradually appear and disappear.
· Cost – At a minimum, we’d need a 5’ 8” x 8’ piece of glass (or Plexiglass) with a main viewing room of only 4’ x 4’ x 8’. You have the cost of a body form and the cost of pneumatics to animate the organ and organist.
· Handling / Storage – Handling and storing such a large piece of glass will be a nightmare. Plexiglass would alleviate this concern slightly.
· Complexity – Achieving lifelike movement using pneumatics is extremely challenging and requires ongoing maintenance.
Pneumatics in Direct View
Our second consideration was the use of “Pneumatics in Direct View”. In other words, the organist would be animated using pneumatics in direct view of the audience.
· Less Expensive; Easier Handling / Storage - Eliminates the cost and handling / storage headache of using glass or Plexiglass. However, you still have the cost of a body form and the cost of pneumatics to animate the organ and organist.
· Ghost Busted – The ghostly nature of Disney's organist will be lost.
· Complexity – You still have the challenge of achieving lifelike movement using pneumatics.
We’re leaning towards the use of a “Hologram” projection. By definition, a hologram is a three-dimensional image. Stage illusions such as Pepper's ghost are often mistakenly referred to as holograms. AtmosFX appropriately uses the term “hologram-illusion” or “Hollusion” to refer to such images.
We will videotape an actor in the organist costume. The actor will be videoed sitting on a black bench in front of a black backdrop,
The video will be projected on scrim stretched in front of the organ.
· Less Expensive – Scrim is inexpensive compared to glass / Plexiglass and readily available in much larger sizes. A projector and triggerable media player should cost less than $200. Videoing a live actor eliminates the cost of a body form and the cost of pneumatics to animate the organist.
· Ghostly – Projecting video on scrim should preserve the ghostly nature of Pepper's illusion. The video image can be faded in and out to make the organist gradually appear and disappear
· Lifelike – The video will preserve the lifelike movements of the actor videoed playing the organ.
· Less Complex – Only the organ keys will be animated, rather than the organist. There’s far less maintenance with a solid-state projector and media player.
However, considerably larger pieces of projection material are available from Carl’s Place,
The HDDK will reportedly have a HDMI input, is due out Summer 2017 and will retail for $189.99. Obviously, far less expensive projectors are available on eBay.
However, the WindowFX Projector Kit doesn’t have a video input.
We tentatively plan to use a $3 Arduino Uno clone,
The Uno will control the media player / projector and animate / sync the organ keys via the solenoid valves / air cylinders.