Pirates of the Caribbean got Johnny Depp. Haunted Mansion got Eddie Murphy. Country Bear Jamboree and Mission to Mars got their moments, too. Now it's Museum of the Weird's turn, which leads to the question: What is Museum of the Weird?
"It's the forbidden fruit," says Marvel editor Bill Rosemann.
A sketched-out, but unrealized Disneyland attraction, Museum of the Weird is the basis for a five-issue, Disney-Marvel comic-book series. The first installment of "Disney Kingdoms: Seekers of the Weird" is set to go on sale in January.
"The founding fathers [of Disneyland] had this idea, and it was lost in time, and now we can look at it," Rosemann says.
If things had gone differently, we might have been looking at the skull clock (as featured on the cover of "Seekers of the Weird No. 1") and other Museum of the Weird elements for decades now.
During the development of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion, legendary Walt Disney Imagineering designer Rolly Crump — he was the Imagineer who helped make It's a Small World a theme-park perennial — made concept drawings that caught the boss's eye: wallpaper with eyes, a lizard-thing with bells on its tail, a skull clock.
"[Walt Disney] told Rolly that once he was presented with all this 'weird' stuff, he was up all night trying to figure out what to do with it," Jeff Baham of the Haunted Mansion completist site DoomBuggies.com said in an email.
One idea, per Disney lore, was that Crump's creations could be housed in an adjacent wing of the Haunted Mansion: an awe-inspiring museum of the you-know-what.
But the drive to bring the idea alive essentially died with Walt Disney in 1966.
"Some of the ideas and imagery appears to have been utilized in some of the Haunted Mansion [which opened in 1969]," Baham said, "but most of Crump's work for the museum was left on the drawing boards."
The project, however, continued to hold a fascination for the Disney enthusiast.
"Most Haunted Mansion fans would love a chance to see Rolly's crazy concepts brought to life — that would be an experience to die for, so to speak," Baham said.
In 2010, Disney was reported to be developing a Museum of the Weird movie, but no green lights ever got lit.
A year earlier, in 2009, Disney bought Marvel. Sometime after, Disney Imagineers went to a baseball game (to see the Disneyland-adjacent Los Angeles Angels, Rosemann thinks) with Joe Quesada, Marvel's chief creative officer and, at the time, its editor in chief.
The talk in the stands turned to Disney's theme-park-inspired movies: Depp's "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, Murphy's "Haunted Mansion," "The Country Bears," "Mission to Mars," and the in-the-works "Magic Kingdom," among them. And then, according to Rosemann, the talk turned on a question: What if Marvel created theme-park-inspired comics? What if Marvel built new worlds around Disney attractions, whether they be of today, of the past — or of the never-was?
"The Imagineers told us about the Museum of the Weird," says Rosemann, who grew up a self-described "huge, gigantic Disney fan," but himself hadn't heard of the "lost" Disneyland attraction until after the Magic Kingdom shared its lore — and Crump's original art.
The comic series that came from all that concerns teenagers who venture into the Museum of the Weird to find their kidnapped parents. Its announcement this week led to solid Internet buzz ("I'll be buying my first Marvel series in a REALLY long time!," went one tweet.), and a thumbs-up from the 82-year-old Crump, who was personally delivered the title, Rosemann says, by the Imagineers who helped oversee its creation.
"We have the official Rolly Crump blessing," Rosemann says.
Marvel and Disney are billing Disney Kingdoms as a new line (and, for Marvel, a new universe). Other Disney attractions and rides are being eyed for their comic potential, although Rosemann won't divulge which ones.
When asked when the Museum of the Weird-inspired, "Seekers of the Weird"-based movie was hitting theaters, Rosemann laughs.
"Well, first things first...," he says, adding, "could the comic lead to translations into other media? I don't see why not."
Weirder things have happened.