Haunted Mansion Disneyland Premiere Is a Grim Look at Studio Strike Cope

Main poster for Disney's 2023 Haunted Mansion movie, featuring the main cast.

Image: Disney

With Hollywood actors now striking, it doesn’t just mean that various big budget productions now have to cease. It also means that until the strike is actually done, actors can’t promote any of their upcoming work (those that fall under SAG-AFTRA rules) in any capacity.

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As a result, it means that Disneyland premiere of the upcoming Haunted Mansion reboot was without its top-billed cast, which includes the likes of Rosario Dawson, Lakeith Stanfield, and Danny DeVito. At Saturday’s premiere, Disney (which previously confirmed it wouldn’t cancel) chose to get creative to make up for its lack of stars, and the apparent solution was to have characters already at Disneyland walk on the red carpet. In what Disney called a “spirited celebration,” and as reported by the likes of Deadline and Variety, classic Disney characters like Maleficent, Cruella de Vil, and Mickey and Minnie Mouse showed up to take pictures. (They probably weren’t at the screening itself, but it would’ve been funny if they committed to the bit that hard.)

During the red carpet, Mansion director Justin Simien voiced his support and understanding for the strike, while admitting to Variety that he was “sad” his cast couldn’t be here to attend. He also spoke his mind regarding pre-strike statements made by Disney CEO Bob Iger, who currently has a $27 million salary and said actors “weren’t being realistic” with their demands and was noticeably absent from the premiere. Simien said he would “love to talk to [Iger] about the reality that we all face as artists to make the impossible happen every day. I don’t know if how he meant it is how it felt to me.”

Haunted Mansion’s premiere marks the first Hollywood event to follow the SAG-AFTRA strike. And similar to May’s MTV Movie Awards when the WGA strike was in its early days, this event paints a clear picture of how the next few weeks (or months) could fare for studios if they don’t agree to a deal sooner rather than later. It’s already hard enough that various shows and movies have had to cancel their conferences or showings at next weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con. But for a studio like Disney, whose movies thrive on star-studded marketing and has other blockbusters releasing this year in The Marvels (November 10) and Wish (November 22), the strike will be especially damaging. Having theme park actors stand in for the actual actors who are otherwise striking doesn’t feel especially sustainable, and may only go to further highlight how bad studios shot themselves in the foot by not agreeing to SAG-AFTRA and WGA’s terms.

Haunted Mansion arrives in theaters on July 28.

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