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Disneyland Article
As Haunted Mansion Nears Its 50Th Birthday The Voice Of Its Black Widow Bride Speaks

Haunted Mansion
Bob Strauss
May 10, 2019
June 04, 2019
When noted voice actress Kat Cressida was a little girl, her father did radio and television promotions for Disneyland.

While he was taking business meetings in the park, sometimes she’d amuse herself by tape-recording the many sounds heard from hidden speakers throughout the Anaheim attraction.

“My first introduction to voice-over was hearing these iconic, amazing voices in Disneyland when I was a kid,” noted Cressida — who later, when she was a castmember at the park, would listen to tapes of Disney female characters during her long commutes to work.

So it was like a slightly nightmarish dream come true when, in 2006, Cressida got to audition for the voice of the Haunted Mansion ride’s rare upgrade of one of its signature ghostly characters: Constance, the Black Widow Bride.

Even if she was unaware that that’s what it was at the time.

“It was an audition like any other,” Cressida, whose remarkable medical story is detailed here, recalled. “Of course, you don’t know anything when you first go into Disney. You sign an NDA and they tell you you are forbidden to take any pictures, turn off your cellphone and you don’t know exactly what you are auditioning for.”

All she was told that they wanted a classic attraction sound, like from around Walt and the original Imagineers’ era.

“That made me excited because I was probably one of the few people in my generation who was obsessed with the sounds of the classic park anyway,” Cressida pointed out.

Despite the secrecy atmosphere, she asked questions. Cressida was reluctantly told that the character was a female in her young 20s who every man would fall in love with and every woman wants to be.

Oh, and the audition was on camera.

“Sitting out in the waiting room, by the way, were a bunch of younger actresses,” the Woodland Hills resident recalled. “All beautiful, most of them blonde, and I remember thinking, ‘I’m in trouble.’”

She wasn’t. Cressida got callbacks, and was finally told what the role was.

“Her story was that she was the last living resident of the mansion,” they explained to Cressida. “She resided in her attic reliving all of the joyous moments of beheading each husband and looking for her next . . . in the afterlife!”

Once cast, the actress was given minimal direction. So Cressida did what came naturally to her for inspiration.

“We were told, ‘She’s not wicked, she’s mischievous!’” Cressida said of the Bride. “Beyond that, there was no special technique. Little Leota (voiced by Leota Toombs), the character at the end who says ‘Come ba-ack,’ influenced it some. That was a classic voice to draw from; so ethereal, beautiful, feminine. I was told she’s the voice that lures men to their death.

“And she had a face, of course, that would enchant every man,” the voice actress noted. The visual performance model for Constance was Julia Lee. “Why else would guys keep marrying her when the history was she keeps getting richer and the husbands keep disappearing?”

It’s a fun character, but as the 50th anniversary of the Haunted Mansion looms in August, Cressida remembered the gravity (or is that grave-ity?) with which she approached the job.

“To me, it was deadly important that I fulfill this legacy,” she said. “My voice is to be a voice you hear along with Paul Frees (the ride’s Ghost Host), who is god to a lot of us Disney fans, and Thurl Ravenscroft (numerous voices heard throughout the park — plus TV’s Tony the Tiger and the original Grinch). I tried to bring my version of whatever I thought that would be, but I’m just an actor trying to figure it out. So I kept with the playful, and we could never veer too far into sexy because it’s Disney.

“But she could be mischievous and sassy,” Cressida remembered. “I think we used the word sassy a lot.”
Attractions Referenced

Haunted Mansion

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