Disney’s Haunted Mansion premiere, held at Disneyland on Saturday night, looked a little different from what the studio originally planned as it became the first major Hollywood event to take place after SAG-AFTRA took to the picket lines.
Stars Tiffany Haddish, LaKeith Stanfield, Danny DeVito, Rosario Dawson, Chase W. Dillon, Dan Levy, Jamie Lee Curtis, Hasan Minhaj, Marilu Henner, Lindsay Lamb, director Justin Simien, producers Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich, executive producers Nick Reynolds and Tom Peitzman and composer Kris Bowers were initially scheduled to walk the red carpet, held in front of the theme park’s Haunted Mansion ride. But when the actors strike was called on Thursday, the stars were no longer able to attend the event. Strike guidelines prohibit not only on-camera work but also promotional activity, including premieres, interviews, festivals, FYC events, award shows and podcasts.
While several studios and streamers have opted to cancel their upcoming events — most notably the Oppenheimer red carpet in New York set for Monday — Disney moved forward with the premiere, leaning on its theme park characters in the absence of the actors.
Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Maleficent, Snow White‘s Evil Queen and Cruella posed for photos with fans throughout the two-hour red carpet, as influencers and other guests also got private access to ride the Haunted Mansion attraction. Producers, as well as Simien, arrived about halfway through the event, stopping for group photos before the director briefly talked to press.
“I feel very ambivalent about it, but at the same time, I’m just so proud of this cast and I’m so, so proud of Katie Dippold who wrote the script, and so much of why I did this was to honor her words and to honor their work,” Simien told The Hollywood Reporter on the carpet. “If they can’t be here to speak for it, I felt like I had to be here to speak for it. It’s sad that they’re not here, at the same time, I totally support the reason why they’re not here. And I’m happy to be the one to ring the bell in their stead.” He also noted that he finds the AI issues coming up in SAG-AFTRA’s negotiations to be “a very important thing to hammer home and to figure out.”
The red carpet was followed by a screening at California Adventure’s Hyperion Theater, where Simien took the stage, reflecting on how he used to work at Disneyland, and thanked his collaborators and Disney execs.
“Obviously we’re here at a weird time in the industry, there’s some folks that aren’t here — of course I’m referring to the multiple walkouts on RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars. Frankly I’m broiled by the drama this season. No, there’s some other things going on too,” Simien added in reference to the strike, also shouting out the star-studded cast by name.
SAG-AFTRA announced the work stoppage after negotiations with the Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers faltered on Wednesday night.
The group representing studios and streamers said it “presented a deal that offered historic pay and residual increases, substantially higher caps on pension and health contributions, audition protections, shortened series option periods, and a groundbreaking AI proposal that protects actors’ digital likenesses.” SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher called the offer “insulting and disrespectful of our massive contributions to this industry,” criticizing, “how they plead poverty when giving hundreds of millions of dollars to their CEOs. It’s disgusting. Shame on them. They stand on the wrong side of history at this very moment.”