The Singing Busts are characters from the Disney parks attraction The Haunted Mansion and its respective franchise. From left to right, their names are Rolo Rumkin (Verne Rowe), Uncle Theodore (Thurl Ravenscroft), Cousin Algernon (Chuck Schroeder), Ned Nub (Jay Meyer), and Phineas P. Pock (Bob Ebright).
The Singing Busts were presumably a group of singers who had some affiliation in life with the Haunted Mansion. Following their respective deaths, they were buried in the cemetery adjacent to the estate.
In death, their spirits possessed the marble-busts which adorned their tombs which they animated to perform musical numbers. For unknown reasons, the bust of their lead-singer Uncle Theodore got damaged which resulted in his head being balanced by his bust upon his pedestal.
Phineas P. Pock was a member of the Pock family which had a prolific (albeit ambiguous) history with the Haunted Mansion. Rolo as-well seemed to be a friend of if-not member of the family which owned the Haunted Mansion in life (often referred to as the Gracey family). This included one Prudence Pock who was a poetess and librarian for the (at-least New York) Haunted Mansion's library.
They were originally played by Jay Meyer, Thurl Ravenscroft, Verne Rowe, Bob Ebright, and Chuck Schroeder, a group known as The Mellomen. Originally, the Busts were to be portrayed by five actors with the singing overlapped with their performances. However the decision was made to use the singers after they showed a good deal of emotion during the recording session. They sing the majority of the song and, like many of the ghosts, each Bust has an official character name.
There was originally planned to be a sixth (female) Singing Bust - Aunt Lucretia - but this was never used, though some refer to Lucretia as the female staring bust in the Portrait Hall. Why she never made it into the group is unknown. Concept art from Marc Davis is where the busts get their official names.
The Uncle Theodore bust is "broken" because of yet another Imagineering error during development of the Mansion. If you look closely at any image of the Theodore Bust in one piece, you might notice that the figure is symmetrical up to the base, which is not symmetrical, so to avoid this problem, the Bust (being made of foam) was cut in half and has remained that way since. However, the problem was corrected for Phantom Manor, where Theodore, who is now intact and placed at the end of the row, is tilting about 90 degrees to the right. This misalignment cleverly masks the symmetry error from before.
Originally, Jay Meyer portrayed Rollo Rumkin and Verne Rowe portrayed Ned Nub. These two later had their faces switched, however, and are still switched to this day. So now Jay Meyer is Ned Nub and Verne Rowe is Rollo Rumkin. In Phantom Manor though, it was the other way around on opening day, but now the two still have their original faces in this version. Why this switch happened in any of the attractions is yet unknown.
The Haunted Mansion
In Disneyland's Family plot, the tombstones for Phineas Pock and Rolo Rumkin are visible. The tombstones read:, "Here Lies Phineas Pock Laid to Rest Beneath This Rock R.I.P.", and, "Rolo Rumkin Lived and Died a Friendly Bumpkin". This implies that at-least Rolo had some connection the family which owned the Haunted Mansion.
It is ambiguous as to if the Phineas Pock in the family-plot is the Phineas P. Pock in the ride however as there are at-least 2 other characters named Phineas Pock in the Haunted Mansion franchise. These respectively are Phineas Pock who appeared in radio advertisements and died in 1720, and Phineas J. Pock who wrote the book Magic from the Haunted Mansion in Disneyland.
In 2011, the tombstones for Uncle Theodore, Phineas Pock, Cousin Algernorn, Rollo Rumkin, and Ned Nub were incorporated into the hillside outside of the Haunted Mansion. Unlike the tombs in Disneyland, these tombstones had no epitaphs and seemed to be implicating the Singing Busts directly. In the same vicinity were tombstones for Captain Gore, Beauregard, Ezra, Gus and Phineas.
During the Nightmare Before Christmas themed Haunted Mansion Holiday, the Singing Busts are given jack o'lanterns on their heads which their ghosts animate. They sing the Haunted Mansion Holiday Scary Christmas song.
In Phantom Manor, the ghosts appear as a quartet with Cousin Algernon being absent. The Uncle Theodore bust is also not broken here and the busts are in a different order. They appear within the catacombs underneath of Thunder Mesa's boot-hill, singing Grim Grinning Ghosts as guests pass by.
The busts appear in the 2003 feature film, The Haunted Mansion as a quartet. They are interrupted by Jim Evers, who asks them the location of the mausoleum wherein they annoyingly responds with old folk-songs.
By the end of the film after all the ghosts go the heaven, the singing busts and Madame Leota inexplicably remain. They are subsequently taken by the Evers family for unknown reasons to go on a road trip with them, continuing to sing folk-songs from the back of the Evers' car, much to Jim Evers chagrin.
They are voiced by the Dapper Dans.
Video Game Appearances
The busts appear in this video game again as a quartet, with the Dapper Dans reprising the roles. In the game, the player character and primary protagonist, Zeke Holloway, is instructed by their leader, Uncle Theodore, to awaken and reunite the quartet before. When assembled, they sing, lighting up the graveyard and making a secret crypt mausoleum rise up from the ground.
Other singing busts, known as Wannabes, also appear wherein Uncle Theodore advises to avoid as they'll prompt him to start over. However, if Zeke interacts with them after finding the Singing Busts, the wannabes will sing their own song, causing empty crypts to rise out of the ground and more enemies and rewards to be revealed.
The Busts make a cameo in the video game Epic Mickey and can be seen in one of the Stretching Room Portraits in Lonesome Manor. Their portrait is based on the Constance Hatchaway portrait and they replace the bust of Constance's final spouse, George Hightower III with the tombstone instead saying "Here lies: Theodore, Al, Ned, Rollo, Phineas".
Given what Horace Horsecollar tells us in the game about Constance Hatchaway having killed five husbands, this could be an implication that the Wasteland's Constance married and killed her versions of the Singing Busts.
In Kinect: Disneyland Adventures, the busts are interactive characters in New Orleans Square found behind the Haunted Mansion. Using a composer's baton, the player can assist them in singing Grim Grinning Ghosts.
The Ghost Gallery
In the 1990s, cast-members of the Haunted Mansion in Walt Disney World created a backstory for the attraction as a means of answering guest questions. All of this backstory was recorded on paper and while unofficial, has since influenced both the original Haunted Mansion's official and semi-official features as-well as adaptations based on the Haunted Mansion.
In this story, the busts are renamed to Sherman Thurl, Richard Ravens, Robert Croft, Dansen Singg, and Omney Buss. These names have a number of allusions hidden in them such as their last names together sounding like "Thurl Ravenscroft Singing Bust" , Sherman and Richard being allusions to the Sherman Brothers, Dansen Singg being a play on, "Dance and sing", or Omney Buss being a play on, "Omnibus". They are said to be old friends of Master Gracey from their respective days at Yale University where they were part of an acapella club.
In 1934, Gracey invited them to Gracey Manor to perform a radio broadcast only to be killed when lightning struck the machinery used for their microphones. Gracey subsequently buried them in the graveyard in such a way that their likenesses would always appear to be on stage.
The ghosts appear repeatedly in this comic-series, often as a framing-device with Uncle Theodore frequently serving as a narrator character.
- A homage to the Singing Busts appears in the film Hercules. During the song "I Won't Say (I'm in Love)", the five Muses appear as the Busts.
- Rollo Rumkin's name is a reference to the Imagineer Rolly Crump.
- The Singing Busts are often misidentified as "The Phantom Five", which is the official name of the ghost minstrels seen in the Haunted Mansion's graveyard sequence.
- Many people believe Uncle Theodore is based on Walt Disney and another based on Leslie Nielsen because of the resemblance the two busts have to the men themselves; however, this is a common misconception.
- The busts are often characterized similarly to the Dapper Dans of Main Street, U.S.A..