The Buzz

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Just two summers ago, the idea of a Hollywood movie based on a Disney theme park attraction was considered, well, dopey. "The Country Bears," based on the decades-old animatronic show, did little more than break even in 2002. That's the downside. The upside: It didn't inflate expectations for the next offering.

"Pirates of the Caribbean: Curse of the Black Pearl," though, blew the humdrum right out of the recently passed sequel summer, raking in $300 million and counting in U.S. box office alone. Now, stakes are high for the next ride-to-reel, "Haunted Mansion," starring Eddie Murphy, to be released at Thanksgiving.

"I'm not consciously trying to connect [`Haunted Mansion' with `Pirates']," says Oren Aviv, president of Buena Vista Pictures Marketing. "I don't think consumers will. They liked `Pirates,' but that's not what will drive them to see `Haunted Mansion."'

It could be Murphy, who's repositioning himself these days as squeaky-clean family man following the success of "Daddy Day Care." But his box office appeal ebbs and flows (remember "I Spy?" or "Pluto Nash"? No one does).

Going with an obvious strength, much of the marketing will center on the movie's special effects. Zombies abound in the PG-rated movie, with makeup by multiple Oscar winner Rick Baker. "We'll be selling the excitement," Aviv says, "so, it works whether you know the ride or not."

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