'Haunted Mansion' arrives in theaters July 28.
Much like the 2003 film of the same name, Haunted Mansion is based on the Walt Disney theme park attraction. The supernatural comedy follows Gabbie (Dawson) and her son, Travis (Chase W. Dillon), who enlist a motley crew of so-called spiritual experts (Stanfield, Tiffany Haddish, Owen Wilson and Danny DeVito) to help rid their home of supernatural squatters.
"I think what was cool about it was that we didn't [just] remake it, you know, that it's really its own film," Dawson tells ET's Kevin Frazier. "Ours has a totally different story and it's very particular to the ride. I think it gives it a lot of that, so, I know for folks who love that film were also really excited about getting more of those Easter eggs and the things that they love about the ride because this is one project that I'm doing that people are coming out of the woodwork for."
That includes the star's brother who, despite not being a fan of rollercoasters, calls the Walt Disney attraction his favorite ride. "I know people who watch videos on the history behind it, and [are like] 'Did you know this was the last thing Walt Disney approved before he passed?' Like, people get really into it so I think for those folks, there's no competition with the previous film. This is leaning into a whole other type of storytelling that I think is going to be fun for people who liked the first one," she adds.
Stanfield, who plays Ben, a paranormal tour guide, shares his perspective on how the new film's different from its predecessor, calling it "a great sign and mark of artistry when you're able to just push the dial a little bit further."
"I think we should always be striving to do that. We're in a climate now where people are kind of tired of seeing the same thing and it becomes a little bit redundant. So, I feel happy to be a part of projects that are willing to push the dial a little bit further," he explains. "And this one does that and I'm really excited about it performance-wise, directing-wise, visually; we're doing new things. I mean, there are some things that you're going to see in here visually that will feel remarkable. Like, you felt on the ride when you ended up sitting next to a ghost toward the end of it there. So, it's a really special thing. I'm really happy to be on the cutting edge of things like that."
The stars also marveled at the significance of being part of Disney's extensive movie history, and how their roles could live on in the nostalgic memories of a younger generation like many of the studios' work has done for decades.
Calling it a "beautiful gift," Stanfield adds, "I grew up on Disney -- my all-time favorite movie is probably The Lion King, still. That movie was so profound in the '90s and seeing all the great Disney movies coming out [that] affected my childhood in such a real way, I'm so happy that I could be a part of kids' lives in that way and be able to share a story with them in this cool storytelling. It's a real gift."
"It was such a blessing to be a part of something like this and to see the level of detail," Dawson tells ET, noting that working on a Disney production as someone who has done many independent projects is a notable difference. "To have a level of budget, the time, the energy, the detail was just absolutely remarkable. The caliber of people we are playing with and working with every single day, all the way through to the crew to the cast, and Justin and his vision for it was just remarkable. It just felt exciting to be a part of."
The film itself holds a bit of magic for the stars, who share how working on the film meant more to them than expected.
"One of the things that drew me in [was] the fact that Ben was an astrophysicist, you know? It's a really cool job and it sounds cool, and I think you don't see a lot of Black men occupying [it]," Stanfield shares. "So it was really cool to try and change the tide of that and bring these new layers to our humanity that we know are there but are not often shown. Here's an opportunity to do that, share with people the unlimited intelligence we know in ourselves and show a little sliver of that on the screen and make it cool and fun with a camera that lights up and makes all kinds of sounds. It was something that I would have loved to have seen growing up and so I'm glad that I can be a part of pushing that imagery."
For Dawson, she notes how the effects of the film "elevated" the project to the point that it was "actually scary at times." "It feels very alive, you know, [and] I think this film feels like it deserved to be. It has such a vibrancy to it that it feels like its own entity," she adds. "I'm grateful to be able to breathe it into life because it's a really enjoyable experience that touches on, not just distraction and comedy and family and fun and spookiness, but I think it has some very deep messages around grief and love and family and community and chosen family that I think is really quite special."
Haunted Mansion hits theaters on July 28.
This interview was done prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike, which began on July 13, 2023.