Leota Toombs was an employee of WED Enterprises (now Walt Disney Imagineering), the division of The Walt Disney Company that designs and builds Disney's theme parks, attractions, and resort hotels. She was born Leota Ann Wharton. Her first husband was Harvey Toombs; the second was Hugh Thomas.
She is best known as the face of Madame Leota, the disembodied head that speaks from inside a crystal ball in Disney's Haunted Mansion attractions. The character's voice was supplied by actress Eleanor Audley. When the attraction first opened in 1969 at Disneyland, the Madame Leota effect was achieved by projecting a loop of 16mm film onto a sculpted head; it since has been replaced by a digital display.
Thomas appears in another part of the Haunted Mansion attraction. Near the end of the attraction guests pass a tiny bride, whose face and voice were provided by Thomas. The effect is also achieved via projection onto a faceless figure.
Thomas died of cancer in 1992 or 1993.
Her daughter, Kim Irvine, also is an Imagineer and performs the part of Madame Leota in Disneyland's seasonal Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay, which adds characters and elements from Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Thomas is memorialized at the Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion attraction in Florida with an animated tombstone created by Imagineering that incorporates a sculpted face whose eyes open intermittently. Similar to other faux tombstones that pay tribute to the attraction's creators with witty wordplay, its inscription reads:
Dear sweet Leota
Beloved by all
In regions beyond now,
But having a ball