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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Grim Grinning Ghosts Come Out To Socialize - The Various Mansion Flavors From Abroad

Today I thought I would give everyone a brief intro to the Haunted Mansions that live in the non-USA parks.  The Haunted Mansion is the only attraction that is in a different land in each Park.  Well we know the original Mansion is in New Orleans Square and the WDW Mansion is in Liberty Square but what about the other ones and how are they different?
Haunted Mansion: Tokyo Disneyland (Fantasyland): opened 1983
Look familiar?  No, it's not the Haunted Mansion in WDW but you really can't tell these two apart from the outside at a glance.  The exterior is a copy of the Florida Mansion with a little more "wear and tear" however the ride itself is located in Fantasyland.  Why?  My guess for the exterior is that is was quick and cheaper than developing something original.  

The land placement issue has to do with Asian culture.  The departed spirits of their ancestors are very much a part of their lives.  Many families have Butsudan (shrines) in their homes to honor their ancestors.  "Ghosts" in Japanese lore are not friendly or humorous.  These spirits are vengeful, evil, jealous, angry.  They are not the same as their ancestors or other spirits in the world around them.  The Haunted Mansion is in Fantasyland because Disney came at it from the point of view that these ghosts were make believe.  They were not real and thus were in Fantasyland.

The ride itself is mostly the Florida ride but with a few changes such as a room filled with cobwebs & spiders, a free floating spirit in Madame Leota's room and the old attic treatment with the "Bride" and the beating heart that freaked me out as a kid is here.

Phantom Manor: Disneyland Paris: formerly EuroDisney (Frontierland): opened 1992
Yes, I know, it looks like the Psycho house which is kind of cool.  Actually this was inspired by the original Haunted Mansion sketch from Harper Goff in 1951 when Walt thought of having a walk-through Haunted House off of Main Street.  He pictured a church with a graveyard and a run down house up on a hill.  

So now you can see how the Mansion evolved and I think it is nice they were able to find a Park to use this first concept in.  This is also the first Mansion that has a very definite story line.  It is based loosely on Phantom of the Opera (written by Gaston Leroux - a Frenchman) but with a western twist to fit the Thunder Mesa (Frontierland) feel.  

The basic story has Henry Ravenswood, who struck gold in Big Thunder Mountain, build this victorian mansion for his wife and daughter Melanie.  The gold dried up, his daughter wanted to marry someone he didn't approve of, then an earthquake buried Henry and his wife.  No one heard from the family again.  Later the story surfaced that on Melanie's wedding day, a mysterious phantom appeared, lured the groom to the attic and hung him.  Melanie, not being able to find her groom slowly went mad, wandering the house in her tattered wedding gown, waiting for her groom.  The Mansion became over run by spirits and demons enacting a parody of the wedding party she never had.  Her singing is heard through the Mansion at night.  The earthquake also cut through the old, abandoned mining town (which for some strange reason is in the Mansions backyard).

I have a friend who actually went to Disneyland Paris and gave me her views on the ride:
The obvious difference from the beginning is the exterior.  Not only the design of the Mansion but how it is obviously derelict with weeds, peeling paint, shuttered windows.  This is genuinely creepy especially at night.

The stretching room shows various portraits of the daughter in some scary, creepy situations.  This Mansion also utilizes an elevator so it does "stretch".  The scene at the end in the copula shows the Phantom hanging the groom and not just a hanging body.

The effects from the hall through the Doombuggies are pretty much like the original.  As you travel past the suit of armor you see familiar items with an overlay of either the girl appearing and disappearing or the Phantom doing the same thing.

Madame Leota is there for the seance but instead of general lingo about conjuring spirits to ring bells, she is talking about calling ghosts to a ball that specifically references the Bride and the vanished groom.

The ballroom is pretty much the same only with the addition of the bride and a laughing Phantom.  When you enter the brides bedroom (attic), you see the bride now as an old lady crying in front of a mirror while a music box plays.  Another Phantom of the Opera touch.

This is where it gets really different.  When you go into the graveyard, you see the Phantom with a dead dog instead of the live caretaker, you go underground into catacombs and see the busts singing Grim Grinning Ghosts.  You now enter the western ghost town with shoot outs, a dead Mayor (with the original ghost hosts voice), a saloon with ghostly showgirls, gamblers and bartenders.  At the end you still get a ghost in your car and Little Leota telling you to hurry back and bring your death certificate.  Same things as the original ride but the theming is a wine cellar from the Mansion.  All and all it was pretty cool since so much of it was different, you can judge it as another attraction in a way and not compare it too closely to the original.

Mystical Manor: Hong Kong Disneyland (Adventureland/Mystic Point) - Opening 2013/14
We can only speculate on what this ride will eventually be as it is not open yet.  I have heard two rumors as for as location.  It will either be in Adventureland or a new land called Mystic Point that still will have an Adventureland feel.  There IS an Adventureland in this Park (will be writting about it later) but at the moment I can not get definite confirmation on the location.

My Imagineer insider did tell me this ride would be the first to have NO GHOSTS.  I am assuming it is a similar culture issue, just like Japan.  This ride will take you on a dark ride tour through the Manor of Lord Henry Mystic, an Edwardian adventurer and explorer.  His Victorian home rests on a jungle hilltop and all hell breaks loose when his mischievous monkey opens a cursed music box.  It's always the monkeys......

There will a pre-show introducing the monkey and the music box.  The doombuggies will be replaced by turn of the century horseless carriages.  The manic monkey opens the box and the magic that is released brings the artifacts of the Manor to life.

The planned rooms are a music room, a Greek room, a conservatory, a Norse room filled with cold wind and smoke, an armory where an animated cannon blasts the ride vehicle backward, the Egyptian room (I'm sure there will be mummies), a tribal room that resembles the Tiki Gods from the Tiki Room, a Chinese room and then the return to the end where the Monkey traps the magic back in the box and returns things to normal.

However in spite of the issues with opening Mansion, Hong Kong Disney DOES have something no other Disney Park has - a real haunt.  Not Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party but a real scary haunt like Knotts Berry Farm or Magic Mountain with haunted mazes, spook houses (including a haunted hotel on Main Street).  As you remember Walt talked about putting the Haunted Mansion at the end of Main Street.   It was later moved to it's own land of New Orleans Square. 

If you think I am joking about the Haunt, watch the promo (this one is in English) for the 2009 event.  American kids would wet their pants going by how uber-PC Disney is in this country with not making anything "too scary".  Well unless you count the now defunct Alien Encounter (read my previous blog on that).

While the Tokyo Mansion is pretty standard, the Paris and Hong Kong one sound pretty cool and make me want to take a trip abroad to see them for myself.  Maybe some day!

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