The extent to which The Haunted Mansion transcended the term "dark ride" and became
a galvanizing experience for millions of Disneyland and Walt Disney World visitors
was once difficult
to measure. Even though a collective appreciation for the attraction could
be sensed in secret societies and various forms of popular media since 1971, only the
advent of the internet gave real form to the devoted legions (beginning with doombuggies.com ten years
ago). In Florida, this coincided with the 1997 arrival of
the ghost horse-drawn hearse in the Mansion's forecourt. The interest in
that arguably minor enhancement was intense and indicated that the fan base
a force to reckon with. If you could fit everyone who lamented the loss of
Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, Horizons, World of Motion, the Mickey Mouse Revue and
20K into one coffin, you would need the rest
of the cemetery for the outraged mourners that would turn up for the
Yet there was no guarantee that this following would in any way prevent Walt Disney Imagineering from tampering
with the attraction during its just-concluded three month rehab (it reopened
September 13) - a downtime that promised the most far-reaching set of changes in the
attraction's 36-year history. WDI's track record with the Magic Kingdom and Epcot
over the past twenty years has given cold comfort to those who felt that
refurbishment was best accomplished without reinvention. No matter what
Mansion fans' positions might be on the 1993 Carousel of
Progress update, Tropical Serenade's 1998 dust-up or last year's Pirates of the
Caribbean overhaul, none of them wanted to see the ghostly labors of Claude Coats,
Marc Davis and Yale Gracey given a wiseass makeover - especially in
one of the few remaining Florida features that had improved on the Disneyland
original.* A lot of people were holding their breath. I was right
there with them, since the Haunted Mansion is significant to me by virtue of
lifelong obsessions and previous employment.
The prospect of its molestation was mortifying.
So the good news coming out of Liberty Square this month is that WDI exercised
sense, restraint and caring in its treatment of this classic
attraction. How much temptation they may have felt to go further is
unknown to me, as is any role that a budget played in what went down or didn't. What remains at the end of the tour, however, is a
largely in-tact, in some ways bettered and in no ways ruined Haunted Mansion. Not
only did the attraction avoid unseemly echoes from the abysmal 2003 same-named film.,
many of its original features were given no enhancements other than to their sound,
lighting or projection technologies.
There are, as foretold, significant changes to some scenes that were
deemed underwhelming in their original form and/or incapable of "proper"
don't think all of the revisions were particularly smart, but nearly
every one of them is well executed. And after riding three times
that first morning, part of a keen horde on hand to witness the "re-haunting" spectacle,
I walked away with
the strangest of all sensations ... that my favorite place in all of WDW was turned over to a
group of individuals who by and large respected the work of those who had gone
before them and wanted to carry their traditions forward. Then a ghost
followed me home.
There are several layers of retooling and I certainly didn't pick up on all of
the details (others
have), but here is a rough overview:
- The green queue area canopy that was introduced in 1972 has been replaced with a
broader, longer assembly. The new cover is red and covers more of the
square footage in front of the Mansion's lawn. Unfortunately the
canopy runs itself smack into the old Keelboat Shop building, give or take a
foot, and has thereby created the most nonsensical juxtaposition of structural
components in the park, outside of Tomorrowland.
- The sound and lighting has been completely redone, starting in the foyer. Guests still hear the familiar
voices of Paul Frees, Eleanor Audley, Thurl Ravenscroft and Leota Thomas, along
with most of the original sound effects, but the speaker systems are upgraded
and the sound remixed to staggering heights of quality. The narration in
the omnimover cars sounds better than ever. Some of the secondary
singing graveyard voices have been replaced with new ones. There are also effects to be heard
now in places where there were none before, such as bats in the stretch rooms
and a piano in the attic.
- The Load area has new cobwebs strung between the
lights and four of the paintings (vampire, bearded man, witch and hatchet man)
from the original Portrait Gallery scene are hung above the wainscoting just
beyond the Load belt.
- The Portrait Gallery scene now consists of three curtained
windows to left, through which lightning flashes and causes the transformation
of four paintings to the right, each of which is a replica of those found in
Disneyland's Portrait Hall: Medusa, the man on horseback, the tiger lady and the
ghost ship. The wallpaper in this scene is new. A mirror and console
table have also been placed against the wall next to the first painting.
- There is now a music stand positioned next to the
piano in the Music Room.
- The spiderwebs have been replaced with two new
sequences: A complex set of stairways that run in a multitude of separation
directions and at varied angles, with green footsteps appearing and disappearing
as they traverse the steps, and two dark corners where ominous blinking eyes are
clustered and transition into the creepy Corridor of Doors wallpaper pattern.
The sequences are separated by a large draped portal.
- Madame Leota's crystal ball now floats above the
table, which has been laid out with a nice set of candles and abutted
with a book of spells.
- The attic scene has been completely reworked with a new bride in a new
location. She, Constance, chopped off all of her husbands' heads and seems pretty
happy about it. She also appears in portraits throughout the attic, along
with her prematurely deceased lesser halves. Both this scene and Madame
Leota's floating ball effect were introduced at Disneyland between 2004 and
There was also a
great amount of repainting accomplished
across the whole of the location, from the outside bricks and stonework to the
wood paneling in the foyer and countless items throughout the ride. The
ghosts have a whole new glow about them.
the Mansion's new lease on death will probably be celebrated, debated and deconstructed
for years, we can at least reflect on what has
lost to the hereafter. Or appears to have been lost, as there is
always a chance that a supernatural disappearance could reverse itself.
Among the departed:
- The original ride hostess costumes
- The oblong outdoor planter and forecourt configuration
- The flower beds and neatly trimmed hedges on the Mansion's front lawn
- The traveling light effect in the Mansion's front four windows and
- Seven of the eleven Portrait Hallway pictures (four are now at Load)
- Two large spiders (and their webs) from the staircase
- Madame Leota's stained-glass hanging lamp
- The original attic
brides, "Miss Corpse Face 1971," "Miss Heavenly Blue 1972" and 1997's "Miss
- The attic pop-up ghosts
- The open version of the exit hall windows
Several of these alterations occurred well before the
recent rehab. The new hostess costumes came in circa 1990; Operations
employee Tina Michael found the originals unflattering and uncomfortable and the
company responded with the striped version.** The old style is still being
used in Tokyo, but the current Florida costume works better for a wider variety
of body types.
The traveling light effect, which could only be
appreciated at night, was achieved via five individual light elements that
worked in succession and gave the appearance that something other than doom
buggies was moving through the various rooms of the mansion. The feature
fell into relative disrepair as the 1990s progressed before grinding to a total
halt more recently. It does not appear to have
been reconstituted for the ride's re-opening, unless it's only happening once an
Then there are our missing friends pictured at top and below
- dear companions who couldn't take their eyes off us. It's their
departure that I find most troublesome. Medusa lives on as
a lightning echo in the painting of Kurt Russell's pretty lady***, and the four
Load area paintings seem to be comfortable, but none of them glare at us with
the same unsettling attention as before. If there is justice these creeps
will find their way back home in the years to come.
In future editions of this page, updates on the status of
these ghosts and further reminiscences will materialize.
Altered WDW Attraction
Opened: October 1, 1971
E (1971 - 1980)
Influences evident in:
Related External Sites:
Ghost Relations Dept.
Daveland's HM Photo Page
Haunts & Graveyards
All photos copyright
The Walt Disney Company.
Text copyright 2007
WYW acknowledges the
with its research on
The Haunted Mansion