Saturday, October 31, 2009
Ride Review - Haunted Mansion
Intro: The Walt Disney World version of the Haunted Mansion is located in a spooky New England manor on the outskirts of Liberty Square. It opened in 1971 with the Magic Kingdom. Most fans regard it as one of the most imaginative and best of Walt Disney World’s attractions.
Queue: Oddly, the queue is mostly located outdoors, which is something I’ve never really understood. Access to the main building occurs through the queue line which begins in Liberty Square and winds down a long path towards the set back mansion. On the way through the line you bypass a funeral carriage and a graveyard featuring tombstones with humorous epitaphs (“Here rests Wathel R. Bender, he rode to glory on a fender;” “Here lies good old Fred, a great big rock fell on his head. R.I.P.”) Mercifully, the outdoor queue is under a canopy. For reasons past anyone’s understanding, the ride includes Fastpass.
Preshow: We enter a room featuring portraits on all of the walls. A menacing voice, our “Ghost Host” tells us of when ghosts are present as we enter. He welcomes us and points out that the photos on the wall are of some of the Haunted Mansion’s inhabitants, as they appeared as mortals. He tells us there is no turning back. As he continues, the room begins to stretch, revealing additional portions of the portraits. He also notes that the room has no windows or doors and, subsequently, no way out. Of course, there is always HIS way. This leads to the lights going out and one of the walls opening as a door. We are then lead into a queue for the ride itself.
Ride: We hop onto an omni mover, dubbed a “doom buggy,” and move into the first room of the mansion. The ghost host returns as narrator and guide. He tells us of the ghost stories in the library and ghost writer busts in the mansion. He says that there are 999 happy haunts that have retired to the mansion, but there is room for 1,000. He asks for volunteers. When none seem to step forward, the tour continues, passing different sight gags along the way. We pass into a room where a woman in a crystal ball, Madame Leota, offers up some spells. Then the ghost host tells us that the haunts are beginning to materialize. The ghost host says he must leave, but will return later. Then we pass above a ballroom where ghosts dance around a banquet table. You simply have to see this to believe it, simply amazing Disney Imagineering.
We pass by a bride whose heart is literally pounding in her chest, and then move into a graveyard. Some marble busts begin to sing the ride’s theme song, “Grim Grinning Ghosts.” The ghost host returns and warns us to beware of hitchhiking ghosts. As he says this, the cars turn towards a mirror to reveal that a ghost is actually riding in the car alongside the guests! Amazing! Leota returns, in a gown, and invites us to please hurry back, for the ghosts have been “dying to meet” us. We are told that a ghost will follow us home as the ride ends.
Thoughts: There are two schools of thought concerning the story of the Haunted Mansion. One side seems to have been able to figure out an elaborate plot line concerning the deceased Master Gracey and his brides who have passed away under various circumstances. Some make Gracey a villain, others a sympathetic main character. This is partly what the movie starring Eddie Murphy was based upon. I, however, have trouble wholly believing that this story is supposed to come across in the ride. After all, the Imagineers, themselves, do not completely authorize this tale. The story seems to change every time depending on who is telling it. As best I can figure out, the story is very simple. The Haunted Mansion is a place where ghosts live and have fun. It is as simple as that. As we enter, we get to view their ghostly brand of mischief.
Story aside, the ride is a lot of fun. It is designed to be funnier than scary, and is filled with cool sight gags that I can not do justice to in print. Personally, I don’t consider it the greatest thing in the park, like many people do, but I agree that it’s one of Disney’s most imaginative and unique attractions.
Overall Rating: **** 1/4
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