Friday, October 24, 2008

13 Days of Halloween - Welcome, Foolish Mortals...

"When hinges creek in doorless chambers, and strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls... whenever candlelights flicker, though the air is deathly still; that is the time when ghosts are present - practicing their terror with ghoulish delight... Welcome, foolish mortals... to the Haunted Mansion!"

With that introduction by your ghost host, you are invited into my all time favorite place at Disneyland, the home of 999 happy haunts - The Haunted Mansion!

First, a little history. Walt Disney first wanted the "walk-through ghost house" to be on main street, reminiscent of the old dilapidated house every small town seems to have, of which kids are inspired to make up stories that it is haunted. When it was decided that a better location for the house would be in New Orleans square, the theme of the ride took on a different bent and the house became a haunted antebellum mansion. Disney Imagineers struggled to find a balance between scary vs. silly with the ride. They wanted it to be spooky, and have a few things in it to make you jump, but at the same time they wanted to appeal to their wide audience, and ensure that everyone have a good time. I think they accomplished it!

Now for some trivia. There are 131 Doom Buggies (that's what they call the carts you ride in) and it takes 10 minutes to go through the whole ride (not including standing in the queue in the picture gallery hallway). There is an animatronic raven located in every room. Originally, the Disney Imagineers were going to have the raven narrate the ride. Now, the disembodied voice of the Ghost Host is the narrator. Typical of Disney and the Imagineers' attention to detail, every inch of the house is covered in special details and touches, such as carved gargoyles on door frames, spooky faces drawn into the pattern of the wallpaper, etc. It all adds to the ambiance of the ride. One example of this, that makes me smile is in a little nook, at the landing where you board the doom buggies. There is a decrepit desk with a candle and cobwebs. A book is open on the desk...and if you had the time to look, you would notice it was a dictionary, opened, of course, to the definition of the word "ghost".

Did you know that there is an actual ghost story that goes along with the house? Some of it was made up by the Imagineers, while the rest of the story has been elaborated on by the cast members who have worked the ride over the years. It all centers around the home's owner, Master Gracey, who is named after one of the lead Imagineers for the ride, Yale Gracey. I wish I could tell it all to you, but in telling it, I would give away parts of the ride. And in case you haven't ridden it yet... I definitely don't want to ruin it for you.

During the holidays (Halloween through Christmas, I believe) the house gets a make-over. Several of the animatronic figures get replaced with characters from the movie The Nightmare Before Christmas. The music is also changed, and decorations are put up outside. I'm a Disney fan, AND a Halloween fan (obviously) AND a Tim Burton fan, AND the Haunted Mansion is my favorite ride, yet I must confess that I have not been to Disneyland for this version of the attraction. So tragic... but true. Doesn't anyone out there have a free ticket for me? Please?

I'm sure you're wondering where I got all this information from. Well, I am not psychic like Madame Leota. I obtained these tidbits from a website called Doombuggies. I love, love, love this website and could spend hours there (and have). It is an online documentary on the creation of the attraction and includes sound clips, interviews, memorabilia, initial design sketches and more. Everything you ever wanted to know about the creation of the ride and then some. All I can say is, the Disney Imagineers are a bunch of extremely creative, extremely talented people, with a fun sense of humor.

As an aside, there is another website run by the same individual, chronicling the development of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, called dead men Tell No Tales.

Thanks for letting me indulge my odd love for this attraction, and write about it in my 13 days of Halloween. Are you a Disneyland fan? Leave me a comment and let me know what your favorite ride is. Or let me know of a different haunted house type attraction you've been through, where it is purported to be haunted. For example, have you visited Winchester Mansion, or the Birdcage Saloon in Tombstone? And for those of you who have a trip planned to Disneyland soon (you know who you are) try not to rub it in too much... I'm already jealous! And be sure to say hello to the hitchhiking ghosts for me while you're there... :)


chandy said...

I LOVE D-land! And I love this ride of course. I'll probably have to wait and ride it after dark when the kids are back at the hotel for the night, because I know they'd be scared. We'll see if I can convince them...

Have you heard the Bare Naked Ladies' version of Grim Grinning Ghosts? It's awesome!

I'd have to say my favorite ride though is Splash Mountain. Perfect combination of thrill ride and animitronic/musical awesomeness. Just perfect.

Laura said...

After our conversation this afternoon, you know how I feel about this ride... the picture of the foyer made my heart race! It's just so spooky and I always let my imagination get away thinking about ghosts lurking behind the torn lace curtains and there's that funky dank smell. After I get in the doom buggy, I'm always fine it's just all the stuff that leads up to stepping off the moving floor creeps me out!

I would say you HAVE to see it done up for TNBC because it is adorable. I know it sounds hokey, but you really feel like you are in the movie. It's amazing and it is my favorite ride in the park during Halloween.

My favorite ride during Christmas is It's a Small World. The countries are all decorated with their native traditions and the song changes to Jingle Bells. It's so much fun for kids and adults too.

My favorite ride at Disney anytime is Peter Pan. There's something about a flying pirate ship that's just magical. Star Tours is fun with kids because in that ride they think they're flying for real.

D.L. White said...

@ Chandy - I'll have to track down the BNL version of the song. Sounds fun! Splash Mountain was a little too steep for me... plus I didn't feel safe in that thing with no seatbelt, etc. When I got off the ride, I felt like I was going to pass out. (Yeah... I'm a wussy when it comes to rollercoasters).

@ Laura - LOVE the Peter Pan ride. It think it's one of the best rides in the park for capturing that Disney magic. And what kid doesn't want to pretend they are flying? :)

raven said...

Someday I want to go see the Nightmare before Christmas version of the haunted mansion also. It seems a crime that we have never been there at that time of year. You know I spend entirely too much time at I also love the peter pan ride at Disneyland!

astraughnomer said...

ooooh yay Halloweeeen! i love halloween. :) happy to read your blog again after a long hiatus on my part due to losing (kinda) my bookmarks.

anyway, i hope you guys have a spectacularly spooky Halloween. :) miss you!!