Yet there was no guarantee that this following would in any way prevent Walt Disney Imagineering from tampering egregiously 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 various 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.
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 2006. 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.
Although the Mansion’s new lease on death will probably be celebrated, debated and deconstructed for years, we can at least reflect on what has been 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 conservatory
– 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 Windpower” – The attic pop-up ghosts
– The open version of the exit hall windows
Altered WDW Attraction Location: Liberty Square, Magic Kingdom Opened: October 1, 1971 Ticket Required:E (1971 – 1980) Contributing Disney Personnel: X Atencio, Claude Coats, Marc Davis, Yale Gracey, Wathel Rogers Leota Thomas Bookend to: Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion Influences evident in: Tokyo Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion Related External Sites: