Here is something that I can say authoritatively as a person who has ridden every single attraction at Walt Disney World over the course of the last ten months: The Haunted Mansion is the best, you guys.
The idea of a haunted house type attraction appears contemporaneously with the earliest glimmers of Disneyland, but a variety of setbacks delayed its construction. Leery of having anything that looked run-down and poorly-maintained in the park, Walt was eventually inspired by the pristine-yet-eerie convolutions of the Winchester Mystery House as he guided work on early exterior designs. A Southern Gothic style facade was built in 1963 in New Orleans Square, but remained empty for half a decade as the Imagineers focused instead on the 1964 World’s Fair and its cavalcade of attractions. Walt never got to see the project come to fruition, but it was one of the first new attractions installed after his 1966 death. The end result of nearly a decade and a half of development is a flawless confluence of creativity and technical showmanship, as impressive now as it was when it opened nearly half a century ago – in 1969 at Disneyland and in 1971, on opening day, at Disney World.
It’s the latter version, larger and lengthier than the original, which I’m familiar with. I seldom leave Magic Kingdom without riding it. With Plantation style homes more quotidian in Florida, the Disney World version instead takes its inspiration from Gothic Revival mansions in the Pennsylvania area in order to complement the other architecture of Liberty Square. From the queue on it strikes an incredible balance between the whimsical and the genuinely macabre, a tone so ultra-heightened I’m not certain it could ever translate to any medium less hyperreal than a theme park ride.
The soundtrack features the incomparable voice talents of Paul Frees (who earned the title ‘The Man of a Thousand Voices’ alongside contemporary Mel Blanc) as the contrabass Ghost Host, Eleanor Audley (Lady Tremaine, Maleficent) as floating medium Madame Leota, and Thurl Ravenscroft (“You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and Tony the Tiger) as the main vocalist for the omnipresent theme song, “Grim Grinning Ghosts”.
It also employs what seems like every single trick and stage technique ever developed, running the gamut from modern projection mapping (added in the [excellent] 2007 refurb) all the way back to 19th century stage trick Pepper’s Ghost, famously used at an unbelievably massive scale to create the Ballroom scene. That ballroom, a sweeping triple-layered construction of precise, clockwork fantasy, is what the Disney parks are all about – using their boundless resources to create an illusion so vast that the illusion itself becomes awe-inspiring in its sheer bravura. I’d almost be less impressed if it turned out there were actual ghosts in there.
Have a great day thread, but beware… the spirits may hear your sympathetic vibrations, and invade the night thread!