Welcome, Foolish Mortal! With spooky season upon us, what more fitting attraction to explore than Disney’s Haunted Mansion? The Mansion is a favorite among many Disney Guests, and it’s a theme park ride like no other. Hop into a Doom Buggy and allow me to be your Ghost Host as we take a ride through this perennial Disney parks classic, which includes a perfect blend of spooky and silly vibes, hitchhiking ghosts, and magnificent attention to detail!
A Global Disney Park Phenomenon
There are Disney resorts all over the world, each with its own Magic Kingdom-style park. Each of these parks (Disneyland, Orlando’s Magic Kingdom, Tokyo Disneyland, Hong Kong Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris) has its own version of the Haunted Mansion. Interestingly, the attraction is not always in the same land, nor does it look the same or tell the same story in all of the parks. You’ll find Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion in New Orleans Square, with a facade that looks like a grand estate with towering columns at its front. Walt Disney World’s Haunted Mansion lives in Liberty Square, and is darker and spookier than its stately Disneyland counterpart. Across the sea in Tokyo Disneyland, the Haunted Mansion ride resembles the Walt Disney World version, but it’s located in Fantasyland. It’s hard to imagine a version of the attraction in Frontierland, but you can find one (Phantom Manor) at Disneyland Paris. Mystic Manor in Hong Kong Disneyland is the most unlike the rest, with its ornate façade, domed roofs, and curving staircases. Mystic Manor is more about magic than ghosts, and tells the tale of the mysterious Lord of the Manor and his monkey bringing everything inside to life.
Where’d They Get That Idea?
Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion, the original of the lot, is not inspired by anything out of New Orleans. Its design was influenced by a home in Baltimore, Maryland and further fleshed out by Imagineers Rolly Crump and Harper Goff. They found ideas in haunted houses, monster movies, and mythology. If you’ve ever visited The Winchester Mystery House in San Jose, California, you’ll also see that inspiration was found in its twisting staircases and passages to nowhere. Even the Haunted Mansion’s very own psychic medium Madame Leota herself was more than “inspired” by a Disney Imagineer: she borrows the actual face of Imagineer Leota Toombs. You can learn more in-depth details about the original Haunted Mansion’s development here.
The Original Took FOREVER to Complete
The Haunted Mansion’s upcoming arrival was advertised at Disneyland as early as 1961, but the building facade was not completed until 1963. The project then stalled for a few years as Walt Disney focused on preparations for the World’s Fair. Meanwhile, Imagineers were struggling to figure out what, exactly, to create for the ride show scenes. It was originally intended to be a walk-through attraction. The Haunted Mansion attraction was redesigned after Walt’s death in 1966, and then did not open until 1969. Even now, the ride reminds us that the tone of the attraction was in question throughout development. Would it be scary, or silly? What we got- the mix of a murderous bride and raucous ghostly residents- is distinctly… both.
A Dire Descent
Most of the Haunted Mansion attractions have a “stretching room” before you approach the ride vehicles. At Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland, the ceiling rises, giving guests the impression that they are in a descending room, but in actuality you stay on the same level the entire time. In fact, if you look at an aerial photo, you’ll see that the ride buildings are just beside the mansions on the same level. At Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion as well as Disneyland Paris’ Phantom Manor, the stretching rooms actually descend. You can learn more about the stretching rooms here. A note to all the parents out there: the stretching room is often what scares little ones the most (more than the ride itself). Inquire about skipping it if it has been an issue for your family in the past!
Haunted Mansion Holiday
Nothing says Christmas Cheer like… The Haunted Mansion? If you’re visiting Disneyland in Anaheim or Tokyo Disneyland during the Holiday season, be sure to take a spooky picture with a hitchhiking ghost for your greeting cards! Both versions of the attraction receive holiday overlays featuring characters from Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas. The overlay is present between the Halloween and Christmas seasons, and is hugely popular.
Toadily Surprised to See YOU, Mr. Toad!
I don’t know about you, but I still miss Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride at Walt Disney World. Fortunately, there’s still a spot we can visit our beloved froggy friend: in the pet cemetery at the Haunted Mansion. The Mr. Toad statue appeared at the Mansion after Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride was replaced with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh in 1999. Strangely, he was missing from the cemetery for several months during 2014, which lead to a lot of interesting discussions on the internet and among Guests. Rumor has it that Cast Members gave Guests a variety of explanations, from “he croaked” to the more likely “he was accidentally knocked over and is being refurbished.” Happily, Mr. Toad has long since returned and can be spotted in his usual spot once again.
Voices from Beyond
Disney fanatics are no strangers to hearing familiar voices being used for many different characters, and the Haunted Mansion audio is no exception. One of the signing busts in the graveyard scene is voiced by none other than Thurl Ravenscroft, who famously croons “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” in the classic How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Fun fact: He is also the man behind “Tony the Tiger” of Frosted Flakes fame.
The Ghost Host of the Haunted Mansion is also a famous voice: Paul Frees. Frees is responsible for providing the voice of Ludwig Von Drake, a scholarly Disney character dating back to the 1960’s. He appeared on “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color” and is also known as Donald Duck’s uncle.
What about Madame Leota, the psychic medium in the crystal ball? She is voiced by Eleanor Audley, who most famously provided the voice for Maleficent, as well as Cinderella’s stepmother, Lady Tremaine.
Attraction Turned Film… Again
The Haunted Mansion inspired its first film in 2003’s The Haunted Mansion starring Eddie Murphy. The film didn’t do nearly as well as the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie, which is why we don’t have a 5-film Haunted Mansion franchise. Disney is taking another stab at a Haunted Mansion movie with the upcoming film starring Tiffany Haddish and LaKeith Stanfield. Now that Disney has figured out the attraction-to-film formula with Pirates of the Caribbean and most recently, The Jungle Cruise, we have high hopes for the forthcoming film. We’re also super excited to see a sillier side of the Haunted Mansion with the release of Muppets Haunted Mansion, a television series coming to Disney+.
Did you learn anything new about our beloved Haunted Mansion? Feel free to share any other facts or spooky stories in our comments section on Facebook… because “there’s always room for one more!”