Monday, November 4, 2013

Halloween at the Haunted Mansion

   Ah, there you are…

   I’m sorry this isn’t the next installment of the battle of the mansions, but before the details slip into my subconscious, I wanted to put together a report on my latest visit to Walt Disney World. Let it be known that visiting the Mansion again has given me a renewed interest in revisiting the battle; and since I’ve be stuck in another part that is all similarities and very little differences, it should be easier to make it through writing up this part.

   For those of you who don’t know by now, I spent my Halloween at the Magic Kingdom. I came dressed as… well, see bellow:

   The costume was inspired heavily by the Phantom from Phantom Manor, but I’m doubtful even a handful of attendees at the party knew that was what it was supposed to be. And honestly, that wasn't important anyway, because the reaction I got was regions beyond what I would have guessed at. From the moment I stepped out onto the dock at the Fort Wilderness marina to catch a boat the Magic Kingdom, I was met by oohs, ahs, pointing fingers, weird stares, and hushed whispers along with the occasional “awesome costume” or similar compliment. I boarded the boat which was filled with everything from a family of pirates to students of Hogwarts and set off for the 10 or so minute cruise to the marina over in the Seven Seas Lagoon. As I sat there in my costumer, I began to realize just how miserable the next few hours might end up being; trapped in a mask with a few layers of all black, sunshine sucking clothing on. It also occurred to me that begging hot and sweaty for just one night a year to go to a theme park looking as cool as I did was probably worth it.

   As I sat there, the first of many similar moments that made my night began to happen. I notice a little girl turned around in her seat staring back at me a few rows up. She and her family were all dressed as pirates. She must have been three or four at the most, and I really couldn't gather what kind of stare it was at first. Curious? Scared? I stared back, and realize my predicament was almost like the one Mickey Mouse faces when little kids stare at him. I couldn't really talk in the mask; at least very loudly. I couldn't convey any emotion with my face other than the eyes. I realized that trying to smile to reassure her I wasn't as scary as I looked didn't work right from the off. So I waved and nodded my head. She just kept staring, and soon her parents noticed. I didn't hold a stare, because that would have obviously come off as creepy, even if I wasn't wearing a spooky mask. Plus, I didn't want to build a reputation as being too scary before even entering the park. It is called “Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party” for a reason. I’d look over every now and then. Before we got to the Magic Kingdom, the father asked if I would take a picture with the little girl. I thought, “Sure, I’m not in the park yet.” If you didn't already know, Disney doesn't really like you to take pictures in costume with others at the parks, probably because others are being paid to do just the same thing by the mouse. A few people have been kicked out of the Halloween party for posing for pictures with people before, so I was cautious about doing it too often throughout the night. The little girl in the pirate costume cautiously approached me, and then sat next to me, and they took the photo. I could tell she was nervous at first but after taking the picture, she realized that I wasn't anything to be afraid of. I ran into the family a few more times that night, and the little girl waved and I waved back. I got this good feeling from it; a connection between strangers of sorts. I thought, this has got to be what Mickey feels when he sees the little kids smiling back at him, not knowing who or what is inside the costume, but seeing him for what he is on the outside. Maybe it was Disney magic.

   I posed with a few more children that night, each of whom cautiously approached me, but in the end, realized I wasn't a bad person, even if I looked a bit scary. Like I said, I was just as cautious about taking photos with others as I was about coming off as scary around little kids. The last thing I needed was to have a security guard have me take the mask off. That would have ruined my night. For the first hour or two I was very cautious about how I presented myself, but I started to realize nobody cared, and that the mass majority of people, both staff and guests, though my costume was awesome. I had to take the mask off while going through security, purchasing souvenirs, and eating for obvious reasons, but left it on the rest of the night. Those times I did take it off actually came as a relief, because it was like a breath of fresh air without it on.

   At one point, I was riding Pirates and was placed in the back seat of the boat behind a family including two children, a mom, dad, and grandmother. The mom turned around and commented on how creepy it was to have me sitting behind them as we cruised into the darkness of the grotto scenes. I nodded in response, as there wasn't much more I could do. The sound of the pounding water around us would have been enough muffle anything I was saying into complete silence with the mask on. As we neared the drop, the father put his arm around the mom’s back and she freaked out, thinking it was me at first!

   Another funny instance occurred at Big Thunder Mountain. As my train pulled back into the station, I stared back at the people waiting behind the gates to get into the car I was in for the next go-round. They remarked something about how “that’s not what I want to see at this point” like I was an omen of death returning to the station as they prepared to climbed aboard a runaway mine train.

   Riding Space Mountain and Splash Mountain, I did the “Hitchhiking Ghost” pose. On Splash Mountain, the family I was placed in the log with seemed to be riding it for the first time. You can always tell when they are shouting out in anticipation saying “this is it” and such things as you climb the first lift hill, like they think the big drop is coming. At one point they had me turn around to take a picture with the nice young lady dressed as Minnie Mouse in the front. I couldn't really tell what was scaring her more; the prospect of getting wet on the ride, and when the big drop would come, or having me sitting next to her.

   Several people actually though I worked at the park too, which was pretty cool. Maybe someday, but not at the moment, no.

   Of course, coming back to the Magic Kingdom meant visiting the Mansion. This was the first time I had been there since the installation of the new Fast Pass+ Queue and adjustments, as well as the adjacent Rapunzel themed bathrooms and walkway. With the trees beginning to grow in, I don’t think the tower is as much of an eyesore to the Mansion as it was when they first installed it. The rock work and connection to the fence is all really well done. It’s weird to think that just a little over a year or so ago, there was a mound of land covered in trees there, along with Madame Leota’s souvenir cart. I spoke with a Mansion Cast Member who told me he believes that the cart will not be coming back. It was missing the entire trip, so it doesn't look as though it is going to be relocated elsewhere, as there really isn't anywhere to place it.

   As for the controversy of removing the plaque signs from the Mansion’s entry way; I have to clear some things up. First and foremost, just because its gone now doesn't mean it won’t come back. Sure, Disneyland’s exterior graveyard has long been extinct and never returned. But the Magic Kingdom’s headstones vanished in January 2011 during the construction of the new interactive queue only to return later in different locations when the construction was finished. The plaques themselves have actually moved before too. They haven’t always been on the posts at the main gate, because the main gate hasn't always existed! They were originally hung on either side of the portico leading into the breezeway, but moved down to their most recent location after the new gate was installed. Now obviously, if you study the pictures even slightly, you’ll notice their position has been taken by new signs with safety information on them, so they can’t come back in the same place that they were located before. But perhaps they can return closer to their original location. The original location itself wouldn't exactly be a prime area to place them now, since the traffic patterns have changed in this area and not everyone would see them. But perhaps they can be hung where they are at Tokyo Disneyland’s Mansion; on either side of the doors that lead into the foyer.

   Another thing that needs clearing up is that you DO NOT have to go through the interactive graveyard. There is a pathway to bypass it even if you don’t have a Fast pass, as shown in the picture bellow:

   ...So all you party poopers who can’t stand having a little fun in the graveyard can be quiet and keep moving forward, thank you very much.

   I’m also extremely happy they have replaced all the red tarps with green. The green color looks so much better. It blends in with the foliage more, and it doesn't look like as much of a circus ten as the red one did. Now all of the tarps match too. Originally, the interactive area was installed with the green tarp while the red tarps that were installed prior too in 2007 after the Re-Haunting remained, which looked weird. I was as though they forgot which color the tarps where. Prior to 2007, the tarp was green. Thankfully, the green tarp has made a return!

   The only thing I think that looks a little odd is the lighting under the signs at night, but other than that, I really don’t think the change was a bad one.

   You know what they say about the Mansion; every time you go in, you’re bound to find something new. For me, that statement hasn't been very true, partially because I know so much about the ride that finding new stuff seems illogical. I know the ride by heart, and all its little details. So when I spot things like a pattern in the carpets in the foyer and load area that I never noticed before, or a mausoleum up on a hill in the finale scene, it’s a big deal to me. I’m sure none of you would get as excited as I did about noticing the pattern in the carpet.

   During my stay, I’m sure the majority of the Mansion staff noticed me frequenting the attraction. I became accustomed to being greeted by “Back again?” or “You look familiar?” during the course of the half week I was there. It’s not hard to get noticed when you ride the ride consecutively in sets of 10. Nor is it hard to get noticed when you have to wear a trench coat all day because it was raining and you forgot to pack a rain jacket; leaving you with part of your Halloween costume as your only option to stay dry. (You’ll never catch me wearing a poncho) The one night, the park was open until 1:00 in the morning. I showed up the mansion again after visiting other parts of the park around 11:30 or so. I’ll just say I didn't stray far from the ride for the rest of the night. By 12:20 or so, I received permission to stay inside the mansion until the park closed and I had to leave. I want to personally thank the current mansion staff for their hospitality and generosity in letting me stick around into the wee hours of the night; and even going as far to let me stay on for one more go-round at 12:58, two minutes before closing. Not one of them was out of character either. I know it’s become customary for some people to think that working at the mansion means you don’t have to smile, and that’s it. But you've got to be in character too. Sadly, there have been times in the past when I have visited, and the maid or butler who opens the door just isn't in character, and just sound like your typical grumpy employee who you could find at a local Walmart. The maids and butlers are an integral part of the ride, and I can honestly say that this time around, I really noticed that more than I have before, because the current staff was really good at what they were doing. Keep up the good work and thanks again!

   Overall, I had a great time as usual. I met some new people and, got to ride the mansion with a few new people too; which is almost always fun as I generally ride alone, so riding with someone is always a pleasant change.

   Keep your eyes open for the next battle of the mansions post, which should materialize in the coming weeks… hopefully…

   I’ll see you all a little later...


Thursday, September 26, 2013

Battle of the Mansions - Part IV

Ah, there you are...

   Sorry about the delay in this next installment foolish mortals. I've been busy with my own "afterlife"... work and what not. Plus, this entry in the battle of the mansions probably one of the least interesting, and it's been giving me a good case of Prudence Pock's writer's block. You're about to find out why. In these next few rounds, the only things that seem to change for the most parts are the wallpaper and the set dressing. But to complete the full run-through and gather all the points up for each Mansion, it's necessary that we drag through this set of scenes that are nearly the same...

What are we waiting for, ring the bell!

Round 16 - Limbo Area

   Wait, didn't we just do Staircase area? Well, now we're looking at the "limbo" which is nearly the same thing isn't it? The darkness. That's what we're looking at. That area where the ride gets really dark. And sadly, I think we all know which ride is darker already, as it's already been touched on here...

Disneyland - 6   Magic Kingdom - 10

   Disneyland needs to dim their lights! Plus, you can't beat the blinking eyes from the infamous wallpaper coming out of the darkness that Walt Disney World has.

Round 17 - Endless Hallway

   This is the first in the series of "who really cares" rounds. Pretty much because it all depends in your taste for set dressing and wallpaper to decide which one is better. A point goes to each in the result of a tie...

Disneyland - 7   Magic Kingdom - 11

   Which wallpaper do you like better? The Bat Eyes, or the Kings's Golden damask? Ether way, it's just wallpaper that makes them different.

Round 18 - Conservatory

   Another matter of set dressing. Do you like you're coffin corpse with or without additional coat sleeves? A point to both again...

Disneyland - 8   Magic Kingdom - 12

   Again, a matter of opinion that really doesn't matter in the long run. You can have the battle boil down to the coffin corpse's cuff-links...

Round 19 - Corridor of Doors

   This area has a slightly larger amount of differences in comparison to the last two sections. But honestly, it still comes down to your taste in wallpaper, sound effects, the arrangement of set decorations, and your opinion on how many of them there should be. Regardless, my opinion of the two is that they both are pretty much equal ever since WDI got rid of the Magic Kingdom's unique lighting set up, (Blood Red lighting from the chandeliers above was the way to go. Why did you have to change it up?) so a point to both again...

Disneyland - 9   Magic Kingdom - 13

   A true mansion fan should recognize which version of the ride is presented in the left picture and the right picture. Trivial prop-placement is the key to recognizing which version of the ride you are looking at in certain scenes. I won't spoil which is which yet. Look to the comments section bellow, where I'm sure someone will reveal which is which version.

Round 20 - Clock Hallway

   Again, you're choice in wallpaper; and this time around; clock hands and faces. Do you know why I reward a point to Walt Disney World here?

Disneyland - 9   Magic Kingdom - 14

   As the only Mansion to feature the hour 13 clock with an actual 13 hour marks around the perimeter of the face, Magic Kingdom gains the upper hand. (No pun intended) The face of the clock at Walt Disney World is the only one in all four versions of the Mansion to have 13 hour marks around it's face. All the others just have the standard 12 hours with the top marker replaced with a big 13 even though it's only got 12 hours. The Magic Kingdom wins for accuracy!

   Hopefully the next set of rounds won't linger as long as this one did. I'm hopping to have them all done by Halloween, but I can't promise anything foolish mortals. Until next time...

I'll see you all a little later...


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Battle of the Mansions - Part III

Ah, there you are...

   Before we start set 3 of  this battle royal, I want to let everyone know that my interview with WDW Kingdomcast is up! You can go listen to your's truly talk with the hosts of this awesome show about topics like the Haunted Mansion (obviously), Disneyland Paris, Phantom Manor, Epcot, attractions I never got to experience, drunk tanks, the new graveyard vocals, my movie A Night in The Haunted Mansion, and more! Go check it out! You can listen here, or download it from iTunes here. Or listen to it bellow:

Podcast Powered By Podbean

Please note: there is a bit of foul language used in this podcast.

   Now that we have that underway...

   Ring the Bell!

Round 11 - Library

   We start this collection of rounds with another no-contest. Since Disneyland doesn't have a permanent library scene, this bout has an obvious outcome.

Disneyland - 4   Magic Kingdom - 7

   Yes, I know Disneyland has a library during the course of Haunted Mansion Holiday located in the ballroom scene, but we're not talking about Haunted Mansion Holiday, are we? Nothing during the overlay counts for this contest. This is just another one of those exclusive scenes that was made possible due to the fact that the layout is longer in Orlando.

Round 12 - Turning Busts

   Who pulls off the Turning bust effect better?

Disneyland - 5   Magic Kingdom - 7

   Let me rephrase that; which ride provides a better view point for the effect. Because both of the versions use the exact same effect. It's a matter of which one is cooler to look at. In the Library at Orlando's mansion, you have the whole of the Library next to it to look at. At Disneyland, they are at the end of the corridor. You move, they move. It's not them just following you gliding. Some might say it's the busts following the doombuggies at Orlando. At Disneyland, they follow YOU. A win for Disneyland here.

Round 13 - Music Room

   Another no contest...

Disneyland - 5   Magic Kingdom - 8

   Disneyland is the only one of the 4 mansions (including Phantom Manor) that doesn't have a music room scene. The Disneyland ride does have a similar effect, but no actual music room space, so that can't earn it points here.

Round 14 - Phantom Piano Player Effect

   It may be true that Disneyland lacks a music room scene, but the way they make up for it totally makes up for it.

Disneyland - 6   Magic Kingdom - 8

   The effect, achieved via a video projection instead of a shadow puppet projection, is much more fluid. It's also not as cheesy looking or hard to believe as being a real shadow person. Props go to Disneyland here for there updated version of the effect.

Round 15 - Stair Case Area

   Once again, Disneyland is given a knock out blow the moment the bell rings.

Disneyland - 6   Magic Kingdom - 9

   Even if the limbo of boundless mist and decay was still working in opening day conditions, it wouldn't stand a chance against the Magic Kingdom's re-imagining of the dark staircase scene in which the doombuggies climb to the second floor of the mansion... that is, if you can tell which way is up, and which way is down now that they have their own awesome exclusive scene in the form of the endless staircase. Taking over for the old rubber spiders, this scene, which was added in 2007's Re-Haunting, seems to be one of the few scenes that every mansion fan can agree on as being a pure positive addition.

   Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Mansion continues it's lead that it won over the Disneyland Mansion back in set two. Can the Disneyland Mansion make a come back? We'll find out in the next installment of the Battle of the Mansions! Until next time...

I'll see you all a little later...


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Battle of the Mansions - Part II

Ah, there you are...

   Well, let's not hesitate, ring the bell! Rounds six through ten are about to begin in the battle for superiority between the two American Disney Haunted Mansions!

Round 6 - Foyer

   Our first match up on the interior! Who has the better introductory scene inside the Mansion?

Disneyland - 3   Magic Kingdom - 3

   Sorry Disneyland, but again, this is one of those many moments that was improved upon in Liberty Square. Not only is the foyer larger at Walt Disney World, it also has a fireplace and a changing portrait to set the mood. How can a mirror and a window beat that? Really? Even the cool spiderweb pattern on the floor of Disneyland's foyer isn't enough to take down the Magic Kingdom Mansion in this bout.

Round 7 - Stretching Room

   This one isn't to tricky. Which mansion better convinces the effect of a room that's actually stretching?

Disneyland - 3   Magic Kingdom - 4

   True, the stretching room wouldn't even exist at the Magic Kingdom had it not been needed to transport guests underground at Disneyland. But honestly, if you've ever been to the Disneyland version and stepped over the elevator door gap entering the stretching room, you know immediately what your entering. And if not, it only takes one ride to figure it out, especially when those doors open at the bottom and pull apart the walls half-way up the room in elevator door fashion; one of the worst moments of show in the Disneyland version.

   The Magic Kingdom stretching room may not be taking you anywhere, but the effect is much more convincing, even if you take away the elevator door give-away at Disneyland. And of course, I didn't even base this decision on what many would say automatically wins the Magic Kingdom this bout: The amazing 3-Dimensional audio system.

Round 8 - Walk Through Segment

   Alright, next round is all about what you see when you get out of the stretching room and walk around. This area of comparison is tricky, because this is the point in both rides that sort of shakes things up. Yes, they both have a portrait corridor and the turning bust effect, but the walk-through itself is very much a different experience overall.

Disneyland - 4   Magic Kingdom - 4

   In terms of the overall walk-through environment, Disneyland takes the cake with just it's portrait hallway. The loading are, which we will get to in a moment, earns it no extra points. I think it's the lightning windows and the moving busts that can be examined on foot that really make the walk through portion here better. At the Magic Kingdom, you are simply dumped into a corridor next to the trail of Doombuggies, and that in itself isn't exactly what I'd call a "walk-through" experience of any sort, just another part of the queue.

Round 9 - Loading Area

   But in terms of a loading area, this is were we can give the Magic Kingdom some praise. Not so much for Disneyland; at least the way things have been in recent years.

Disneyland - 4   Magic Kingdom - 5

   While the Magic Kingdom Mansion retains an atmosphere that says "I'm inside a Haunted Mansion", Disneyland's goes from that spectacular portrait corridor into a loading area that says "I'm inside a Haunted Warehouse." According to many reliable sources, this wasn't always the case. But in recent years, the Disneyland loading area has gotten far to bright to pull off the "boundless limbo of mist and decay" that it's intended to be. This space should be an endless void of darkness, not a room with enough lights that you can see the warehouse ceiling some thirty feet above your head. Also, take note that the photo presented above is not in any way brightened using photo editing programs. That's the real deal a few years back. Although it has gotten substantially darker since then, it's still not dark enough to hide the warehouse walls surrounding you on all sides. 

   The Liberty Square shot however, was brightened up a tad to show off some of the detail you'd miss if it were seen in it's original, darker state. At the Magic Kingdom, you pass a couple of the former Sinister Eleven portraits, which add some life to the corridor. Plus, this area really give you and up-close chance to admire the artistry carved onto the wainscoting. Props go to the Magic Kingdom for actually dressing their room up and keeping it dark.

Round 10 - Portrait Corridor

   In terms of a walk-through, Disneyland's portrait corridor takes the cake. But take away the walk-through aspect, and what do you have? Is it any bit better then the Magic Kingdom's without the ability to walk through it?

Disneyland - 4   Magic Kingdom - 6

   The way the effect is achieved at Walt Disney World is far more convincing. The thunder itself is responsible for lighting up and transforming each of the portraits on cue. At Disneyland, the effect works, but it's not as convincing, because you've got several other distractions around you, including the moving busts, and the beautiful rainy windows. Because of this, the effect itself; which is why it's call the portrait corridor to being with; doesn't have as big an effect. If you're attention is drawn to several other things, along with talking to your friends about the ride ahead, you really don't give them much thought.

   At Magic Kingdom, you're forced to watch the transformation take place. The Doombuggies force you in the direction of the portraits. Plus, you have the exclusive prelude scene with the servants staircase you glide under, and the floating candelabra that we'll soon see later on in our journey through the wall-to-wall creeps of the Mansion.

   I'm sure plenty of you Disneyland die-hards are thinking "he just screwed Disneyland with that last one!" Just know that I know how the whole competition plays out, and I'm into playing fair. There will be several easy chances for the original to seek redemption later in the tournament. So until the ring bell chimes again when round eleven begins...

I'll see you all a little later...


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Battle of the Mansions - Part I

Welcome, Foolish Mortals

   Before we being, I'd just like to take this opportunity to explain and announce a few things that have nothing to do with this post. First off, I'd like to let anyone who didn't already hear know that your resident ghost host will be a guest on an upcoming episode of the WDW Kingdomcast podcast show. Stay tuned to our Facebook page regarding updates. It's my first time ever appearing on a podcast, so I'm very excited to have been invited on. I have no clue what we'll be talking about, but it should be fun.

   Next in line, I'd like to inform you that I will slowly be touching up each and every post on this blog over the next few months. There are many dead links now that my original You Tube account had shut it's doors. I'll have to re-upload the videos one by one, and that will take a while, so don't expect to see everything suddenly back up in a day's time.

   Now that we have that out of the way...

   If you've been following S&FS long enough, you may have realized something by now. If I don't give any exact date for the completion of a project, I will procrastinate on it without hesitation. But if I give you an exact date, then that date is set in stone. You'll have whatever it is I'm promising on that day. A little over a year ago, I said that my "next post" would take a look at the two Disney Haunted Mansions in America and pit them against one another. Well, it should also be known that I never gave you an exact date on when that post would come. And now a little over a year later, here it is. Cue the Mortal Combat theme! This is the Battle of the Mansions!

   I think most of my fans know that I do favor the Magic Kingdom version over the original Disneyland one. But in this contest, I've come up with a point system so that the playing field can be unbiased for the most part. I'm going to go ahead and say it right now, this contest is a matter of opinion over fact. The fact of the matter is that neither Mansion is officially better then the other. There is no factual evidence you can conjure up to prove that one is better then the other. But in terms of opinion and my rating system, I think this contest will actually do a good job in trying to sum up what is better about one Mansion in comparison to the other in each area. I'm going to try not to be biased, but I might slip up in certain areas. Either way, I'll present evidence for each choice I make. Let's get this battle started now! Ring the bell! Start the match!

Round 1 - Fa├žade

   Okay, we've got to start somewhere. What better place to begin then the buildings themselves. We've got the Antebellum inspired New Orleans Square mansion versus the Gothic Revival inspired Magic Kingdom mansion. Who wins this bout?

Disneyland - 1   Magic Kingdom - 0

   Is it just me, or does the Magic Kingdom mansion resemble a church at first glance instead of a house? I think anyone here reading this knows the story behind the creation of both buildings. As intimidating as the Magic Kingdom mansion is supposed to be, I've never gotten the "claw-like creature striking down over you" thing the designers intended. I've always seen it as slumping back into the hillside honestly. I think most mansion fans will agree that out of the two, Disneyland's mansion actually looks like a home one might live in, and not a castle or church. You don't mistake what the New Orleans Square building is on first glance. It looks like a Mansion, straight up.

Round 2 - Grounds

   After a not-so-surprising upset from the challenger for S&FS's title of Best Mansion, we move on to the next round. The grounds of each Mansion are very different. What exactly do I mean by grounds anyway? Well, that would be anything behind the gates that lead onto the surrounding property of the Mansion. Who will take the cake for this contest?

Disneyland - 2   Magic Kingdom - 0

   Another surprising upset... no really, who actually thinks big red tarps would gain you points in trying to compete for realism in a Haunted Mansion queue? Prior to the addition of the tarps at Walt Disney World; and judging by the pictures I've seen of it prior too, I may have very well given the belt to the Magic Kingdom in this bout had they never added it. Most of the Liberty Square Mansion's grounds however, are covered by tarps! While they keep the hot Florida sun away, and even help protect guests from a down pour, they do nothing for visuals. Disneyland's yard is a much more realistic in terms of size, shape, and overall lack of tarp coverings, there is something missing. However that was not a factor in this round.

Round 3 - Cemetery

   This one should come as no surprise. This is one of the first of quite a few no-contest bouts.

Disneyland - 2   Magic Kingdom - 1

   Sorry Disneylanders, but seeing as you have no graveyard, and Walt Disney World has an extremely large one, this match is a forfeit. Victory goes to Liberty Square. Even if you factor in all the interactive stuff that many fans don't like as a sort of deduction, you can't look past the fact that there is a lack of graveyard at the other mansion as of today. Alright. Onto the next round!

Round 4 - Seclusion

   An aspect that I think many people forget. It's a haunted house. It's supposed to be foreboding and mysterious. And part of making that work is by setting it back from everything around it. Which of the mansions is the most secluded?

Disneyland - 2   Magic Kingdom - 2

   I don't think this one comes in as a shock. Disneyland's size and crowds tend to make the New Orleans Square mansion feel like it's part of the neighborhood. When the streets of Disneyland get loud, so does the area around the Mansion. Sure, if it's a slow night, and there aren't many crowds, the New Orleans Square mansion can nix the crowded feeling. But that's not saying much, as when the crowds leave Liberty Square, the Mansion there can seem almost deserted. Standing alone in the new queue courtyard alone at nighttime is actually quite unnerving sometimes. The Liberty Square Mansion sits as far away from the main streets as possible. Next round, and the final round for part 1!

Round 5 - Moving Light Effect

   What the heck is that, you say? Go take a look at this post on the Long Forgotten blog if you don't already know about it. If you've seen it, good for you; I've seen them both at work in my life time. That being said...

Disneyland - 3   Magic Kingdom - 2

   I think Long Forgotten has a point. The Disneyland effect is a bit more creepy and mysterious because it's not as "in your face" as the Walt Disney World version with it's huge conservatory window.

   That's it for today's bouts. At the moment, Disneyland is in the lead by a point. I've got six more posts in store for this series, and each will contain five more rounds to rack up the points in! Until the bell rings again foolish mortals...

I'll see you all a little later...


Sunday, April 21, 2013

Mystic Manor: Not A Mansion, Just an Awesome Stand Alone Attraction

   Welcome, Foolish Mortals...

   Today, we are going to cover a very current, very controversial topic. Well, okay, it may not be as controversial as the interactive queue updates, but in my eyes, it's controversial. Today, we are going to explore Mystic Manor; something I have said time and time again on various S&FS media outlets that our site will not cover. Let me restate that much used phrase. We will only cover it for instances because it's a "related attraction or medium", not a Mansion, and that's the whole reason why we're going to look at it today. Because it's not a Mansion. I'm not against it like I used to be, but that's only come to light very, very recently. I have very strong opinions about it, and much like the others who blog about my local Mansion in Orlando without ever visiting it and trying to make a point about how terrible something is. I'm going to be a hypocrite and do the same thing.. well, sort of. I'm going to post strong opinions about something I've never seen in person, and am only relying on videos and images to piece together my strong opinion. Unlike the other bloggers though, I'm not going to force you to agree with me. I just want to make a point, and you can choose if you want to agree or not. But because I strongly believe in my point on mystic point, this blog post may be a bit bias. I've never been to Hong Kong Disneyland before, nor do I have any plans in the foreseeable future to do so. You'll understand why momentarily. Let's begin.

   I don't want to sound overly negative throughout this entire post because that is no longer my mindset on the subject of Mystic Manor, but we can being this post on a sour note and get a little more positive as we reach the end. I feel like this is the perfect opportunity to address some issues about the park in which this ride exists without giving the issues their own highly negative post to exist in. Our story begins before Mystic Manor even made it's first appearance on a drawing board. Back in September of 2005 when Hong Kong Disneyland first opened, let's face the facts. It was the lamest Disneyland Park on paper at the time when it opened. When Disneyland opened, it was an innovative concept, and the fact that it lacked any big rides was completely okay because at the time, no one really knew what a Disneyland was; other then those in the company who had been working on it for so long. When Walt Disney World opened, the map was far from the full day's experience of today. But it had major E-Ticket attractions like the Haunted Mansion and 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, drastically improved versions of Disneyland rides that were not even present at the time when the original first opened. Tokyo Disneyland opened with a great amount of big name rides. Even more big name rides debuted on opening day at Euro Disneyland, later renamed Disneyland Paris. But Hong Kong Disneyland was a dud in terms of what it opened with on paper in comparison to the previous two parks.

   You have condensed versions of four lands. No Frontierland in sight. Just Main Street USA, Fantasyland, Adventureland, Tomorrowland, and... yeah, that's it... short list, eh? And you're only big name attractions were it's a Small World, Space Mountain, and if you want to count it, a heavily modified version of Jungle Cruise. The park's opening day turned out to be a repeat of  Disneyland's Black Sunday all over again. The park ran out of burgers, and lines for food around the park equaled that of those in queue for Space Mountain. But all the issues with lack of major attractions and space stem down to one major mistake when planing the fifth Disneyland park: a crescent shape hill that the designers just had to work into the backdrop. It's that hill that caused all of the additional attractions added to the park to be squeezed outside the berm, because they built the railroad around the tiny little park they debuted on opening day. Thus, an effort has been made to squeeze in mutated versions of various missing classics.

   The single mutated offspring of Expedition Everest, Grizzly River Rapids, Big Thunder Mountain, and Silver Dollar City's Power Keg made it's debuted in Grizzly Gulch; a small land standing in for Frontierland under the overly long name of Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. Take a look at this themed thrill ride lovechild bellow:

   Sure, it looks like a pretty awesome ride if you try and keep out of your mind the fact that it's a stand in for several other attractions combined into one to save space. Thus, we can assume Hong Kong Disneyland will never receive any of the attractions that were combined into this one to save space. One less Big Thunder Mountain... That's just the point though; other than Space Mountain and it's a Small World, every single major ride has been downsized or mutated into another to save space by combing the experiences of several rides into one. Jungle Cruise now takes place in the rivers or america shaped water way, and functions as a transportation ride to reach Tarzan's Tree House. And don't even get me started on Toy Story land, which should not exist in a Disneyland park, period. Big ugly carnival rides have to business in the heavily themed park, no matter how much themed overhaul they try to toss on them. They just don't belong. Send that stuff over to a Studio back lot park where it can exist without ruining the atmosphere!

   I guess this brings us to our main point of origin for the post. Mystic Point. This land stands in for... well... if I had to guess, it stands in for a new land because there was no room left in Adventureland, and because more lands on paper can lead a bumbling idiot to assume more rides on paper, the decision was made to not just expand Adventureland beyond the berm for this attraction. Anyhow, Mystic Manor is in Mystic point, and since it was announced, the general idea was that this was going to be Hong Kong Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. I was one of the very few who seemed to vent my anger and disagreement with this idea. The idea of the fifth Haunted Mansion revolving around a Monkey wearing a Fez drove me to rage, and still does. This video leaked earlier today, and it's clear to me now that this is NOT a Haunted Mansion, but a stand alone attraction. A really awesome stand alone attraction. Take a look this soft opening view inside Mystic Manor, which officially opens in May of 2013, and then continue reading; or stop reading this post if you for some reason don't want to spoil Mystic Manor for yourself, because the video is integral on getting my point across, so you really have no need to read on, because it won't matter. Anyway, take a look:

  Pretty awesome, eh? But it's no Haunted Mansion. Why so? Well, besides my issue with the Monkey wearing a Fez, it's doesn't fit certain criteria.Things that Phantom Manor fits, as well as the other three Haunted Mansions. Just because the concept art presented was overlaid on Rolly Crump's infamous indigo wallpaper doesn't mean it's automatically the fifth mansion. First and foremost, there is a certain lack of ghosts! Due in part to the fact that apparently for cultural reasons, it is frowned upon in Hong Kong to represent the dead as ghosts. So we don't have that grand ballroom scene or anything like it in Mystic Manor. No ghosts at all in fact. How can you call it a "Haunted" Mansion if it's not even haunted? Mystic Manor is cursed, not haunted. Phantom Manor and the other three Mansions are haunted, Mystic Manor is not. There's not Grim Grinning Ghosts, even though I'm sure Danny Elfman's Mystic Manor music is fantastic. There's no Doombuggies, or ride track for that matter. And there's a Monkey with a Fez. It's not Hong Kong Disneyland's Haunted Mansion; it's the ride Hong Kong Disneyland ends up getting in place of a Haunted Mansion, which is a ride they will never have due to spacial constraints.

   I don't blindly hate Mystic Manor as I did when it was first announced. After seeing the footage, I can safely say it's not a Haunted Mansion without needing to convince myself of that fact. It's not haunted because there are no ghosts. Maybe someday we will see that fifth Haunted Mansion get built. Mystic Manor isn't it. Mystic Manor is an awesome stand alone attraction that pushes the limits of what can be done with rides today. I'm honestly pretty impressed by what I've seen. It does not fit the criteria to put it alongside the Haunted Mansion in Anaheim  Orlando, Tokyo, and Phantom Manor in France. But it is an awesome little ride that makes Hong Kong Disneyland just a little bit better. With all the past failures in the short history of Hong Kong Disneyland, Mystic Manor looks like a step in bright direction. Now just tear down Toy Story Land and build a Splash Mountain in it's place, and it will finally be worth a visit!

   Who's idea was it to go all Cedar fair in a Disneyland Park? Seriously... not cool...

I'll see you all a little later...


Sunday, March 17, 2013

The Case of the Missing Pirates

Avast thar' mateys!

  A Happy St.Patrick's Day to all! Just so you all are aware, tomorrow is the 46th anniversary of Disneyland's classic attraction, Pirates of the Caribbean. So for today, we're going to do another post all about Pirates. Actually, this post is going to center around two particular pirates for the most part. You may have heard one of them if you own the Disneyland Forever Pirates CD, and you might have seen both of them if you've ever looked at concept art or pictures of WED's miniature model. But the one place you have never seen these two pirates is in the ride. Which two pirates am I talking about?

  The two buccaneers seen in the Marc Davis concept art above very nearly made it into the ride's burning the town scene. While the quote accompanying the image above from Jason Surrell's Pirates of the Caribbean: From The Magic Kingdom to the Movies says otherwise...
"Walt loved this 1965 Marc Davis concept of drunken pirates in a dinghy overloaded with rum bottles, but the gag never made it off the drawing board."
...there's more than enough evidence to support that his claim is bogus. It did indeed make it off the drawing board, and there's enough evidence to say it even made it past the model stage. Surrell covers so much in his book that I can't really get on him for overlooking these two guys. Get yourself a copy of the book if you don't already own one, because everything until the last section (about the films) is worth reading over and over again. Anyhow, back to the two pirates...

  As seen in the artwork above, the duo of drunken pirates in the boat appear again in Claude Coat's panoramic rendering of the burning town scene. Besides the two missing pirates, (and the tenor in the musical trio playing what appears to be a tuba or trumpet) the rendering is exactly the same as what the scene would look like in the finished attraction. Compare bellow:

  Notice all that space between the boat with the pilfering pirate and the seawall off to the left of the shot above? That's about where the duo of drunks in their boat would have been if they had made it into the show. As I said before, the duo made it off the drawing board. Bellow, photographic evidence shows that they did make it into the 3-dimensional stage of production.

Photo from

  When creating a new attraction, the Imagineers always make a scaled model to work out any issues before moving into the full-sized version. This is a tradition carried on to this very day. Even New Fantasyland got a scaled model...

  Notice the slight difference in placement of the pirates between the black and white shot and the colored shot. In the B&W shot, there is a pirate holding a jug of rum sitting on a treasure chest behind the pirate stealing the loot. Notice that in the colored shot the treasure chests are there, but the pirate is not. Several alteration were made to the models before they decided on what would make it into the finished show. Every shot available (that I myself have located. If you know where to find more, I'd love to see them) of the burning the town scene features these two drunks in the boat, furthering the idea that they were cut late in the into game... very late actually... because one of the two pirates even had an audio track recorded for them.

  On the official Disneyland Forever Pirates of the Caribbean CD, a track called "Drinking Pirate" is offered, but listed as "never used", preformed by legendary voice actor Thurl Ravenscroft. The track consists of the sounds of gulping and hiccuping sounds that play in sync with the instrumental of "Yo-Ho A Pirate's Life for Me." You can hear a sample of the track here. This track would obviously fit at least one of pirates in the boat, or perhaps even the pirate who went missing from the black and white model still. While many have said they believe the track is used at Disneyland Paris for the pirate bellow, I can safely say this is not the case; having been on the French version of the attraction myself. The sleeping pirate bellow has no audio track.

  So, we are left to assume that they were pulled for aesthetic reasons, or perhaps noise pollution? Much like the muting of the Knight's vocals in Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion as of 2007, the idea of too much noise from one area makes sense to some degree. Maybe it was because there was too much happening on the left side of trough, and not enough on the right side. Maybe they got rid of them to even the action out a bit. On the left side, you have the two drunks clinging to one another; the drunk clinging to the lamp post; the pirate with the tower of hats and loot; and even the parrot on the bridge is technically off to the left side of the bridge. Then you have the drunk with the hairy leg in the center. On the right, there's the drunk in the mud with the pigs, and that's it. So many pirates off to the left... an there could have been at least two or three more...

  Before I wrap this post up and bury it in the graveyard of former posts, I'd like to touch on a few more addition that never made it into the final version of the show. Several pieces of concept art reveal scenes that would make the infamous pooped pirate blush. These risque scenes are much more suggestive then the final scene which was altered in the mid 1990's due to a few complaints about the sexual tension lingering around it. I wonder what these would have looked like had they made it off the drawing board into the final version?

  The lower one in particular peeks my interest the most. Although some audio snippets of what could have come from the artwork above it do exist, the concept of Pirates playing tug-of-war with a young maiden... I don't know, it takes the pooped pirate gag and amplifies it's provocativeness tenfold. It's not longer a chase, the pirates have captured their quarry. Surprisingly  this scene made it into the most recent version of the attraction in a less physical, silhouette form. Disneyland Paris's Pirates is the only version to still feature the "original" version of the chase scene. While there are a few differences; such as the dialogue being in French; several new additions were included to this version. The most famous of these additions are the inclusion of a  pirate and a townsman engaging one another in a sword fight, but my favorite addition can be seen in the video bellow:

  So what if it's inappropriate? It's France! You see naked women in adds all over the place in France! A little roughhousing (if you want to look at it in a glass half full style scenario... just whatever you do, don't call it a rape scene... that's all that needs to be said and this gag would be scraped) between two drunken men and a young woman isn't that outlandish, especially when all we can see it the outline.

  Well, that's all I've got to say about that... now off with ya'!