Friday, September 16, 2011

Phantom Manor: Trip Report & Review Part 3

Continued from Part 2...

"Ah, there you are! Welcome, foolish mortals; there's no turning back now..."

We left off right after the Bride's Boudoir scene; we have just crossed the line where the Mansion and the Manor go in completely opposite directions. Where as the normal Haunted Mansion would have us headed out onto the balcony looking down into the graveyard we will soon be venturing through, Phantom Manor lets us out of the house into a graveyard garden of sorts on the same level as the Boudoir. The Phantom reveals himself to us in full figure, right in front of us, for the first time in the ride. No longer hidden in shadow, he gestures toward an opening grave which the never-ending ring of carriages plummets into as he laughs madly.

We begin our descent into catacombs of Thunder Mesa. Skeletons are seen rising out of coffins the carriages plunge further down the tunnel into the ground. The music at first is played in a way that makes you wonder if the skeletons are going to harm us or not. We round a corner and find that the skeletons have no intention of doing us in, and are merely having a jam session of sorts as the wake from their supernatural slumber. The music goes from suspenseful to jazzy right on cue. The singing busts, pretty off cue (Thurl seemed to be playing a second too slow, and the 3 others were playing a second too fast) begin to sing our favorite song, set to an amazing new underscore. We pass by a skeleton playing the "Skull-O-Phone" before venturing out from under the ground into the big finish.

Phantom Canyon, the hellish ghost town finale is where many fans of the original mansion seem to have there problems with Phantom Manor. Gone is the extended performance of "Grim Grinning Ghosts" as sung by the many ghosts from creepy-old-crypts all over the world. The Pop-up ghosts and the many Marc Davis sight gags that cover the original finale of the Haunted Mansion are all missing. Some have a problem with this, but not me. For me, it was a breath of fresh air. Something that was completely tolerable, and in some ways, more than I was expecting it to be. Let's begin our journey through Phantom Canyon, looking at the many gags presented to us along the way.

We begin by passing projections of Night on Bald Mountain wraiths on scrims that line the caves on either side of the exit archway that leads out of the catacombs. (See the flash photo I took to the left to get an idea of the exit archway) A swaying noose hangs off to the side of the track, and a flipped over carriage sits by a horse's skeleton. We then see Ezra, the Phantom Canyon train-station ticket-taker off to the right in the first of many collapsing buildings. He goes by this nick-name because of his resemblance to the skeletal faced Hitchhiking ghost by the same name in the American mansions. He nods his head along to the music as we pass by him, and off to the left, a familiar voice from the American Mansions fills the air. Paul Free's Ghost Host material is heard coming from the Mayor as he welcomes you to this hellish version of Frontierland; the collapsing city hall building directly behind him. (See picture on the Left) We enter the heart of the town; an subsequently, a cross-fire between a bandit on the left and the cowardly sheriff on the right. The Bandit can't get his stubborn pack-mule to cross the green-glowing trench that has just cracked open in the ground as the underworld version of the earthquake that destroyed thunder mesa begins to shift the ground. He shoots at the sheriff on the opposite side of the tracks, trying to keep him at bay while he tries to get his Donkey to pass over the crack in the ground. Off to the left, the town's pharmacist is seen drinking something that has him coughing up a storm. We are then directed towards the first half of the saloon; which has been torn in half by the earthquake, and now resides in pieces on both sides of the track. Still directed toward the right side, we see a Honky-Tonk Piano player, preforming Grim Grinning Ghosts. A wild west Can-Can Dancer (above right) waves to us as we pass by, while the Bartender offers us a drink. We then turn to face the best effect not seen in any of the other Haunted Mansions; the ghost poker game. On the opposite side of the track in the other half of the saloon, a group of invisible cowboys are having themselfs a game of poker, while enjoying a beer and cigars. The cards float above the table, held by unseen hands, and the cigar floats in mid air, puffing out smoke. Poker chips shift about the table as the game progresses. This was by far the most amazing effect in Phantom Manor. It's so original, and it doesn't have a similar effect to be compared to in any of the Mansions. This was one thing I hadn't seen before I rode it; I had heard about it, but had no clue what it looked like. Anyway, we continue up a slight incline towards a glowing horizon at sunset, right out of the finale of any old western film. The Phantom is finally seen without his skull "Mask" and revealed as a rotting corpse; quite a graphic looking visual for a Disney attraction. He laughs maniacally without ever stopping to take a breath in between. He gestures toward an open casket, urging us to remain in Phantom Canyon forever. But the carriages continue past in an effort to escape. We pass into a cave-like opening under the distorted shadow of the Mansion atop a rocky hillside to the left of the scene, out of ghost town.

The ghost town, as I said before, is a breath of fresh air. It doesn't go as far as Mystic Mess does in pulling away from the original Mansion concept. The whole point of Phantom Canyon is to show a more demented version of the earthquake that took the life of Henry Ravenswood, and created the legend of Phantom Manor and the rest of Frontierland.

We continue onward to the finale, where the Hitchhiking ghosts are replaced with the finale vision of Melanie Ravenswood; now a mere skeleton in a tattered wedding dress, she points the way out of the Phantom's demonic version of Frontierland. We proceed down a hallway with three ornate mirrors, in which the Phantom is seen one last time, creeping over the top of the carriage in one last effort to keep you in Phantom Manor for good. We then exit into the Manor's wine cellar, where we see what has been listed as Little Leota backstage according to ghost relations department. We then proceed out a shed on the side of the Manor back into the daylight of Frontierland.

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


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