Thursday, December 29, 2011

Grim Grinning Ghosts 2007: A Re-Haunting of the Vocals

Welcome, Foolish Mortals,

   Today, we are going to take a look at something that I have constantly touched upon here on the blog and my other postings on the web, but have never actually dedicated an entire post too. I think by finally doing this, I might bring more attention to the issue at hand; the re-recorded vocals of "Grim Grinning Ghosts" that have been in use exclusively at Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion since the 2007 Re-Haunting took place.

   From June 6th to September 13th, 2007, the Haunted Mansion went under a much needed refurbishment; you can read a very in-depth report of the full make-over at Jim Hill media. Audio enhancements played a big role in the refurbishment, and are part of what make the ride what it is now. Nothing was left untouched; everything got crisper, cleaner, sounding better than ever before. The stretching room received it's now infamous three dimensional sound system allowing the Ghost Host's disembodied narration to float around the room, the walls to creak and moan, and the gargoyle candelabra to whisper playful warnings upon completion of a revisited Thunder clap and body drop sequence with the whoosh of Bats fluttering down from the rafters. The corridor of doors received a new three dimensional sound system as well, allowing the moans and screams of unseen spooks to literally fly down the length of the corridor. While the music was left predominantly untouched, almost all of the sound effects were revisited, some being altered from their original state while others got entirely rerecorded to bring the sound out of the scratchy 1970's and into the new digital millennium. And in the graveyard, some of the ghosts found new voices too. Bellow, you can listen to a full loop of Grim Grinning Ghosts as it sounds as of the 2007 refurbishment at the Magic Kingdom:

   Only recently did I obtain a revised and updated copy of The Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World, where, for the first time, I located an official acknowledgement of the new vocals:

"The graveyard scene has been taken to new heights with all new audio tracks."

   And while the statement doesn't provide much detail, it almost undoubtedly confirms that it was a stylistic change made by the Imagineers. While I can't confirm it, I would not be surprised to find out that only two or three, if not four vocalist were used in the new performances. In particular, the new Duke's voice is just similar enough to the new Tenor and Executioner and I would be willing to bet they were all preformed by one guy. The new vocals when heard together as you exit the attic unify the entire sound of the scene. They all combine together and line up perfectly, word-for-word, something the originals never did; creating a chorus style effect that the originals never did have. Every ghost was doing their own thing in 1969. The ghosts of 2007 are out to shriek and harmonize together as a group, pardon the pun. Let's look at each ghost group that got new voices and spot out what's different from the 1969 vocals.

The British Couple
    The first group of true "ghosts" who sing are commonly referred to as Duke and Duchess by many fans of the attraction. They're the ones seen hovering at the picnic table, toasting with martini glasses while bobbing up and down in the air to the left of the ride path. I have it on good authority that official documents refer to them as simply "Man and Woman at Card Table" which is far to basic for me to use so I'll just be referring to them as the British Couple from now on. As it turns out, netheir of these ghosts are royalty. (There is a Duchess in the attraction however, but it's the lady in the swing according to official documents. No Duke to be heard of though)

   The original vocals, preformed by Betty Wand and Bill Lee should be pretty familiar to even some not-so-Mansion-savvy Disney Park fans; their "loop" of the song was isolated in many of the "official" park soundtrack completions, following the singing busts, and preceding the final of three loops which included every ghost but them. Take a listen to a sample of the new 2007 British Couple:

   The new male vocalist is a shoe-in for Bill Lee's performance, but with more harmony in his voice. The new female vocal however sounds vastly different from Wand's; now sounding young and enthusiastic, singing the song in a Broadway Pop style. Instead of Wand's "Oh Yes, they do!" at the end, the new vocalist ends her version of the screaming song with a literal "Scream! Or Sugar..." in a reference to the tea they are drinking... hold on a second... They're drinking wine! Someone must have missed that detail. Perhaps it's a shout out to the other ghosts sharing the vignette with the couple...

The Hearse Quartet
   On to the next group of singers; the four ghosts positioned around the hearse to the right of the British Couple. The group includes the Coachman, another British Woman sitting on the hearse, the midget in the coffin, and the Mariner seated on a tombstone to the far right. Originally at the three Mansions, this group, minus the Mariner, would sing the "monotone" chorus vocals in hushed, zombie-like voices, while the Mariner would preform a harmonic "La-La" accompany. The original vocals were preformed by Betty Wand, Ernie Newton, Bill Days, and Allan Davies*. The Disneyland version discontinued the La-La singing* quite a while back. Walt Disney World's La-La singer was used all the way up through June 2007.  Tokyo is still using the La-La singer (loudly I might add) and the Walt Disney World ghosts are singing a completely different performance as of the 2007 refurbishment. No longer monotone, this lively quartet really adds to the sound of the song with a counterpoint melody. Take a listen to a sample of the new hearse ghosts:

   The new chorus carries out the British sound of the full tea party vignette, and acts as both a back-up and counterpoint to the lead of the British Couple at the picnic table. Additionally, the new track includes a moan and giggle in the middle section between verses that was previously silent, adding a little more life to the party.

The Opera Duet, Prisoner & Executioner
   The next of the new voices belong the ghosts up the hill-side on the right; the "Opera & Headsman" scene is another complete re-recording. We look at this scene from right to left, as we pass it; so that means we start off with the opera duet. Originally voiced by Loulie Jean Norman and Bill Reeve, the duo had been using a single, mono-tracked mix of the two singers belting out an insane vocal performance since the attraction opened. The original 1969 Opera Vocals were preformed in a hokey nature as though the duo were nut-cases under the instruction of Buddy Baker. It took a number of takes before Baker got just what he wanted, according to Persistence of Vision Issue 9. However the mixing of the two harmonizing in 1969 makes hearing Bill Reeve's solo hard to do as it's almost buried entirely under Norman's belting soprano on the finished track.

   The final group of ghosts in the graveyard is a trio consisting of the headless Knight, the Executioner, and the Prisoner also known as Gus the hitchhiking ghost. Originally, Ernie Newton provided a solo rendition of the entire song for the Knight in a thick German accent, while Bill Days and Candy Candido provided a duet for the Executioner and Prisoner. Candy's infamous growl came from the short Prisoner while Bill Day's Mickey Mouse-like falsetto came from the huge and hulking Executioner, providing a visual gag of sorts for anyone who caught their mouths moving in sync with the tracks opposite of which one would expect to hear from said character.

Listen to a sample of the new Opera duet, Prisoner and Executioner:

   The new Opera performances are not as hokey as the originals, providing more harmony with the rest of the graveyard singers instead of doing their own thing like Norman and Reeve's solos. It's also much easier to make out both performances now, with the soprano and tenor tracks complimenting one another.

   For some reason, (I've been told it was merely an oversight) the Knight was not given a new track, or a speaker for that matter and now he's realistically mute, separated from his vocal cords. However the Prisoner and Executioner received new voices while retaining the visual gag of "short man, deep voice; big man, high voice." The Prisoner's new off-key, guttural growl is even deeper then Candido's performance; much warmer and less rough. The "Mickey Mouse" sound that Bill Day's original performance is even stronger in the new Executioner track. In a slight vocal variation, the Executioner sings "They begin to terrorize" instead of "They pretend to terrorize." Both the Prisoner and Executioner let out a ghostly moan in their respective register in the mid-song instrumental break, where as only the Executioner used to in the original track.

   It's unfortunate that only these clips exist online. Personally, I find the new performances far superior to the old ones. Perhaps in the future an official release of the new performances will materialize on the newest park album. We'll just have to wait and see...

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


Monday, December 26, 2011

The Mansion at the Movies

Ah, there you are...

      I hope you all had a merry Christmas. A while back on the Facebook Page, I revealed my thoughts on the Guillermo Del Toro film; to everyone's surprise, I claimed that I hoped it tanks. Let me start this post by rephrasing that statement: Part of me hopes that the film tanks. How could that be? How could any mansion fan make such a blasphemous statement? Let's first take a look back to 2003, when Disney launched three of their classic attractions into Hollywood.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

     Three classic attractions were about to make their jump to the silver screen that year: Pirates of the Caribbean, The Country Bear Jamboree, and The Haunted Mansion. In all honesty, this wasn't the first time a ride got the movie treatment, (Tower of Terror, etc.) but this was the real beginning of this sudden trend. Let's take a look at each one. Don't worry, this is all part of how I plan to explain my statement about the upcoming reboot. Okay, so we will start with Pirates; even though the Country Bears came out before it, Pirates will be first because it will make more sense to start with the successful one first.

The Good: Pirates of the Caribbean
     ...Too good for it's own good, actually; Pirates of the Caribbean was Disney's big break with the attraction-to-film idea. The box office juggernaut still is pumping out sequels and revenue. Today if you ask somebody about the topic "Pirate's of the Carribean", you will most likely hear about a movie staring Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, and Keira Knightly; not about the veteran attraction at Disneyland that broke major ground for the Disney rides of today. What you have here is a case of something that turned out too good for it's own good. It's gone out of hand, out of control. It was a freak of nature; the attraction that people all around the world knew about when it open is now nothing in comparison with the Hollywood money monster. This is what can happen if the reboot is a sucess. You will get something that brings change to the source material. We're not dealing with something like a book adaptation here; it's a theme park ride, and it's subject to change. Here is just a small visual at what happened to Pirates because of the movie phenomenon:

    Above are only two of the dozen or so scene changes that were made to the attraction. Disneyland, Walt Disney World, and Tokyo (Thankfully not Paris as of this writing) all modified their rides to revolve around the film. Even the audio wasn't left to be as it had been for the 36 years prior to making it's jump to the silver screen. Bellow, take a listen to some music cues, from before the films, and after the films:

Dunking Carlos the Mayor

The Chase Scene

    For some reason now, all the Pirates are just as interested in locating actor Johnny Depp as they are in finding the treasure. Perhaps another post here will be dedicated to this confusing new story, and my analysis of the additions. But for this post, the important thing I'm trying to drill home is that the movie ended up taking Pirates and changing it from extraordinary, world renowned theme park attraction, to blockbuster Hollywood film franchise. We are going to leave the 2003 Mansion movie for the last in order to make a valid point at the end, so that means we are going over Country Bears next.

The Ugly: The Country Bears

   I'm still baffled as to how this film ever got through production without getting canceled. Country Bear Jamboree might have made a good animated movie, but a live action film? And without any of the music from the attraction, or ether of it's two overlays? (Country Bear Vacation Hoe-Down, and Country Bear Christmas) This movie was, in polite terms, a terrible waste of celluloid film. It's 88 minutes my life can never get back. The film was the polar opposite of Pirates of the Caribbean. It did everything wrong. The plot involves a anthropomorphic bear who has been adopted by a human family. He runs away after realizing that *gasps* he was adopted. He goes on a mind-numbing road trip of self-discovery to try and bring his favorite band, the Country Bears, back together, after they have been split up for a good amount of time. They travel all over the South, looking for the band members at various human-run establishments while breaking out into really awful song and dance numbers. I would go into more detail here, but all you need to do is check the movie's page on Rotten Tomatoes to realize this movie wasn't a hit. I wasted 88 minutes waiting to hear the "Bear Band Serenade" from the attraction preformed in the movie. Not once did they sing or play anything remotely similar to the music in the ride. If you haven't seen this film, I urge you to avoid it and forget that it ever existed. If you have seen it, you have my sympathy, and I urge you to keep acting like it never existed. I doubt that Del Toro's film about the mansion will end up like this though; this is the lowest of the low. Expect to see the Enchanted Tiki Room, Matterhorn, and Tommorrowland Indy Speedway films in this category if they make it to the big screen.

The Bad: The Haunted Mansion

   Okay, let me start off by saying that 2003's Rob Minkoff's Haunted Mansion film was not a bad film. I enjoyed it; it could have been much better, but it could have been way worse; it didn't fall into a category of extremley successful, or ungodly terrible. There were some really good things this movie had going for it, and some pretty bad things as well. Let's look at the positives:

The Settings:
You really can't complain here. Nearly all the scenes within the mansion are extremely eye-pleasing. The set design had to be one of the best things in the film.

The Music:
Or I should say, the score, by Mark Mancina. The official soundtrack release was rubbish. We really didn't get a full out, vocal, Graveyard jamboree version of "Grim Grinning Ghosts", but we did get a very lush composition of the instrumental tune in a cinematic sound, similar to Phantom Manor, but in a non-looped, realistic film-style format.

   And then, we have the okay stuff; some people would say that Rick Baker's make up and Special Effects go in the category above, but I wasn't as impressed by most of it as others were; on the whole, I though the special effects were passable for the most part. The way they did the ghosts still looks kind of odd to me; and I hate how the singing busts look like Claymation; in A Night in The Haunted Mansion, you will all witness my vision of the bust coming to life. The acting was so-so for the most part; but then again, some things were less than pleasing...

The Story and Script:
We get a variant of the "Story & Song" plot in which we see a group end up stuck in the mansion due to a rainstorm. But they are more than a few instances that had me shaking my head in shame at the way the action was playing out, and the characters were speaking. Madame Leota should not be used for comic relief!

Eddy Murphy:
As much as I like Eddie Murphy as an actor and comedian in movies like Shrek, Daddy Daycare, The Nutty Professor, and his stand-up acts like Delirious, (which I love) I really felt like he was just thrown into this movie because of star-power. While he delivers laughs in the film, the Mansion is not something I feel I should be laughing at for comedic value as a fan of the attraction.

The Haunted Mansion wasn't a box-office flop, but it wasn't a mega-success like Pirates. I prefer watching the mansion movie to Pirates myself. The movie really didn't need to be a theatrical release though, because watching it now, it really doesn't feel like one. It feels more like a really expensive, made for TV film. Not that it's a bad thing. Rose Red, Stephen King's Haunted House film is one of the best "Ghost" movies in my book, and it was made for TV. With this film not being so successful, we got a decent Mansion based film without all of the added ride-changing baggage that came with Pirates. But what would have happened had the movie been a mega hit? While these additions were rumored in 2003, I'm sure that they would have been physical fact had the movie been a major hit:

    So yeah, we dogged a huge bullet and got the better of the three situations that came out of the films in 2003. So, why do I partially hope the new film tanks? Del Toro seems like THE guy in Hollywood to do a Mansion movie, so why shouldn't I be anything but excited to see an enthusiast like myself making the movie* out of my favorite Disney attraction?

    * "Duh, your making one and your not happy seeing a film with a bigger budget and resources, and, duh, you think your's is better because it's your's" Your wrong there; A Night in The Haunted Mansion is completely void of this issue. I am not comparing a Hollywood film to my out-of-pocket, time-consuming, non-profit project, but I'd expect that sort of remark out of quite a few; so we will start off by staying that this is NOT the reason behind my partial desire to see the film fail. The two movies are both tributes to the ride; Del Toro's is just an official, legally-licensed for profit production.

   The artwork above got everyone excited. Because we all know who that is. Ol' Hattie is being used as the central character, according to Del Toro, in this new film. If this isn't a reason to worry, I don't know what is...

"Wait, what? The Hatbox Ghost as the main character is something to worry about? What could be bad about that?!?"

    ...I could see why many a fan would look past the reason. Because his presence as a main character in the film  would mean he would obviously come back in the attraction, and not to many mansion fans have anything against that. Even though we almost got Hattie back in 2009 before the film was announced and his re-installation was put on hold, the re-inclusion of the infamous ghost needs to be done very carefully. Because if he isn't done right, he will loose a lot of the aura and mystique that make him such a popular persona. First, we'll look at him in the ride, then, in the film.

I'm not going to go back over the entire Hatbox Ghost History; that can be found on plenty of other blogs. What you need to really remember is that the attic was a different place back in 1969. No talking, no music, no wedding vibe about the entire scene. Just pop-ups and blast-ups, the Corpse Bride, and the Hatbox Ghost; all accompanied by a few shrieks, screams and the heavy thumping of a heart. Now, in 2011, we have a clear wedding theme about the entire room; the pop-ups, blast-ups, and screams are all gone. The Hatbox Ghost is nowhere to be seen, and the bride is now a fully developed, story-driven character with dialouge and an axe in hand. Oh, and she is directly across from Hattie's old spot too. Well, this brings up a really serious question that might set some Mansion fans on edge:

"From an Imagineering standpoint, how do you make the scene bellow work, so that the bride doesn't get all the attention from the majority of the guests, and that both characters get equal time in the spotlight during this extremely short scene?"

     Sorry mansion fan-boys and fan-girls, but if your looking at this in a majority perspective, the talking character is going to get the most attention. Especially if the character trying to divert some of that attention is merely a static figure with lighting changes.


     Because putting myself in the shoes of an average Disney guest, the technologically advanced, axe-wielding, attractive, pun-loving bride on the left side is much more eye-popping and attention grabbing then the static, quivering, skeletal senior citizen on the right. Just because us mansion fans love Hattie and a good few hate Constance doesn't mean are views are that of the average rider. I expect you know where this is going...

     Above is an updated, un-cropped version of my April Fools 2011 "Updated Hatbox Ghost" photo I created, showing a projection-style version of Ol' Hattie. As much as I hate to say it, the only logical way to go about the problem is to make Hattie a projection effect the way Constance is achieved. This way, not only will he look like he belongs across the track from bride, but he will be able to talk and interact with her from across the track, and therefore, draw in more than just a little visual attention. And if this isn't done the right way, it could be disastrous. But unless the imagineers just throw in an updated static figure with lighting effects or a low grade AA figure just to please all the Mansion fans, (which would be a Miracle if there ever was a perfect definition of the word, as well as a complete head-scratcher) I highly doubt he will return in a form that is anything as quiet or as still as he was in August 1969.

    Now look at this situation from your inter-mansion fan (assuming that if you've read this far, you have some of that in your heart); what kind of voice does the Hatbox Ghost look like he'd have? What kind of personality would he have? If you ask a group of ten mansion fans individually, I doubt you'd get the same answers from everyone. Those who think he should be a hoarse-voiced joker, whose insanity makes Constance look like Mother Teresa would be less than happy to find a stuttering, bass-voiced ghost who cowers in fear of his axe-wielding bride. There are so many ways to go with this scene and this character that you have to wonder how many different versions of the Hatbox Ghost could they create? He really doesn't have a defined back-story as of right now. Why is his ghost present in the attic, and not Ambrose, Reggie, or the other husbands? Why is he so skeletal looking, while Constance's ghost is young and beautiful? I could go on and on. The expectations each mansion fan has for Hattie are different, and each is just as likely to fell let down when he returns.

   This ties into the movie; I promise; we have the same issue in the movie as in the ride now; who would play him? Knowing Del Toro, he could possibly end up being a Muppet like Yoda or all those soul-eating, Nightmare fueling creature puppets in the Dark Crystal. We could see him in a form that doesn't have the pop-eyed skeleton face we associate with the character; after all, he's the Hatbox Ghost, and his name never refers to a skeleton with a popped eye; only one carrying a Hatbox. I doubt he looked so darn scary in his lifetime as young man. Each mansion fan has a different feeling on how the Hatbox Ghost should be portrayed. Have you ever read a really bad fan-fiction story where a character is put in a situation that makes you think, "What the...?" Or they have them say or do something that you see as completely out-of-character for the guidelines and personality boundaries that the character has set up for them in whatever book, movie, show, ride, etc that the character comes form;

(Examples; Harry Potter trying to get it on with Hermonie; Jack Sparrow being sober for more then half of a story; Darth Vader reading a story to Jedi Younglings during reading month; Mickey Mouse spontaneously coming out of the closet and sharing sexual feelings for Pete, Goofy's Overweight friend; you get the drift, these things do happen online, and are as baffling as anything could be)

With Hattie being the main character, (unless he ends up mute, which I doubt will happen) he will have a voice, and a personality. His boundaries and guidelines are non-existent for the most part. (If I see Hattie making bathroom jokes or wearing a swimsuit and acting feminine, then we have a serious problem) Once you give him those traits, a lot of what makes him so cool, so popular among mansion fans; will be hacked off of his reputation forever. The mystery, the mystique, it will all be washed away.

    So that's why I'm not going all in with Del Toro's Haunted Mansion till it plays out; that, plus the fact that it's in 3D. If the Haunted Mansion isn't a prime candidate for 3D gimmick effects, I don't know what is. I will however, go all in with A Night in The Haunted Mansion, but that's because I'm the director, co-producer, and screenwriter, and I know what I think is safe territory for the Hatbox Ghost to venture into; and that is virtually being a terrifying presence and nothing but...

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


Sunday, December 25, 2011

Pirates at Disneyland Paris

Ah, there you are!

    I wish all you foolish mortals a Happy Holiday. For today, we are going to take a look at Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland Paris, and review it in brief as I have happy haunts who will be expecting me in an hour or two. So, lets begin. I want to first shamelessly plug my own 22 minute point-of-view/tribute video which I finally finished editing and uploaded earlier this week. It's about as good as DLP Pirates videos get as I've seen online thus far, which makes me proud; I caught a lot of stuff on video (not everything though) that is extremely hard to catch in the dark interior without night vision:

   There are two ways to look at this ride; how much more awesome it was compared to the other three before the movies were ever made, and how much more awesome this version is now that it's the only one without movie-related installations in it. (For those of you who don't already know, I am not a big fan of the Pirate's movies, and am appalled that the characters had to be installed into the attraction) Disneyland Paris's Pirates took the original version and flipped it around, telling the story of the buccaneers first, then showing off their skeletal remains and reminded riders the moral of the story is "Dead Men Tell No Tales" at the end. The ride includes two drops, one of decent length, and a first for Pirates, an on-ride-photo opportunity. The que takes Walt Disney World's fortress and dungeons and expands them in size. This version also has the original chase scene that was replaced at both American parks because it was to risque. They have taken the liberty of making the scene even more sexually tense by adding a 'Not-so-Disney-like' projection of the a maiden fighting off two intruders in an upstairs window. That had to be my favorite effect I hadn't seen or heard of before.

   As you will see in the video above, the infamous sword dueling animatronic pirates where out of commission the entire time I was there. So, that explains why they are not in the video. Bellow, you'll find images of the ride I took, all flash; so if your not a fan of flash photos, be forewarned. You can enlarge them by clicking on them. They provide a sort of visual tour that will show off a few things I couldn't catch on video, although many things in the video are not shown here, so don't skip up on watching it!

The Queuing Area includes many skeletons; this one is actually situated right over the  Crew's Quarters vintage, and is viewed from eye level in the line on a balcony right over the trough the boats pass by it in.
This scene in the Que has a pirate stabbed in the back in a cell.
We float by the diners at the Blue Lagoon in the first scene, a tropical stand-in for Disneyland's Bayou scene; the food there is really really good. And you can't get much better ambiance to dine by.
Floating through the middle of a shipwreck that is submerged in the Lagoon. The ship  is used as a dividing line between what is visible to the diners at Blue Lagoon, and the vast ocean beyond.
The lift hill; while themed as a cargo lift in the fort, and not a waterfall; has lots of water running down it. So much that you would get sprayed going up the hill!
Once we reach the top, we get a brief view of the ship in the harbor bellow; but the sounds of gunfire, flickering flames, cannon fire, and swords clashing can be heard echoing from an archway ahead; the boat disengages from the lift chain, and we quickly float past this sight, under the archway and into the fort under siege.
One of my favorite scenes I didn't manage to capture on camera is this one; two cats stranded on floating debris, yelling out while trying to get to higher ground. They can be heard in the video, but due to the darkness, are not seen clearly.
The boats float though the fort, passing by the jailed pirates scene, only to end up directly in front of the first (and largest) drop in the ride. This drop leads directly into the harbor we saw from the battlements at the top of the lift hill.
We proceed from the harbor past the dunking of the mayor, and then the auction (above)
The pooped pirate in the chase scene now brandishes a shoe; although the version in Paris at one point has held a bra. 
"We Pillage, We Plunder, We Riffle and Loot, Drink Up! Me Hearties Yo-Ho!" The merry musicians sing the infamous song, the first completely English track we have heard in the ride thus far.
A enterprising buccaneer attempts to make away with some cargo in a rocking row-boat.
The pirate's pyrotechnics cause the the town's arsenal to explode, and we go down the last drop, getting our picture taken in the process; the resulting explosion sends the boats splashing into the caverns ahead.

The caverns include all the vintages from the Disneyland Original, including the treasure cave above, and a new "Shipwreck" scene.

     So, Pirates at Paris is essentially the best version ever created, and sadly, it is most likely the last one to ever be built without a direct influence of the films driving the creation of it. Enjoy this version while it lasts in a non-movie form, because It's sadly only a matter of time before all the "Classic" versions of Pirates end up in Yesterland for good. Happy Holidays!


Monday, December 19, 2011

The "Room for 1 More" Event; Walt Disney World's 40th Anniversary; Recap & Review

Ah, there you are...

I'm so sorry I've kept you all waiting this long, but we spirits were very busy during the months of October and November, preparing for Halloween; and in our case, the release of "Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion: 40th Anniversary Soundtrack". Add that to the workload involved in finalizing "The 13 Days Of X-mas" event and "Haunted Mansion Holiday: The Unofficial 10th Anniversary Collection" which is still being fine tuned, plus continuing work on "A Night in The Haunted Mansion", the Roller Coaster Tycoon 3  Recreation project, and more. Then I have my laundry list of up coming blog posts...lots of content to keep me busy...

       So, let's us begin with the mansion event: 'Room for 1 More' was a celebration for the Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion. Not exactly what you'd call a full day's outing, but with the lines we waited in, I was lucky it didn't end up that way. Aside from the length of the line at the special "Store" for the event, Disney's typical people-eating nature shined through. I was very pleased to meet a few fans of S&FS in person, and even more pleased to get to chat with some of the Mansion fans who knew what I was talking about when I said that "They had changed to vocals in the graveyard" and such. It was  very enjoyable experience, but having to wait all day to ride the Haunted Mansion was something that hindered it for me a bit. Let me begin this "abbreviated" trip report, because I still have so much on my plate to talk about from Paris, and news that has leaked about the return of the infamous Hatbox Ghost. So, where to begin...

Day 1 - Friday, September 30th, 2011 - Animal Kingdom, "Room For 1 More", and "Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party"

   Okay, so I began my day by getting up really early after flying into Orlando that previous night to go take advantage of the extra morning magic hours at Animal Kingdom. I was exhausted, but had to hit as many rides as possible since I knew the trip was going to be way shorter then last time. I knocked out Dinosaur twice, Expedition Everest twice, and Kilimanjaro Safari in a little more then an hour, and got back to the hotel; the Animal Kingdom Lodge, Jambo House; for breakfast. Expedition Everest isn't as thrilling in the daytime as it was in my first ride at night back in January, which I wrote about in a previous entry. If your ever in Animal Kingdom Lodge for breakfast, make sure to get as much Jungle Juice as possible; that stuff is to die for. Anyhow, now it was time to go an register for the event at the Contemporary.

     Oh, how it brought back memories of January, when I would take that Monorail ever single day to the Magic Kingdom, and run to the Haunted Mansion to record the Graveyard singers with my video camera mic. That's a week I'll never forget. Taking one of the buses helped me really remember what it was like back in 2000 and 2003 to have to use something other than the monorail to get around. Anyway, let's get on with the "event" stuff. We started, as I said earlier, by waiting in a line to register, and receive our thankfully not-so-heavy Mr.Toad statues, which are really nice. Throughout the event, they played the Official Disneyland "Haunted Mansion 40th Anniversary" CD on a loop, (the wrong vocals and missing music room and Library scenes. Wrong music Disney! We fans take notice of this! Your aren't fooling us! Release the new vocals!) Once we got our products, we roamed around, looked in the amazing art gallery, and got pictures taken for our "ghostly photo opportunity" that was done in front of a green-screen. And after this, we left to go get in costume for the night's festivities. Here is a panorama of the entrance to the "Great Hall" that the dinner would take place:

     So, we arrived back in a hour or two and it was getting dark our, and we entered the hallway above which was now filled with plenty of Mansion Fans, many in costume, waiting to enter. While waiting, they again were playing the Disneyland "Haunted Mansion 40th Anniversary" CD on a loop, but I swore I could hear the rumbling bass of a real organ from somewhere within the building. Finally, we were permitted to enter, and walking in was one of the most amazing things I ever experienced. The rumble of live pipe organ (okay, it was probably a multi-keyboard set up with a lot of sub-woofers) with a man dressed as the organist from the ballroom at the keys. It was macabre magic at it's finest. Here is what the inside looked like, panorama style:

    The organist provided music while I ate and spoke to the mansion fans around my table about topics like Haunted Mansion Holiday, D23, the new Del Toro Film, and other things. The food was much better then I had anticipated. Extra entertainment was provided by the "Ghost Host", a mustached character, and "Diggs" the mentally insane Caretaker. Bellow, you can take a listen to the Organist playing a few sections that I had to record, because I am a fan of "Phantom", and the rest were filler for you all to enjoy:

    I would like to point out how the background is clearly a projection or LED screen. Very convincing, like the Library murals. They were running a slideshow most of the night on the two screens seen on ether side of the organist in the panorama above that consisted of's desktop wallpapers with the logo removed. Pretty lazy of them if you ask me. But we can't have it perfect every time. At least they had finally stopped playing the 40th CD. The highlight of the night was hearing Imagineers Jason Surrell, Jason Grandt, Pete Carsillo and Eric Goodman talk for about an hour, explaing things about the new queuing area, the updated Hitchhiking ghosts, and showing off unseen pics from the archives on the slideshow. I did film the entire presentation, but rendering and editing it has fallen behind on my list of things to get done, and their are plenty of videos up of it already, so it's not like I'm in any hurry, when these are to some extent, better then mine:

     They revealed a lot of things about the new additions. I personally enjoyed hearing about the idea of a "Nursery" that got axed as soon as it was mentioned for the Re-Haunting. I was a bit disappointed that Tony Baxter wasn't there, but hey, we got Jason Surrell at least, so that was one familiar face. So much was revealed, you might as well watch Ricky's video above instead of waiting for mine if you haven't already seen it. You can also check out Inside the Magic's report here. Anyhow, we jump to the the Magic Kingdom now, for the Halloween Party.

   So, we finally entered the gates of the Magic Kingdom! I was just dying to get to the Mansion by that point in time. After waiting nearly the entire day, I finally got to see the new effects that had been added right after I left in January. But we'll talk about that in day two, since the Halloween Party is a one night thing. So, we ended up missing "Hallowishes" due to the event letting us out a little late, which was a disappointment; but the decorations and party exclusive area music was awesome! They were playing the Police's "Message in A Bottle" by Pirates of the Caribbean! Talk about awesome! The night was also my first time getting on Walt Disney World's Splash Mountain. Every time I was there, it seemed it was closed. Since I had only been on the Disneyland version 22 times prior, I was excited to see what this version would hold in store. I liked it, but the new safety bars were a hindrance on the air-time. Over all, the music is more catchy here, but I like Disneyland's "Ride better"; wear as I like Walt Disney World's "Show" better. Also, I took an awesome on-ride photo, hitchhiking ghost style.
I was limited to how much I could do in the allotted time, but I ended up spending most of it taking advantage of Splash Mountain's non-existent lines. I left the party around 12:45, strangling behind a bit. Tomorrow, it would be back to the Magic Kingdom again for the 40th Anniversary of Walt Disney World.

Day 2 - Saturday, October 1st, 2011 - The 40th Anniversary of Walt Disney World

   I think I got off to a later start that morning. The Magic Kingdom was extremely busy with people fighting for cupcakes in the bakery that were special "40th Anniversary" breakfast items. So, it took about 45 minutes to get my fruit cup for breakfast. Then, I headed over to the Haunted Mansion. Let's take a look at the new effects, shall we?

   The new graveyard. Let me just start by saying it's a matter of "do I want to have a bit of fun, or get on the ride already?" Don't be surprised if on a busy day, the new "interactive" area is empty. The lines seemed to just pack off into which ever way looked less crowded; which was sometimes the direct path, and sometimes, the new area. The new que area has it's pluses and minuses, but overall, I see the addition as a pretty nice one. It really doesn't take anything from the atmosphere. Heck, if nobody is in there, you really won't hear much from it. The instruments only play if touched for at most, 5 seconds, and then you have to press again, or they go silent. The Prudence Pock tomb didn't seem to be working while I was there. The sailor tomb is odd, but fits in better than I would have thought possible. The best part is the new tombstones along the hill. The graveyard much more resembles the one you see in the finale now, sprawling over the hillside and beyond.

   The new hitchhikers are pretty neat, but for someone who rides alone most of the time on a ten-or-more rides-at-a-time basis, they really don't do much more then the old ones to liven up the scene. Let's just say the novelty wears off if you ride to much. They become a part of the ride that you come to expect, just like the old ones, and not something you get all excited to see "Oh what animation will I get this time" and such. But that's not a bad thing, because like floating Leota, Constance, the Endless Staircase, the new stretching room, and the portrait hallway, the novelty wore off, but they are still all part of the ride. (It's worth noting that to me, the new vocalists in the graveyard's novelty has not worn off, because I love them so much, and am so determined to hear each one clearly on a full loop; Randy Thorton, I urge you to make them present on the next CD!) And because I love the ride, they are there, and they all feel right after a while, once the novelty of being new wears off. They do look much more real in person then in video, so please, until you've seen them for yourself, don't be judging them.

Anyhow, part of my day on that 40th Anniversary was spent talking to a former Haunted Mansion CM (or Butler if you prefer) and Facebook friend of mine, Tim, who shared his knowledge and insight with me on the park, management, and rides. He told me a lot of information I hadn't heard before, and also got me in the "Secret Corridor" that is part of Walt Disney World's Mansion. It was cool to yet again, meet with people who I've met online through my site and through the interest of the Haunted Mansion in person. Thanks for making my day more interesting then the typical day in the Magic Kingdom Tim! Above, you can see the Haunted Mansion still draws in fairly long waits on the weekends. This line above was about 30 minutes.

   Also, I must report that Pirates of the Carribean, which was suffering from neglect in January 2011, has been patched up really well! (Looks like all that complaining back in January wasn't a waste, somebody heard me) They fixed it up when they installed Blackbeard, and it's looking better then normal! (Not really something to get too excited about. It's condition is still the worst of the four incarnations) We got lucky, and out boat got backed up because of a "protein spill", and we got to witness the entire loop of the Musical Trio play out. Check it out, an notice how they are indeed using a new musical score that was added in 2007, not the version you hear near Jack at the end that was used in this scene prior to the movie overlay:

   If anyone really wants to hear about my last day at MGM Studios... oh, wait, I forgot, that's Hollywood Studios now; I'll write about it later. Star Tours II is pretty cool, and Tower of Terror and Rock'N Roller Coaster are pretty awesome. But that's not really something I think everyone here wants to hear about. I've got things I have to do, so, until next time, I'll see you all a little later...


   Oh yes, there's a little matter I forgot to mention: If you have Google plus, S&FS now has a page there. So go join our "Circles" or whatever they call them, there, on Google Plus.