Sunday, January 29, 2012

The Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 Recreation Finally Materializes

Ah, there you are...

  I know I claimed in my last post that the next blog entry would be about the new "interactive" enhancements at Walt Disney World's mansion. Well, current news comes first, when I do managed to get around to reporting it on time. I want to share the hard work and effort of two years. I want you all to see the ultimate recreation of Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion in Roller Coaster Tycoon 3. It took me two years to complete it, due to numerous restarts, re-builds, revisions, and updates, but finally, after teasing the project for two years, it's done:

  Maybe someday, I can get the website back up and running. Maybe someday, A Night in the Haunted Mansion will get past the relentless pre-production stage. It just goes to show you that even the projects that I don't give a set release date to; the ones I procrastinate on without a set deadline; can get finished after all.

  Here are a few stills and shots of the recreation, if the video isn't enough to suite your visual hunger:

  Due to a number of reasons that can be found in the video's description box on You Tube, I will not be able to make the park file with ride recreation in it available for downloading. So sorry I have to have some sort of disappointing news attached to this extraordinary project.

  Next time, unless a certain ghost makes his return before I finish writing my review, (which is unlikely; I hope to be done before the end of February) I will dive into my controversial subject mater with a controversial view. Next time, we will take a look at the interactive up-grades to the Walt Disney World Mansion. Until next time foolish mortals...

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


Friday, January 20, 2012

Walt Disney World Vacation Report - January 2012

Ah, there you are...

   I have hinted on the Facebook page that changes are on their way to S&FS. Well, your just going to have to take that statement and make of it what you will. I won't be verbally addressing these changes any further, nor addressing exactly what they are. You'll have to take note and make that sort of judgment for yourself. Now, as they say, look alive, and we will take a look at my most recent vacation to the Mansion in Orlando...

(Panorama take by yours truly; you can enlarge it by clicking on the image)
   This report will be brief; there isn't as much for me to report on as there was in October, because not as much has changed. The last two Orlando trip reports can thank the 2007 Re-Haunting and the recent 2011 enhancements for being as detailed as they were able to be. (Although the October 2011 one was done up in brief, even though there was so much to talk about) However, given that the Mansion has been in a constant state of change since the Re-Haunting, there are actually a few new additions since my last trip; they are minor additions, but since this blog covers it's subject matter in a detailed way, new details; minor or not, are worth noting.

   The first of which are a number of new signs that adorn the interactive portion of the queuing area graveyard; the most notable being the one pictured bellow on the left, stating: Open for Visitation

   All of the signs share the same little arrow, which has sprung up in many different locations recently. This wavy little arrow made it's debut in the mansion as a late 2011 replacement for the goofy green glove hand that had been introduced in late 2010 to the exit crypt for safety concerns; and more than likely, because some guests are too confused to realize that they are supposed to exit at this point in the ride.

   I recall mentioning how this hand was rather chessey in my oppion after my January 2011 trip; it was either on here (the blog) or on the Facebook page, but I know I voiced my two-cents somewhere online. No matter where I did, somebody, somewhere at Disney must have heard me, and decided to replace this big, gloved hand with this arrow. Thus, this arrow is now used anywhere in the Mansion where direction assistance is needed.

  The second, and much more important addition is a new tribute in the cemetery to Harper Goff, the Disney artist responsible for drawing the first known sketch in 1951 of the "Haunted Mansion" for the Disneyland; which at the time, wasn't even opened yet:

   This tribute is part of another new addition that makes it much easier to communicate with Prudence Pock in her tomb. The plaque; which is duplicated on both sides of the window looking into the tomb where the book is located; has an attached microphone that you speak into so that Prudence can better understand you. The plaque reads:


   I wonder when a Buddy Baker tribute will materialize? I guess it's just a matter of time. Anyhow, I have come to enjoy spending ample time messing around with the decomposing composers tomb in the new interactive area on nights when nobody was around. I actually manged to get more wet playing that organ with it's mist-spraying effect then I did on Splash Mountain that same night! I will say right now that the next post will further analyze the interactive que and Hitchhikers, so we will not go any further with my thoughts about the que. So, let's look at the ride now...

   Nothing wrong here; The Mansion is a spectacular as ever; nothing I could spot that seemed out of place, or wrong. It was open the entire trip, and didn't break down during my stay at all, as far as I know. It's still darker then the Disneyland version inside, but the the lighting has increased just a tad since my last visit. Still, it's darker than my video camera can handle sometimes. Even with some increased lighting on the Caretaker; something that has been requested by a few people online; he is barely visible in this clip of the graveyard finale I shot. It's a major step up from nothing but his lantern being visible in my 2011 recordings though.

  NOTICE: Before you watch the video, I want to apologize for my terrible singing at the beginning; I sing along every time I get to that scene. Since I wasn't really paying attention to the fact that I was recording at the time, it's not really my best vocal take; I can sing way better, believe me. And I do shut up by the time we reach the Caretaker. Anyhow, watch just so you get a visual of how it looks on camera:

   Hopefully, the video will attract more attention to my blog from YouTube. Also, you can get an idea from this clip of what I did last January. In my desperate attempts to record quality sound loops of all the new vocals, I had to do this over 30 some times; you can imagine how much worthless footage I have that was recorded with intentions for the audio portion only. Note that you can indeed see more with your eyes on the ride than you can in my video. The human eye is a magical thing you know.

  I would like to mention that I had a few really awesome butlers and maids who really stayed in character. I also had one butler who gave me a good laugh by saying "Welcome to it's a small world" when he opened the doors. The I also managed to obtain access to the VIP hallway for my second straight trip, where I discovered the old bat-plaque servant quarters signs are residing at the moment. How did I obtain access again? Well, it's a good thing you asked, as this will transfer us into the next part of the report perfectly...

  I was lucky enough to take the Keys to the Kingdom backstage tour on my last day. I highly suggest the tour to anyone who reads this blog, and is obsessed with the Disney Parks. The tour not only takes you down into the utilidoors; (where I'd like to point out, there is a good old organ banshee head in a display case for Disney Imagineering in one of the hallways; though that might excite some of you Mansion fans. I was when I saw it that close; they are large then I thought) but it took the group on the Mansion at one point. I'm not sure if the Mansion is a standard part of the tour; we only rode that and Jungle Cruise during the 5-hour time frame. Anyhow, the tour was really amazing, and it filled me in on a number of things I had never heard of/noticed before. It also really renewed my appreciation and respect for what the company does on a whole. It takes a lot of effort from a whole lot of different people to keep that park running. Some of those people aren't as excited as I would be working there, but nonetheless, they are just as important in keeping the magic going every single day of the year. The tour also touched on plenty of other interesting things. Things that made sense. From now on, you might get to a point in one of my posts where I'll say something like "as I learned during Keys to the Kingdom" or something like that. The tour re-enlighten me to the reasons why the Disney Parks have always been such amazing places. It's the effort that goes into presenting the magic, and making guests believe they are in another world.

  I'll end this report on another note. I once again, had the pleasure of talking to and hanging out with someone during my trip. While they hadn't heard of S&FS before, I had fun getting to spend time hanging out with someone who was just as obsessed with the Disney Parks as I am. Hopefully I'll run into someone in November, or sooner. Guess what everyone? I'm a Walt Disney World annual pass-holder now!

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


Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Dog Dies at the End...

Ah, there you are...

   Just a reminder foolish mortals; I will be down in Orlando, and of course, Walt Disney World from the night of Friday the 13th into Tuesday the 17th. Of course, a trip report will come afterward. Be sure to follow me on twitter and keep up with what I'm doing while I'm there. Now, onto today's post:

   This post won't be terribly long, but it's something that some of you may have never noticed in all your trips through the Mansion. In the graveyard finale, we all know there is a Caretaker and his frightened, malnourished  dog. The dog is a static figure that shivers and shakes via a hidden motor under "terrain" beneath it. The dog also has a sound effect of whimpering, which was most likely preformed by the legendary Jim MacDonald.

   What you might not have noticed is that the dog makes another appearance before the ride comes to a close. The Raven, which was the spotlight of the last post, makes several appearances; Gus, the small, bearded prisoner makes an appearance in the Headsman/Opera scene before showing up again in the crypt as one of the three Hitchhiking ghosts; and the dog too, has another appearance, only this time, he's... well, he's dead... let's take a look, shall we?

   The dog already looks sickly when we first see him. He's cowering in fear, whimpering and shivering. He looks as though he might not have eaten for weeks, and is pretty much skin and bones. So would it surprise you to know that the dog drops dead before we even get through the graveyard? The dog is seen as a ghost in the Mumbling Mummy scene, watching the two human ghosts with the same terrified expression on his face.

  This official publicity image of the scene clearly shows the Dog is lit with the same blue lighting as the ghostly characters he shares the scene with:

   So, I think it's safe to say that the Caretaker's frightened pooch is literally scared to death during the graveyard scene. I guess the Haunted Mansion can now go into that heart-warming category of "The Dog Dies at the End" stories, alongside "Old Yeller", "Marley and Me", and other timeless classics that end in tearful good-byes.

   In closing, I'd just like to point out something else that relates to today's topic before I end this post; A weird set decoration that has been added to Walt Disney World's Caretaker and Pooch scene. Please tell me that isn't what I think it is:

   Please tell me that isn't a pile of dog droppings... Really? Oh brother...

   It looks like the frightened pooch might have voided his bowels before kicking the bucket. Be sure to point this detail out to your children or younger siblings, who will undoubtedly be able to appreciate this brief instance of bathroom humor; it was probably added with them in mind.


* It appears that I was mistaken about the doggy doo-doo; the brownish-red objects in front of the dog are apparently dog biscuits. I was informed that they are left there by Mansion cast members for the dog, similar to the former tradition of leaving a fresh cut rose on Master Gracey's tombstone. - Updated January 19th, 2011. *

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

When Birds Attack

Happy New Year Foolish Mortals!

   2011 was an very busy year for S&FS and the Mansion. So much so that I forgot to mention that our 2 year anniversary was on the 7th of November! Feels like S&FS has been around much longer, but maybe that's because we've done so much in those 2 years. Let's hope 2012 will be another great year for the Mansion. I also want to mention that I'm headed back to Orlando, and will be there from the 13th to the 17th, so expect a trip report in the future. So, follow me on Twitter if you aren't already, because I'll be posting updates while I'm at the park.

   Also, I mixed a new "Re-Haunting" ride through together for New Years. If you haven't already gotten a copy and heard my much-improved ride-through, what are you waiting for? Check it out! As with all my audio offerings, it's for home and personal use only. It's about as good as it will get until Randy Thorton finally releases an Official source mix. Anyway...

   Today, we are going to look at the many birds in the mansion; because there are a few more then just Ravens and owls in the mansion. We start with the obvious; the Raven:

   Any mansion fan with any worth to calling themselfs one would undoubtedly know that the raven, as seen above, is seen in nearly every scene of the attraction at some point. The bird makes five different appearances during the course of the ride:

   Blueprints for Disneyland also show that another raven was to be seen in the Foyer; (read this GDR Blog post for more information about it) but why he isn't there is explainable: The Raven almost ended up as the narrator of the attraction, and the foyer has narration. You see, early scripts by X. Atencio involved having a possessed Raven (or at one point, a one-eyed black cat) as the narrator. Thankfully, we ended up with Paul Free's as the Ghost Host instead of a talking animal. For those of you who have heard "The Story & Song of the Haunted Mansion" Story-Teller LP, you'll recall that the Raven provides terribly chessey lines such as "Caw-Caw! Beware my friends! Caw-Caw!" To think that the mansion would have been as big a success as it is had they used this idea is really hard to imagine. The raven though, remains in the attraction; following you all the way through the ride.

   Because this bird is so iconic in the mansion, he was one of the characters who managed to make the jump over to Phantom Manor; here, he appears six times:

   While the Mansion bird only makes noise during his fourth appearance as of today, (though via a 1976 live recording, we can infer that the final Raven also had sound at some point, the same loop as the one before it that is still used today) the Manor bird make noise in every scene he is featured in. Despite being very hard to catch on camera in the ballroom, he is extremely audible; the same goes for the Seance and Music room locations. Once we get to Phantom Canyon though, were plenty of noise is already being made, the raven lowers his squawking just a tad.

   That about covers the raven. But while he may be the star bird in the attraction, he isn't the only one. (At least at the mansions) The next most notable birds are the two owls in the graveyard; in a tree directly above the three cats, which is next to the Phantom Five band:

   They give off a "hoot-hoot" sound effect while their heads bob up and down. There isn't much more to say about these guys; they are physically and audibly there. The next few don't get both traits; just one or the other. Because the audio is easier for the average guest to notice then something hidden in the dark, I'd say the next best-noticed bird is the un-seen owl in the Walt Disney World stretching room; as sound effect added in 2007 allows guests entering the gallery to hear an owl flying off into the distance somewhere. 

  I guess the mansion's rafters must have some holes in them, and some un-invited critters are now roaming about the mansion. The owl sound is accompanied by the more prominent bat sounds, who really steal the spotlight. You can read more about the owl, and hear a sample at the Ghost Relations Dept. Blog

   The next few are also 2007 editions to Walt Disney World's Mansion. While these aren't live birds, they sure are notable editions, and one of them is life-sized! Take a look at the new "birds" added as decorations to the Liberty Square Mansion:
(Photos from S&FS collection, taken by Alexandre Grancoin-Vinet)
   Look at that majestic Eagle! That life sized bird statue now is used to to decorate the archway on the far left side of the music room, off to the side of the steps the Doombuggies travel up. This huge bird doesn't have proper lighting, and I would have never of know he existed had it not been for these wonderful photos sent to me! I bet nearly none of the people reading this know about it, and if you do, your one of a select few. Talk about a random piece of art in the mansion! The other bird is the peacock statue in the portrait hallway scene, on a table that is situated under a mirror. It's quite a piece itself, though not as impressive as the Eagle. Perhaps it's a tombstone of sorts for the bird whose's feathers have been present in the Ballroom for quite some time:

   It's a legal offense in America to kill an Eagle, so let's hope that one isn't a death monument. In fact, because we're dealing with the Liberty Square Mansion, the Eagle fits into the ride nicely, adding an American touch to it. Surprisingly, there isn't a "Bird" in the Disneyland pet cemetery; so those cages in the attic must be for Freddie the bat.

  UPDATED: There is a Duck and a Parrot, however, in the Walt Disney World pet cemetery; thought I can only tell you about the Duck at the moment:
   Behind beloved Waddle's tomb. you can see the Parrot's tomb. I'll need to located more images before I can tell you about the Parrot. So, expect this post to once again updated later on.

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