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...


1 comment:

  1. I just recently discovered this blog while staying down at WDW this past week and I must say that I love it! Great work here sir. I have kindly dragged this blog to the dead center of my favorite pages! And if there is a Facebook page for S&FS please let me know! From one HM fan to another, great job and I'm sure to hurry back!