Ride Review: The Haunted MansionSplashMoun10 Well I've been wanting to start this ride review series for awhile now and what better way to begin it than with one of Disney's most beloved classic attractions, The Haunted Mansion? Now considering this is my first review and I have yet to establish a particular style, there may be some things here that I'd like to change in later reviews, but I suppose I'll just see how this one goes and see how you all like it. Some people here have a passion for movies, others music, but my biggest passion is theme parks, and I've wanted for quite a while now to have a review series in which I express my knowledge and interest in the topic. The first thing I'd like to point out is that there is a difference between an amusement park and a theme park. An amusement park would be something like Six Flags, where everything is just pretty generic and unthemed, whereas a theme park is more what it's name implies, like Universal Studios and Disney parks, and it is mainly rides from those parks that I will be reviewing in this post series. Anyway, let's start the review!
The Haunted Mansion is a highly themed and immensely popular dark ride that opened at Disneyland in 1969 and Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom in 1971 as an opening day attraction. The ride is pretty similar at both locations, although since I'm more familiar with WDW's and I consider it the better version, that's the one I'll primarily be talking about. A big difference between the two is the exterior. DL's has an antebellum-era mansion as it's exterior, fitting for it's location in New Orleans Square, while WDW's has a more gothic (and in my opinion "spookier") exterior that is more of a Gothic style. As well, DL's version undergoes a makeover every year for 5-months in the form of "Haunted Mansion Holiday" which is themed to The Nightmare Before Christmas. I won't go into much detail about it, especially since I haven't seen it in person, but I much prefer the regular ol' Haunted Mansion to it and am glad WDW's doesn't do the same thing, although I will admit it does make for a nice change. There are a few other differences, but the ones I mentioned are the most major and the ones that would probably most influence which one you prefer. With that out of the way, let's talk about the actual attraction.
Let's start off with the queue and the exterior. Once again, I'm mostly going to be talking about the WDW version in this review, although I will bring up DL's when I need to make a necessary comparison. I really think the MK's exterior nails the haunted feel and I love that howling wolf sound effect you can hear outside the mansion every once in a while. There used to be just one queue line, but ever since the 2010 refurbishment, there is now an alternate interactive queue, which I'll discuss in more detail later on. The regular queue line features a graveyard full of tombstones with darkly humorous rhymes as to how that person died. As well at the end of the queue line right towards the entrance of the building, there is a tombstone of Madame Leota with her face on it, and every once in a while her eyes move. I still have no idea how that particular effect works, and even though it's not part of the actual ride, I think it's one of the coolest things the attraction has to offer.
Upon entering the building, you are taken directly into the Stretching Room, which consists of four seemingly innocuous portraits and an introduction of the "Ghost Host." As soon as the room is filled, the walls begin to stretch, and the portraits present a more unsettling picture, for instance, what was simply a lady with a parasol is now a lady with a parasol on a tightrope over a hungry alligator. Leaving the Stretching Room, you make your way to the Doom Buggy and begin the tour. The first hallway consists of changing portraits that go from something normal to something much more ominous, such as a young woman turning into a frightening Medusa. We then enter the first room, the library, which consists of a free-moving ladder and marble busts that seem to be staring at you even as you exit the room. The hallway and the library are not present in the DL version, however they still have the marble busts and changing portraits in the queue. The next room consists of what seems to be a ghost playing a piano, of which you can see the silhouette on the floor and the piano keys moving. Next, completely unique to this version of the ride, is the staircase room, in which there are glowing green footprints all over the twisted staircase. Upon exiting the room, the wall now has evil glowing eyes on it, and at his point, the MK and DL versions of the ride are nearly identical from here. Making our way along a creepy hallway, we then come upon a corpse trying to get out of his casket, accompanied by a red-eyed raven, as a reference to Edgar Allen Poe's famous poem. Passing by a bunch of turning doorknobs and knocking and creaking sounds, we then enter the seance room, in which Madame Leota's floating head summons spirits from wherever they're at, accompanied by a bunch of floating instruments. Then, we make our way into arguably one of the best scenes in any dark ride, the ballroom scene, in which disappearing and reappearing ghosts throw a wild party. It's arguably the most impressive part of the whole attraction, just on a sheer factor of "How do they do it?!" Leaving the ballroom, we make our way into the attic, in which the sound of a beating heart is heard. As well, we pass by five portraits featuring five different grooms, but the same bride, and the groom's head in all of these portraits disappears. We then see the bride Constance holding an axe and chanting off her vows in a devious way. Finally, we reach the climax of the ride, the graveyard scene, featuring the ride's theme song "Grim Grinning Ghosts." Passing by a frightened caretaker and his emaciated dog, we enter the gates of the graveyard where the ghosts seem to be having the party of a lifetime, complete with a ghostly band, and an opera singer. The most famous part of this scene, and my personal favorite, is the singing busts, with the main bust portrayed by Thurl Ravenscroft, the voice actor who sang "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch." The whole scene makes for quite an impressive animatronic display and exemplifies what makes Disney rides stand out in the first place. We then meet the hitchhiking ghosts who decide to hop into the doom buggies with us and follow us home. The last part of the ride involves going up an incline with Little Leota telling us to "Hurry back" and reminding us to "bring back our death certificates." Approaching the exit, the Ghost Host raises the safety bar for us and says that "a ghost will follow you home." Thus marks the end of the tour.
Overall, The Haunted Mansion is a fantastic attraction from start to finish and is a prime example of Disney at their best. The Haunted Mansion has always been thought of as one of Disney's finest rides, usually being considered a 5 star attraction, and it isn't hard to see why. The ride features some of the best practical effects in any ride anywhere, most notably the "Pepper's Ghost Effect," which is what the ballroom scene consists of. The Haunted Mansion is actually the largest implementation of the illusion, and although it's a rather simple effect in it's design, it still manages to impress guests just as much as it did in 1969. Aside from that, there's also lots of other great practical effects throughout the ride, which in this day and age is really something to appreciate considering it's all about screens these days. The theming everywhere throughout the ride is top-notch, which you expect from a Disney ride, and the ride is filled with details, some you might not even catch on your first ride through. There's always something interesting to look at, the ride length is perfect, and I couldn't imagine the ride without the Omnimover system (which the only problem with it is when someone with a wheelchair is getting on and the whole ride has to be stopped). It's by far the best implementation of that particular ride system that I've seen.
Do I have anything negative to say about this ride. Well, I will say that I could do without the updates from the 2010 refurbishment, which includes the interactive queue and a more "animated" hitch-hiking ghost scene. Starting with the queue, it's pretty interesting I do have to say, but you don't need to see it more than once and it overall feels kind of unnecessary. It's not that it's a bad addition per se, but The Haunted Mansion is generally a fast-loading attraction that hardly ever has that big of wait time. Usually 30 minutes is the max for it (at least until FastPass + screwed everything up as far as wait times). It was nice seeing it the first time, but from now on, I'd honestly rather just go through the old queue. Then we have the updated hitch-hiking ghosts effect, which many have criticized as being overly goofy and cartoonish, and I have to agree with them on that. The ghosts don't move that much in the original effect, but it's much less over-the-top and it gets the point across just as well. There are other people out there who like the new effect though (I mean of course someone's going to like it), however, I'm personally not a fan of it. Other than that, I have no real criticisms to give to this ride, it's a total Disney classic that is fantastically designed and executed all the way through.
Overall, I give this ride a 10/10.
Please let me know what you thought of this review, and tell me what if anything I should change for future reviews!
Abusolutely amazing. - DCfnaf
Perfect review. Nice job on your first theme park ride review! - ModernSpongeBobSucks
This is one of my favorite Disney rides - MegaSoulhero
Why are you getting less attention than SelfieFan? - visitor
Oh by the way you think of saving to Thorpe Park 'ere in England - visitor
I really like the Nightmare Before Christmas refurbishments they make every year - Phillip873
One of my favorite rides ever - Malladus
Amazing review. - StevenUniverseIsAwesome