Friday, March 04, 2011

Strange Goings On at WDW's Haunted Mansion

It's one of my favorite places on the planet and I never get tired of visiting it, including during my recent trip to Walt Disney World just a couple weeks ago. Before my trip I was well aware of reports of some refurbishments being in progress to the graveyard just next to the queue line before you enter the mansion itself. In fact, while in Walt Disney World, particularly the Magic Kingdom, there were quite a number of construction projects going on from the new Fantasyland expansion to green tarps being seen in Adventureland and Tome Sawyer Island, and even one artfully rendered to blend in with the rest of the architecture right at the beginning of Main Street U.S.A..

While I did contemplate riding the flying Dumbo ride so that I could get some photos of the Fantasyland expansion from the only point high enough to see over the construction wall I never managed to do it. They probably wouldn't have worked anyway.

As compensation, I did snap some shots of the Haunted Mansion graveyard expansion from the Liberty Belle as it plied its way around the Rivers of America  back to its landing. Click on any of them for a larger image.

Granted, things aren't so far along to be truly exciting, or riveting, but I was interested to see what the scope of the renovations were going to be, and glad to see it wasn't simply going to be an extension of the awning, or queue line.

So what's going to be there? A report I came across (which I don't recall where, since I didn't anticipate I'd be writing such a post) claims that there will be three elaborate mausoluems named the Sea Captain Sepulcher, the Composer Tomb, and the Poetess Crypt. The graveyard itself will be expanded and will spread on up the hill and into the trees (which seems evident from the final photo). The original tombstones we all know and love will be included in the graveyard expansion which will allegedly also include a section of busts.

While I think the previous renovations actually did improve the Haunted Mansion, I'm leery of the attempts to force a neat narrative onto the attraction, such as was done with the history of the attic bride's many doomed marriages. I understand Disney's decision to use the idea of story when designing their attractions to give them a sense of cohesion in design and purpose, but I often think the imagineers take the idea of story too literally and it often feels heavy handed (Animal Kingdom's Dinosaur attraction in particular) and detracts from the experience. The Haunted Mansion is more of a tableau of mood that develops from an experience of pure atmosphere, to one where the ghosts are summoned in the seance room to when we finally get to see them in the ball room, to the all out grand finale of the cemetery and the transitional punch line of the hitchhiking ghosts in the doom buggies.

I'm sure the new graveyard will be really cool and I'll be happy to see it and it will work smoothly with the rest of the Haunted Mansion, but reinforcing the presence of characters seen in paintings, or shadows, by giving them mausoleums seems to be too tidy and false, much like George Lucas having C-3PO built by Darth Vader and Boba Fett being the brother of the entire clone army in the Star Wars prequels. There's a nice sense of mystery to the Haunted Mansion for the first time visitor because there's no way to know what you will experience inside. Adding graves of the characters to the graveyard by the queue line could end up being like hanging side show posters announcing "step inside and see the ghost with no head and the singing busts," or even worse like one of those movie trailers which are essentially three minute versions of the entire movie. Where's the fun in that?

Starting next week I'll post some other observations from my recent trip to Walt Disney World with accompanying photos.



Sjan Weijers said...

just here to say: what a cool blog!

John Rozum said...

Thanks, Sjan. Stop by any time.

Nicholas Tucker said...

Totally agree!

John Rozum said...

To you as well, Nicholas.