Foolish Mortals are Talking

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"The Unauthorized Story of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion"

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When Two Holidays Collide...

Our Tour Continues

Stretching Gallery

Upon entering the gallery, guests will notice that the four stretching portraits from the original Haunted Mansion have been replaced by placid, stained-glass holiday scenes with captions below them. They are:

Haunted Mansion Holiday stained glass window

A view of the Mansion (“T’was the Nightmare before Christmas”); a tree with presents (“Not a creature was peaceful”); a fireplace with stockings (“The stockings were hung by the chimney with care”); and a boy and a girl in bed with toys behind them (“The children were resting all snug in their beds.”)

After the cast member requests that the patrons “drag thy wretched corpses to the dead center of the chamber,” there is a sound of shattering glass and all the lights go out. Black lights snap on and the stained glass images break horizontally across the middle with a crash, revealing florescent NBC themed portraits beneath that display more of each portrait as the room stretches. The paintings become:

Zero pulling Jack’s sleigh; scary toys; Jack in his Santa suit with ghosts rising up behind him; and a long, coiled snake.

Ghost Host: T’was the nightmare before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was peaceful, not even a mouse...

The Ghost Host continues:

“It’s time for our holiday tale to begin — There’s no turning back now, please, come all the way in. Our holiday tale is a tale that’s quite charming, but during this season, it’s sometimes alarming. So relax and reflect, feel free to take pause, while we tell you the tale about dear Sandy Claws." As the guests settle into the gallery, the narration continues...

"T’was the nightmare before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was peaceful, not even a mouse. The stockings, all hung by the chimney with care, when opened that morning would cause such a scare! The children nestled all snug in their beds, would have nightmares of monsters and skeleton heads…”"

When the narration reaches the end, projected skulls rise up along the wall and with screams, laughter and a loud crash of thunder, the ceiling disappears revealing a huge grinning Jack face wearing a Santa hat, his eyes, nose and mouth backlit and flashing in opposition to the front lighting showing the face itself. After a few seconds of darkness, the patrons move out of the gallery into the corridor beyond.

The Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay was unique in that it was not created by Walt Disney Imagineering, which is the outfit that creates the theme parks and attractions for the Walt Disney Company. Rather, it was developed in-house at Disneyland, and the animatronics, major props and scenery were all created by Garner Holt Productions, a Los Angeles company that specializes in design for theme parks and family entertainment centers.

Haunted Mansion Holiday changing portrait

Changing Portrait Corridor

The five changing portraits also differ from the original Haunted Mansion. They depict the following:

An airborne Santa and reindeer becomes Jack and skeleton deer; Jack in a Santa suit holding a gift while standing in winter becomes Jack in his black suit holding a pumpkin in autumn; a snowman in winter becomes a "Pumpkin Man" in autumn; the Mansion in moonlight in autumn becomes the decorated Mansion in moonlight in winter; and Sally holding a tiny Christmas tree and smiling becomes Sally holding the burned remains of the tree and frowning.

Haunted Mansion Holiday changing portrait

Guests continue walking past the changing portraits as the sky darkens and rain pours outside the windows and thunder rolls. Familiar brass stanchions in the shape of bats keep guests moving in line down the hall. The Ghost Host weighs in:

“Now hurry along, as they say, “Look alive;” this is one holiday you will want to survive. Jack Skellington came here from Halloween Town — You’ll notice his handiwork scattered around. This year he’s decided to play “Sandy Claws,” but when Halloween creates Christmas you might see a few flaws."

Ghost Host: “Now hurry along, as they say, “Look alive;” this is one holiday you will want to survive...

And our Ghost Host continues: "And now a dark carriage will take you away; sit back, rest in peace in your black Christmas sleigh. Your sleigh will accommodate one or two or more — We hope you’re prepared for what Jack has in store.”

Between the paintings hang dead wreaths with skulls and crossbones on them. At the end of the corridor, the staring busts are the same, but a skull and crossbones wreath now sits between them. Below the wreath hangs a sign that reads “Free Sleigh Rides” and points to the loading area.

Garner Holt Many of the new additions to the Haunted Mansion for the holiday overlay were created and supplied to the park by Garner Holt Productions, a company specializing in themed entertainment.

Garner Holt Productions is the world's largest producer of animatronics and animatronic figures, so they were a natural match for the project. Some of the more prominent additions produced for the overlay include an enormous, cackling face of Jack the Pumpkin King, wreaths with gnashing sharp teeth, and a hero animatronic of Jack dressed as "Sandy Claws."

Garner Holt (pictured above) feels that themed entertainment is his passion. "I still remember my first 'Theme Park' experience... that first walk down Main Street, the sounds and smells... the giant teacups, the pirates, the rockets, and Mr. Lincoln. I knew when I left the park that day I saw my destiny. I grabbed hold of a piece of magic pixie dust and never let go."

The Loading Area

When you are seated in your Doom Buggy and are heading into the ride, the wall to your right (which usually has the abstract, misty light projections) now sports a huge picture of Jack in his Santa suit holding up a large banner that changes from reading “Merry Christmas” to “Scary Christmas.” The banner is held on the left by the Mayor (whose face changes from happy to scared when the sign changes) and on the right by Lock, Shock, and Barrel. At the end of the loading area when you enter the ride, you pass between two columns of gifts wrapped in spooky wrapping paper that are connected by an arch of ribbon.

Just a bit of trivia: At Disneyland, there are 131 Doom Buggies moving continuously through the attaction at once, so even with the longer lines during the "Haunted Mansion Holiday" season, the wait in line tends to move fairly quickly. (Interestingly, Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansion track holds 160 vehicles, as the attraction is slightly longer. However, no plans yet exist to bring Haunted Mansion Holiday to the Walt Disney World Mansion—though the Holiday overlay plays to huge crowds at Tokyo Disneyland, which is a carbon copy of the Walt Disney World Haunted Mansion layout.)

Ghost Host: “Don’t pull down the bar: it will float down with ease… and remember, no flash photography, please...

Ghost Host: “Yes, down through the chimney Jack flew like a bat, clutching his magical “Sandy Claws” sack...

Upon entering your Doom Buggy, the Ghost Host gives you some gentle reminders: “Don’t pull down the bar: it will float down with ease… and remember, no flash photography, please,” suggests the Ghost Host.

The Endless Hallway

A barking Zero floats in place of the candelabrum, and between Zero and your Doom Buggy floats a large bone wrapped in black ribbon and bearing a large tag with “Zero” written on it. There is a big pile of bones on the steps at the foot of the corridor and above the door is a wreath, also made of bones. Says the Ghost Host:

“Yes, down through the chimney Jack flew like a bat, clutching his magical “Sandy Claws” sack. He ripped open the sack and, in moments it seems, created a Christmas you have in bad dreams… More rapid than vultures, the Mansion was changed; all was soon covered, adorned and deranged. And what to your wondering eyes disappears, it's Jack’s little friend Zero—the ghost dog reindeer!”

Corey Burton's homage to the (Ghost) Host with the Most

Fans of the original Haunted Mansion attraction should be imrpessed by the uncanny accuracy with which the holiday narration imitates Paul Frees' classic narration. (Frees passed away in 1986.)

The role of Ghost Host was asisigned to Corey Burton. A major voice talent, Burton (no relation to Tim) is frequently called upon by Disney to fulfill various vocal roles, such as the infamous Cap'n Hook. But with his role as the "Ghost Host," Burton seems to have found a "tomb sweet tomb" for his talent, though he considers the original host (Frees) one of his all-time heroes.

The Haunted Mansion's "Ghost Host" (Corey Burton) describes Jack Skellington's plot to create his own brand of Christmas cheer in this clip.

"It's a great honor, but a frightening benchmark to live up to," Burton told DoomBuggies.com. "I'm not sure you could say I was actually chosen for the role — it was more a matter of being called in to do a demo track for the proposed holiday show." But Burton bowled over Bruce Healey (Walt Disney Attractions Music Director), and that "audition" session actually ended up being the soundtrack recording session for the entire show.

Burton claims that the Haunted Mansion attraction is "the single greatest inspiration in my life. Upon my first childhood visit, I vowed I would someday meet the man who possesed that remarkable voice... and make a career doing voices myself. (The Mansion) was simply 'perfection itself' to me, and I couldn't imagine anyone creating anything that could top it. I'm still waiting." - Interview by Brandon Champlin


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