The following comparative article was written by TR Wolf, a DoomBuggies.com fan. It has many detailed observations about the distinctions between the two attractions, and also serves as a good example of a typical trip through Phantom Manor. Some of the criticisms leveled may be simply about components that were temporarily out of whack, but even this serves as an example of how important maintaining show quality is to the typical guest.
By T.R. Wolf
I finally got to visit Disneyland Paris' Phantom Manor, which I had long awaited having become a big fan of Disneyland California's "Haunted Mansion" having also been an avid fan of such sites as DoomBuggies.com and Ravenswood Manor.
I noted differences and points of interest between Phantom Manor, Paris and Haunted Mansion, California (and yes I'm sure you know most of them; these are simply my observations, so please don't think I'm putting [Phantom Manor] down. It gets two thumbs up I assure you. I went on it 6 times, and even bought the lovely Phantom Manor Plaque Pin-badge... heh heh.)
1) The outside facade and grounds of Phantom Manor are absolutely incredible. The manor really does fit in well with the Frontierland/Thunder Mesa surroundings, and it has a real presence over Thunder Mesa - it also looks typical of the old West, and not somewhere you'd enter at night...
2) The Manor's surroundings are a lot larger and more involved than the Mansion. It has a large garden area with central monument reading "The Phantom Awaits You..." with lots of stone stairways typical of old-style private gardens. The first level up the stone stairs boasts a gazebo containing a table, chair, bookcase, teapot, and vase - obviously not used in years, but the sound of a music box emanates from within. The gardens contain blossoming trees, which are bright pink in spring, which might not be in keeping with the theme of the manor, but it DOES sort of conform to the "original" picture displayed in the ballroom.
3) The third level contains the "line" area, which, unlike the Mansion, is covered, and is a lot larger. So the waiting line is more like an outdoor garden house/shelter, which contains the barriers, and a fountain in the centre - semi-tipped and broken on one side. The inside of this area also has ironwork lighting above, which is dirtied and cobwebbed; a nice effect.
The surroundings of this area have dark, droopy trees, and a few urns and statues, but the ground beneath them is simply gravel so it doesn't really look right. Overgrown grass would look good there. Every so often on the outer barriers of the waiting "house" there is an occasional tree. I don't know what type, but the branches seem to reach out, hundreds of tiny little twisted branches. They're fascinating and look fantastic.
Where is the hearse? They don't have one... I always thought that was a nice touch!
4) The porch railings are wooden, as opposed to green ironwork in the mansion.
5) The door's knockers don't work :P
6) The foyer is far too bright. The two windows are actual windows outside, semi-whited out, but the sunlight still shines through making the room too bright, they should be blacked out. If this room was darker it would look better. It's brighter than the Mansion. As you enter, you veer to the right, whereas the mansion takes you straight into the foyer from the right.
The room contains a mirror in the top left corner, where an image of the bride appears now and then, but it's too bright and too frequent. The cobwebs are in clumps on the chandelier, yet the rest of the room is clear of them, making no sense. They should be a lighter color, and stretched out more, perhaps on some door corners and around the room.
7) I dislike the narration only being in French. It seems unfair and makes no sense to those that don't speak the language.
8) As a contrast, I feel the stretching galleries are far too dark. They are far darker than in the mansion, and you can barely see the paintings, nor each other. The gargoyles simply look like silhouettes. The paintings are all different from the originals; they are all of the bride. The only one similar to the original mansion is the bride with the parasol.
Instead of simply a skeleton dangling from the rafters (which was meant to be suicide by the Ghost Host) it is now a skeleton dangling from a rope being pulled about by The Phantom, changing it from suicide to murder - but who was the skeleton meant to be? The Bridegroom? The skeleton was wearing far too much clothing, and also was wearing shoes, which made it hard to identify what it actually was!
I feel this was a poor introduction for the Phantom; it made no sense as to what was going on, who he was, or why he was doing it. .
9) Unlike the Mansion, the gallery corridor after the stretch gallery has pictures on both sides, and no windows. However despite this, the "April/December" picture is not there. Between two of the paintings is a framed, and faded Marriage Certificate, although the woman on it doesn't look like the bride.
10) At the end of this corridor is a large painting of the bride, in a full bridal gown, the song of the bride seems to emanate from it. The two white busts from Disneyland are not there, but the "bat" rail posts are used here.
11) One of the busts WAS used, enlarged, and made to look like antique green brass, its in a curtained alcove on the wall as you walk towards the buggy loading area. It is a LOT more effective than the small white ones, as it REALLY seems to follow you as you walk past!
12) The buggy loading area blew me away! It isn't the "limbo" of grey mist and spider webs as it is in the mansion. It has furniture dotted around, looking realistically dusty and authentic as you approach. The limbo mist is replaces with a large grand stairway, with a landing either side; at the top of the stairway is a large curtained window, with a tree outside and a storm, with lightning flashing. I found this VERY impressive.
13) The Doom Buggies are the same ^_^
14) The operator narration ("allow me to lower the bar" etc) is now female, and bi-lingual. DoomBuggies.com may be disappointed to know the "stop" narration now says "Playful spooks have interrupted our tour, stay seated in your carriage..." they don't use the words "Doom Buggies!"
15) After ascending the stairs, there seems to be a blank wall, wallpapered (not the eyes paper) - but all that is on it is a small mirror and table to the far right side. It seems like something is missing. And the bride sings with her mouth closed?
16) The conservatory coffin has been replaced with a piano, playing itself (like in the mansion's attic.)
The candelabra in the floating corridor is stationary, but now held by the ghost of the bride who appears and vanishes, which is a nice touch. This would have looked better if they both moved. The suit of armour moves hardly at all - you wouldn't notice unless staring at it! As you pass into the corridor of doors, if you look to the right, you can see a computer monitor through a gap in the paneling.
17) The corridor of doors has been ruined in my opinion. Once again, it is FAR too dark, so you can't see the jiggling handles. The knocking doors are too close to one another, and the bulging door is very poorly done, since you can see all the mechanics and lighting behind it.
There are NO original Mansion paintings aside the "Tomb Sweet Tomb" picture. All of the screamers, and goblin pictures are gone, even the axe-man. They're ALL gone, and been replaced with photos of real people - old pictures, but not looking sinister or anything! This really annoyed me as I thought it just looked bad; they removed ALL the original, and famous paintings.
18) Just before the clock, the eyes on some of the wallpaper light up and follow you.
19) The clock looks ok, again only 12 markers even though it is 13 o' clock. Unlike the mansion, there is no shadow of a hand/claw swooping over the clock.
20) Madame Leota's room is nice, pillars, swags, and some kind of green mist swirling around the windows outside, although the musical instruments and junk are not there, flying around which I kinda liked. The table floats, however. The chair is simply a generic chair, and not directly behind the table, it's to one side. In my opinion it should be a high backed chair with the crow on it so that you approach it from behind to see no one seated! The chandelier is another generic chandelier of the manor, and is in the middle of the room instead of over the table. I feel it should be like the mansion's - a real gypsy tasselled lampshade.
Madame Leota is green! She's just supposed to be pale isn't she? Her face doesn't look right somehow. Her predictions are bi-lingual, and different to the originals, they refer more to the storyline of Phantom Manor.
21) The Ballroom is very impressive. The dust and props look realistic. The bride stands on the staircase, looking up at the Phantom, who stands in a window laughing. Due to this, guests cannot enter via the staircase, so they float out of a single open coffin which has fell off a hearse which has crashed through a set of doors.
A pile of Wedding Gifts lies unopened by the fire. The fire is green. The two paintings on the wall are replaced with a painting of the "original" Manor. And so the two duelling ghosts are gone. As the Birthday Cake has been replaced with a wedding cake, the classic "blowing out the candles" scene is gone. Instead, the lady at the end is seated; chatting to a moustached gentleman, while a man at the end of the table raises his glass to a toast. They appear and disappear randomly.
The movement of the ghosts at the dining table is better at the Manor; they are more fluid and realistic. The dancers lack the "green glow" and instead are simply transparent, but use realistic colors. Most of the time, one of the revolving stages of dancers was stationary, so they simply were stood there staring. The organist now wears a bright purple jacket instead of darker clothes. The large pane of glass reflects in parts, and if you look along it instead of front-on, you can see it is dirty, with some smudges, squirts, drips, and general muck. It needed cleaning on my trip. Only someone with a trained eye would spot this though I imagine. It seemed fewer spooks fly out of the organs, and they fly out of the middle instead of the top.
22) An identical copy of the painting from the first corridor sits on the wall of the bride's boudoir. She sings with her mouth closed again, it doesn't show well that she's meant to be aging. The mirror simply looks dirty - yes it looks like a skull, but this part doesn't make sense to me. A music box plays from the left of the room.
This small scene replaces the attic, and also all of the pop-up spectres and the shadow pianist.
23) Descending into the graveyard from the bride's boudoir makes no sense to me either... we went upstairs...so if we left a window we would be in the air, not on the ground. The Phantom in his first strong appearance stands outside laughing, but his movements (now and after the crypt) are very fluid and believable.
24) In the underground part of the attraction, there are no pop-up-BOO ghosts; simply skeletons crawling out and about. Very "Monkey Island." The undertaker/caretaker and his dog are not in this version, nor are the opera singers, tea party guests, etc. It has lost a very strong element of the ghosts having fun. In the opening coffin, on a piece of the ripped lining on the inside of the lid, there is a gold crucifix necklace.
Grim Grinning Ghosts is a famous Disney song, it's the Haunted Mansion's signature, yet this version had the nerve to cut it horribly short, you only can really hear one verse before the musical version of it kicks in, then you move off. You move too quickly to see the "skeleton party." And the bust with the hat is missing, and they are all intact, whereas one of the busts in the Haunted Mansion is broken. Also, after a verse, they reset to look inanimate again, but they "flick" to this beginning frame too quickly, and it doesn't look right.
The Pharmacist scene would make no sense to those who don't already know it. The Mayor's head replaces and removes far too frequently. Also his narration is virtually inaudible aside a few random words, which is a shame, as the original Ghost Host did deserve some mention!
The final incarnation of the Phantom is much more skeletal. How did he age so fast? Why? Where did his hat go? Why are his clothes ragged? I almost didn't realise it was the Phantom! And the orange "sky" only goes up so far before meeting a black, but obvious ceiling with noticeable speakers, fans, bracers etc (I also noticed this in Pirates of the Caribbean).
There is a small version of the Manor above the final exit door, so you are meant to be ascending again, but I only noticed this once. It's very easy to miss!
25) The hitchhiking ghosts have been replaced with a skeletal version of the bride, in a ragged bridal gown, floating in front of a white light, and pointing forwards. However the bright light is a bit blinding, and sort of makes the bride simply looks like a random ragged skeleton.
26) The hitch-hikers in the mirror have been replaced by a stationary, but sinister looking green Phantom, whose hands clasp the sides of the Doom Buggies, and its head peers over the top.
27) The "Prepare to exit to the living world" sign has a misty effect, which is nice.
28) As you leave the Doom Buggies, you walk through some dungeon-like corridors, with echoes of the phantom's laughter, and random dusty junk in barred cells.
29) It's almost possible to walk right past Little Leota! She is in the back of a barred cell, to one side; you have to go up to the cell to see her. She sounds more... I dunno... fake. She also has the green face again which just looks silly. Her expressions and tone are just a little Anne Robinson. I was waiting for her to say "You ARE the Weakest Link...Au Revoir!" Little Leota is bi-lingual. You exit through a shed, with hay and tools hanging above you.
30) On exiting you can either leave, or walk through Boot Hill, the family cemetery. Boot Hill looks best at night, with lanterns glowing, and only the faint sounds of the bride singing accompanying your stroll around the silent place as the geysers blast into the night sky beyond the cemetery. The tombstones and epitaphs are mainly humorous, and all in English. Also I noticed I was able to open a gate to two of the graves... but I didn't enter... it felt like it was a real pair of graves... I guess it felt like a real cemetery in parts. Boot Hill really to me seemed a place to reflect (and yes I did see a candle in the window, and the bride). But it was a beautiful silent place, to contemplate mortality, and life... or to just get away from the stress of the hustle and bustle.
All in all I highly praise Phantom Manor - it is a fantastic attraction.
I cannot say it is better or worse than Haunted Mansion; all I can
say is that they are "different," and I like them both for
their own reasons.