Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris is similar to the Haunted Mansion attractions in the U.S. and Tokyo Disney parks but with a “darker” tone and a scarier soundtrack. Today Alain Littaye of the Disney and more blog shares an excerpt from his “Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality” book which documents the design work that went into the development of this one of a kind attraction. ~~Rick

Designing Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris
by Alain Littaye

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In my previous articles based upon my book, Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality, I’ve tried show you the kinds of photos and information you will find inside. In this new article, I’ve chosen the section on Phantom Manor, one of Disneyland Paris’ most beloved attractions. In addition to great artwork and pictures, you’ll find excerpts of Didier Ghez’s words. Didier was the one who wrote all of the captions and text of the book. Here we go…

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Above: a Julie Svendsen painting depicting what Phantom Manor would have looked like before it fell into ruin.

Below: a picture of Jeff Burke, DLP frontier land show-producer with Phantom Manor model.

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“…As we continue to follow the story of Thunder Mesa, the town that surrounds Big Thunder Mountain, we stumble upon a rather frightful domicile—what might be considered the second scene of this “grand western”—the terrifying haunted house known as Phantom Manor.

Mr. Ravenswood was the wealthy owner of the Thunder Mesa Mining Company, the company that, so the story goes, operates the Big Thunder mine. Like many entrepreneurs who made their fortunes in this era, he built a mansion out West, inspired by the architecture of San Francisco—a style that certainly stood out in this little mining town.

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Above: A model of the attraction. Notice the difference between the building on the left and the rendering below. The original barn concept has been canceled.

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Phantom Manor sits at the edge of Thunder Mesa, in the well-to-do part of town. In its heyday, the Manor was a truly magnificent residence. In the ballroom, a painting by Walt Disney Imagineering artist Julie Svendsen shows the Manor as it appeared, according to legend, before the mine had played out and the house fell into ruin.

A dilapidated house inside a Disney park? It was an idea that Walt Disney had always rejected for Disneyland, preferring the immaculate façade of the Haunted Mansion in California. “We’ll take care of the outside of the mansion,” he once said, “and the ghosts will take care of the inside.” However, the Imagineers knew that in Europe the language barrier would make it very difficult to use descriptive signs. Communicating with symbols would be essential, so they designed the exterior of Phantom Manor to send the message that it has fallen into decay and that something mysterious might be waiting inside.

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Above: a rendering for the Seance Room with Madame Leota. Below: Phantom Manor ballroom. Both renderings are from WDI artist Fernando Tenedora.

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But the “decayed” façade would still be inside Disneyland Paris, so it would have to be aged carefully and artistically by adding a patina over the painted surfaces. The subtlety of this process was crucial to Ron Esposito. “Since bad weather comes in from the East, we aged the right side of Phantom Manor quite a bit, to give the appearance that harsh weather had been hitting the building for dozens of years. Brighter colors were used on the parts of the building that would have been more protected from the bad weather.”

As Jeff Burke notes, “The magnificent splendor of the Phantom Manor interior is a reminder that the owner was still at the height of his success. The mine was thriving, and he was proud that he had a beautiful daughter. She had fallen in love and was preparing for her wedding, but her fiancé had plans to take her away from Thunder Mesa and live in another town, which enraged the young woman’s father. No one really knows what happened next, so I’ll leave this part of the story to your imagination. The stretching portraits in the Manor’s doorless chamber depict the bride-to-be and give some telltale signs of the fate that awaited her. As for her young man, he can be found in the same chamber…hanging by a rope.”

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Above: Concept design by Fernando Tenedora of the cemetary scene inside Phantom Manor. Below: Some of the skeletons that guests can meet when the doom buggy is going down in the cemetary scene of the ride.

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We pass by the disembodied head of Madame Leota, floating in a crystal ball while she presides over a séance. Just as in the American versions of this attraction, the face is still that of late Imagineer Leota Toombs, but the French voice belongs to Oona Lind. Along the way, we meet up with the bride again, along with the lord of the manor, dubbed the “Phantom,” whose rage only increases over the course of our journey. By the end of the attraction, both the bride and the Phantom invite us to join them”.

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Above and below: Concept designs depicting the interior of Phantom Manor “Ghost Town”.

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Above: some of the ghostly inhabitants of the ghost town. Jeff Burke used for the town mayor, above, the same audio-animatronic who was used for Dreamfinder, the main character from Epcot’s beloved Journey into Imagination attraction!

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I hope this article gives you a good idea of the kind of fascinating information you will find in the book. All the pictures and renderings you see in this article are inside the Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality book. And these are just a small selection of those included in the Phantom Manor chapter. You will find many more in the book. Throughout the book you’ll see 250 WDI renderings – and 500 pictures of the park and attractions. There are so many pictures of every ride and attraction in this book that, virtually speaking, I designed this book with the intent that the purchaser would come back home with the park under their arm!

Below, two more for the road!

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Above: A concept design showing the last scene of Phantom Manor “Ghost Town”.
Below: A picture of the Phantom, in his last appearance at the end of the ride.

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If you have been considering purchasing our great DLP book, English quantities will not last beyond the end of the year, so I urge you to make your move now if you want to own your own copy! The book is still available in the MiceChat Store (and at a discounted price) HERE

Important Note: We’re running low very on the ENGLISH edition copies of the book and by the end of the year the Collector’s Edition in English will be sold out. If you don’t own the book yet and wish to order a copy please do it as soon as possible!

Order your copy of the acclaimed Disneyland Paris, From Sketch to Reality book while there are still copies available! The book is still available in the MiceChat Store HERE