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


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…


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.


“…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.


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.


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.


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


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.”


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.


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”.


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



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!


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!


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.


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

  • This is my favorite of all the Haunted Mansion style rides. I think Disney was too afraid to do a truly scary version at Disneyland. Tokyo and WDW are nearly clones. But Paris is unique. Some beloved elements remain, but much has been changed, darker, spookier, and with a tighter story. Plus, it looks so cool sitting there in Frontierland on the banks of the river.

    Fantastic Alain, thank you. Love seeing all the rare concept art.

  • DisWedWay

    I really wish the gold strike had held out a little longer so the family could have completed their elaborate carriage barn that was planned and illustrated above. Nothing shows off a families wealth or that of a town like Thunder Mesa, than a grand collection of assorted wagons and coaches. A white pumpkin shaped wooden hearse with rounded windows was located and could have been used for the towns weddings and parades of gayiety as well as the traditional Italian black hearse for somber funerals. A very stout beer wagon was in the process of being built that could supply all the towns spirits from the train depot. A horse pulled, steam driven pumping Fire truck with nichol plated hardware was also being considered for ship as well as landside emergencies. The Molly Brown was in need of it not long ago. Some of the other wagons such as the ore wagon have been parked over by the Big Thunder Mining Companies main offices. The grand lady, the Minneapolis Steam powered traction engine now resides at Roses Blacksmith but was to have a spot in the Grand Barn. The old Standard Oil wagon with Studebaker chassis, can be found near the blow out pit at the Thunder Mesa depot for occasional train storage and use. The heavy wheeled oak framed flat bed wagon which hauled many a bed and piano to local bordellos in the gold camps of Colorado was brought to Thunder Mesa for use as a bandstand in the barn but was moved over by the Cowboy Cookout and Circle D Ranch for their festivities. If the spirits prevail, maybe one day the barn will be resurrected and the geysers and bubbling mud pots will return to Thunder Mesa.

  • Ravjay12

    Great article! This is my favorite of all the mansions as well. They actually have a story you can follow as you explore the mansion. The loading area for the doom buggies as well as the graveyard/ghost town scene is awesome! I also love how Thunder Mountain, Phantom Manor, and Thunder Mesa tie into one another. Mansion exterior really looks like Psycho house from Universal Studios.

  • jcruise86

    THANK YOU, Alain & Rick!

    The Haunted Mansion has been my favorite Disney attraction for over 40 years, and this is my favorite version of it because of the superior music and the beautiful creepiness of the French language.

    Fellow HM fans, be sure to visit one of my favorite websites: Welcome, Foolish Mortals… to DoomBuggies – a Tribute to Disney’s Haunted Mansion > Free email, fan forums, multimedia and more… .
    They include excellent Phantom Manor audio links.

  • CASurfer65

    I agree that Phantom Manor is a magnificent nod to the Haunted Mansion franchise throughout the different parks. I, too, love the unmistakable storyline that’s associated with the attraction and it is just so different. The graveyard scene which takes on a frontier town setting…all very interesting. Not knowing the particulars of the actual “story” at the time though, my friend and I had quite a conversation about what it all meant. An awesome attraction.

  • troyer

    I found the Paris version to be vastly inferior to Disneyland’s. The lack of sophisticated special effects compared to Disneyland’s was obvious. The Paris version reminded me of a cheap carnival dark ride-another example of the “on-the-cheap” Disney corporate mentality of the 80’s and 90’s-which was when it was built. The Paris version is also in a cul-de-sac adjacent to uninspiring fountains which were inop. when I visited. Other cheap Paris touches are the Alice gardens vs. the ride at Disneyland, as well as Mr. Toad being an eatery-not an attraction. I was also disappointed with the size of the castle. It is much smaller in person than it appears in photographs. Disneyland Paris is worth visiting for a Disney fan. Just don’t expect too much when you get there.

  • LoveStallion

    Great attraction and easily the best of the Haunted Mansions, but I felt ripped off by the book this promotes.

  • lionheartkc

    I’ve wanted to see this attraction for a while, but I will always have a lingering issue with it because of the fact that the original recording for the Manor was one of Vincent Price’s last recordings, but because the Parisians threw a fit that it wasn’t in French, it ended up being replaced. Now it only lives on as an mp3 floating around the Internet.

  • darkamor

    Such a great article & what a great book (if Disneyland Paris Resort truly wanted to sell its experience to North American Tourists? This book should be presented as a DVD documentary & sent along with a Park Map as a means of Vacation Planning) ….

    I realize that the Phantom Manor isn’t the only different experience Disneyland Paris has compared to its counterparts @ Disneyland & the Magic Kingdom (even their Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, Disneyland Railroad, Pirates of the Caribbean all offer something uniquely different) …

    C J