Mystic Manor: An Original E-Ticket Attraction in the Classic Sense

Written by Jeff Heimbuch. Posted in Disney, Disney History, Disney Parks, Features, Hong Kong Disneyland, The 626

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Published on May 01, 2013 at 3:00 am with 57 Comments

Though it technically isn’t open until May 1st, guests visiting Hong Kong Disneyland have begun to experience the original creative environment that is Mystic Manor. Luckily for us, videos of the ride have already appeared online for those of us state-side to enjoy.

Concept artwork for Mystic Point

If you haven’t seen it already, take a look at the ride in the following video, which includes the pre-show, and the ride itself. Go ahead. I’ll wait here until you’re done.

Finished watching it? Good.

After viewing the first video of the ride that popped up online, my initial thoughts echoed most other folks: Wow…that was amazing. As more videos started to appear, my fascination and wonder increased. This ride, even in video form, is truly spectacular. Walt Disney Imagineering has truly knocked it out of the Park with this one. Using the technology available to them today, they created some truly breath-taking visuals that really leave me with a sense of astonishment. My jaw hit the floor quite a few times while watching that ride through, and made me extremely jealous.

Which leads me to my question: Why the heck can’t we get something like that here?!

Think about it…this ride is sort of like an elusive unicorn. It is the first major E-Ticket attraction that Disney has produced in a long while that is NOT based on a bank-busting, franchise property. To me, this proves that you don’t need a popular franchise to make an amazing attraction. You can make a wonderful, original attraction that still delights guests if you hit all the right notes. And, in my opinion, Mystic Manor hits all of those notes quite well. I would even dare to say that, with the adorable Albert the Monkey, they may have just created a brand-new character that will make them money beyond the draw of the attraction itself!

Now, don’t get me wrong, Disney does make some pretty amazing attractions here in the states as well. Their most recent US attraction, Radiator Springs Racers, is a fantastic ride (And yes, I realize Test Track 2.0 opened after that, but I don’t really count that as “new”). They broke some major ground with it, and made it enjoyable for non-Cars fans as well.

But Mystic Manor makes the dark ride portion inside Racers look like a carnival ride in comparison.

What will it take for Imagineering to produce an original, E-Ticket attraction at Disneyland or Walt Disney World? I’m not sure. But I honestly believe that WDI is scared to do something of Mystic Manor caliber over here. It feel like Disney is playing it a bit too safe in the US parks.

Much like everything else, the bottom line is what speaks to Upper Management. Throwing millions of dollars into an attraction based on a property that has not already made the company billions is kind of a tricky sell. What happens if they build it, and it’s a failure?

Back when Disneyland first opened, they weren’t afraid to take those sorts of risks. Walt didn’t know what he was doing…he was just following his heart. He was willing to try new things, and if they failed, then he accepted that failure, and used it as a lesson for the next, big new thing he was going to work on. The men and women working in Imagineering took his lead on that. They were given free reign, for the most part, to explore things. If they worked, they were included. If they didn’t, then the ideas weren’t shot down, per say, but merely shelved until they could possibly be used for another project.

A perfect example of this is the attraction that Mystic Manor is going to get compared to the most: The Haunted Mansion. When they were first developing the idea, Walt wanted a “spooky house” attraction for Disneyland. He stuck Yale Gracey and Rolly Crump in a warehouse for a year and said “Here…create something.” And create something they did! They went wild, and wound up creating hundreds of gags for the attraction. Granted, many of these gags were never used, but they were allowed to explore their own creativity, to try to find out what worked and what didn’t.

The new attraction comes with a new restaurant as well.

The Haunted Mansion was a big risk for The Walt Disney Company at the time, as well. While not as big of a deal back then as it is today, it was still a major attraction not based on any property. It was in development for over ten years, and was eagerly anticipated by guests. It could have very easily been a flop if not done right. It even lingered for a while, after Walt’s death, because they couldn’t figure out what to do with it. But in the end, Imagineers did what they thought was best, and wound up with a hit.

Now that I just compared it to the Haunted Mansion, I think it’s worth mentioning that we really shouldn’t compare Mystic Manor to any of the other Haunted Mansions worldwide. I think a few people were expecting it to be more along the same lines as the current Mansions, and have a hint of the scary in it. If you really wanted to argue about it, I suppose you could say it was a Haunted Mansion, but with a new twist. But in fact, it couldn’t be any more different. If anything, it’s more of an Adventurer’s Club meets the Museum of the Weird mix. It’s more whimsical than “scary.”

There’s even a super fancy shop.

After watching the video again and again, I realize how glad I am that they got away from their classic Mansion formula, despite the fact that it’s proven to work time and time again. They created a whole new breed of E-Tickets with Mystic Manor, and one that can really stand alone amongst its peers.

Hong Kong Disneyland seems to have become a sort of testing ground for new attractions. When Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars opened last summer, it may have been an off-shoot of the popular Big Thunder Mountain attractions, but it was changed significantly enough to where it could stand on its own. They incorporated new technology and new twists into it that really sets it apart, and in some ways, made it more enjoyable than its older cousins. Mystic Manor has done the same, and set the bar for new “Mansion-like” attractions.

I have no doubt in my mind that Mystic Manor will be a smashing success for Hong Kong Disneyland. I said it earlier, but I’ll say it again: I really hope that the success of Mystic Manor will lead Walt Disney Imagineering to take more risks at the state-side Parks. This really does prove you do not need a franchise to back a new attraction; when let loose, the creativity of Imagineering can help catapult it into success.

Does the new attraction set your mind in motion as it has mine? With a bit of armchair Imagineering, I can envision Mystic Manor becoming the cornerstone of a Paradise Pier re-imagining at California Adventure. With a bit of story tweaking, they could easily port the attraction, or something similar, to fit into the next phase of California Adventure’s on-going overhaul. Heck, I can even see this technology being used as a basis for a new Imagination ride over at EPCOT. This practically screams to be used for a new story involving the Dreamfinder and Figment! And, of course, the ride is a nearly perfect fit for Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Florida and could probably be as big a draw by itself as all of Avatar Land.

My faith in Imagineering waivers a bit now and again, but seeing Mystic Manor has firmly re-instated my belief in what they can accomplish if they are allowed to dream. They have managed to conjure a wonderful, whimsical, and memorable attraction that guests will definitely enjoy for years to come.

Now my only hope is that the suits will take notice of this, and allow Imagineers to come up with some truly ground-breaking new attractions for Disneyland and Walt Disney World.

What do you think of Mystic Manor? Would you like to see Imagineering take more risks on original attractions at Disneyland and Walt Disney World? Would you have them plunk the ride down in one of the state-side parks (and if so, where), or would you like to see the technology used for something new and unique?


by Jeff Heimbuch

If you have a tip, questions, comments, or gripes, please feel free email me at [email protected] or leave a comment below. I’d love to hear from you!

You can read past columns of The 626 by clicking here!

Jeff can help you plan your perfect Disney vacation with Fairy Godmother Travel! Call him at 732-278-7404 or email him at [email protected] for a free, no-obligation quote for Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney Cruise Line, Aulani or Adventures By Disney.

Other MiceChat columns by Jeff:

From The Mouth Of The Mouse

Dueling Disney

The Disney Review

Jeff co-hosts the weekly podcast Communicore Weekly as well!

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About Jeff Heimbuch

Jeff has been in love with all things Disney since a very early age. He writes From The Mouth Of The Mouse and The 626 every week for MiceChat. He also collaborates on The Disney Review every weekend. Aside from that, he is one half of the devastatingly good looking duo of the weekly vid/podcast Communicore Weekly (the other half being fellow MiceChat columnist George Taylor), which you can find at www.communicoreweekly.com Jeff is also writing a book with former Imagineer and Disney Legend, Rolly Crump. You can find out more about the book at www.itskindofacutestory.com

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  • DCAfanatic

    Absolutely , I was thinking if they added an attraction like this in Paradise Pier it would the whole Fortune teller quarter machine theme to it and it would give you the wishes and tricks through out the ride with some many special effects like Mystic Manor ! And in Wdw would perfectly work in the animal kingdom!

  • iAmJacksMiceage

    I hate to be the Debbie Downer, but I doubt Mystic Manor will wake up American executives in the way that you hope.

    Disney has had this trackless ride system technology since the installation of The Great Movie Ride. They’ve never deployed it in a truly creative way here in the States, like they have with Pooh in Tokyo or Mystic Manor in HK. At best, trackless technology gets utilized when the nature of the ride absolutely requires it, like with Tower of Terror in Orlando.

    Using trackless as a stylistic choice is an expensive budget buster that doesn’t make sense to the suits in the states. The freedom for ride vehicles to roam doesn’t really lend anything to a story, even though I think most of us realize it is a damned exciting way to ride an attraction.

    The domestic litmus test will be the opening of Antarctica at Sea World.

    As for creating stateside attractions that aren’t tied with existing blockbuster franchises? The Disney company practically created the term, “synergy”. I can’t imagine they’d cast that to the wind at this point.

    • StevenW

      Until Mystic Manor, no one would realize the benefit of having the trackless sytem. I didn’t even know. Yet you still doubt the Disney executives. My feeling is they didn’t know either because it wasn’t done this way before. You don’t know until it is finished.

      I didn’t think the Pooh ride was sufficient to make the case for trackless rides. Now with Antarctica at Sea World, Disney has incentive to port Mystic Manor to the stateside parks. The engineering is paid for. The only thing holding things back is the Disneyland Hong Kong exclusive. I heard that DLHK demanded a 5 year exclusive. 5 years goes by fast. By then, there is absolutely no reason to not have a new ride open. In fact, they can start construction in 3 years to open in 5.

      • iAmJacksMiceage

        You make it seem like it’s a challenge to doubt domestic Disney execs. lol.

        Tokyo Pooh is an incredible experience that’s been wow-ing audiences since it was first powered up. The visual and path layout benefits of trackless have been known for some time.

        No one can predict the future. But if a port of Mystic Manor were to somehow appear stateside (and that’s a huge if), I would bet good money they’d drop the trackless ride system and make it a linear path style ride.

        Even if costs are comparable, the real benefits of trackless come from ample show scene space, meaning the size of the resulting show building will be quite large. Anaheim doesn’t really have the real estate in spades for something like this.

      • StevenW

        Amazing, it is a budget or a space issue?

      • Concrete Enchilada

        “Anaheim doesn’t really have the real estate in spades for something like this.”

        Never underestimate Disney and the Imagineer’s ability to find or make space for some incredible attractions. Just look at the attractions (Haunted Mansion, Big Thunder, PoTC) that go underneath the railroad tracks/ “berm” and the attractions atop of others (Alice in Wonderland, Autopia, Monorail).

        The Imagineers will find a way (or rooom) to make the magic happen.

      • yellowrocket

        Florida has had trackless since the early 80′s. The Universe of Energy and Great Movie Ride is the same technology. Mystic Manor is not the groundbreaking attraction fanboys are making it out to be.

    • Concrete Enchilada

      Trackless technology is not something new. It’s a evolving technology. There was trackless train, Danny the Dragon, at Freedomland in the ’60′s. It followed a buried wire. Disney used similar technology in the Universe of Energy dark ride at Epcot. The large moving theatres are still incredible! An obscure ride system in ride scare park. And then there’s the Pooh ride and now the Mystic Manor attraction. Trackless technology, like other ideas/ concepts, is just getting more economical and more reliable. Hopefully Disney will use this “magic” on more ride systems. But, fingers crossed not to replace any Omnimovers. I haven’t heard of any trackless rides that change elevation or tilt. Keep the classics….classic.

    • Concrete Enchilada

      I think the American executives are more thinking about numbers….mainly the hourly capacity and the ride cost versus benefits. It’s difficult to grasp the ride capacity while watching the video, but it seems that each room/ scene held two ride vehicles, holding a handful of guests. It doesn’t seem to be a people mover, unlike a Omnimover system, roller coaster or theatre. I can Mystic Manor or a MM inspired ride to be more a “C” or “D” dark ride instead of a “E” ticket. But, hopefully the numbers are favorable for this ride and it’s incredible effects.

  • LoveStallion

    I find the ride to be impressive, even if I think it’s a bit lacking in oomph. I don’t want it necessarily to be in the vein of the Haunted Mansion, but I think some of the rooms felt too intimate. The ride lacks a grand showcase scene, etc. This keeps it in D-ticket territory for me, even though I like what it represents.

    Now this is a very minor quibble, but I might as well voice it: wasn’t it a missed opportunity to have the queue in this generic covered area to the left of the mansion building itself, as opposed to having guests enter the manor? I see that as a huge lost opportunity. It just would have added that little extra bit of atmosphere to have people actually enter the manor from the front door.

    • yellowrocket

      I agree. I did lack oomph. The trackless ride system was wasted on the intimate sets. Why not just use an omnimover track if the cars were going in a straight line? And with all the space that Hong Kong Disneyland has, why not stretch out a bit and really have the manor get really mystic instead of only a little frisky? I give it high marks for not being based on a previous franchise. I only see this as a simple dark ride (albeit a dark ride that HKDL desperately needs) and merely a C ticket – and not nearly worth the fanboy hype it’s getting. Sorry.

      • bigglesworth003

        Have any of you actually been on it? Or just baseing this all on Youtube??

  • Anonymouse

    Wow. I’m blown away by the tech and spectacle of the ride, but the character/concept are a bit underwhelming. BUT, what does get me excited is just thinking about what Imagineering can do with a franchise people actually WANT to see.

    -Imagineering has shown us how incredible they are with creating worlds of existing franchises that nobody actually asked for (Bugs Land, Cars Land, Avatar Land).

    -Imagineering has shown how talented they are at taking a botched idea and making it something amazing (Paradise Pier).

    -Imagineering has shown us how creative they can be with original worlds that aren’t actually that interesting or compelling (Mystic Manor).

    I know that the die-hard “Disney can do no wrong” fans will be offended by all this, but my point is that If Imagineering is so amazing with things that people aren’t actually asking for, then how unbelievable will it be when they get behind something that people are begging for (Star Wars, Marvel, top tier Pixar, something Mickey themed).

    • gatheringrosebuds

      “Imagineering has shown us how creative they can be with original worlds that aren’t actually that interesting or compelling.”

      How is a mansion whose furniture comes to life with magic not compelling or interesting? Forgetting the result for a brief second, I think the idea sounds fascinating.

    • cruise

      I sadly take issue with almost everything in this post, and I sincerely hope it is an attempt at humor.

      “Wow. I’m blown away by the tech and spectacle of the ride, but the character/concept are a bit underwhelming. BUT, what does get me excited is just thinking about what Imagineering can do with a franchise people actually WANT to see.”

      > This attitude is why we cant get anything original stateside!!! People “wanted” to see the Mystic Manor story about as much as I’m sure people “wanted” to see Pirates.

      “-Imagineering has shown us how incredible they are with creating worlds of existing franchises that nobody actually asked for (Bugs Land, Cars Land, Avatar Land).”

      > A Bug’s Land looks nice/is themed well, but is a stinker unless you’re five and Avatar Land is not open/built/100% happening.

      “-Imagineering has shown how talented they are at taking a botched idea and making it something amazing (Paradise Pier).”

      > Paradise Pier is not amazing. Currently its a mish-mash of two competing themes. Jumpin’ Jellyfish? The Maliboomer “park”? Goofy’s Sky School? There are not Disney caliber attractions. Any land at a park like TDS is easily more “amazing” than Paradise Pier.

      “-Imagineering has shown us how creative they can be with original worlds that aren’t actually that interesting or compelling (Mystic Manor).”

      > I fail to see how an enchanted manor filled with artifacts isn’t interesting? Maybe if it were based on Night at the Museum or some “existing” property?

      “I know that the die-hard “Disney can do no wrong” fans will be offended by all this, but my point is that If Imagineering is so amazing with things that people aren’t actually asking for, then how unbelievable will it be when they get behind something that people are begging for (Star Wars, Marvel, top tier Pixar, something Mickey themed).”

      I certainly don’t feel like Disney can do know wrong, and as much as I enjoy some of Disney’s better cinema based rides (RSR as an example) my favorites have always been those original ones: Big Thunder, Space, Pirates, Haunted Mansion. If all I wanted to do was “ride the movies” I’d only head to Universal.

  • eicarr

    I’m a Disneyland fan but not much of a Disney cartoon fan, so I welcome original attractions like Mystic manor with an experience that blows TDL’s kiddie focused Pooh ride out of the water. Hoping for more original attractions and live action movie based attractions(tron, Star Wars, avatar and Marvel) to balance out the new Pixar and Disney cartoon stuff.

  • Bfscott77

    I think Mystic Manor looks like a fantastic attraction! I agree with you, with some slight changes it would be GREAT in Paradise Pier in DCA (I’ve been saying this for awhile now actually) and it would be a great addition to Animal Kingdom too (I’d prefer it over AvatarLand to tell you the truth) I’d love to see more non-movie attractions in the parks for sure, Mystic Manor is a great start to an old tradition!!

    • Bfscott77

      I’m thinking it could go in Paradise Pier by replacing Goofy’s Sky School ( AND moving the entrance to the access road so the show building could sit where the current entrance to the access road is now) OR a home in the Hollywood Hills over in Hollywoodland (there are a lot of empty buildings over there and not many attractions!!!)

      In terms of space – Disneyland is the best park at making the most of the space they’ve got – I’m sure that the attraction would be able to fit in DCA.

      Oh! One other thing! The trackless ride system looks interesting, but can it go up elevations??? That’s one of the things I love about the omnimover system, the change in elevations it can do.

      • Concrete Enchilada

        I talked to a representative of a trackless vehicle company at IAAPA in 2009. A drawback was their vehicles weren’t capable of going uphill. I guess it would be too big of a drain on the the on-board batteries. If there is a way to make them uphill and/ or change elevations, Disney would find a way to do it. But, would they would be motivated to do so? I do love the Omnimovers changing elevation and it’s tilting motion.

  • DisneyanaFan

    Great video and article. This ride looks terrific.

    I agree that it is really ncie to see an E-ticket attraction based on original ideas rather than yet another movie spin-off.

    Does anyone know what the hourly capacity of Mystic Manor is? I’m guessing it is pretty low. As far as I could see from the video, there was only one ride vehicle within most scenes/rooms – which would differ from the Pooh ride in Tokyo Disneyland that has several trackless vehicles in the same scene/room.

    • cruise

      Four vehicles depart at the same time, and in about half of the show scenes you travel with all four vehicles. About a quarter are with two vehicles and you’re alone for that remaining chunk.

      Based on videos it appear four vehicles leave the loading area about every 40 seconds. Because the row can hold either 2 or 3 passengers, using an average of 2.5 people per row, the attraction would have an 1,800 average hourly capacity, maxing out above 2,100. Not too bad.

  • LoveStallion

    You know, I just thought of something. Everyone talks about this being an easy fit for Paradise Pier or Hollywoodland at DCA, but what about giving it more of a forest theme and putting it where the Redwood Creek Challenge Trail now is?

    • DCAfanatic

      That space is too small for an attraction that size you would at least 2 acres

      • LoveStallion

        I agree, but from a bird’s-eye view, it’s actually a bit bigger than any area around Sky School or somewhere in the back of the bay. The Hollywood area has the most promise. Putting it in Disneyland would, obviously, make little sense, unless they put it in Adventureland and REALLY distinguished it from the current ride.

  • chesirecat

    I don’t think there is room in Paradise Pier for such an attraction. If they do use trackless for a dark ride experience like Mystic Manor, I kinda hope they do something that makes sense for the land it is in.

    They are looking at a dark ride experience in DCA, but it would be based on well known characters.

    • http://micechat.com Dusty Sage

      Actually, there is room. The facade could be in the area where Maliboomer once was with the show building behind the Midway shops. There’s actually room for two more dark rides back there. https://www.google.com/maps?q=disney+california+adventure+park&hl=en&ll=33.804326,-117.922555&spn=0.002443,0.003492&sll=33.988918,-118.412018&sspn=0.585269,1.580658&t=h&hq=disney+california+adventure+park&z=19

      The cream colored building is the Midway Mania show building and gives you a good idea for how much additional space there is back there. All those white buildings can be removed/relocated.

      • chesirecat

        Ah, Midway Mania uses screens, and hence it is a compacted version of a dark ride, compare TSMM to the Mermaid showbuilding. You need a Mermaid size building for something like Mystic Manor.

        Fact of the matter is that you’d have to take out the ODV building and the parade storage building and you’d still be pretty cramped for space, to say nothing of where the heck you’d put the queue! And no, I don’t think the queue should weave under the tracks of Screamin’. Also, I believe there is a legal reason why this chunk of land just has the storage buildings and roller coaster.

        Fact of the matter is that you’ve got to have backstage areas somewhere, and I think the relatively undeveloped chunk of land in Carsland is about the *only* piece of land that will be developed in DCA in the next twenty years.

      • jcruise86

        Thanks, Jeff!
        You’ve increased my desire to visit Hong Kong. I wish a Disney cruise ship went back and forth between Tokyo & Hong Kong and packages were arranged for those who wish to stay at those two Disney resorts before and after the cruise.

        There is room for DCA to expand
        into a nice almost adjacent chunk of land
        west of DCA and south of the Paradise Pier.
        The challenge is Disneyland Drive, AKA West Street.
        Hire Universal Orlando to quickly make this road a tunnel
        from just north of Katella and just south of the Grand Californian,
        then make what is now a small section of this road part of DCA too.

        I’d like a trackless fun house attraction, and I don’t want the attraction to just move on one level. Mystic Manor is just a ranch house. (Kidding, but if did seem too flat to me, and I agree with those who thought it was a D attraction that lacked grand scenes.)

        Different rides on a fun house could take riders on different bizarre elevators. I want this trackless attraction to move substantially faster at times than Tokyo’s Pooh and HK’s Mystic Manor. (And probably faster than Paris’ yet to open, trackless Ratatouille ride.) It could be the Mickey Mouse Fun House and guests could play tag with lights that would be interesting in a section with moving mirrors.

        Build this then return for my further instructions. I’ll need to live in the Dream Suite during construction.

        -Tom Sinsky

    • DCAfanatic

      Behind Paradise Pier would be the ideal place all they have there is the parade warehouse which can be easily moved somewhere else !

  • Disneykin Kid

    I think MM is great, but I don’t really like the cartoony characters. I think a realistic monkey and realistic but caricatured Lord Mystic (along the line of the pirates characters) would have been better. I think Lord Mystic would have been better as a shadowy figure, than a kind of goof ball. Then it would be a little closer to Haunted Mansion/Museum of the Weird. It would be great at DCA, maybe with a kind of fortune teller/sideshow theme. And also in Animal Kingdom, just replace Avatar.

  • Disneykin Kid

    Also, the monkey looks ‘tied down’ too much. We all know he’s tied down because he’s animatronic, but wouldn’t it have been great if he jumped out full body? (like Brer Rabbit in WDW’s Splash Mountain) He could have jumped behind the music box (quickly so you don’t really see what’s going on) and then peeked out from behind it. Then we’re really given the idea that he can move around the room, instead of just seeing him peeking out of boxes.

  • brianpinsky

    Absolutely I believe that Imagineering has what it takes to build attractions that are not franchise orientated. With the trackless tech. I think we here in the US will have to wait for Pairs to get theirs with their current expansion.

    • Concrete Enchilada

      I don’t think it’s technology holding back the Imagineers. I would think it’s more about corporate executives establishing budgets and holding onto the purse strings. And I think it’s corporate that’s dictating that more or more rides are themed to Disney’s arsenal of intellectual property. Just look at all of the classic movies that Disney and it’s brands have created, and the films that Disney has the rights to.

  • red014

    Random question, but does Frank Welker do the voice for Albert the monkey? He was both Abu (from Aladdin) and Curious George (from the movie and the PBS TV show), and Albert sounded like both.

    • yellowrocket

      Yep. That’s TV’s Megatron.

  • Disneykin Kid

    The cartoony characters give the feeling that we’re in a cartoon, rather than a real place.

    • LoveStallion

      Perfect way to put it. I had been struggling to adequately articulate that little bit of something that hadn’t sold me on the ride. It’s what you said – too obviously cartoony.

      • cruise

        Te attraction is about as cartoony as Mr. Toad? Could this not be what they were going for??? Not every attraction in a Disney park is suppose to be realistic.

  • caterpillargirl

    The Ride looks great and I would love to experience it. As I read the article I was trying to imagine how they could fit this in at DCA. I started of thinking of Iconic houses or buildings from California (still fitting into -California Adventure) that could be used as the shell. A few I imagined are the Winchester Mystery House. The Magic Castle or even the Monterrey house used in Escape to Witch Mountain (drawn by Toby using the harmonica:-)

    This is just a few but I am sure if the imagineers were allowed the chance they could make another incredible addition to the much improved DCA.