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.
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 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.”
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!
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A brand new book from a Disney Legend, as told to MiceChat’s own Jeff Heimbuch!
The Imagineers, those men and women who helped Walt Disney bring his creations to life, have achieved legendary status among theme park enthusiasts. It’s Kind Of A Cute Story is the life story of one of the most beloved Imagineers, Rolly Crump. Covering his long and varied career, including designing some of Disney’s most famous attractions and working directly with Walt himself, Rolly’s stories weave into a lighthearted yet riveting narrative of his life and accomplishments. Packed with over 200 photos, many of which have never been seen before, It’s Kind Of A Cute Story is a tribute to the life and work of a true original.