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!

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From The Mouth Of The Mouse

Dueling Disney

The Disney Review

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57 Comments

Comments for Mystic Manor: An Original E-Ticket Attraction in the Classic Sense are now closed.

  1. “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?”

    It has nothing to do with the franchise involved, it has everything to do with the amount of investment and innovation they’re willing to put into the attraction. If they dumb it down hoping that the movie tie-in itself will sell the ride, it won’t be as appraised as an attraction like Expedition Everest that was made with much more investment involved.

    I can’t recall a time when a Disney attraction that they spent a ton of money on bombed. Most of the fails usually involved attractions that were either built on the cheap or were remakes of rides that were better off in their original form.

    • And many of those are built around existing franchises – Pooh in DL, Monsters in DCA, Stitch at MK, etc.

  2. I love the non-Disney-movie theme of Mystic Manor! My favorite rides at DLR are rides that were never originally based on a particular Disney movie. If you start counting, many of the classic attractions are not (at least originally) part of a movie franchise; POTC, HM, Jungle Cruise, Tiki Room, BTMRR, and more. I don’t know why non-franchise themed attractions are considered a big risk. If it’s a good ride, it’s going to be well recieved, no matter what it’s theme is, if it’s not well done, it’s never going to hold your interest long term. Personally the Monsters, Inc. ride in DCA is a good example of this, it’s not much more than “meh” as a ride, despite the Pixar link. Build a GOOD attraction and people will love it. They may even love it so much that you start making movies based on the attraction…

  3. I know people are comparing Mystic Manor to the Haunted Mansion of which there are 3 editions in Disneyland, Walt Disney World and Tokyo Disneyland. I’m comparing it to Phantom Manor of which there is only 1 edition in Paris Disneyland. The Western themeing is very evident in Phantom Manor and really yields itself to Fronteirland’s town of Thunder Mesa story-line. The whole town has links to the owners of Phantom Manor, which makes it maybe the Best Fronteirland story-line overall. Mystic Manor seems more Adventureland to me and can’t quite see how it ties in with Fronteirland? The monkeys are more like a comical Marc Davis Jungle cruise tie-in, as you have Grizzly Bears at Grizzly Mountain which are Marc Davis Fronteirland inspired, as in the former Natures Wonderland that was at Disneyland. I wouldn’t compare Grizzly Mountain’s ride system to Big Thunder, but more like Expedition Everest in Animal Kingdom. Adventureland at Paris Disneyland also had an Explorers Club Restaurant like the new edition to Honk Kong Disneyland’s Fronteirland. This too seems more Adventureland oriented to me than say A Lucky Nugget Saloon,The Cattleman’s Club, or a Grizzly Mountain Mining Club.

    • Phantom Manor is hands-down the best HM ride out there, and I love how it is all tied into the Thunder Mesa area around it. I mean there are actually matte paintings of Big Thunder in the distance as if the area is a real, living town.

    • I do feel Mystic Manor may fit in Animal kingdom in Walt Disney World, as well as the Explorers Club. A friend just sent me photos of the new Traders Vic Bar in Thailand and would love to see that in Animal kingdom or possibly Tokyo Disney Sea’s Lost River Delta with a slight change in themeing from African Tiki’s to South American carved stones and Raging Spirits!

  4. I certainly think that Mystic Mariner is a great attraction and should be in the works for at least one park in North America. The only way I could see Disney screwing up this attraction is leaving it only in Hong Kong Disneyland. Certainly I think there is very little evidence that many people from North America will be traveling all the way to Hong Kong to experience this attraction. It is when an attraction is in a far flung place that you really need to clone it somewhere else to really get the benefits of the expense such a wonderful attraction. The “hunted” theme is simply too good to only have one attraction at one resort with that theme.

  5. That was pretty amazing, but the last guy looked like a muppet and kind of ruined it a little bit at the end. Probably the only place that has room at DCA would be if they took out the Muppet theater, Monsters Inc, and the old Hollywood & Dine area, then maybe there would be enough room. In Disneyland that would be easy, there is plenty of room at Big Thunder BBQ (and also backstage there is a lot more room if they need it). Incidentally, watching the video, it reminded me more of Tower then Mansion for some reason.

  6. As I understand it, the culture of that area doesn’t include the concept of ghosts or hauntings and most locals wouldn’t get the traditional Haunted Mansion theme. That’s likely why the Hong Kong attraction is so different.

    While building Disneyland was a big risk, Walt and his associates weren’t always the big risk takers the author is suggesting. A big part of Disney participating in the 1964 World’s Fair in New York was to see if East Coast audiences would welcome Disney attractions. Many people thought they were more “sophisticated” and would scoff as such things. The Disney attractions turned out to be extremely popular at the fair and this paved the way for another Disney park on the other side of the country. So, maybe this new attraction will pave the way for similar attractions elsewhere.

  7. II would not really want to see Mystic Manor cloned anywhere. It’s an attraction designed specifically for Chinese culture and the monkey does not have the same cultural significance to Westerners. I could see a ride with a lot of similarities fitting into DCA very well, but it’s not going to happen without a franchise tie-in.

    I think this notion that Disney doesn’t want to build original attractions here because they are risk averse, lazy, or only looking out for short term profits as well as many other reasons expressed as gospel are nonsense. They may be all those things, but that’s not why they chose which attractions to build. Do a little research about Bob Iger and it becomes very obvious why Disney is doing this. It’s actually a long term strategy designed to keep specific branded intellectual property within the popular consciousness permanently and in turn sell more merchandise forever.

  8. I am first in line for support of newer innovations in the American parks. As an American architect in Las Vegas, I can tell you most all the work nowadays is in Asia, which is saddening to me. All the newest building styles, ride technologies, special effects, fountain shows, you name it, since Asia is perceived as the money maker economy right now. I look forward to some good ole American inovention on home soil again soon. Mystic Manor looks amazing, the irony is, I may get to see it the next time my company sends me to Macau for our building projects there. In the meantime, Universal is doing some great work at home.

  9. While I agree that this ride system should go to one of the stateside parks (or maybe even both) I don’t think that they should completely clone the attraction or it’s story, characters, or design.

    While most people on this site have either WDW or DL as their “home-park”, mine is HKDL. I’ve seen that park go through being on the lower end of the parks to being where it is now. HKDL sorely needs the money that this attraction will give them through merchandise and ticket sales plus I believe this attraction will entice visitors from around the world to come to HKDL. HKDL is the disney park that needs these attractions most due to the heavy financial situation it’s in. Cloning this ride to the stateside parks will only hurt HKDLs chances of getting a higher profit. This attraction was made for HKDL so it should stay there. It was made specifically to suit Chinese tastes that perhaps won’t work in DL or WDW. But like I said, the ride system should go to the states, just not the story or characters or design. TDL has their own trackless and so will paris soon, but they have themes that are completely different from Mystic Manor. So, if they do get the ride system to the states, they shouldn’t use the “objects-coming-to-life” theme and maybe go with something else.

    Each park around the world deserves to be original, or else what’s the use of going to all of them. I wouldn’t want to see Carsland in Hollywood Studios or TDL since it would just take away a portion of the attendance of Anaheim. Each park deserves something unique that will entice us to visit. Isn’t that why TDS is so popular, because its a very well done park that can only be seen in Tokyo.

  10. I doubt very seriously that this comes to one of the US resorts as they both have Haunted Mansions. True this isnt a HM but it is a closely related substitute–because an actual Haunted Mansion would be rejected in China due to their culture. But I think this doesnt come to the US unless and until the country demographically gets to a point the the Disney Company thinks it could make more money on a third resort location–which isnt happening in the next 3 decades at least. If they ever do that though then maybe this would come to that resort instead of a HM or perhaps a version of MM that is more a hybrid with the HM in that it incorporates more scenes and characters from the HM. But I doubt MM is coming to either of the existing US resort locations.

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

    A little bird told me the answer: Cheap, cheap, cheap!

    Also, it’s “free rein.” “Free reign” doesn’t even make sense.

  12. After watching the video, at least twice and rereading the article and comments…..

    1.) Disney has a long history of experimenting with new technology (creating new systems and reinventing/ refining special effects). The Imagineers have developed a few unique and amazing ride systems in the U.S. in the last decade. They’ve given us Soarin’, Expedition Everest and Mission; Space. And they’ve reinvented others Finding Nemo Subs and Test Track 2.0. Note; Exepdition Everset had the track switching feature before Grizzly, granted not the launched technology. I don’t think that Disney is hesistant or shy on providing the ‘States’ with state of the art technology.

    2.) Most of the “D” and “E-Ticket” rides aren’t themed to movie franchises. Here’s a quick list;

    -Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Space Mountain, It’s a Small World, Matterhorn, Expedition Everest, Soaring, Big Thunder Mountain, Test Track, Mission Space, Dinosaur; Countdown to Extinction, Grizzly Rapids, Kali River Rapids, California Screamin’

    And here’s a quick list of top-tiered Disney itellectual property themed attractions;

    -Indiana Jones at DL, Radiator Springs Racers, Finding Nemo Subs, Rock N’ Roller Coaster with Aerosmith, Tower of Terror, Splash Mountain (themed to relatively obscure Song of the South), Little Mermaid (E-ticket?).

    Please forgive me as I may missed a few top attractions. But, my point is there really isn’t many upper tiered rides themed to Disney’s intellectual properties. And when they do, such as Carsland, Indiana Jones and Tower of Terror, the Imagineers do a spectular job. Actually, they can do a outstanding attraction. Thus, I wouldn’t mind a few more movie based E-ticket attractions.

    And now combining my two points. What’s preventing or holding back the development of more franchised-based E-ticket attractions featuring cutting edge technology? Sorry for the mouthful of words. Look at how Universal out-Disneyed Disney with ‘Many Adventures of Spiderman’ and Harry Potter. And see how the guests have reacted. Imagine Disney counteracting with top-notch Star Wars/ Indiana Jones/ Iron Man attraction or even an entire land.

  13. The only real estate the can house this kind of ride at DCA would be to get rid of the trails in the bear area and turn it into Mystic Manor. It would be perfect. My other suggestion would to bring back the Country Bears in DCA. They would be a perfect fit with the bears idea in DCA.
    I really miss the Country Bears. They were a great show for the whole family and a great place to sit on hot/cold days.
    Or bring back The country Bears back to Disneyland and get rid of the Big Thnder Ranch and put the bears there instead.
    Who thinks that’s a great idea???

  14. Nice! I always have a hard time really getting a feel for a ride based on videos, but it does look fantastic. I love the idea of using this for a revamped Dreamfinder and Figment ride, that could be something special. I have two other options that I think this framework would be terrific for:

    1. If you want to keep the essential framework of this ride and base it on an existing franchise, I think it’s a no brainer for it to be an Aladdin attraction. I’m not sure where it would go in the park at this point, but with the mischief-maker being obviously similar, the things you can have Abu do with/without the help of the Genie is wide open. Heck, Aladdin himself need only be in place of the old guy at the beginning and end. The thing I would be worried about with that is it might turn into “just” a re-telling of the film’s story (Like Nemo at Epcot), and that would be a let-down. Make it fun and original, just using familiar characters and it would work very well.

    2. Don’t use this for Avatar land – there are so many other things to be done there, I think this would be wasted because it would surely be overshadowed by a dragon ride. But I still think it could go in Animal Kingdom, in a place that so desperately needs it – THIS is what Chester and Hester’s needs to be. Rip out everything that is in the carnival ride/Midway area, and put this in with a story that actually helps you understand why Hester and Chester’s is there. Make it so that it’s exciting for kids (and adults – especially those that aren’t into thrill rides) as opposed to scary, as they follow what happens when the “egg” that Hester and Chester claim is a dinosaur egg (people have thought it was just a rock since the place opened) hatches. You’ve got a ride that isn’t based on a specific film, a marketable central character, something for folks to do that isn’t as loud and scary/jarring as Dinosaur and helps that area of the park make a lot more sense because then there would be this whole mutual interest of the Dino Institute and H&C’s because the dinosaur is H&C’s property and they have the rights to it etc., not the institute. It also might help make the trail more interesting since if what happened at H&C’s could happen and the whole time travel aspect of the Dinosaur ride could happen, in that world, why couldn’t real dinosaurs be around? Go walk through a well done Animatrossic Park and see. With a few story tweaks, the Dinosaur ride could be folded into the theme of the land seamlessly and you wouldn’t have the questionable relevance/quality of H&C’s in the land, it would be integral, important and most significantly – interesting.

    Dave

  15. I think Mystic Manor and Mystic Point in its entirety looks incredible. Mystic Manor is an instant classic with lovable characters and a great overall backstory (the S.E.A connection is brilliant), and truly terrific scenes. We’ve decided on changing our holiday plans next year to now include a stop over, our first visit, to HKDL based on this new attraction and the Grizzly Gulch expansion making HKDL more of an attractive Park to visit. I can’t wait to experience it, and to buy an Albert!

    Why are so many fans so keen on cloning attractions? With the amazing leaps in technology presented in this attraction and character animatronic animation, why not think further? Same characters, new adventures?! More attractions based on the Society of Explorers and Adventures and it’s members! Check out some of the other members of S.E.A in the queue photos posted around online. Terrific characters right there! (and no, I’m not implying to make Walt and Roy into attractioncharacters as they are featured in a queue photo also).

    Definitely this could create a new Classic attraction out of the already Disney created characters of the Dreamfinder and Figment which are still beloved but under-appreciated/under-used by Disney.

    For all the distrust and dislike of the ‘One Disney’ concept, a lot of people seem to encourage it. Make the parks unique and destinations in their own right.