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  1. #1

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    "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    As most here know, the term “relvance” is often flung about on these boards in intellectually-weak attempts to make excuses for the various dumbing-down changes that have occurred at the Park over the past few years. Swiss Family Treehouse was dumbed-down with a “Tarzan” makeover because—so we are told—Tarzan is more “relevant” to today’s youth. Seventeenth-century pirates invaded an imagined 19th century Missouri island because—so we are told—Tom Sawyer isn’t “relevant” to today’s youth. Buzz and Nemo and Woody have invaded once-realistic parts of the Park because (you guessed it) they are more relevant to today’s youth…

    Last night, the spectre of the season was upon me as I watched a TV show about Halloween, and the “haunted houses” that spring up in communities all over the country. These are not your parents’ haunted houses. They are true fright-fests that generate millions of dollars a year collectively. Attendees of Knott’s Scary Farm know whereof I speak. These wickedly elaborate hell-holes are teeming with horrors from our deepest nightmares—chainsaw wielding ghouls, disemboweled corpses, amputations galore. Pepper’s Ghosts? Forget it. Those simplistic illusions from 150 years ago pale in comparison to the glistening entrails, dripping severed heads and moaning undead that abound in the modern haunted houses, to the absolute delight of audiences young and old.

    And yet…the same crowd that feels compelled to use “relevance” as a battering ram to force as much detrimental change on the Park as possible cling to the Haunted Mansion as one of the crowning achievements in the Park, third only, perhaps, behind Indy and Pirates.

    So, I guess I have a simple question: How “relevant” is the puppy-dog-tame Haunted Mansion to today’s youth, and why shouldn’t its interior be gutted in favor of upgrades that would mirror more closely what today’s youth find terrifying, horrifying and…well…“relevant?”

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    Re: "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    I think HM is relevant because it entertains audiences of all ages without over doing it and scaring the young ones so bad they can't enjoy it. The hard core people that want to be scared out of their skins will of course see it as "lame" and some at the other end of the spectrum will see it as "evil" but I think Disney did a good job of making it "family".

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    Re: "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    Quote Originally Posted by ScottG View Post
    The hard core people that want to be scared out of their skins will of course see it as "lame".
    "Hard core" people just shouldn't go to Disneyland to begin with. Not that they're not welcome there, but they really don't know how to have a good time

    That being said, I think the Haunted Mansion still is quite relevant, if nothing else for the generation that remembers and loves it from the first time they rode it back in the 60's/70's. It may not be "thrilling", but it is still a genius attraction that excellently retains its sometimes very simple special effects and tells some very good stories. And, like many other rides at Disneyland, there are quite a few classic scenes in there. It will always be well loved and remembered for those.

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    Re: "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    This is going to be a good thread. I don't have a whole lot of input to offer, except that I certainly think HM is relevant enough, and that Disney needs to remember that while DL is supposed to appeal to a very diverse group of people, trying to please everyone can be disastrous. HM handles things just right for a Disney park. If a scarier ride were to show up in addition to HM, I'd be okay with that, as long as it was done tastefully and with adherence to theme and high quality. But HM definitely doesn't need replacement or modification to make it more relevant.


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    Re: "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    Some things don't need much explaining because the answer is so simple that even a small child could tell you. Being scared is relative to the situation and the individual. The beauty of the Haunted Mansion, in that repect, is that it appeals to all ages. So it has, by conservative standards, stayed true to its theme all these years and has no need to change to the whims of trend.

  6. #6

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    Re: "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    First, I have to take issue with the use of the word "relevance". From my reading I don't think it is bandied about by folks here at all but was instead inserted into Disney conversations by Marty Sklar's Small World explanatory letter (which was full of inaccurate statements). The fan community is split into three parts: those bemoaning change, those who don't care one way or the other, and those who are change cheerleaders. Prior to Marty's letter though I don't recall widespread usage of the word "relevance" pertaining to Disney characters and the audience.

    As to the Haunt industry, you can't really compare blood-and-gore to classic atmosphere. Each has their place, much as the movies that inspired them. Psycho is a creepy film, while SAW is an edge-of-your-seat gore fest. Neither is really more relevant to today's audience than the other; both speak to segments of the population.

    As an example, look at the Hallowed Haunting Grounds. This haunt was open for many, many years until the owners went on to other things. But it was all atmospheric rather than gore. And there is a large conversation in the haunt community over atmosphere vs gore, how much gore is too much, etc. It all just depends on which audience you're trying to reach.

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    Re: "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    I'd say the general "relevance" issue definitely predates Marty's letter, dougeebear. Actually, I know this for a fact, based on some things I've heard straight from the horse's mouth. I don't know how aware we MCers were of it, but there are people at Disney who are prone to very consciously contemplating whether or not existing elements are still..."relevant." Fortunately, I also know that there are some people there who've got their priorities straight and know that the relevance issue is blown way out of proportion.


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    Re: "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    I personally feel the ride has already been cheapened and tried to be made "relevant" with the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay.

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    Re: "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    I don't think it's about relevance, but more about intent. The intent of the HM isn't to be a terrifying gore-fest. It's more humorous and family oriented. You enter a spooky house to find out that these 999 ghosts like a good party as much as the rest of us, and leave feeling that maybe ghosts are just misunderstood. It's good for human-ghost relations.
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    Re: "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    Disney already took a step in this direction with the Haunted Mansion movie. Remember the gruesome-looking zombies crawling out of their graves and coming after the Evers family?

    But there's little chance of that in the ride. It found its niche long ago at a point halfway between a kiddie ride and a frightfest. It has functioned well there for almost four decades.

    The HM is hip and "relevant" in that it functions as camp for older teens and adults, without going overboard. There are plenty of Marc Davis humorous gags that encourage such a reading.

    At a deeper level, I see it like this: Everyone has to come to terms with the reality of death and the dread it inspires. Learning how to cope with and manage one's deepest fears is part of becoming a functional adult. Horror movies, spook houses, ghost stories--in their way these all serve a serious function in the culture, and the degree of scariness varies so that one can learn not to fear fear at a reasonable pace between childhood and adulthood.

    The point at which the HM stops being scary has probably retreated to younger and younger audiences over the years, but those that have passed that threshold look back fondly and find the place entertaining: it represents a stage that they mastered long ago when they were young, a rite of passage.

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    Re: "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    Quote Originally Posted by Steve DeGaetano View Post
    As most here know, the term “relvance” is often flung about on these boards in intellectually-weak attempts to make excuses for the various dumbing-down changes that have occurred at the Park over the past few years. Swiss Family Treehouse was dumbed-down with a “Tarzan” makeover because—so we are told—Tarzan is more “relevant” to today’s youth. Seventeenth-century pirates invaded an imagined 19th century Missouri island because—so we are told—Tom Sawyer isn’t “relevant” to today’s youth. Buzz and Nemo and Woody have invaded once-realistic parts of the Park because (you guessed it) they are more relevant to today’s youth…
    I'd hardly call the Tarzan makeover a "dumbing-down" of the treehouse. Is was as much a cross-promotion of a recent Disney movie as the Swiss Family Robinson version was in its day. It's no more or less relevant than having a 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea attraction in Tomorrowland and numerous Davy Crockett references in Frontierland when Disneyland first opened. Even Sleeping Beauty Castle got its name to promote an upcoming animated film.

    Take a look at the style of family entertainment that Disney has created over the decades and you see immediately why the splatterfest haunted houses you describe have absolutely no place at Disneyland. It's really a silly argument if you ask me. The Haunted Mansion is as much about fun as it is fright and it stays relevant because it's not tied to any new movie, passing fad or pop culture icon (Eddie Murphy notwithstanding). It's timeless. And say what you will about "simplistic" Pepper's ghost effects, the ballroom scene still never fails to impress. The trickery may be old school, but the execution is the best of its kind we'll ever see. Even teens and young adults who "relate" more to Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jigsaw can get that.

  12. #12

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    Re: "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    The word "relevance" is a keyword used by Disney execs to mean we're not making as much money off this as we want to.

    The word "relevance" is used by fans to illustrate the dumbing down of attractions or the mash-up of attractions and devices that bastardize an established Theme.

    Obviously those are not black-and-white, but they do frame how the word is used by whom for discussion purposes.







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  13. #13

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    Re: "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    Quote Originally Posted by HBG2 View Post
    Disney already took a step in this direction with the Haunted Mansion movie. Remember the gruesome-looking zombies crawling out of their graves and coming after the Evers family?

    But there's little chance of that in the ride. It found its niche long ago at a point halfway between a kiddie ride and a frightfest. It has functioned well there for almost four decades.

    The HM is hip and "relevant" in that it functions as camp for older teens and adults, without going overboard. There are plenty of Marc Davis humorous gags that encourage such a reading.

    At a deeper level, I see it like this: Everyone has to come to terms with the reality of death and the dread it inspires. Learning how to cope with and manage one's deepest fears is part of becoming a functional adult. Horror movies, spook houses, ghost stories--in their way these all serve a serious function in the culture, and the degree of scariness varies so that one can learn not to fear fear at a reasonable pace between childhood and adulthood.

    The point at which the HM stops being scary has probably retreated to younger and younger audiences over the years, but those that have passed that threshold look back fondly and find the place entertaining: it represents a stage that they mastered long ago when they were young, a rite of passage.
    Let's not forget DLP also took a step in skeletal direction with the catacombs and the corpse phantom and bride.

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    Re: "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    Different audience, different intent...and varied reactions from guests. Some think PM is a lot better than HM, while others are adamant about the original being superior. I haven't experienced PM in person, but based on what I know, I think I'd probably be somewhere in between, with an overall preference for HM but a lot of respect for the invented mythology of Thunder Mesa and how it relates to PM.


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    Re: "Relevance" and the Haunted Mansion

    Quote Originally Posted by Datameister View Post
    Different audience, different intent...and varied reactions from guests. Some think PM is a lot better than HM, while others are adamant about the original being superior. I haven't experienced PM in person, but based on what I know, I think I'd probably be somewhere in between, with an overall preference for HM but a lot of respect for the invented mythology of Thunder Mesa and how it relates to PM.
    I for one have experienced PM.

    I am like you that I have an overall preference for HM because I love it and grew up with. But I think that PM is such an amazing new take on the original and that the imagineers really outdid themselves. Those are the kinds of attractions they should put in every park. The design and storyline is like that in a movie and the soundtrack is just amazing.
    Friend walks into line of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh-
    "Come on, Let's go see Country Bear- .......Oh."
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    And this elevator traverls directly to The Twilight Zone The Gift Shop!
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