Despite its success and potential, the Haunted Mansion Holiday has become an immense letdown and annoyance.
The annual arrival of Jack Skellington and his Halloweentown friends is something that is more demeaning to the Haunted Mansion, rather than enhancing. On the outside, the Mansion looks wonderful and intriguing by day and magical at night with the many candles along it's roof and balconies lit... but inside, where the Haunted Mansion is typically gloomy and eerie, the Holiday transformation makes it loud and obnoxious. Where our Ghost Host shows a slight wit and casts a gloomy light on the 999 Happy Haunts, he is transformed into nothing more than a holiday tourguide spewing out bad lines and Christmas cliches.
The Stretching Gallery
The Stretching Gallery is one particular instance of the demise of classic WED storytelling. Instead of the startling flash of lightning and thunder being met with the chilling swinging corpse of our Ghost Host, we get a huge, obnoxious "Happy Holidays Everyone" from Jack Skellington. Instead of following through with the dramatic build-up of the nightmare before Christmas, frightening stocking stuffers, and nightmares of monsters and skeleton heads, we're met with the ultimate letdown: a holiday greeting from an overly excited Skeleton. A climax of this scenario is a complete contradiction of its set-up. With the normal Mansion, our suspense is paid off with the flash of lightning and the clap of thunder and the scream of our Ghost Host as we see his corpse swinging in the wind.
Hallway to Limbo
The Hallway to Limbo continues to disappoint. Instead of seeing frightening transformations of normal situations or people, we're met with otherwise uninteresting and anticlimactic conclusions to the slow-fading transformations of the paintings.
The spider webs placed over the busts at the end of the Hallway to Limbo ruin the effect of the ever-watchful statues.
Limbo/The Load Area
The Load Area is probably one of the most glaringly tacky and unnecessary additions to the attraction for the holiday overlay. The immense huge black-lit display lights up the entire load area, completely eliminating the illusion of an otherwise creepy and haunting endless area shrouded in mist and decay. Ceiling tiles are easily visible without even trying to look for them, strings holding cobwebs are visible throughout the area, and loud music causes Cast Members to compete by yelling louder than normal, "2 or 3 bodies per Buggy, please!"
The Corridor of Doors
The Corridor of Doors instead of being a chilling tour through a haunted hall, with spirits struggling to break through, you're met with loud and excessively obnoxious singing plants, and a large man-eating wreath that does nothing but draws your attention above you, causing you to realize that the Mansion around you is built only half-way, much like a film set.
The Seance Circle
The Seance Circle's floating instruments and furniture are swapped out with huge black-lit holiday tarot cards. They may fit with whatever Leota is saying about a Fortune Card Tree, but nevermind the fact that Leota's normal ability to cause a disquieting feeling to Guests is ruined because her entire area is overly lit, and instead of contacting spirits, she's just rambling holiday nonsense.
The Ballroom is still an effective showscene. That is if you can ignore the fact that our happy haunts are dancing through an enormous tree, and for some reason gifts are floating out of the back of Jack Skellington's sleigh as if they were ghosts as well. Strange.
The Mansions attic is changed from a cool-down area after the climactic and breathtaking Ballroom scene, preparing guests for the grand finale Graveyard scene, to a scene with music that makes no sense in regard to the rest of the music found throughout the attraction. Also, during the holidays, Mr. Skellington has evicted the Mansion's bride in favor of a pet snake that is eating children's Christmas presents.
The typically chilling and unsettling attic is made into a funhouse of bright colors and goofy music, all in the name of Christmas.
While the rest of the holiday overlay struggles to stay true to the original attraction, the graveyard is the only section that even remotely meets this goal. But not without consequences.
The Graveyard is a silly and playful jamboree of happy spirits and continues to be one during the Haunted Mansion Holiday. While the overlay remains true to the Mansion's playful finale during the overlay season, it ruins multiple key elements to the believability of the graveyard showscene.
The projection of snowflakes on the Graveyard's scrim grants the scrim extra visibility that cannot be afforded in order to maintain the purpose of the scrim. Also, the addition of more black lights to the Graveyard light up the scrims even more as well as the entire showroom. While looking up at the giant snow angels in the Graveyard, Guests are able to see ceiling tiles which are normally not noticeable unless you're looking for them. This completely ruins the illusion WED worked hard to maintain. You're no longer outside of the Mansion in the middle of a ghostly party - you're inside of a big warehouse.
The Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay is a good idea, and is something that can work properly with the normal Haunted Mansion. Instead of completely changing the Mansion into a different attraction, the overlay and the Mansion should seamlessly work together to complement eachother. Unfortunately the Imagineering team who put this project together failed to incorporate this overlay without staying true to the original attraction and maintaining the integrity of the Mansion's showscenes.
Something should be done to help address major issues with the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay in order to make it a proper and worthy overlay for future seasons.
- Get rid of the excessive blacklighting which is required because of cheap plywood cut-outs, or additions that neither contribute properly to the overlay or complement the original attraction.
- Do not rely on the Ghost Host to carry the attraction. While he is prominent in the original attraction, he is not burdened with carrying the attraction for guests. The show scenes do this. Too often in the Haunted Mansion Holiday does the Ghost Host narrate when he should be silent.
- Don't make the elements of the overlay compete with eachother. The Ghost Host should not have to compete with obnoxious singing plants in the Corridor of Doors.
- Make the Mansion's holiday houseguests work properly with the Mansion's permanent residents. They shouldn't be fighting for attention. They should be working together to create an experience that is seamless and immersive.