First up let me say that I have not been to DL since july 17th, 2005, so I have not seen the changes and revisions applied to that particular version of the Haunted Mansion. So I went in (with G-Fan in tow) not knowing what to really expect. I did recall seeing the floating Leota Head, and a ghostly piano player in their attic scene.. and thought it was well done.
G-Fan and I arrived there shortly after 4pm, after taking a quick look inside the BBB at the castle, which was fully booked for the day (guests without ressies being turned away). While I don't care much for the concept (not being a parent myself) I find little or no value in this venture, but it's obvious most parents do and are willing to spend the price. Based on the apparent demand for this service, I can see why a classic store was taken out, and replaced with this. For those who enjoy this service, then... more power to you, and am truly happy you are getting your money's worth. As for me.. I get my filled with the entertainment I can get from the parks..
Therefore... after enduring (at G-Fan's insistence) yet another 3pm parade showing and a ride on Snow White (which today was backed up as far back as the scene where we see the wicked witch standing on the rocks screaming "NO!!!"/ we saw the witch die twice!), finally we headed to the Haunted Mansion to ride.
First up, we got there and the line started around the same structure that used to house the Fastpass distribution center. The new nearby sign read "30 Mins. wait". G-Fan and I got in line. Along the way, we noticed the wheelchair guests were being taken out of the line and into another line just for them. (They would later re-join us in the welcome hall, where Ghost Host's portrait turns to skeleton). All in all, thanks to the elimination of Fastpass (as it should be across the board), our wait time was only 16 mins total. Not bad, concidering the wait time was posted at 30 mins. So Kudos. BTW, the mansion looks clean and freshly painted on the outside. While I would have prefered the TDL treatment on the building (abandoned and decripit look), this HM also looks nice mind you.
Immediately... there was no apparent difference as you walk into the welcome hall.. The Ghost Host portrait in the first hall seemed a bit different. Clearer, crisper graphics..and the voiceover was equally clear in quality. Not sure of the technical aspects of this scene but seemed to me the original sound was remastered and digitally reproduced. Very nice so far.
Next, we moved on to the stretching room... WOW WOW! I immediately loved the new color schemes of the wall paper and how nicely put everything looked, as opposed to how bad this particular show scene was allowed to disrepair over time. They did a nice job here.. Everything looked nice and new, including the famous stretching portraits in the room. I felt the show here started quite fast.. as more than 50% of guests had not entered the room as the Ghost host started his spiel... This was a little troublesome for me.. too much noise from guests as they walked into the room, and then the stupid guests who feel the need to spoil the show by reciting every ghost host word verbatim, plus your ocasional idiot with a cellphone talking away. The CM here did nothing to stop the problems.. In Paris, when I have ridden Phantom Manor, the CMs yell a very loud "SILENCE!!" when this happens, and guests shut up. I wish they did the same here.
Those inconciderate problems aside... the new sound system here works great! I love how the Ghost Host's voice appears to float from one side of the room to another, bound from the ceiling and surround us. Very nice effect, and very clear in stereophonic execution. KUODOS. I also like the added stretching room noises added here, which add great realism to the room's walls actually stretching... almost like the room is about to snap. VERY COOL sound EFFECT! When the lights go out, and we see the hanging body above.. the scene is much better lit and the noise of thunder and the crashing bang is full, rich, with thunderous bass. LOVED IT!
For some reason, it took a little while for the doors into the queue for the doom bugy section took a little long to open.. Not sure if this is now designed to do just that, but I noticed that there was hardly anyone waiting to board the bugies as opposed to the backups I have seen before. Finally, doors open and we enter the final queue.
I had to take it slow and admire the subtle touches added here.. like some of the portraits that used to appear in the first ride scene, now relocated here. The color scheme in the area has changed and the mood is certainly more foreboding. Then we board the Doom Bugy..
MORE SPOILERS AHEAD!!! CHICKEN EXIT TO THE RIGHT -----> ------>
At first, nothing seems different.. same candle holder floating in the balcony above... then.. WOW! The long portrait hall now has windows to the left, and new portraits on the right. The lighting we see thru the window is followed by great thundering noise.. and the portraits on the right turn to skeletal form as the lighting flickers. This effect is quite neat and something I am quite sure has been done before at the other HMs in DL and DLP. Here, it looks great.
We go pass the Library... didn't see much difference here as opposed to before, then pass the playing piano. Some subtle differences here, but remains essentially the same.. Then we come up to this HM's exclusive staircase scene.
One word to describe it... FABULOUS! The scene fools us with very effective use of mirrors, and also with a certain glow that sets the scene apart. The moving footsteps on the staircase's steps is really cool. The scene has certainly transformed what was basically a dark room in the orginal version, to a highlight of this ride. As you ascend the staircase..the cheap looking spiders have been replaced with very cool blinking "monster eyes" in the dark... The effects is simple, yet mesmerizing. KUDOS!
Much to my pleasure, the armored costume in the next scene is back to life with new animation. This may actually be a new AA prop, or else, they did a great job fixing the old one.. Either way.. It's great.
New effects continue from the grandfather clock scene.. and into Leota's seance... Not much difference except for the floating Leota's head in the crystal ball. The effect is well done, but here for some reason, the crystal ball seems a bit too high above the table below, but that's OK. The new floating prop is great.. I personally like Leota's fiber optic hairs.. and the facial image is crystal clear (pun intended).
Then...on to the ghostly ball. I noticed a new table cloth is laid and new table wares... All of the ghosts here seem to wear new and more colorful costuming... the sound as well is crisp and the scene just glows beautifully. KUDOS.
The Attic scene comes next. I am quite GLAD the old silly jumping props were taken out, and replaced by new decor and props. The portraits of the deadly bride with her many husbands is creepy and the new bride is certainly the MK's most elaborate prop to date. It just BLEW ME AWAY! To see the bride's hands holding an ax, which disappears as her arms come together.. and her very scary phychopath face... it was just AWESOME!
HUGE KUDOS to Disney for this most technically impressive prop.
Finally, on to the cemetery scene... All ghosts here appear to be sporting new costumes... or at least a new type of glow-in-the-dark paint effect. The whole cemetery just comes alive in a ghostly glow unlike before. While I did not notice any changes in regards to the AA's and movable props throughout the scene, I regretably noticed the singing ghost busts were inop. While we could hear the "Grin Grinning Ghosts" song, the busts sat there with no face or projection. A minor technical difficulty of the ride's signature scene. A pity, so I have to ride again soon to see this in action.
When we finally arrive at the hitchhiking ghosts' scene. They seemed to be more animated than before, and with new use of lighting. I can not tell if these AAs are new or the same old ones fixed and improved... however, the ghosts' reflections on the mirrors as we ride pass them is much brighter and can be better appreciated.
Little Leota at the end of the ride also got a makeover.. her face is sharper and her body dressed differently, yet there she is glowing in brand new splendor and as always.. urging us to hurry back...hurry back..
And indeed I will hurry back!
All in all, the enhanced Haunted mansion restores my faith in what can be coming to the MK in the future. This is the kind of commitment WDW management needs to apply to the MK in a more timely matter. In regards to the HM, it was worth the wait. Now I can only hope management will commit themselves to keep this attraction in good working order for the millions of guests who will enjoy it for years to come. That will be the hard part but it can be accomplish if they put their desires to do so. And not just here, but with any attraction across WDW. Fingers crossed on this. One thing I also have to comment is on the stereo sound in the doom bugies themselves.. you hear ghost host's voice going left to right, back to left etc etc. very cool.
If there is something I would have liked to see added here, it would have been the walking books in the library and the stretching protrait in the hall from the TDL version. But now I can honestly say that TDL's HM is far behind in effects and wizardry... but at least I rejoice in TDL's Nightmare overlay for the holidays... so that's a nice thing I wish they did here as well.
Anyways...TDLFAN rates this HM ride again.. "E worthy".
Go check it out!