August 12, 2009

The Story of 999 Happy Haunts

Today we will be doing a "ride-through" of the classic Haunted Mansion attraction, keep in mind that there are some minor differences, between the three parks that this attraction is found in, but overall it is the same... After entering through a pair of ornate gates, guests find themselves walking through the mansion's well-tended gardens and courtyards. A cemetery featuring tombstones bearing humorous epitaphs adorns the grounds. A pet cemetery is also seen nearby, with marble representations of some dearly departed critters. Guests are led into a Small Foyer by Cast Members dressed as maids and butlers. After a few minutes, the guests are brought into an Octagonal Room, and encouraged by the staff to stand in the "dead center". The door they entered through then becomes a wall, and the chilling voice of Paul Frees introduces himself:

“Welcome, foolish mortals, to the Haunted Mansion. I am your host – your ‘Ghost Host.’
…and taunts them:
“Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. Is this haunted room actually stretching? Or is it your imagination, hmm…?”

As the voice speaks, the audience's eye is drawn up to four portraits on every other wall of the octagonal shaped room. The walls quietly stretch upwards, elongating the Marc Davis-designed paintings on them to reveal the comedic fates of previous guests: a bearded man is seen in the dress of minor nobility... and red and white striped boxer shorts... while standing on a keg of dynamite with a lit fuse, a demure young woman holding a parasol... and calmly balancing on an unraveling tightrope... above the hungry jaws of a waiting crocodile, an old lady sits... atop a tall gravestone... which features the bust of a man with an axe through his head, and a man with sideburns sitting... on a fat, mustachioed man who is sitting... atop a lean, pale-looking gentleman... who is chest-deep in quicksand.
“…And consider this dismaying observation: this chamber has no windows, and no doors... which offers you this chilling challenge: to find a way out! Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Of course, there's always my way...”

The lights go out, lightning and thunder effects fill the gallery and, in a rare instance of Disney "dark humor," a glimpse of the earthly remains of the Ghost Host is shown hanging from a noose high above in the cupola. The ceiling above is a piece of fabric called a scrim, which conceals the hanging body until it is lit from above. The Ghost Host apologizes for frightening the guests so early, and a wall mysteriously opens, leading the guests further into the Mansion.Guests are then led down a dimly lit hallway with thunder crashing from outside the windows to the left while the portraits of several people on the right wall mysteriously transform from the image of them in their original states into their doomed appearance. At the far end of the hall, two statues which depict one of a man and another of a woman are stationed. As the guests move about, these two statues follow whichever direction they take.Next, guests step into the dusty and deathly cold loading station room, where they are led around to be placed in their Doom Buggies. Stepping on a moving carpet synced to the motion of the Doom Buggies, guests are seated and ride to the next scene. The Doom Buggies point guests down an Endless Hallway. A lone candelabra floats down the hallway, and a suit of armor (which moves) stands at the hallway's entrance.Turning away from the endless hall, guest peek into the Conservatory where a long forgotten funeral is taking place. A large raven perches next to a dead plant-adorned coffin, with a corpse trying to break free.The ghosts become more restless and try to escape from their hiding places, which results in a Corridor full of shaking, knocking, moving, and breathing doors. Demon-faced wallpaper adorns the walls as well as black and white photos of goblins and ghouls. A demonic grandfather clock chimes 13 as the hands spin wildly backwards, the shadow of a claw passing over it.Guests enter a dark Séance Room full of floating musical instruments. Madame Leota, a medium appearing within a crystal ball, summons the mansion's spirits.Next, guests pass onto the balcony of a magnificent Ballroom where the happy haunts begin to materialize. Translucent couples waltz to the music of a macabre organist. A ghostly birthday party appears to be taking place at the dining table. Some spirits sit on the chandeliers, gorging themselves on wine, while other ghosts enter the hall from an open coffin in a hearse. A ghost wraps his arm around a woman bust, and two portraits of men with guns come to life, shooting each other with their pistols.The Attic is an irregularly-shaped room that the Doom Buggies enter immediately after the ballroom scene. It features a collection of gifts, personal items, mementos, and wedding portraits . In each portrait, a common bride is featured with a different groom, whose heads disappear to the accompaniment of a hatchet sound. Just before the Doom Buggies leave the attic, the same ghostly bride from the pictures is seen floating in the air, intoning wedding-related vows. As she raises her arms, a hatchet appears in her hands.The Doom Buggies fly out a window, turn around, and plunge backwards down a fifteen percent grade surrounded by dark, ghoulish trees with knotted expressions. On a branch overhead, a raven caws at the guests. (This gag is from an earlier idea, which was to have the raven narrate the tour.) The Doom Buggies reach the ground, and turn towards the gate of the Graveyard. There stands a caretaker, the only living person in the entire attraction, his knees shaking in fright and an expression of terror on his face. Beside him is his emaciated dog, whining and whimpering.Around the corner, a ghostly band of minstrels plays a jazzy rendition of "Grim Grinning Ghosts". Ghosts pop up from behind tombstones, a king and queen balance on a teeter-totter, a young princess swings back and forth from a tree branch, and a hellhound growls from behind them. The Doom Buggies travel down a hill and turn to see five singing busts continuing the song of "Grim Grinning Ghosts".Next, guests encounter a tea party of sorts, where ghosts are having a "swinging wake" and singing along too. An arm protrudes out of a crypt with a tea cup in its hand, while ghouls ride bikes in the distance. Next, guests see a mummy and an old man. The old man tries to listen to what the mummy is saying through an earphone, but the mummy is just too hard to understand underneath its bandages. Before the Doom Buggies turn to face two opera singers to the right, they see the inside of a tomb, where there is a phantom dressed in a robe-like outfit. The Doom Buggies turn to face the two opera singers, blasting their voices up into the night. Beside them are three other ghosts — a headless knight, a prisoner, and an executioner — who also join in the song.A brick tomb can be seen at the graveyard's exit, and a cadaverous arm protrudes from an opening in the wall where a couple of bricks are missing. A trowel in the spook's hand implies that he is actually walling himself in. At last, guests pass into a Crypt where they encounter the attraction's unofficial mascots, the three hitchhiking ghosts. Passing by three large mirrors, guests discover that one of the trio has hitched a ride in their Doom Buggy. As the vehicles prepare to convey guests out of the Crypt, a tiny ghostly figure is seen above the exit and encourages you to:

"Hurry back… Hurry back! Be sure to bring your death certificate, if you decide to join us. Make final arrangements now. We've been [snicker] ‘dying’ to have you…”

This tiny woman in a bridal gown, though referred to as the Ghostess in early versions of the attraction script, is commonly known as "Little Leota" because her voice and face are those of Leota Toombs , who also provided the voice and face of Madame Leota.

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