Friday, October 30, 2015

Disney's Haunted Mansions Around the World

Tomorrow night is Halloween when streets all across the United States will be haunted by costumed kids seeking candy from strangers. It never seemed like an odd tradition to me until we moved overseas and tried explaining it to our international friends. Kids thought it sounded fantastic, and adults thought it was irresponsible. We tried once in Malaysia to organize a friendly, American trick-or-treat excursion with limited success. This is our second year back in Texas, and my children are excited to be back out there going house to house in search of treats. Let's hope that the flash flood and tornado watch we're under right at this moment ends before then. At the rate the rain is coming down, it's going to feel like Venice here soon, and we'll have to trick-or-treat via canoes.

Even though we couldn't always celebrate a traditional American Halloween, we could always rely on getting a little spooked at Disney's Haunted Mansion ride.  Variations appear in Disney parks around the world. I'm not a gal who likes her haunted houses scary, so the Disney version strikes just the right balance between goofy and less-than-terrifying for me.The rest of the park may be cheery and happy, but the mood and cast members are a somber lot at the Haunted Mansion.

The original Disneyland

Disneyland's Haunted Mansion ride in California

The original version opened in California's Disneyland in 1969 as part of New Orleans Square. As a child, I was intrigued by the story of Marie Laveau, the Voodoo Queen of New Orleans. So, this setting made perfect sense to me. The exterior of this antebellum mansion with columns and and filigreed balconies was finished in 1963, but completion of the ride was delayed for years.

Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom

Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Haunted Mansion ride in Florida

While the California version was being built, duplicates of the props and animatronics were made for Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom Haunted Mansion which opened two years later in Florida. Here, the ride is located in Liberty Square, and its exterior is influenced by 19th century Hudson River (New York) Dutch Gothic architecture. Tokyo Disneyland has a similar building for their ride located in Fantasyland, although it looks a lot more run down.

Disneyland Paris

Disneyland Paris's Phantom Manor
Frankly, I think the spookiest version of this ride appears in Disneyland Paris's Frontierland. The building seems to loom over you as you approach it. The ride is called Phantom Manor here, and the storyline based on The Phantom of the Opera has a much darker tone than the other versions. This Western American clapboard house looks a lot like Psycho's Bates Motel to me.

Hong Kong Disneyland

Hong Kong Disneyland's Mystic Manor
(photo credit: Hong Kong Disneyland)

Hong Kong Disneyland's version opened in Mystic Point after we last visited. It's called Mystic Manor and has a cheerier story about enchanted objects instead of bad luck references to departed ghosts. I think the colorful Victorian building with an onion dome is far from gloomy.

Different but the Same

Even though the exteriors differ, I'm glad that some of the key elements appear all around the world. One of my favorite parts is reading all the clever tombstones while waiting near the entrance for the ride. When the wait is short and we have the option to skip this section, I still choose to linger here. I also love how the seemingly normal paintings in the Portrait Gallery transform into something more macabre as the walls stretch upwards.

As my kids have grown up, they've shifted from waiting outside with one parent to summoning up the courage to ride. Now, they take joy in detecting what technology is used to create the various special effects. They know what optical illusions make the busts seem to turn their heads to follow you and how the transparent ghosts at the ball are projected.

We've had to reinterpret how to celebrate Halloween as we've moved back and forth across the Pacific Ocean. It's nice to know we're in good company when trying to figure out how to tweak a tradition depending on where you are.

Which building do you think is the spookiest Haunted Mansion?

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  1. I have never seen a photo of them all on the one page, and I enjoyed this

  2. Hilarious! I love it.

  3. How clever to get all the haunted houses together. I've only ever been to Disneyland Paris but don't remember the haunted house at all! I hope your weather calms down enough to go trick or treating tonight.

  4. I had no idea the mansions were all different! very cool. I think my favourite is the California one because nothing says spooky like New Orleans and voodoo.

  5. I've only seen the one in Disneyland so it was fascinating to see the different versions from the other Disney Theme Parks in other places around the world.

  6. when we were at Disneyland in the fall they had added a nightmare before Christmas theme to the mansion. But i couldn't get my daughter to go in. Now I have a better sense of what's inside. Next time I'll coax her in.

  7. Interesting, I have not actually been to any Disney related parks yet. I once was in quite a spooky haunted house in Ohio but can't recall the name. On a related note, we are currently in Florence and Halloween is now getting quite popular in Italy with many Italian children are dressing in costumes and going trick-or-treating this weekend:)

  8. I still think the original Disney version is still the spookiest for me. I remember visiting as a kid I was scared, and although I knew the tricks as an adult, I was a little on the edge of my seat. I'd love to see all of these one day!

  9. Thanks for showing us all the Disney haunted houses in one post. I'd love to check one out. I went to Disneyland in California when I was very young, but I don't remember the haunted house - maybe Mum thought it would be too scary for us! :-)

  10. I've been to Disneyland in California and Walt Disney World in Florida, but I don't remember if I ever went on the haunted mansion ride. Like you, I don't like my haunted houses scary, so the Disney version would be the right balance for me too.

  11. Disney certainly knows how to do holidays well - Christmas, Halloween. I went to the Disneyland Haunted Mansion in December one year, and it was all decked out in holiday theming.

  12. I like my haunted houses to be "less-than-terrifying", too. I'd have to say that the building in Florida looks the scariest to me. Disney really knows how to capture the imagination of kids and adults alike.

  13. We coaxed my 4-year-old into Winnie-the-Pooh thinking that she'd like it once the ride got going. She ended up being terrified and wouldn't ride anything else indoors the entire time we were at Disneyland that visit. Luckily, she is past that fear now.

  14. I've never been in any of these - I'm a chicken! I didn't realise they were all different - I thought each Disneyland was cookie cutter, and it's really cool to see they're not.

  15. We love DisneyLand in CA. We were in Paris, and even stayed at one of the nearby to Disney Hotels, yet we never went.

  16. I had no idea there were Haunted Houses at Disneyland, Michele. How cool! (But I'd be too much of a chicken to even venture into one! They all look quite beautiful, though. The beautiful and the macabre.

  17. Although Halloween was never celebrated here in Australia when I was young, it has really taken off here now with lots of trick or treaters trolling the neighbourhood and adults also getting into the spirit by attending parties. I think the haunted house in Paris looks the spookiest. I have never visited Disneyland anywhere in the world. I guess as an adult I would probably still enjoy it?

  18. I love this post especially as a Disney fan! The original Haunted house at Disneyland remains one of my favorite rides and I like how they kick it up a notch during their Halloween celebration. I like the Paris one here the best. It does look haunted and one they'd use on those opening scenes in many scary movies.

  19. As much as I love eating candy corn and dressing in costume I am so NOT a fan of blood-and-guts gore or what Halloween is really about. But that said, aside from its having ghosts and phantoms Disney's Haunted Mansion ride is not as frightening as it could be.

    I had not realized that every Disney haunted mansion is different. How cool is that!?


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