Let's look at the other major addition to the WDW Mansion: The new Hitchhiking Ghosts. Carsillo's team spruced up the classic threesome we encounter as we enter the crypt, and they changed the mirror effect. No longer is there a solitary hitchhiker sitting beside us. Now, thanks to some fancy high-tech equipment, we have computer generated hitchhikers frolicking about and pulling pranks on us, like switching faces around, blowing our heads up like a balloon, falling off the top of our doombuggy, etc.
This time, the concept actually makes sense. After the ghosts have materialized, and you have discovered to your relief that they are not hostile, you start to wonder if they take notice of you at all. None of them seem to pay any attention to your presence, with the exception of the pop-ups, who seem to get a kick out of scaring you. Eventually, near the end, the Ghost Host informs you that they have indeed taken particular notice of you; in fact, they have selected you and will follow you home, haunting you until you return. The new mirror gag cements that message by showing the ghosts teasing you and pulling good-natured pranks. Well what do you know, they like us, they actually like us.
One of the cinematic influences on the HM, mentioned briefly at the end of an earlier post, was the 1937 short, Lonesome Ghosts, a Mickey Mouse vehicle (with Donald and Goofy) featuring a haunted house full of silly spooks who like nothing better than scaring visitors. They pretend to terrorize. It's all in good fun. Ken Anderson, you will recall, was actually going to use a ghost host with the name, "Lonesome Ghost" in his early walk-thru designs for the Disneyland Haunted House. But pranky spirits who could actually play tricks on you were beyond the reach of 1960's technology. You just couldn't do something like this:
Trying to bring a little of this into the Haunted Mansion was a bold step and not necessarily a bad idea. A kind of Lonesome Ghosts atmosphere is clearly what the Carsillo team is going for with these new mirror HHG's, and I'll grant to them that it's done at the right place in the ride for it.
Another good thing is the spruce-up job on the audio-animatronic hitchhikers in the classic tableau. The figures themselves have been redone tastefully and look very good, although I wish they had gone back to the original, bald Ezra, and I think Gus's bindle is ridiculous. He's not a hobo; he's an escaped con with a ball-and-chain. But everyone tells me I'm being too picky about that, so I'll let it go.
Never mind the head; look at the hands. Great Caesar's Ghost, how simple is this? Blaine Gibson gave the hitchhikers BIG hands, with BIG thumbs, in order to immediately slam their hitchhikerliness in your face, as I've said elsewhere. Okay, now ask any animator whether hands are important in conveying character. What, are you stupid? They're extremely important. I mean, Duh.
Ezra is a tall, gangly, loping figure with big hands. At Disneyland, the hitchhikers on the ghosty-go-round behind the mirrors have no hands, but at WDW and at Tokyo they do. The guys who made those figures took a number of liberties of their own in reproducing the trio, it is true, but one thing they got right is the hands. I think they just used the same molds.
(pic from Orlando Attractions Magazine)