Nature is a haunted house; poetry is a house that tries to be haunted. — Emily Dickenson
We had better tackle this issue right up front. How can anyone take an amusement park ride so seriously that they end up writing reams of material about it, probing every nook and cranny and occasionally getting, you know, all philosophical and stuff? Is this not evidence of arrested development, if not a disturbed personality?
Get. A. Grip. It's. A. Ride.
...albeit a very good one. Sure, it's a fine piece of entertainment that obviously took a lot of work and displays a lot of creative ingenuity, but c'mon, it's not art. Or Art. Or Awt.
The line between art and entertainment is, of course, a porous one. Good art typically entertains, and good entertainment requires some sort of artistic skill. In light of this overlap, it has been graciously decreed that if "mere" entertainment rises high enough, it may earn the designation, "popular" or "folk" art, but that's all the concession you rabble are going to get. Now get the @#&*!! out of our museum, and next time wear a tie.
Unfortunately for the museum curator, the already porous line has become increasingly swisscheesified during the course of the last century, and the holes have been punched from both sides: you've got popular entertainers who expect to be respected as artists, and you've got "real" artists who see their role as essentially transgressive and so ridicule any received wisdom, even when that wisdom supposedly elevates their own work above common graphic design, or "commercial" art, or propaganda, or folk art, or entertainment. Andy Warhol's Soup Cans make the point as well as anything.
So is the Haunted Mansion art? If so, what would you call it? Giant kinetic sculpture? A form of puppetry? Mechanical theater? The genre does have a name: dark ride. That will have to do, and perhaps it's good enough.
Yes, it's art. It passes the duck test. It acts just like art. It uses artistic media and was produced by people who were—many of them—accomplished artists by the most stringent definition, but it also passes a stricter test: the distinction between fine art and graphic design, or illustration.
This distinction was still in use when I was taking art courses, back in the middle ages. Even if you don't buy it, it can still be articulated. The difference between a painting of a tree that is Art and one that is merely Very Good Illustration, is that the wordless whammy, the wow factor that tells you that this is good stuff you're looking at, remains intact if it's Art even after you have come to fully understand the technique, but that quiet dazzle sorta evaporates if it's only Illustration. Both of them have succeeded (at least a little) in their attempts to be a haunted house (like Nature is already, without even trying), but if we examine the painting closely and figure out what was in this painter's bag of tricks, the ghosts leave the "mere illustration" but not the "art," which continues to amaze us even more because the house somehow remains haunted even after you've seen the wires and trap doors.
This sort of analysis has fallen on hard times, not because it is incoherent but because it is so subjective. We have been told that Toulouse-Lautrec's cabaret posters are fine art, while Norman Rockwell's magazine covers are merely good illustrations, and too many of us have begun to suspect that we are being snowed.
It's also art because if you pull on this particular thread, you find that the rest of the universe is attached to the other end. It may be the oddest of oddball entry points, but this too can lead you into some pretty lively discussions with others (or with yourself, if you're prone to such things), the kind of pursuit that leaves you at the end of the day amazed once again at the puzzling wonder of being human. No one is going to argue that the Haunted Mansion is on a par with King Lear or the Sistine Chapel, but in its own way it does what a good poem is supposed to do.
If you're still not convinced, then start making your way through the endless "Long-Forgotten" thread, or just hang around here for awhile. The worst that can happen is that I prove to be a very foolish mortal indeed, but hey, there are a lot uglier ways to go about doing that than this.