Things You're Just Supposed to Know

Most of the time, Long-Forgotten assumes that readers are already familiar with basic facts
about the Haunted Mansion. If you wanna keep up with the big boys, I suggest you check out
first of all the website, Doombuggies.com. After that, the best place to go is Jason Surrell's book,
The Haunted Mansion: Imagineering a Disney Classic (NY: Disney Editions; 2015). That's the
re-named third edition of The Haunted Mansion: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies (NY:
Disney Editions, 2003; 2nd ed. 2009). Also essential reading is Jeff Baham's The Unauthorized
Story of Walt Disney's Haunted Mansion (USA: Theme Park Press, 2014; 2nd ed. 2016).

This site is not affiliated in any way with any Walt Disney company. It is an independent
fan site dedicated to critical examination and historical review of the Haunted Mansions.
All images that are © Disney are posted under commonly understood guidelines of Fair Use.

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Saturday, June 11, 2011

Beware of These Hitchhiking Ghosts

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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.


As with Pepe Le Queue, there are some good things here, along with a whole lotta bad.  Let's start off with the good things.


Lonesome Ghosts

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.


The Three

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.

(pic by Joe Penniston)

You can compare those with the originals:


One reason the new figures look good is that the Carsillo team meticulously reproduced the original Blaine Gibson heads
and simply added more detail.  They talk about this in their promotional video.  First class craftsmanship on display here.



How about Ezra in 3D?


I wish I could end it here, but alas, there is much that is wrong with these new additions.


Is that supposed to be Ezra?

The first problem is that the CG Ezra doesn't look like Ezra.  This is absolutely baffling.  How could they so carefully and lovingly reproduce the original figure in the AA, and then get the CG character so horribly wrong?  I'm mystified.

While they were working on the new figures, they covered the tableau with a black screen and projected CG figures onto it, a stop-gap until the new ones were ready.  When they first appeared, folks were a little alarmed, since everyone seemed to agree that these cartoons looked pretty dorky.  Especially Ezra.  But word quickly got out that these were just temporary substitutes until the real thing was ready.  So chill.

(pic by Jeff Fillmore)

Fans should have stayed alarmed.  Unbelievably, the new CG hitchhikers in the mirrors seem to be cut from the same cloth as these ugly things.


I say unbelievably, because they did such a careful job of maintaining the authentic look of the
originals when they re-did the AA figures.  What were they thinking?  Do these look the same to you?


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 by PhotoMatt)

In contrast, the CG Ezra has delicate, small, skeletal hands.  Check out the first photo at the top of the page.  And besides that, he flutters around like a nimble ballerina.  Huh?  Guys, he's a giraffe, not a butterfly.  This is sheer incompetence.  Whatever else they do, the Carsillo team needs to call their computer animators back to their terminals post haste and thoroughly re-do the Ezra figure.  This is just embarrassing.


High Tech and Low Tech

Reports about the appearance of the HHG's in the mirror vary wildly.  Many say that they look convincingly three-dimensional and the effects work well.  Others have experienced poor performances from these high tech wonders and complain that the ghosts look flat.  I'll leave that issue aside, since I have no solid basis for forming an opinion.  I will comment on one complaint I've read several times, however:  When you look sideways in the mirrors at the ghosts in the buggies on either side of yours, and even further down the line (and who doesn't do that?), they do indeed look flat.  You can see it in photos.


If you're expecting another furious blast, or at least some snark, sorry to disappoint you.  I can't get worked up about this defect, for two reasons.  First, I can think of a way to fix this problem for about $100.  Seriously.  I won't say anything about it, because if I do, and the same idea occurs to someone at WDI (which is entirely possible), they won't be able to use it for fear I'll sue them for stealing my idea.  That's how it is these days.  It's sad, but such is our litigious society, ladies and gentlemen.  Second, yeah, it's true, they don't look too good at an angle like that, but guess what?  They never have.  Oh, certainly, the old types look fully three-dimensional (being as they are three-dimensional), but they look bad in another way that we have all gotten so used to that we don't even notice it any more.

Pardon, your slip is showing.

There is something else about the new mirror HHG's that worries me, though.  They represent eye-popping, cutting edge high tech—today.  So tell me, how many years do you suppose it will take before you can download a set of programs, buy a couple of pieces at Fry's, and achieve the same sort of effects at home?  Four years?  Six, maybe?  The Imagineers have committed themselves now.  When the razzle loses its dazzle, what kind of antics will the mirror ghosts have to display in order to stay ahead of the curve?  And does anyone believe that thematic consistency and good taste will survive this process?  Hah.  Those will be the first things thrown under the bus.

"Well, that may be true, but let's face it: the old effect needed to be upgraded.  Sure, it
wowed people when it was new, but that was in 1969.  Today it looks old-fashioned."

I've heard that one more than once.  What absolute rubbish.  The original mirror effect wasn't anything close to high tech in 1969.  It was low tech.  It was like Pepper's Ghost and changing portraits and all those other 19th century (and older) magic tricks.  There is nothing about it and its mechanics that would have puzzled a stage magician from the 1890's.  Criminy, this thing could have been built in the 1890's.  The hitchhikers on the ghosty-go-round are nothing more than rod puppets.  They aren't even electric.  Two-way mirrors are nothing but regular mirrors that have been partially silvered instead of fully silvered.  Old as the hills.  Tracks.  Wheels.  Connecting rods.  A couple of simple electric motors and some basic lighting and you're there.



Despite the whole Lonesome Ghost thing, which I kinda like, I get a bad feeling from all of this.  

Every time they trade in a classic, low tech magical illusion for a gee-whiz high tech wonder, I fear that something of the character
of the ride is being diminished.  It's that old-timey magic show feeling that suits so well the Victorian look of the Haunted Mansion.


The Hitchhiking Ghost Tableau

Back around the corner again for another look at the tableau featuring the famous trio.  Surely this is the icon of icons for the Haunted Mansion, a slice of elegant perfection, a stroke of simple genius.  Who would deny it?  So ... what can be said about a mentality that looks at that classic scene and thinks, "Gee, look at all the wasted space!  You know, this would be a perfect spot to place a portrait of one of our new characters.  There's plenty of room.  Great opportunity for blending in one of our new narratives."

Thumbs Down
(pic from Orlando Attractions Magazine)

Like I say, what can be said about such a mentality?  Stupid, you say?  Evil? Insane? Did I hear someone say incompetent?  Well, look, we can all be friends about this.  Let's just say that we all agree that anyone, anyone, who thinks that that right there is a good idea should never have been allowed anywhere near the table where decisions about the future of this attraction were made.  Shouldn't have been allowed in the same building.  Can we all agree to that?  All right then.

By the way, why would someone living in the house store their artwork in a crypt in a public cemetery adjacent to the house?  Oh, that's right.  How quickly I forget the lessons of Pepe Le Queue.  The Haunted Mansion doesn't have to make any sense.  The Haunted Mansion is wacky land.  Woo hoo.

I keep forgetting.

57 comments:

  1. thank you for sharing this post, it a real interesting read. thank you

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  2. Brilliant, insightful, and biting. A great comment on the state of my former most favorite attraction. Thank you. Hopefully someone who can make a change for the better will read this.

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  3. As always a great post. The beginning of this "kiddieizing" of the HM started a few years ago for the 40th anniversary. Just take a look at all the mercahndise that was done and you'll see that almost everything was "cuted" up. I for one don't want or need cartoonized versions of any of the ghosts or anything else from the HM

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  4. Hooray! A new post! I devour each one.
    You are right that the new AA figures look great, but I've never been able to shake the torch I've been carrying for the versions of the HHGs from the original poster. I"m always disappointed that they don't look more like that. Especially Phineas. I just love the malevolent carpetbagger Phineas with the cape. Much more interesting than the dopey oaf inside the ride. But maybe it would be too intimidating to have that guy in the doombuggy with you. It might subvert the idea of the ghosts being friendly. I just love that original artwork so much.

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  5. I completely agree with all points made. I just wonder, if they have the tech to make the HHG mirror gag better, why didn't they just try making it better? You could have something staring back at you that looks like a ghost really hitched a ride in you buggy, and it would've been a lot easier, cheaper, and more convincing. You meet in the middle between a dummy on a conveyor-belt and a CG cartoon cereal mascot for kids with ADHD.

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  6. As always a very insightful read on one of the finest blogs on the internet. I share with you and apparently thousands of others a fear that Disney has begun to be out of touch with it's core audience.

    Disney has in this instance made a caricaturization of the entrance to the WDW mansion then went ahead and decided to do a bit of funny business with the exit. I agree whole heatedly that the xbox kinect effect is dated, already. My son has this technology at age 11 and readily understands what is happening while he doom-buggies by.

    The effect now winks at the script,

    Ah, there you are, and just in time! There's a little matter I forgot to mention. Beware of hitchhiking ghosts! They have selected you to fill our quota, and they'll haunt you until you return! Now I will raise the safety bar, and a ghost will follow you home!

    Seems like such a waste of great script, now rather than haunting you until you return, the HHG's just leave you giggling and thinking about interactive gaming.

    That is the real scary part of this ride, it's Ronald McDonald on his scooting around on his Segaway, that bad and that sad.

    Once again another awesome post documenting the how the original intent of the show is changed for reasons oblivious to fans who care enough to preserve the magic.

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  7. "Every time they trade in a classic, low tech magical illusion for a gee-whiz high tech wonder, I fear that something of the character
    of the ride is being diminished."


    That was my feeling, too, especially after I experienced it. Sure, it's fun as a novelty, but when the novelty wear off, is this going to have enough artistic merit to still be capturing our imaginations 40 years later?

    "By the way, why would someone living in the house store their artwork in a crypt in a public cemetery adjacent to the house?"

    I guess if one were to reach, one could say that Phineas was stealing the painting. But I hate having to reach.

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  8. Thanks, everyone, for the kind words. Melissa, you may be right about the painting. There are other items there with the Maude portrait, in some kind of nondescript red fabric. Some of it looks like more artwork (the bust), but other items look like booty (the candlestick), so "stolen" is not an unnatural inference. The problem is that it isn't "ghostly." Phineas' suitcase (and now Ezra's and Gus's luggage) are translucent/fluorescent. If this cache is something stolen by Phineas in life, and he's carting it around (like Gus's ball-and-chain), it would be "ghostly" too, wouldn't it? Actually, the only thing associating this pile with Phineas is the fact that he happens to be standing near it, which isn't much. I suppose a better explanation may be that this stuff was stolen by somebody and hidden in this crypt, and that's all we know. I have a bad feeling that the Carsillo team is not finished, and we're going to get more storylines and maybe more props. It's like watching a train wreck in slow motion.

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  9. Yes, isn't there supposed to be a murder mystery for us to solve? I expect some sort of sub-theme to be applied across the entire attraction supporting this concept. Oh joy.

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  10. Hey, Gord. Yes, and remember that when they were first testing the queue (with those cardboard figures), the Dread family busts were supposed to whisper clues. I suppose that may happen. And the portals on the back of the Tubsoleum are as yet unused. For the disenchanted among us, the nightmare ain't over yet.

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  11. When do you suppose they're going to put a Balzac kiosk or a DVC desk next to the hitchhiking ghosts? Disney can't let that prime real estate go to waste!

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  12. I just hope they don't foist these changes upon Anaheim's and Tokyo's Haunted Mansions! Adding the crazy bride with the flat screen television face was already enough of an insult to the attraction. This reminds me of the "update" that occurred to Orlando's Tiki Room/Tropical Serenade in 1998. It took 13 years and a fire to get rid of those additions! Very sad.

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  13. One reason I tell myself why these blog posts are worth doing, is that we need to keep this dreck out of Anaheim. Tokyo is independently owned and seems relatively safe from these "enhancements." But DL? Not too early to raise a stink, sound an alarm, awaken sleeping minds. The barbarians aren't at the gates, dudes and dudettes; they're inside. I want the words "highly controversial" automatically associated with the Spring '11 additions to the WDW HM, enough to make Glendale reeeely skittish about duplicating this stuff at Disneyland.

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  14. I'm sorry, but why is not one else as bothered as I am that Ezra started using Hair Club for Ghosts?! I know you mentioned it in your post, but how the hell did his hair grow back?! HE'S DEAD! There's a deeper mystery here, me thinks...

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  15. They've done such freaky-deaky things with his hair over the past few decades (starting by giving him some) that the new 'do is almost a relief. I think that's why it's drawn such mild criticism.

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  16. I guess living in a haunted house really is a hair-raising experience.

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  17. there is way to much complaning going on here. honestly just accept it. there is nothing anyone can do about it unless you wanna take things up with the big mouse (let me know how that goes over) yes it's a degrade but this isnt 1971 anymore. i miss the way it used to be just as much as anybody but we are getting greedy because we are the ones who know everything about the mansion and the new queue is for those who really dont care. the mansion isnt ours to hog and say this is mine and you cant do anything to it. there are more than just mansion fans out there. it's ownership to disney and although we as the fans dont like these additions, there really is nothing we can do about it. so either put up with it or just dont go on it. besides wouldnt the lovely return of our beloved hatbox ghost with the movie in 2012 solve all these problems?

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  18. Sorry, no can do. If I were to "just accept it," it wouldn't be "honestly." Critical review is an important part of what this blog is about, "so either put up with it or just dont go on it."

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  19. Personally, I wouldn't describe myself as a "fan" of a place if I just shrugged my shoulders and didn't care one way or another what happened there.

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  20. i think you're taking this whole thing alittle too seriously

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  21. To Anonymous: I wish the Imagineers currently in charge of "plussing" the park took things half as seriously. Disneyland was designed and built in a magic collaboration of very talented people... we don't want to see it diminished generations later by lesser men, do you?

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  22. Anon, if you think we're taking it all too seriously, then may I suggest you find a less serious forum?

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  23. The destruction of art and undermining of genius are things to be taken VERY seriously. I don't want incompetent corporate lackeys, Imaginumbskulls and their yes-men anywhere near the original Haunted Mansion. Go work for Chuck E. Cheese!

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  24. Bad art should always be criticized by those who care. Otherwise, what does art become? Just empty product. That's a world I do not want to live in.

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  25. I've noticed a very marked correlation between not caring enough about what's going on at Disney to complain about it and just not caring about Disney at all. Maybe its an unfortunate side effect of Disney giving more to complain about than to celebrate these days, I dunno'.

    As for my feelings on the new HHGs, I think they're cool in principle. I will preface my remarks with the statement that I actually liked the addition of Constance, and I regularly point to her in contrast against the vandalism of Pirates of the Caribbean as an example of what a good "plussing" looks like. She's high quality, aesthetically consistent with the rest of the HM and the technology within it, grafted in quite well, and added for no reason except to freshen up the attraction for the sake of doing so (as opposed to Pirates, which was purely motivated by the movie franchise, which makes no narrative sense, is technologically inconsistent and sticks out unceremoniously).

    As the next evolution in projection effects, I think the new HHG are good and possibly even superior to the previous ones. There was no mistaking those past ones for waist-up models. The new ones have some... uh... life in them.

    I share some of Dan's concerns, but I think they're all fixable. Yes, tweak the CGI models so they're more accurate to the sculptures. And do that thing so they don't appear as flat. And I would add that the only part of it that doesn't seem convincing to me is when they actually play with your head, because I know my head isn't getting tumbled around or switched with someone else's. I'd rather they just cavort around above and behind the Doombuggies where I wouldn't be able to see anyways (the Phantom Manor approach).

    I'm really not worried about whether or not the effects will be dated. I'm not even sure how that is really a concern at all when it comes to Disneyland. It is not, and never was about, I think, how the tricks are done. The repeated examples of how the HM is made of old technologies actually supports that belief. What makes it Disneyland is what is done with them. There are some cases where the attraction actually is undermined by the fact that it can be done at home (Toy Story Mania for Wii, for example) and some examples where it just doesn't look good (Finding Nemo). Overall though, it really depends on how they use the technology to envelop the guest in the attraction's theme, atmosphere and narrative. I could care less if it's old models on a treadmill or Xbox technology as long as it does the job well.

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  26. The person who wrote the comment that there is too much complaining around here is truly astonishing, and I'd like to add my two cents worth along with those who have already addressed the issue, first by posing a question or two: why do you think the author of this blog goes to such pains to write and maintain it? Is it because he hates the Disney parks and the Haunted Mansion and wishes to constantly complain about them? Do you really think that? If you do, then your powers of observation and analysis are primitive at best. It is abundantly clear that he loves Disney and especially the Haunted Mansion, that he is, in fact devoted to the subject. It will obviously come as a shock to you to learn that criticism is POSITIVE, not negative. I see the same situation with the community college students whom I teach. I mark their essays most thoroughly for content, style, and mechanics, and they immediately conclude, when I return the papers, that I do not like them! It is a struggle to get them to understand that the reason I spend so much time on their papers, marking every comma splice and incoherent thought, is not because I don't like them, but because I DO like them and want them to improve and go out into the world with the skills and education necessary for success. The criticism on this blog is fair, considered, thoughtful, and well written. It is a pleasure to see such an intelligent website devoted to a subject about which the author is so obviously passionate. Creativity and criticism are tied together in a symbiotic relationship. Everyone who cares about the standards that Walt Disney himself set and who now fears the erosion of those standards in the name of corporate greed, should thank the author of this blog with all their hearts. I know of one person who, were he still around, would approve wholeheartedly. He was once known as Uncle Walt.

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  27. Thanks for the comments, guys. Cory, I posted a comment recently at the current Long-Forgotten Thread that seems apropos of several points you discuss, especially the issue of becoming outdated:

    The HM has some inherent advantages over many other rides, making it relatively immune from becoming outdated. A good funeral dirge on a pipe organ is like a tuxedo; it never goes out of style. The main theme music for POTC, on the other hand, sounds a little dated (to me) because it's a small instrumental ensemble trying to sound "full," and thanks to John Williams, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg, a bigger orchestral sound is now the norm, the default. From a purely production standpoint, that POTC music reminds me of television soundtracks from the 60's. The graveyard combo background track at the HM also has a 60's feel to it. But the foyer? Fresh and strong as the day it was recorded.

    I have argued elsewhere that what makes the HM unique is everything before the graveyard scene, that you have the feel of a (mostly) 19th century magic show of the "ghost theater" variety. When Yale and (I believe) Rolly went for that quality, and when Claude bent things toward a more classic, Victorian-era haunted house look, they put it in an ageless place.

    They
    built it old-fashioned. It was "outdated" from day one, including its special effects. They were taking ideas from The Boy Mechanic books, written before World War 1. Hence, the passage of a few years or a few decades hardly matters. The 1890's were remote in 1969 and they're remote today, and they'll probably have the same feeling of remoteness fifty years from now. The HM is like finding a box full of Victorian-era visual toys in your (great)grandparent's attic. You're surprised at how charming, intriguing, and fun these eccentric and ingenious devices are.

    If I could do ONE thing at WDI with regard to the HM, it would be to instill that kind of sensibility into the Imagineers. Updating other rides can make a lot of sense. Updating the HM, more often than not, will violate its integrity. I wish they could recognize this. Such updates as they do should only be to improve the performance of the original effect. The latest generation of interior-projection Leota is an example of a good update. It simply does what the original was always trying to do, and it does
    exactly that thing better.

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  28. I grant that this is a difficult point to argue against because it involves such an insider knowledge of the Haunted Mansion that raising it at all denotes a certain unassailability. How does one argue against the idea that the Mansion should rely on Victorian effects just on principle?

    Conversely, it only works as an argument if the other person cares at all about how the tricks in the Mansion are done. Certainly that extra knowledge may add a layer of depth to one's appreciation for the Mansion, if one knows about it and worries about it.

    I am sympathetic to it. To use a religious example, it does bother me when curches throw out age old liturgy on the grounds that no one understands it, because in changing that structure that no one sees it actually does change the whole worship experience in perceptible and unpredictable ways.

    Where I sort of meet it a bit in the middle is to recognize what the original Imagineers were trying to do but not always agreeing with their choices. For example, I think Coats' "boundless realm of mist and decay" was a terrible idea that doesn't work. The load area for Anaheim rips me right out of the atmosphere of the Mansion and reminds me - almost unrecoverably - that I'm inside a big warehouse in Disneyland. It desperately needs to change to something like the Phantom Manor's load area.

    If there intention was to stick exclusively to Victorian effects for the sake of it, I'm not sure that's a goal I agree with. I'm not in principle opposed to newer technologies so long as they are consistent with the aesthetic of the established ride. Constance works for me because she's a blue projection effect in a ride full of blue ghosts and projection effects. The headless portraits work because they're an update of the changing portraits we've already seen. And if they improve the new HHGs in the ways we've been talking about, I think that'll go a long way to make it fit in that much more with the rest of the ride.

    This is opposed to how Pirates was vandalized, for example. Suddenly there's a projection effect of a squid monster in a ride without any other projection effects like that and no other squid monsters. And suddenly there's a lifelike animatronic of Jack Sparrow surrounded by these cartoonier Blaine Gibson pirates. And suddenly the music shifts from the charming old 60's soundtrack to this orchestral number from the movie for no reason. And then there's the faults of the new story on top of it all...

    Compared to that, the HHG are a-okay.

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  29. Cory, I agree with you that many—perhaps most—of the defects with the new HHGs are fixable, and that's one big reason why I'm more ambivalent about them than PLQ (which can only be fixed with a bulldozer, which ain't gonna happen). They can redo Ezra, program out some gags and program in potentially better ones, and I'm sure the technology is still in the tweaking phase; plus the basic concept (Lonesome Ghost antics at this point in the show) is sound, or at least defensible.

    I don't think it's merely a matter of principle with using Victorian-era trickery. I see I didn't make myself clear here. I think you CAN see and feel the difference. We all know when a screen effect "looks CG," and that's bad. It's hard to describe, but the 19th c. feel I'm talking about has a direct, childish simplicity about it. Wooden things. Glass. Mirrors. Painted objects. Mechanical clockwork. In a way, we're talking about a steampunk sensibility. If you get the feeling that stuff like that is the raw material (and I think it is perceptible), then it makes the miracle more miraculous, which is a very good thing in a haunted house ride.

    The new HHG's have to try desperately to look 3D, and we applaud them when they get really, really close. The old ones were 3D and didn't have to try. You knew without doubt and without effort that part of the miracle is that those ghosts are plainly and obviously fully three-dimensional figures. But...how can that be?? See, that's fun. On the other hand, when the question is, "How do they do that? They almost look 3D!" and the answer is, "Oh, it's all done with computers blah blah digital blah blah," it's much less fun. To me, anyway; maybe my Luddite sympathies are showing.

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  30. The old-fashioned effects go so well together not because of principle; they go well together because of the end result of how they look, feel, and sound.

    If I'm making a costume for the stage, and I've used all natural fiber material for most of it, but madke one piece out of polyester, it wouldn't be principle that made the polyester look out of place.

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  31. Good example, Mel, and it's not hard to find others. Filmmaker Guillermo de Toro, who is working on a new HM movie, is known for using elaborate puppets and makeup rather than CG for his monsters and fantasy figures. His rationale is that they still look more real.

    Why is it that the techies are constantly trying to improve the look of CG figures, anyway? Why is it easy to see the difference between cutting-edge 2000 CG and 2009 CG? Because there's still a perceptible gap between CG and "real," and the techies are still trying to close it.

    Different types of synthesizers can reproduce the sound of an array of musical instruments with uncanny accuracy, but when it really counts, there's still nothing like real strings, real brass.

    The old-fashioned effects of the HM are generally more "real." That is simply photography of real faces that is being projected. The hallway reflected in the mirror at the end of the Endless Hallway is a real hallway. The figures reflected via Pepper's Ghost and seen dimly through a two-way mirror are real figures. The instruments and furniture floating around in the Séance circle are real objects. Visual illusions of such things produced electronically still fall short.

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  32. I am definitely someone who usually prefers practical effects over CGI. My eyes and brain know the difference between a thing made of paper and paste and a thing made of pixels. Paper and paste are real. Pixels are not.
    The most extreme (and perhaps unfair) example is the difference in the beautiful practical effects in "An American Werewolf in London" and the terrible CGI used in the later "An American Werewolf in Paris." There's just no competition.

    Forgive me if you've addressed this elsewhere and I'm forgetting, but I was wondering if there are any other traditional show effects you've come accross in the course of your research that are not used in the mansion, but might be effective for an appropriate HM gag/display.

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  33. I agree with the general antipathy towards CGI... I'm very much of the school of thought that if it can be done with something dimensional it should be. The best virtual reality is done with bricks and mortar, not pixels and sprites. That's part of why I dislike Toy Story Mania and Finding Nemo subs.

    I still hold out, as the best example of CGI, the first Jurassic Park. CGI worked there because it was only one tool in the box and the CGI models themselves were scanned in from 3D objects. Pure CGI done entirely within the computer just is not as realistic. So maybe Imagineering should have scanned in the actual HHG mannequins and used those as models.

    Therefore I do see the argument for dimensionality. However, I would also say that the original effect wasn't perfect either... Yes they were inherently 3D but perceptibly didn't line up with the Doombuggies and still looked "fake", never mind the animatronic limitations of the models themselves. Maybe the flaws were part of the charm, but now we're picking our poison.

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  34. Cory, you're absolutely right. There is a trade-off. Comparing the new version with the old, what the old effect has in dimensionality and "real presence," the new effect has in smooth, lively animation and versatility. I guess that in the end, your evaluation of the new HHG's will depend quite a lot on how you rank the various attributes. I also agree that scanning in the actual models and starting from there would have been better. The yawning gap between AA and CG Ezra is absurd and inexcusable.

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  35. Jack, I can't think of any additional "show effects" that could or should be used in the HM, but another low tech improvement would be the limited edition TOMB SWEET TOMB sampler produced by The Ghoulish Gallery a few years ago. They used a simple lenticular to transform it into HOME SWEET HOME. I think it should be incorporated into the ride:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8aTPBNqrLg

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  36. I like Toy Story Mania with all of it's special cgi effects, that is what it is designed and themed to be, it's a blast and will always be a huge hit. Many of the Disney rides built within the past few years are state of the art rides which evolved from the HM and POTC.

    The true beauty and thrill of the HM is the complete lack of being Disneyfied, all of a sudden you happen upon an old mansion with statues, a graveyard and a horseless old fashioned Hearst. All contained behind brick and wrought iron. It's eerie and completely awesome. Anaheim's Mansion looks amazing and once you're inside it rings true, no cheap gimmicks, no cgi, no make believe story line. It is on, you are as the author of this blog so accurately describes, a participant not an audience.

    Much of the other rides immerse you in there theme, but nothing can come close to actually dazzling the senses as the charm of releasing ghosts within the few precious minutes at Disneyland riding a doombuggie.

    CGI and story warps like the Florida HM queue do not add, they subtract from the magic being performed. I think they've cheapened the experience in Florida. Why I am not sure, I don't think any of us will ever be able to figure this out. I'm not too sure those who dreamt up these additions are sure why.

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  37. The changes are too "Disney" (AKA lame.)

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  38. Cory Gross said...
    Where I sort of meet it a bit in the middle is to recognize what the original Imagineers were trying to do but not always agreeing with their choices. For example, I think Coats' "boundless realm of mist and decay" was a terrible idea that doesn't work. The load area for Anaheim rips me right out of the atmosphere of the Mansion and reminds me - almost unrecoverably - that I'm inside a big warehouse in Disneyland. It desperately needs to change to something like the Phantom Manor's load area.


    Coats' "boundless realm of mist and decay" was more effective prior to the installation of all that saftey lighting. But even if it once was effective, it isn't anymore. You don't want to allow for safty hazards in this litigous society, such as having water from a goofy looking crypt, that may cause one to have an accident. Only a real moron would do something like that. Instead of wasting their time trying to fix what already works, there would be a perfect place for an enhancement. The Loading area at Phantom Manor, or the other HM's, are much more in keeping with the theme of the ride, the the original at NOS.

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  39. Hey 'Anonymous,' it looks to me like you are the one whining. What we are doing on this site is criticizing. There is a difference. Criticism is a valuable and necessary tool for making us better. Criticism has content and a fully articulated point of view. It is an intellectual pursuit. Your post does not appear to possess any of these qualities. If criticism is not something you enjoy, you should spend your time elsewhere, in a place that you like. We like it here.

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  40. I have always had a love of all things Disney, especially the Haunted Mansion and with some rides updates and changes are good, such as with the reoccurring updates of Spaceship Earth and in WDW the expansion of Fantasyland and removal of Toontown (which although I loved walking through the houses as a small child the magic wore off... quickly) and if they do well with the additions of a Little Mermaid ride then hurrah! I mean wasn't it Walt Disney himself who said that WDW would never be finished that as long as we had better technology and the imagination to use it that we should... but when it comprises (for lack of a better word) the integrity of such classic rides which have stood the test of time such as THM it is a great shame. It would be devastating for it to turn out like the Enchanted Tiki Room Under New Management... which killed a classic ride. Even some of the additions to POTC I feel are unnecessary, I have no complaints with the addition to the animatronic characters to the ride (however what does annoy me is having debates with POTC 'fans' who did not know that the ride came before the movie!) but the removal of the talking skull and cross bones whose commentary delighted me as a child (and all up till when it was removed) does sadden me that the next generation will be unable to experience this in the first person. I hope that the Imagineers realise that not everything needs to be made 'child-friendly' and interactive to keep up with the modern market, some people don't mind standing in a queue which matches the atmosphere of the ride, reading the tombstones always gave me a laugh as well as people's reactions to the Madame Leota tombstone (you could always tell the newbies by the shock when she opened her eyes). I will be experiencing the changes next year and as I have only heard things about it I cannot really condemn the changes but from images and videos I feel they are trying to hard to implement plot upon us in the 11 or so times I have been to WDW (It is a little tricky to get over inbetween school, now college, when you live in England and still miss the peak season) I have never felt the need to even think of a plot to go with the ride, I just sit back and enjoy the artistry of one of my favourite rides.

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  41. Oh by the way, love the blog!

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  42. For what it's worth, the portrait in the trunk next to the AA's had the illumination turned off shortly after its installation, and it has been removed altogether now, only the empty frame remains. Not sure what that might mean, but worth noting, I suppose.

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  43. Doo de doo doo- doo de doo doo
    Gone? Yes!

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  44. I have never been to WDW, but I think that what they have done to their HM is purely offensive. The ruined the show flow at the beginning and put a stupid-looking effect at the exit. It's such a shame that our kids won't be able to grow up with the same great effects we know and love. Sigh.

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  45. I really hope that Disneyland's Mansion doesn't undergo the same "Upgrades" that WDW's Haunted Mansion has. I am not fond of any of it. Not just for nostalgia's sake either. it seems that whoever is in charge of these upgrades is relying more and more on the commercial availability of products to carry off the gag/effect than designing proprietary technology to accomplish show. In Anaheim, Indiana Jones is strewn with projectors that are not concealed even remotely well. Over in DCA, which is a whole other story, I was shocked to discover that Midway Mania is essentially run by an HP Laptop. (not lying, as far as I know) I guess what I am saying is all up Disney's "Upgrades" are in fact coming at a ridiculous price, and that price is SHOW. Disneyland is NOT an amusement park, Disneyland is a THEME park, and the laziness of the creative teams responsible for putting these shows together is beginning to show.

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  46. Sean, I totally agree with you. And if DL receives these "upgrades" (which ought to be called the most offensive things ever to happen to any Mansion) I will hurl. I've grown up going to DL, and I'll KILL these people if they wreck our Mansion. We must firmly stand our ground to fight these putrid "enhancements".

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  47. I know that my comment is pretty late, but I wanted to comment re: Anonymous and complaining.

    As others have pointed out, there is a difference between complaining and criticism. Not only is art criticism VALID, it is EXPECTED and in most cases, valued. It is ignorant and flat out WRONG to say that we should just 'accept' whatever Disney throws at us, because whether we like it or not, Disney doesn't care. That's untrue, Disney DOES care very much what its consumers think of their product.

    There are several instances in which Disney has revised upgrades or changes due to customer feedback. One example is the California Adventure theme park; it is undergoing a renovation after all of the criticism it received upon opening. I'm sure there are better examples, but that was the first one that comes to mind. And back to HM, as another anonymous commenter said:

    "For what it's worth, the portrait in the trunk next to the AA's had the illumination turned off shortly after its installation, and it has been removed altogether now, only the empty frame remains."

    Now, whether that change was made due to negative customer feedback, technical difficulties or some other unknown reason; we can't be sure.

    And along the same vein as Sean's comment: if we speak out about these changes now and voice our extreme dissatisfaction, we can prevent the changes being made to other parks. I would speak out against this changes if for no other reason than to make sure they don't happen at DL.

    Back to the original subject of the post, I completely agree with Dan's assessments but I would love to see it in person to form a more concrete opinion. Great writing as always!

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  48. When I saw this, I believed that all the good Imagineers were let go during the 2009 layoffs. I honestly don't see why WDI would take a popular part of the ride and do...that. It's like an Olympic gold-medalist having their medal bronzed.

    The old hitchhiking ghosts was one part I looked forward to each time I visited the Mansion because I never knew if it would be Phineas, Ezra, or Gus hitching a ride.

    Before you know it, they'll have us wearing 3D glasses through the entire ride; Haunted Mansion Mania.

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  49. Those original ones, were those at DL? When were they replaced?

    I like the the new animatronics, but I don't like the CG effect. They should've just redone those mirror models with it in my mind. Actually, I think they should leave the DL mansion alone, keep it how it was with the original bride, and the WDW mansion would be for all the updates.

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    1. I'm not sure what you mean, but DL still has its originals. There was a backup effect that was used briefly in the beginning (see the April 26, 2010 post on the HHG's), but otherwise things have never changed at DL, so far as I know.

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  50. I’ve never been to Orlando.

    I have, however, climbed into a Disneyland Doombuggy dozens of times since my tenth birthday (December 1, 1969).

    No matter how many trips taken or how many birthdays gone by, when I step into the foyer I am ten years old again, a ten-year-old nerd, obsessed with magic illusion, cinematic special effects, monster movies and imagineering.

    Over the years, I mourned the loss of the family plots and the giant, corny Limbo spider. I’ve wondered if the attic (for all it’s spooky potential) will ever deliver one last good scare between the rollicking grand finales.

    O.K, back to Orlando.

    This is certainly not the first time shenanigans in The Sunshine State have left me scratching my head. The Imagineers missed a tremendous opportunity. All that space! All the hauntingly beautiful monuments that inspired the art directors of the HM movie. Oh, the disquieting layers of stone and shrubbery that could have been:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/morgan8er/3553478688/

    Now, about those hitchhiking AAs. I agree with you. The head sculpts should be true to original form and for the most part, they are. Adding crow’s feet and temple veins to a cartoon corpse? In my book, that’s gilding the lilly. No big deal, this misguided attention to detail is invisible at Doombuggy speed.

    What really hangs my chad about the Floridian AA trio is this: Their bodies and their baggage is opaque. Gone is the genius and the charm of transparent toppers, frock coats and carpet bags. And my perennial ten-year-old just isn’t having it.

    Hopefully, what happens in Orlando stays in Orlando.

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  51. I don't think Disneyland has anything to worry about as far as upgrades to original attractions. In almost every site or blog I've come across, no one has like the Constance updates or the Small World inclusions. I think imagineers have been beaten over the head how Californians don't want anything changed from Walt's original park.

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  52. The Haunted Mansion stopped being good after 2005.

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  53. Now, the hitchhiking ghosts know your name: http://www.insidethemagic.net/2016/04/video-new-haunted-mansion-interactive-ending-being-tested-at-magic-kingdom/

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  54. The hunk of crap in the far left corner of the HitchHiking Ghosts (the Cousin Maude portrait, the candelabra, etc.) is supposed to be Phineas's trunk that he's packed for the journey. Each HitchHiking ghost has cargo they're taking with them for the journey. Gus has his bindle, Ezra has his modestly-sized suitcase, and Phineas has his trunk. I've never been able to find anywhere a mention of someone "storing their artwork in a crypt in a public cemetery adjacent to the house", as you state in your post. So yes, it does indeed have continuity.

    It was actually supposed to be another "changing portrait", like the ones in the Attic. It would change from Cousin Maude holding an unlit match to her surrounded by flames. It's still there, in the first stage. Unfortunately, the effect never worked.

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    1. Ugh. There's nothing there to suggest to the viewer that "this is a trunk full of stuff that Phineas has packed for the journey," so if that's the intent (and I have no reason to doubt you), they've screwed up big time. It's stupid on so many levels. (1) Phineas is already carrying a suitcase, a carpetbag, which to me suggests someone traveling light. The carpetbagger as a character type suggests to me an opportunistic interloper. (2) The Maude picture is much too large to fit into the trunk, and the trunk itself is hard to detect.

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    2. You do have a point there, I will agree. Him already having the carpetbag in addition to the trunk is just kind of a head-scratcher. But I wanted to provide some extra light (no pun intended) on what exactly they've put in the corner to hopefully assuage some of your (and I'd assume others') grumpiness.

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