Aug 12, 2021: Check out additional observations by Foxxy and others at the end of the post.
Since the rather colorless term "enhancements" seems to be the only collective noun Disney is using for the changes and additions to the Anaheim Mansion this year, I have made bold to tweak it a bit and will henceforth use "Enhauntsments" as the official Long-Forgotten designation, inspired in part by the "Rehaunting" of the WDW HM in 2007. Now that I have visited the park in person, I'm in a position to give an eyewitness report.
When there is a major set of revisions or additions to a Haunted Mansion, I have found from previous experience that it's good to have a catalogue like this laying around somewhere, since it won't be many years before the memories will grow murky, and it will all start mooshing together in our overtaxed brains, and we won't remember exactly when this or that particular thing happened.
I strongly suspect that most or all of these enhauntsments were intended as part of the Mansion's 50th anniversary in August of 2019. None of them were there, of course, but it seems like Disney gives themselves a generous, two year window for such things, so that anything that happens a year before or after the actual day being celebrated counts as being "on time." (Try using that same logic with your significant other's birthday and see how well it works.) Anyway, with COVID adding almost a whole additional year to the debut of the enhauntsments, it became absurd to try to connect any of them with the Golden Anny, so they didn't try. That's my theory, anyway.
Be that as it may, for posterity's sake, here's a catalogue of the changes made, at least as far as I've been able to glean from the many sources out there along with my own first-hand observations. If I've missed anything, leave a comment.
(1) Our Girl April!
First and foremost, of course, is the return of April-December. As pointed out in our April post, she's been restored beautifully, and the place they have created for her is perfect. She's done in a six-stage, morphing form, which is a new presentation for her but utterly authentic and true to the original Imagineers' intentions, as we now know. Zero complaints! A+. I don't like to brag (well, yes I do, some), but I had been saying for a long time that the obvious thing to do for the 50th Anny was to bring back April, and obviously someone else thought the same, because they did.
(2) April's Hallway
I'll lump into one bullet point all the enhauntsments that accompany April in her immediate environment, including (1) the wallpaper, the wainscoting, and the new candle lighting along one wall of what was previously the right side of the limbo-load area as you enter, plus the visually pleasing metal screen to the left of the guests; (2) a new door beside April in the classic style seen elsewhere in the house, with a moving blue light in its transom, indicating a ghostly presence; and (3) a one-eyed cat statuette.
As noted before, the urns that used to be in this area have not been tossed out but are now congregated over by the staircase where the doom buggies come down.
The cat is recognized as a shout-out to an old, unused concept of X Atencio. You will recall that a one-eyed black cat gradually asserts its demonic presence throughout the ride and serves as your host (or co-host). The connection seems valid, since the new cat has a single red, gleaming eye, as did X's cat, but I hasten to note (and not without appreciation) that this particular enhauntsment offers only a subtle or partial hint to the old concept, not the sort of blatant, elbow-in-your-ribs "tribute!" that characterizes PLQ. The cat is white, after all, not black.
As others have noted, the statuette is actually an off-the-shelf, commercially available item.
It's really only there as an intriguing object to look at briefly as you pass, which is fine with me.
(3) Enhauntsments to the Portrait Hall
A few related changes have been made in the Portrait Hall. The official video makes a point of this, calling attention to the new, lighter color of the heavy drapes around the windows, and I gave them a good hard look when I was there, as no photography can do justice to such things. They looked fine to me. Here's the old on the left, the new on the right.
At least that's what everyone seems to think it is. There's a new chair hanging around in the Séance Circle that is widely regarded as a tribute to the talking chair in Rolly Crump's unused "Museum of the Weird" artwork, but as far as I can see, their designs actually have very little in common.
The ballroom dancers and the ghosts in the graveyard (and perhaps others) have been spruced up and are now much more visible. When I visited in 2019 for the 50th Anny, I was unhappy to see that the vague gray blobs to which time and ultraviolet lighting had reduced the ghosts in the graveyard had not been refurbed for the Mansion's golden anniversary that year, but I now suppose that there were plans to do so soon enough thereafter to count as being part of that year's celebration, as described earlier.
(6) Another Cat Statuette, and a Refreshed Garden
Yep, they've added not one but two kitty statues. The Disney video calls attention to the new cat in the birdbath out front.
The video also highlights the garden landscaping throughout the Pet Cemetery, but in all fairness, the horticulture department at Disneyland has ALWAYS done a great job everywhere, including here, with appropriate plants around the various fixtures, so that what you find there now is not really as big a deal as they make it out to be, but only a sprucing up of something that had not and never has been allowed to fall into ruin in the first place. But all of that just makes me happier that the horti guys are getting the kind of proper shout out they deserve, and yes, some of the garden work is indeed new.
Incidentally, they had to take out the large Magnolia tree that had been in the Pet Cemetery area since before the HM was even built, and it's a relief to see that another large tree was brought in to replace it. I'm sure there was a good reason to remove the old gal (diseased? causing structural damage?).
(7) The Telescope
Hip hip hooray, the telescope on the upper balcony is back after a 20 year absence.
Intelligently, it's on a tripod rather than attached to the railing like the earlier model, so it can easily be removed for the HMH and put back afterwards. (That's what doomed the old one.) Really happy to see this one.
(8) Phineas Gets a Wardrobe Upgrade
Sharp-eyed Forgottenistas like yensidtlaw at the Micechat "Thread" have noticed that Phineas has been given a new cloak, one which more closely matches the concept art for the figure. Subtle stuff indeed, and well done. That's the old Phineas on the left, the new on the right.
Some changes may not be changes at all but merely temporary flukes. The deaf guy with the mummy had lost his long beard, but last week it looked to me like it had miraculously grown back. I've mentioned the rain effect in the Portrait Hall windows. I also noticed that the door knockers in the Corridor of Doors were much quieter than they used to be. I hope this isn't a deliberate muffling. I like the clack-clack-clack. It gets your attention and has you looking for the cause, which is a good thing. I also liked that they were a "practical" effect and continued clacking noisily away even during "pranky spirit" interruptions. It makes sense, doesn't it? Some ghosts care not one bit what their prankier brethren are doing and are going to keep up their racket regardless. Screw you all; clack we shall. More power to them.
Reader Imagineer999 points out in the Comments that the Caretaker has his original scraggly beard once again. So far as I know, this is the first time he's had it since the earliest days of the Mansion.
Foxxy has some additional observations after visiting in August: (1) The changing portraits seem to have individual spotlights on them now, making them easier to "read." Mark Hille, in the Comments below, had already noted this; (2) the "monotone chorus" in the graveyard (by the hearse tea party) is more conspicuous, either louder now, or restored after being absent; (3) darker, more mysterious lighting on the exterior porches at night; (4) the so-called Donald Duck chair by the Endless Hallway is new and plusher looking. Vickie Bramm (at the Haunted Mansion fan club on Facebook) explained this to me a couple of weeks ago: The old chair was apparently too decrepit to clean up, so they just made a new one. It looks like it was made to resemble the old one as closely as possible.
When I was there, the blowing drapes were not blowing—in either doorway. The rotting fruit on the ballroom table is not yet rejuvenating. Little Leota's projection was out of alignment, like it was last time I was there. I wonder when the last time it was correct? Other stuff that is obviously just temporarily busted I won't bother mentioning, but I must say something about the pop-up spooks in the graveyard, which I saw July 20-22. They were a disgrace. One didn't pop at all, some did manage to pop but were unlighted, and some popped so anemically that the word pop almost seems like a dishonest use of language, unless, perhaps, in some such sense as "great-grand-pop." Ol' Blasty was working, but he barely cleared his sarcophagus lid. None of the seven were in tip-top shape, I'm afraid. Bad show, that.