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Sue Kruse
Mansion Holiday Event 2002

ONE | TWO

Haunted Mansion Holiday

I expected this year's Haunted Mansion Holiday event, held on October 3, to be a rehash of last year's original version of the event. When I purchased my ticket to the event, I questioned my wisdom in spending $200 to do what I had done the year before.

As a die-hard Nightmare Before Christmas fan, I could use that money on the new merchandise I knew was coming, so why spend it on a rerun? But then again, what if I missed something? What if Danny Elfman or Tim Burton actually showed up this year? I knew I would be quite distraught to miss out. Well, Dear Readers, Mr. Elfman and Mr. Burton were not present (nor were they promised to be), but in the end, I felt the $200 was money well spent. Although the event was not nearly as magical as the 2001 version, it did have its pluses (and a few small minuses too) and in retrospect, I know I would have regretted it had I not attended.

My excitement began when I emerged from the Mickey and Friends parking structure to see Jack Skellington's smiling face staring back at me. Scattered here and there among the crowd were people wearing Jack-head lanyards. "Cool," I thought, "Already a good start," and I wanted mine immediately.

After checking in at event registration in the Grand Californian Hotel, I had my lanyard and was on my way to retrieve the merchandise I got from the random selection process used for these events. Adrienne Vincent-Phoenix will tell you all about the merchandise, but let me add to what she has to say about "the stuff" by telling you that the Disney merchandise folks did a spectacular job on this event. Gathering one's treasures, inspecting them, and viewing what was left for purchase has never gone so smoothly at an event for me before.

And there were great little touches too. As we all know, the devil is in the details, and Disney is famous for that. When I was handed my purchases, they were nicely ensconced in a white carry-all bag imprinted with the drawings that Jack Skellington makes on his chalkboard during the scene in the movie where Jack is trying to analyze Christmas. Judging from the comments I heard around me, I would say that everyone else was as delighted with this nifty bag as I was, as I heard more than one person plead for an extra bag (alas, there were no extras).

When I checked the packet given to me at registration, there was a nice little extra there, too: a Santa Claus pin made just for the event. Even someone with a dim view of the pin collecting phenomenon, like me, was delighted with this nice little extra.

I must say that left the Grand Californian feeling rather impressed; it was indeed a good start to the evening. But on to more important things, namely the Haunted Mansion. I'm sure I'm not the only person who could hardly wait for the Mansion to reopen. Like a butterfly emerging from a cocoon, I was anxious to see the transformation of my favorite attraction. In a word, glorious! But alas, the gates were closed. It was not time yet to see what Jack had in store. I moved on to the Disney Gallery to see what was there now that Hundred Mickeys exhibit had vacated the premises.

You know, I have to tell you, I don't get all giddy and squeal with delight all that often. But I did when I saw the view of the Gallery entrance from below, standing in front of Pirates of the Caribbean. The sight of the door is framed by trees growing up from the Pirates queue. And there, in the middle of this lovely leafy frame, backlit as if by something otherworldly, stood the Mansion's graveyard caretaker, looking out over New Orleans Square. What a sight! I loved it, and filled with anticipation, I couldn't get up there fast enough.

Haunted Mansion Holiday II

Once inside the Gallery, my anticipation was not let down. The Gallery is filled with treasures now. I no longer have to look at Mickey after Mickey after Mickey. Now, I can feast my eyes on Haunted Mansion concept art. If that's not enough, there is plenty of Nightmare Before Christmas artwork too. One of Santa Claus's sleighs is on display. There are original Tim Burton drawings. And best of all, the curly hill. Yes, The Curly Hill. You know the one that Jack and Sally stand on? It's on display in the gallery right now.

Haunted Mansion Holiday

Oh but wait, there's more. There is a third room filled with treasures in which the two worlds collide. I'm not speaking of Christmas and Halloween, but of Haunted Mansion and Nightmare. The third gallery room -- the small one off the courtyard is filled artwork from Haunted Mansion Holiday.

Haunted Mansion Holiday

There are lots of drawings, a skeleton reindeer and miniature versions of the snowy curly hill dotted with jack-o'-lanterns and the Christmas tree in the ballroom scene. It's enough to make a Nightmare/Haunted Mansion fan pass out from the sheer pleasure of it all.

Haunted Mansion Holiday II

My only complaint with the exhibit now on display is that I wish Disney would issue a catalog with each exhibition they hold in the Gallery. What I have in mind is a catalog, not unlike those that can be purchased at Los Angeles County Art Museum with a picture of everything on display and comments about the actual work and what creating it entailed.

For example, Los Angeles County Art Museum recently hosted an exhibit of artist William Kentridge's work, which I found fascinating. I bought a catalogue filled with terrific information about the artist and a picture of each piece featured in the show. The show recently closed, but I can visit it any time I want now via the catalog.

How I wish we had something like this for the shows in the Disney Gallery. Wouldn't you like to revisit some of the things that have been on display there? It's possible that I am wishing for too much (I have no idea what publication costs are on these things), but I'd be willing to bet that it's something more than a few people would be interested in.

Haunted Mansion Holiday II

After perusing the newly redecorated and seasonally renamed Le Bat En Rouge store, and spending way too much money on what I am told isn't even the best stuff yet (due to the 11-day port shutdown on the West Coast holding up merchandise), the time drew near to queue up for my ride in the Mansion.

Let me add here, though, that once again, the Disney merchandise folks provided a nice touch by offering package pick-up for anyone attending the event and making purchases in Le Bat En Rouge. I quite welcomed and appreciated that, as I was loathe to lug around all that stuff I just had to have. Freed of the Jack and Sally marionette and newly purchased Haunted Mansion Holiday shirt (complete with Jack head buttons), I wandered over to the Mansion.

Anticipation can sometimes be a glorious thing. It can add to the thrill of the moment or it can detract. In my case, in this moment in time, it added. I wish I could begin to describe for you how exciting it was to stand near the gates of the Mansion and watch everyone walking around with their Jack lanyards about their necks. Some folks were quite festive, wearing Nightmare-themed clothing. Others were positively gothic, all adorned in black. One person wore Mickey Ears that had turned into Jack heads, while others dressed in long purple velvet jackets. It was divine people-watching. It the background, the sound of "scarols" filled the air. A scarol, you see, is the Halloween version of the Christmas carol. Now in my mind, there is no better holiday than Halloween. Not even Christmas delights me so. To hear scarols was indeed a pleasurable thing.

Those of us in line waited... and waited some more. And then, they came. A coterie of the Haunted Mansion's finest cast members, dressed in that most spectacular of all Disneyland costumes, came, one by one through the gates of the Mansion until they filled the entrance from one side to the other. And then they stood... and they waited, too. Shoulder to shoulder they flanked the bricked-in posts that hold the gates to the Mansion. Like a horde of paparazzi, everyone wanted a picture, flashes popped incessantly, lighting up the nearly dark sky like flashes of lightening. It was a splendid sight to see. It was theatrical. It was great "show."

Haunted Mansion Holiday

At long last, the gates opened; the cast members parted the way and we were allowed into the Mansion's queue. Rather dead and moldy-looking scarolers were awaiting our presence in order to teach us a song or two. Not knowing the words posed no problem as Jack had thoughtfully posted scrolls throughout the queue with all the new words to old favorites along with some of Halloween Town's biggest hits. "Old Mansion Tree," "Wreck The Halls," "Scary Bells," are but a few of the songs to sing.

Into the Mansion we went.

I do not want to spoil your fun by providing you with complete details. Instead, you must experience it for yourself. I will however, tell you a tiny bit though so skip the top of the next page [via the hyperlink provided there] if you don't want to know.

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You can drop Sue Kruse a line at: tggrfn@aol.com

Mansion Holiday Event

ALSO:
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Plus an encore from last year's

Sue Kruse tells you all about the ride - Pt. 1 (spoilers)

Sue gives you another tour of the ride - Pt. 2 (spoilers)
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