Happy 20th Anniversary to Haunted Mansion Holidayby Lisa Baxter, contributing writer
"What's this? What's this?" Jack Skellington
I'm sure many guests thought the same thing 20 years ago when the beloved Haunted Mansion received a surprising overlay featuring Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas characters. Love it or hate it, there's no denying the Pumpkin King has staying power two decades later.
Based on the success of the holiday overlay to "it's a small world" attraction, Disney Imagineers wanted something different for New Orleans Square's Haunted Mansion. A few ideas floated around with the storyline finally settling on former Disney animator Tim Burton, and his emo-goth characters from 1993's The Nightmare Before Christmas, a film released by the Disney-owned Touchstone Pictures. Haunted Mansion Holiday debuted on October 3, 2001 with a re-themed exterior, and an updated holiday storyline in which Jack Skellington and friends celebrate Christmas with the 999 Happy Haunts.
Outside, Jack's coffin sleigh has landed on the roof! Giant skull wreaths hang above the entrance, surrounding a giant countdown-to-Halloween clock. The graveyard and walkway are lined with evil-grinning jack-o-lanterns, and a Santa-clad Jack himself sits near the gated entrance, welcoming guests to his version of Christmas. This is not your parents' Haunted Mansion.
Once you step inside, expect the unexpected. The stretching room portraits are now stained glass windows—Haunted Mansion, Christmas tree, sleeping girl, and stockings hanging by a fireplace. As the Ghost Host begins his spooky sonnet, the elevator lowers with the sound of glass breaking echoing in the chamber. Look up at the images which eerily transform into Santa Jack in his sleigh coffin, Vampire Teddy, giant snake, and Santa Jack frolicking with ghosts! Originally, just an image of Jack hovered above (where the Ghost Host body hung), but it was updated in 2013 with a projected image of Jack and his ghost dog, Zero.
As you exit the stretching room and walk toward the Doom Buggies loading area, the outside rainstorm has transformed into a snowstorm, and Jack and Sally, among other creepy images, have replaced the changing portraits on the wall. If you haven't figured out by now that Haunted Mansion has been infiltrated by Nightmare Before Christmas, the 3D Christmas card at the loading dock reminds you. Here, a long list of characters happily (hauntingly?) hosting their version of a Halloween-laden Christmas—Mayor, Dr. Finkelstein, Oogie Boogie, Lock, Shock, Barrel, and resident witches and vampires. Perhaps welcoming, but, things aren't always what they seem.
Your Doom Buggy takes you on a tour inside Haunted Mansion with a visit to the foyer first. Here, man-eating plants and skull wreaths add to the macabre decor. A floating Zero hovers in a hallway, a pile of bones nearby. A favorite addition to the attraction is Vampire Teddy, whose debut in The Nightmare Before Christmas earned him a fan following, partly due to his resemblance to a certain Disney mouse. Vampire Teddy appears sporadically throughout the ride-through, with a little bit of mischievousness on his part.
Next up is Madame Leota's seance room. Here, Leota, in her crystal ball, chants "13 Days of Christmas" while jumbo tarot cards float around the room. The transition leads to the Grand Ballroom, where the ghosts are in full haunting mode. In the center of the room stands, appropriately, a dead Christmas tree, and behind it, the library mirrors the centerpiece with a floating book tree. The highlight of the overlay is the massive haunted gingerbread house displayed on the dining table. The theme rotates each year, per Tim Burton's request.
The attic is next on your list, where the ghost bride has disappeared behind boxes of presents wrapped in skeleton gift wrap. Ghoulish toys, such as a wooden duck with a bullet hole, area ready to transport to all the children on the nice (naughty?) list. As you exit the attic, onto the balcony, be on the lookout for a slithering serpent who hopes to wrap you up as a present. From there, your omnimover rotates away from the balcony in a downward slope, as The Hatbox Ghost eerily grins in the distance. Once you get to the graveyard scene, you'll notice the groundskeeper and his shivering dog have been replaced by Santa Jack and Zero, waiting to wish you a Merry Christmas. The tour continues through the cemetery with singing jack-o-lanterns replacing the famed singing busts, and enormous pumpkin-headed snow angels trumpeting in macabre celebration.
As you exit the graveyard, the movie's villain, Oogie Boogie, stands on his roulette wheel ready to roll the dice and see who or what rides through the crypt with you. (For the first two season, Lock, Shock, and Barrel replaced Haunted Mansion's hitchhiking ghosts Ezra, Phineas, and Gus.) Upon departing up the moving ramp, a small Sally, replacing Little Leota, watches as Santa Jack steers his flying dead horse team in the distant sky.
While most of the changes are visible, a few audible differences are noted. The original Ghost Host, portrayed by legendary voice actor Paul Frees, has taken a holiday leave and replaced with Corey Burton (no relation to Tim). For an updated Madame Leota, Disney Imagineers borrowed from one of their own. Imagineer Kim Irvine provided the face for the crystal ball refurbishment, but if the image still resembles the previous Leota, it's because Kim is Leota (Toombs) daughter! Susan Blakeslee takes over for Eleanor Audley who voices the Leota during the classic Haunted Mansion experience. (Audley also voiced Cinderella's Lady Tremaine and Sleeping Beauty's Maleficent.) Chris Sarandon and Catherine O'Hara both reprised their movie voiceovers for Jack and Sally, respectively. Oogie Boogie's Ken Page also took on the roles of Lock, Shock, and Barrel.
The original Haunted Mansion Holiday audio track included an original score by Gordon Goodwin, but in 2002, an adapted score by John Debney incorporated the familiar Danny Elfman strains heard in the film's soundtrack.
- Up on the Housetop
- Scary Bells
- Over the Graveyards
- Old Mansion Tree
- Wreck the Halls
- We Wish You a Scary Christmas
- The 13 Days of Christmas
- God Rest Ye Merry Grinning Ghosts
- Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas Medley
- Disney's Haunted Mansion Holiday Ride-Through Mix
The Gingerbread House
Every year, Disneyland Resort pastry chefs collaborate to bring Tim Burton's request to fruition. Twenty (!) different gingerbread houses have gravely graced the Grand Ballroom table, with 2021's "Franken-House" version compiling components of the past 19 versions!
- 2001: Haunted Mansion with arms counterbalancing each other.
- 2002: Giant bag of presents in the shape of the Haunted Mansion.
- 2003: Oogie Boogie on a gingerbread roulette wheel.
- 2004: Zero Haunted Mansion doghouse.
- 2005: Man-eating wreath with tentacles holding forks eating gingerbread men.
- 2006: Possessed Haunted Mansion with giant arms breaking apart the mansion from inside.
- 2007: Giant Jack-in-the-Box mansion with Jester Jack.
- 2008: Haunted Mansion in the shape of a coffin with lifting lid, giant gingerbread man that sits up in the coffin.
- 2009: Scary-Go-Round with gingerbread Zero as a carousel figure.
- 2010: Gingerbread gravestone with a giant Santa Jack popping up from behind and five singing jack-o-lanterns.
- 2011: A gingerbread Haunted Mansion with monster teeth.
- 2012: Jack's mansion from Halloweentown.
- 2013: A gingerbread advent calendar with 13 doors.
- 2014: A gingerbread Iron Maiden torture device that opens showing a giant gingerbread man inside.
- 2015: Gingerbread spiders and construction workers building a house of cards.
- 2016: A gingerbread house with a hand-stitched motif, with an arm sticking out, doing the sewing.
- 2017: Oogie Boogie with a spider-infested mausoleum.
- 2018: A giant spider uprooting the Christmas-decked Haunted Mansion.
- 2019: A celebration of the Haunted Mansion's 50th anniversary.
- 2020: N/A
- 2021: Franken-House
THE NEXT 20 YEARS
Like The Nightmare Before Christmas film, a cult-like following developed for Haunted Mansion Holiday. What started out as a questionable choice by some for a Disneyland attraction re-theme has grown into a popular attraction for guests visiting during Halloween and Christmas seasons at Disneyland Resort. Not only that, but Santa Jack and Sally are now a part of the holiday character meet-n-greet rotation! With Tim Burton's endearing characters, a revised audio track and holiday tunes, and a gingerbread haunted mansion that changes every year, expect Jack Skellington and his creepy crew from Halloween Town to continue to share residency with the Grim Grinning Ghosts of Haunted Mansion. Jack has summed it up best.
"Just because I cannot see it, doesn't mean I can't believe it." -Jack Skellington
Haunted Mansion Holiday is currently open and runs through early January 2022.