Celebrating Halloween

by Jeff Kober, contributing writer

Celebrating Halloween

Dying to Reenter to the Haunted Mansion

I'm stepping away from my role of tying key Disney concepts to best practices in business to showcase all of the Halloween goings-on at the Magic Kingdom. My thanks to my wife who let us use our date night to catch the changes that have been experienced at the Haunted Mansion. I'll save my review to the end of this report, but on the way to visiting 999 of some of our nearby residents, I found a transformation to the Magic Kingdom that was almost as dramatic as what occurs during the holiday season.

Special event nights at the Magic Kingdom appear to be here to stay. I've read that the amenities have slipped over time and have lost some of the luster–particularly with Mickey's Very Merry Christmas Party. Frankly, as an Annual Passholder, I really can't justify paying additional for the night time experience, but I can see the allure for many visitors who do enjoy the experience.

Photo by Jeff Kober.

So I wasn't surprised to see signage promoting the opening night of Mickey's Not-So-Scary Halloween Party. Indeed, I was disappointed to see so many nights listed. For me, those are nights that aren't accessible as a Passholder.

Conversely, what did surprise me was what I could see out the monorail window as we pulled in front of the Magic Kingdom.

Photo by Jeff Kober.

Disneyland Paris had been going all out on decorations, and Disneyland was getting into it as well, but the Magic Kingdom usually offered little more than some harvest-style dcor. This time, I found a whole harvest celebration going on.

The bunting is dramatic and is found throughout. Pumpkins line the area. I'm sure it looks impressive at night. Photo by Jeff Kober.

I loved the scarecrows in Town Square, because they played off the theme of an old-fashioned Halloween celebration. Everything is festive. Photo by Jeff Kober.

These scarecrows mimic the residents of Main Street, U.S.A. and they act as hosts as you enter Town Square. Photo by Jeff Kober.

There's the mayor... Photo by Jeff Kober.

...the town gossip... Photo by Jeff Kober.

...and here comes the band. Photo by Jeff Kober.

Even the Emporium hostess is represented. Photo by Jeff Kober.

The whole of it is reminiscent of the old State Fair days at Disneyland back in the 80's, though there wasn't a Ferris wheel to be found. The only disappointing aspect was that while Halloween party decorations were to be found elsewhere in the park, there were balloons above the buildings in Tomorrowland.

Photo by Jeff Kober.

There was also a carriage for photos in Fantasyland. Photo by Jeff Kober.

There was little in the way of decorations in Liberty Square of Frontierland. What you did find were candy stations like this one adjacent to the Harbor House. Photo by Jeff Kober.

Photo by Jeff Kober.

Don't get me wrong—it was very impressive—and so much more than before. Moreover, the decorations were such that they could be enjoyed by day guests and Passholders like myself. I highly recommend you come and experience it for yourself.

Of course, my purpose was to visit the renovated Haunted Mansion. I love this attraction. I was too scared to visit it as an 8 year old when it opened in 1969 at Disneyland. But I later acquired the LP record with its beautiful sketches and narrative, which included Ron Howard as a teenager who with his girlfriend happens upon the stately mansion.

I will also tell you that as a Cast Member at Walt Disney World that I had the unique experience of seeing some of the most unusual locations around the property. I have been on the top roof of the Tower of Terror, in the big tank with dolphins at the Living Seas, and onstage at the Hall of Presidents. None of those compare with going into the ballroom of the Haunted Mansion. This is one of the most fascinating places on property. The only reason it tops all others is because the effects are so simplistic–and yet, they are done stunningly well.

So I assure you, I have been around the mansion. Here's my take on the changes.

  • The building has been repainted and looks great. However, I do prefer the gardens when they were more formally kept-like they are at Disneyland.

  • The canopy has not only been redone, but it is wider, allowing the queue to snake up and down in front of the mansion. As a courtesy, this is important given Florida's thunderstorms, but it is still creates for a disappointing long shot of the mansion. Photo by Jeff Kober.

    I may be mistaken, but I don't remember a formal queue for moving wheelchair guests into the front parlor of the attraction. This allows them to bypass the turnstile. It may have been happening this way before, but I don't believe it had been formalized in this manner. Photo by Jeff Kober.

    No changes to the graveyard. Photo by Jeff Kober.

  • The cobwebs are the one of the most noticeable items one sees throughout the mansion. They do not appear to be done as before. They almost look like the effect you get when your glue gun spits out thin strings of glue. It is a reflective, almost translucent material. It really draws your attention.
  • The stretching rooms benefit perhaps as much from the audio enhancements as any. I've heard discussion of the gargoyles doing something, but didn't witness anything. I did hear the effects with the bats. Most notably, the wallpaper has been redone.
  • The only thing noticeable (besides new carpet) in the queue leading to the Doom Buggies was that the portraits with staring eyes had been re-hung along this corridor. Unfortunately, the lighting made it difficult to study and appreciate the effect.
  • There is a stair case with footprints moving all around. It appears on both sides, not just where the spider was. It is involved and intrinsic. There is more detail here than can be studied, but it was a wonderful effect.
  • The man in armor was moving, something I never thought was consistent in the attraction if it was occurring before. I know at Disneyland there was a time it was inhabited by Cast Members, but I didn't recall there was much movement here.
  • Madame Leota was impressive and is a terrific effect, much like its counterpart at Disneyland.
  • The ballroom has no new ghosts or apparitions, but they are all dressed in very light pastel tones, which gives them more accent and less of a washed out look. The lighting also was greatly improved so that when they appeared, they came across more defined.
  • The attic is one of the biggest changes. No more popping ghosts. Everything in the attic tiers up to explain the tale of the bride and her husbands. She is, of course, haunting. It's a fantastic scene, and makes the attraction more of a classic than ever.
  • The graveyard is basically unchanged in terms of characters, but the look of the ghosts has changed a lot. Again, color is used with the spirits to accent them. They are wearing more luminescent colors and are more vibrant than ever. This continues all the way through the hitchhiking ghosts. It rounds out the experience perfectly.
  • There was speculation that a section towards the exit would be opened up for an exit store. This area houses a small break room for the Cast Members. It also includes a hallway that connects Guests in wheel chairs into the lobby of the home. Alas, this was not done, but there was much merchandise available in Yankee Trader and in the Medusa Wagon kiosk for guests.

Photo by Jeff Kober.

All in all, it is a great renovation, in the spirit of the renovations done at Pirates of the Caribbean and "it's a small world". Next stop appears to be Space Mountain, which is begging for attention. None of these modifications are of the level of building an Expedition Everest or even a Toy Story Mania, but they are welcomed improvements that build on Walt Disney World's heritage.