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Disneyland Article
California vs. Paris: Welcome Foolish Mortals-- Part One

Haunted Mansion
ID:
TMS-2787
Source:
MickeyMousePark.com
Author:
Hugh Allison
Dateline:
October 01, 2013
Posted:
October 03, 2013
Status:
Current
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To conclude my series of articles comparing the two Disneylands closest to my heart (California and Paris), I shall be writing a four-part look at those rides in which hinges creak in doorless chambers, and strange and frightening sounds echo through the halls.

In Paris, the equivalent of the Haunted Mansion is called Phantom Manor. Originally narrated by Vincent Price, the majority of the audio of Phantom Manor was changed in the early years to being in French, especially in terms of the narration in and around the stretch rooms. There is no audio in the Doom Buggies in Phantom Manor, and some of the characters (including Madame Leota) speak in both English and French. Grim Grinning Ghosts is still purely in English, and some of the original Ghost Host audio is said by a new Mayoral character toward the end of the ride.

The attractions name is said to have been chosen due to it being easier to be understood by the French and easier for them to pronounc but also to differentiate it from "Haunted Mansion" , so that riders do not expect anything too similar to the attractions found in Florida, California and Tokyo.

Phantom Manor very much tells a story (although the specifics of this are very much up for debate as does whether the story has a plot or is purely a look at good vs. evil), whereas Haunted Mansion is much more of a tour, showing you the rooms, telling you what is in them, and trying to convince you to take a "post-lifetime lease" and to thus become the thousandth happy haunt to take residence inside the building.

The other main stylistic change between the two is that Phantom Manor is generally a lot more deadpan than Haunted Mansion. The story it tells is a tragic one, and so the attraction has very little humor (visual or spoken) from the outset, so even the engravings on the tombstones are less funny and more story-line orientated. They do, of course, still pay tribute to various Imagineers and other creatives who worked on the design of the attraction.

The exteriors of the two are very different, with Phantom Manor looking much more like a typical haunted house, built in Second Empire style. It looks very similar to the house in Psycho, even to the extent that it is on a hill (with other exterior influences including the Fourth Ward School Museum and the Edward Hopper painting, House by the Railroad). Its interior influences include Phantom of the Opera, Great Expectations and the Charles Allen Gilbert illustration called All is Beauty.

On the other hand, the California Haunted Mansion appears more naturalistic and less-spooky from the outside. Stylistically, it is in keeping with New Orleans Square as a whole, looking like a grand Southern antebellum estate, with exterior influences such as Evergreen House, which is part of John Hopkins University, and the former Shipley-Lydecker house at 2550 McHenry Street (both in Baltimore). Its interior influences include films such as The Haunting and 13 Ghosts.

The other main difference is with the upkeep of the house. From the outside, Phantom Manor (or Ravenswood Manor, to give it its in-story name) looks like it is falling apart, whereas Haunted Mansion (aka Gracey Manor) still appears well-groomed.

As Phantom Manor does not have the annual Nightmare Before Christmas overlay, the exterior looks the same all year round, whereas California's Haunted Mansion always feels a lot more glamorous between September and January. However, during this whole period, the Paris attraction does feature nearby meet-and-greets with Jack and Sally, as well as having some minor additional decorations (such as pumpkins) during October.

Entering either attraction starts with one passing through a set of open gates. Both these areas are surrounded by signs warning of the unsuitability of the attraction for some Guests, and there is at least one Cast Member on hand to answer any questions whilst setting the somber mood.

Although many Cast Members are passed in both Haunted Mansion and Phantom Manor, those in the former generally tend to be better suited personality-wise to the attraction. However, the costumes for Phantom Manor are much more ornate and are purple rather than California's green and the Cast Members in Phantom Manors greeter position gets to stand in a cool coffin-esque booth, to protect them from the elements.

The logos for the two attractions are very similar, as is much of the soundscape. The view for those queuing differs widely between the two, especially when looking out at the surrounding Land. Although both look out toward the river "the Rivers of America in California, and the Rivers of the Far West in Paris Guests awaiting Phantom Manor get a much wider view, possibly due to the height of the attraction, and are able to see Big Thunder Mountain. In theory, this view is interesting, seeing as Phantom Manor too is part of Frontierland, and the Manors owner is said to have made his fortune on the Mountain. However, seeing (and hearing) the riders of BTM does ruin the theming somewhat, as does the inevitable yellow "wet floor" sign and the website on the doormat. Whereas such incongruities would stand out in either, because the Paris attraction is otherwise so clearly set in the nineteenth century, the magic is ruined much more than if such visuals surrounded the set-in-the-modern-day Haunted Mansion.

There are a lot fewer things to look at in the exterior queue for Phantom Manor than there are for Haunted Mansion. For example, the former doesn't have the pet cemetery or the invisible hearse horse, although the props it does have adds to the run-down feel of the place (such as a small gazebo, a fountain and a birdbath) rather than upping the death element. The amount of walking here (due to the steps or the additional length for the wheelchair-accessible route) makes this queue feel longer, and can put some people out of breath, but the inner-beauty of this section will mean more to people once they have already ridden the ride at least once.

Fewer chains and fences in Phantom Manor also give the queue area more of a free-roam feel, which nicely sets up the exploratory tone of the attraction as a whole.

For a while, Phantom Manors queue was going to wind through a carriage barn (which would have featured flickering lights, empty horse stalls, ghostly neighing and the like) but due to budgetary restraints this detail never materialized. In its place now stands a Victorian style Garden Pavilion, which is pretty dull and effectless, but thankfully can be bypassed when the queue isn't excessively long.

From this point onward, the Guests have the option to remain covered from the elements, which can be a blessing, especially at the height of winter.

After the Garden Pavilion, Phantom Manor's Guests go through a turnstile and then approach the house itself for the first time. On the left is a Cast Members-only door, but the path leads you around to the right, to the front of the building.

Once you have reached this point, you are pretty much guaranteed to be entering the building within five minutes, but this is where the tension starts to build and where Guests tend to begin bonding. There are windows here to try to peer through, and the views across the resort are beautiful, especially in early evening, when the area lighting has changed.

As with its California counterpart, Guests don't enter Phantom Manor continuously; instead they go inside in small groups. However, unlike Haunted Mansion, the Guests enter through the house's main set of double-doors. These have knockers which until recently were freestanding, which added a fun bit of last-minute interactivity, especially when playful Cast Members were on hand to chide knocking Guests for their impatience.

Come back next month, if you dare, to find what awaits you once you've been fortunate enough to be allowed entry through these ominous doors!
 
Attractions Referenced

Haunted Mansion

 
Lands Referenced

Frontierland

New Orleans Square

 
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