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Disneyland Article
California vs. Paris: Welcome Foolish Mortals -- Part Two
Hugh Allison
In part two of my four-part comparison between California's Haunted Mansion (in its regular form, rather than its seasonal overlay) and France's Phantom Manor, I shall be looking at the first three rooms one encounters upon entering the building.

All three rooms feature audio being played over music. In California, the audio was provided by Paul Frees as the Ghost Host. In France, this was provided by Vincent Price as Henry Ravenswood and was pretty similar to the dialogue found stateside, re-using lines like "When hinges creak" and "look alive". Some lines are slightly amended, such as calling us "curious friends" rather than "foolish mortals", and some (such as "disquieting metamorphosis") were placed in different rooms.

Soon after opening, the audio was changed from Price speaking in English to Gerard Chevalier speaking in French (also as Henry Ravenswood). Chevalier's dialogue was neither a direct translation of Frees' dialogue nor of Price's, although was closer to the latter's.

The first room one enters is the foyer. The layout of this in Paris is very similar to its Californian cousin, in that it is a small rectangular room. The pattern on the ceiling is the same for both, although France has a carpeted floor rather than a wooden floor with a cobweb design. Both have a dusty chandelier, mirrors and two sliding doors which lead into the stretching rooms. Paris has an extra mirror between the doors in which the face of Melanie Ravenswood (daughter of Henry) appears and disappears. Neither version has the portrait (which exists in Walt Disney World and Tokyo) which slowly ages and rots.

After the foyer, in Phantom Manor (as well as the Haunted Mansions in California, Florida and Tokyo), guests enter one of two stretching rooms. Once everyone is inside, the door slides shut and guests are instructed by a Cast Member to keep away from the walls and thus to drag your bodies into the dead center of the room.

The designs of all stretch rooms are similar: octagonal rooms with scrim ceilings, four portraits and eight gargoyles. In California and Paris, the room is a disguised Otis elevator and the room goes down to create the illusion of stretching. In Japan and Florida, the ceiling goes up. Also, in the former two parks, the gargoyles don't talk, whereas they do in the latter two.

The concept and dialogue within the stretch rooms is pretty similar in all four. However, whereas Price and Frees both say "no windows and no doors", in the Chevalier version, he mentions the doors before the windows. Incidentally, although all of Price's dialogue has been removed from Phantom Manor, his laugh is still used, both in this scene and several times on the ride itself.

The portraits in Phantom Manor's stretch room are different to those in the Haunted Mansions. All four in Phantom Manor feature pictures of Melanie, whereas these are all of different people in California. However, the gag remains the same, in that the more you see of the painting, the more you realize that the situation being depicted therein is far from ideal.

At the end of the scene, when the room has stretched to its maximum, a dead body is revealed hanging from the ceiling. In California, this is clearly supposed to be the Ghost Host, whereas the identity of the body in question in Paris is left unclear. The two most common theories are Henry Ravenswood or Melanie's fiance. Paris does not end this scene with a scream, and the lights come up much faster.

After the stretch rooms in California and Paris, guests enter into a gallery, where framed pictures on walls change their image, such as the boat turning into a ghost ship (thought to be a reference to The Rime of the Ancient Mariner) and the demure young lady turning into Medusa. In Paris, these pictures are on both sides (and take longer to change) whereas in California these are on the right only, with windows on the left.

As you are walking through this section in both versions, you notice a storm is raging outside. The exterior weather is very inconsistent throughout the rides (as is the position and shape of the windows) but it sets up the scene beautifully.

In Paris, this section of corridor also features other pieces of Ravenswood memorabilia, including Melanie's marriage certificate. At the end of the corridor is a portrait of Melanie in full wedding clothing (much as she wears in every animatronic throughout the ride itself, albeit in various stages of decay) whereas in the equivalent position in Anaheim are two busts which appear to look at you wherever you happen to be standing.

It is this corridor which takes you underneath the Railroad tracks and into the show building for the ride itself. In Anaheim the exterior of this building is painted a dull green, whereas it is white in Paris, much like the neighboring structure which houses the Grand Canyon Diorama.

At the end of the gallery, one turns right into a mini-corridor (counted as part of the same room) which is where -in Paris- the equivalent of the busts can be found, as well as a photo of Walt Disney as a baby. This section is much more ornate than its limbo-themed California counterpart but equally full of candelabras.

In both Anaheim and France, one doubles back onto themselves at the end of this mini-corridor and steps onto a Goodyear moving walkway. The Paris version of this travelator doesn't feature the patronizing, scene-spoiling, bright yellow "Attend children" sign, although it does have a female voice requesting in both English and French that you "kindly watch your step as you board". Many people believe this voice is supposed to be Madam Leota.

From the moving walkway, one then gets into their Doom Buggy. For this vehicle, both attractions use slow-travelling, theoretically-constantly-moving Omnimovers, which are similar in design even though the ones in Paris don't feature onboard audio.

Once you have boarded your Doom Buggy, to start with there is very little to look at on the right-hand side in Anaheim, whilst in the equivalent area in Paris stands a magnificent staircase. On the left, you soon pass a Cast Member who checks your safety bar. In Paris, this person has more light and therefore doesn't need a torch. However, this additional illumination often backfires, as it means one can often see the cleaning utensils leaning against the wall. It is also of note that this Cast Member is standing still in Paris, whereas in California he or she is walking along the travelator.

Come back next month for a comparison between the ride sections of the experiences.

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