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Disneyland Article
California vs. Paris: Welcome Foolish Mortals -- Part Three
Hugh Allison
In part three 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 ride itself.

Both versions use an Omnimover. In Paris this does not feature on-board audio. Other than this, the ride system for both is the same (even down to the self-lowering safety bars), but the visuals one encounters once in a Doom Buggy are very different.

Both versions start with an ascent, and a curve to the right, including moments of complete darkness.

However, whereas Haunted Mansion starts with the endless hallway scene, Phantom Manor has a few tableaux before this: an animatronic of Manor resident, Melanie Ravenswood.

Although one would have already passed many portraits of Ms. Ravenswood before boarding one's Doom Buggy, this is the first time she is seen in the flesh. Personally, I think this animatronic makes her look very doll-like, and I find her movements too jerky (considering she is supposed to still be alive at this point) but her inclusion here is useful for reiterating to riders that this is a very different experience to the Haunted Mansions stateside.

There are several different interpretations of the story of Phantom Manor, but they are based around the same rough idea. Melanie is engaged to be married to a train engineer. However, the groom disappears on her wedding day; all animatronics of Melanie have her in a wedding dress, which, unbeknownst to her, is the work of the Phantom.

It is perhaps sensible to deduct from this that the hanging body in the Stretch room is supposed to be that of the groom; with the Phantom being the one narrating that scene.

Expanding on this theme further, the Phantom is often believed to be Melanie's father, Henry Ravenswood, who built the manor with riches found on Big Thunder Mountain. The backstory of Disneyland Paris' Frontierland as a whole is based around this story; for brevity, I will not expand on this here, although it is impressively detailed and beautifully thought out.

Animatronics of Melanie tend to dominate the first half of Phantom Manor (often with her twin motifs of a candelabra and a bunch of roses - the latter wilts more as the attraction progresses), with animatronics of the Phantom dominating the second half. It is also noticeable that as the attraction progresses, those of Melanie make her harder to see (or identify with), but those of the Phantom give us better and better views of his finer details.

The layouts of the endless hallways for both California's Haunted Mansion, and Paris' Phantom Manor are pretty similar, even down to the knights. The major difference, however, is that in Paris, this scene also features Melanie. However, the position of the billowing curtains is slightly different, and Paris does not feature the Donald Duck chair.

At this point, the Doom Buggies start to go in reverse and pass a conservatory on the right- hand side. In Haunted Mansion, the conservatory features a chap trying to escape a coffin; in Paris this features a shadow playing music on an old-fashioned piano.

The next scene is the Corridor of Doors, which is pretty similar in both parks, including the knocking, the wallpaper, the "Tomb Sweet Tomb" sign and the grandfather clock. Anaheim's has more paintings, though.

The Corridor of Doors is followed by the Seance Circle. The principal of the two is pretty similar, with Madame Leota summoning the spirits for the benefit of Guests, who are yet to see characters from the afterlife. However, her spiel is very different in Phantom Manor; it alternates between English and French, and reiterates the storyline. A token line of dialogue: "Join now the spirits in nuptial doom / A ravishing bride; a vanishing groom."

Although the layouts of the Seance Circle scenes are similar, there are a few subtle differences in the decor. For example, Phantom Manor does not have anything floating above the riders; nor does it have any candles on Leota's table. Also, in California, Leota's ball floats, whereas in Paris it stays on the table, although the table itself appears to hover. There are also differences to the chair, and to the decorations behind the Doom Buggies.

The following scene is the Ballroom, which is similar for both, except for the wall paintings. However, Paris is more set-up for a wedding party, and features Melanie singing and Phantom laughing.

After this is the Attic scene, also known in Phantom Manor as the Boudoir scene. Whilst in California, this scene shows Constance dispatching her husbands, in Paris it shows Melanie crying to herself in front of a mirror. In fact, there are several mirrors throughout the Manor - Melanie is thought to be very vain.

Riders then appear to escape the Mansion/Manor through the attic window but soon encounter a skinny, growling dog; in Paris the canine is accompanied by the Phantom, rather than a caretaker.

In Paris, Guests then travel through catacombs, featuring various skeletons, including one of Melanie herself. Guests pass singing busts (four, as opposed to Anaheim's five) and then enter Phantom Canyon, which is very different from the equivalent graveyard scene in Haunted Mansion.

Phantom Canyon is kind of a ghostly version of Disneyland Paris' Frontierland, featuring a ruined version of the Railroad station and a grotesque version of the Lucky Nugget. Several characters appear here in animatronic version, including Diamond Lil, and the Mayor of Thunder Mesa. The Mayor's audio is recycled from the Paul Frees' Ghost Host dialogue from the stateside Mansions; the Mayor's body is that of the Dreamfinder, and as he talks, he removes his head.

Toward the end of Phantom Canyon, the Guests pass an open grave, with the Phantom standing over it. The Doom Buggies go under a representation of the exterior of the Manor, showing that we are now entering its basement, which holds the wine cellar.

The Buggies then pass another skeletal version of Melanie, in front of a dazzling light. This is the equivalent space where, in Haunted Mansion, we see the hitch-hiking ghosts.

We then turn a corner and pass mirrors. In the Mansion, we see the hitch-hikers again, riding with us, whereas in the Manor-when the effect is working properly-we see the Phantom's head peering above each Buggy.

Come back next month for a comparison between the post-show sections, where Guests return to the world of the living.

With thanks to Sylvia Allison and Drew Vogel.

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