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Sunday, August 26, 2007

Imagineering on the WDW Haunted Mansion updates

Death Becomes Them

Like its counterpart in Anaheim, the Haunted Mansion at the Walt Disney World Resort's Magic Kingdom will be getting some new magic when it re-opens in September, after its current refurbishment is completed. But make no mistake, warns a team of spirited Imagineers, this is no typical touch-up-the-paint-and-remove-(okay, add)-the-cobwebs project.

"To call this a refurbishment doesn't even come close," says WDI senior principal production designer Neil Engel. "We're taking a classic attraction and using new technologies to present the existing, signature show in a more exciting and immersive way — which has us just as jazzed as the guests will be!"

The Haunted Mansion Imagineering team is hard at work in both California and Florida, getting ready to add new magic to several key scenes, including the attic scene (complete with the now-infamous bride whose husbands always seem to get the ax … ) and the séance scene. They're also adding a completely new story to a previously
dead space and upgrading the attraction's audio, lighting and special effects systems.

"With a project like this, it's so exciting knowing that you are going into and touching a classic attraction," says Kathy Rogers, senior show producer, director. "And in the end, the show winds up even better than it already was; we know it will remain a classic."

It's All in the Details
A portion of this refurbishment involves re-propping a few key scenes, such as the attic. But locating items that clearly and quickly tell the story of the perfect murder(s), as well as pieces to complement a mid-19th century Southern motif, isn't as simple as heading to the closest Ikea.

"The challenge has really been finding the right prop and period dressing that tells the story you want to tell," says Steve Probus, set decorator, principal. "We're looking for mid- to late-1800s furniture, books, drapery and a multitude of props and dressing that convey information about each of the couples that have inhabited the mansion. In addition, we want to add an extra layer of props for more depth in the scenes."

One Step Beyond
The other components that will give new life (of sorts) to these scenes are a few key special effects that will be updated during the refurbishment. Both the floating Madame Leota head and the Haunted Bride, two characters whose latest technological incarnations debuted at Disneyland, have been upgraded even further for their reappearance in the Magic Kingdom.

"The Haunted Bride special effects are an improved version of what we installed a few years earlier in Disneyland," says Ken Horii, digital media production supervisor, director. "R&D had done a great job with that last bride, making her look like a lifelike-looking ghost, as much as that is possible, anyway! And so this time, we wanted to take it one step further."

Stairway to … ?
If all of that isn't enough to raise the dead in eager anticipation of the Haunted Mansion's resurrection, Imagineers are also installing an entirely new scene into a previously uninhabited space … and taking that space in a few new directions.

"I think I'm most excited to see the staircase scene when it's finished," says Eric Jacobson, senior vice president, Creative. "We haven't seen it before and it adds something completely new to the ride, in a space where there wasn't really anything before. But there is just so much to this refresh — it really is the sum of the parts. The whole ride will be enhanced and end up better than before."

As part of Imagineering's commitment to enhancing classic attractions around the world, the new magic that this team is spreading to the Haunted Mansion is sure to be something Magic Kingdom guests will be dying to see.

(c) Disney


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really dislike the changes made to The Haunted Mansion (which I will to as "THM" throughout this comment). I was just there a few days ago; however, in the past, since I lived close to Anaheim, I used to go more than once a year. I noticed, first of all, that the lighting is much brighter. I read somewhere that somebody complained about the dark atmosphere because they might "fall down" -- so, thanks for ruining it for everybody else!! Now when you get on the cars in the loading area, it doesn't have the same creepy feeling. Also, I noticed that April/December is gone, and a picture of Gracey that morphs is up there (I don't recall this portrait ever existed in THM before?) I also noticed that they changed the morphing of the "Panther Lady." Now she morphs into a sort of lioness. I don't think these are good changes, and I'm sure some of these changes were done due to politically-correct notions. I thought that the Panther Lady was much more spooky. I wonder if they changed her because her skin colour turned too dark or something? Who knows what ridiculous reason was used to justify these absurd changes. I also did not like the new Bride sequence. I guess again, they thought the "jilted bride" was outdated, but to me, this is classic Gothic atmospherics. Changing the bride to a psychotic killer is trying to appease to the crowds who are used to slasher films and the like. This isn't spooky Gothic horror in the traditional THM sense. I also did not like that Leona is spinning about in the air. Why? What could possibly be the reason for having to do this, so that everyone doesn't miss seeing her? I don't get it. There are other changes I might mention, but these are the main ones that bothered me. Also, I do not like The Nightmare Before Christmas and I wish they'd get rid of it. I hate the store too. Everytime I want to buy some real THM merchandise, all they have is crappy Tim Burton toys and shirts. And of course, most people succumb to this and buy the stuff without thinking. For some reason, I also thought that the ride was much shorter this time, and I usually go at least once a year, so maybe there is something up with that?

--Wendy Koenigsmann

8:41 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excuse the typos please . . . in my last comment, first paragraph, I meant to say:

I really dislike the changes made to The Haunted Mansion (which I will REFER to as "THM" throughout this comment). I was just there a few days ago; however, in the past, since I lived close to Anaheim . . .

(I actually lived in Anaheim, not near it.)

8:45 AM  

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