05 March 2012

A little matter I forgot to mention

If you’ve been reading the Main Street Gazette for any amount of time, you know I have a pretty positive outlook on things all around Walt Disney World. Sure, there is the occasional menu item I’m not a huge fan of, but generally I try to bring reason to the discussion about why Disney has done something or offer my ideas as to how make Walt Disney World even better. It is rare that I have something negative to say, and I hope today doesn’t come across as negative as much as concerned and being true to my own opinions.

If there is only one corner of the Magic Kingdom that has received the majority of attention over the past couple of years, and by attention I mean refurbishing and plussing, it would have to be the Haunted Mansion. From the revitalization of the attic scene with the infusion of the bride, Constance, and her tale, to the remodeling of the graveyard, new portrait hallway and stairways there has been a lot of change to this stately, deserted manor. One of the most recent changes came in the scene with the hitchhiking ghosts. The once static figures that found their way into your doombuggy were upgraded with the ability to interact with guests.The ghosts can now swap guests’ heads with one another, use a lantern to make the heads disappear, and a handful of other gags. Each time I have ventured on to the attraction since the latest addition, I have heard the giggles and hearty laughs at the antics of the Ezra, Phineas, and Gus. I’ll admit, I’ve laughed at them too, and I consider the imaging effects of my head much better than the butchering I take on Spaceship Earth, but ever since that first visit something has been itching in the back of my brain, and I finally think I’ve figured out what it is. The interactive element of the Haunted Mansion’s hitchhiking ghosts has inverted the party that gets to interact.

Let me explain. In the original format of the hitchhiking ghosts guests found a ghoulish figure has plopped itself into their doombuggy. For the remainder of that scene guests would scoot around on their seat in order to give the ghost some room, attempt to take the place of the ghost, or try to hug the ghost that has appeared. In the current version, guests remain static while the activity of playing with the ghost falls solely onto the shoulders of whichever spirit happens upon their ride vehicle. Sure, Ezra, Phineas, and Gus are more animated in their movements than they had been in the past, but I really feel the heart of this experience was always in how you, as guests, interacted with the ghosts, not the other way around.

I am all for integrating new technology into attractions and constructing new attractions based on the latest and greatest tools of interactivity. However, sometimes the simplest way to tell a story is, indeed, the best. I don’t foresee the Magic Kingdom reverted back to the original form of the hitchhiking ghosts based off of my, or any other person’s, opinion. In fact, I believe we have seen the end of the old finale once and for all. What I can hope is that my small voice is read somewhere, lingers in the back of someone’s mind, and the next time a simple story mechanic is considered for revision, the individual weighs the story as it is and what it could be before jumping in with both feet. Really, isn’t that all anyone can ask?


EvilQwn16 said...

Great post. I absolutely miss the old, simpler Hitchhiking Ghosts. I appreciate and respect Disney's desire to update attractions and keep them fresh, but this one just missed the mark for me. It changed the tone of the ride a little too much for my taste. I think your observations are spot on in this instance.

Rich T. said...

Excellent point. I'd been hoping the new effect would find its way to Disneyland's mansion, but after reading this post, I'd actually like to see DL keep the original version; I would miss the scooting around on the doombuggy seat and throwing an arm across the ghost's shoulders!

Still want the Escher stairs at DL, though. :)

Kollin said...

I agree. I just experienced the new ending for the first time and found it lacked a little something. I think you nailed down what that something was. On a different note, little known Disney fact: The Walt Disney Company never officially named te hitchhikers. Cast members started to use the names and they stuck.

Ryan P. Wilson said...

EvilQwn16 - The Mansion thrives in that space between darkness and comedy (and dark comedy), but I think this just leans a little to far away from the spirit of the Mansion.

Rich - You definitely want the stairs, it is probably my favorite of the new scenes added since 2007!

Kollin - Don't you hate it when you know something is out of place and can't figure out what it is?!?! I did know about the names, but thanks for throwing it out there for all of the readers who may not have known!