22 July 2013

Dead Center

Cast Members make all the difference in the world. They can be the one to quell the cries of a young child who, in their eagerness to devour their ice cream, unceremoniously plopped that ice cream onto the ground. They can send us into fits of giggles from their legendarily bad jokes as the ply the waterways of the globe. Even the simple act of recognizing our birthdays, which we blatantly advertise with buttons affixed to our chests, can go a long way towards creating some of the best memories of a trip. Of course, some of the roles Cast Members are given are epic feats of customer service with a malevolent grin.

Without a doubt you have figured out that I am talking about the Cast Members who make up the butler and maid staff of The Haunted Mansion. Wait, you thought I was speaking about the Bellhops of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror? Perhaps I was… In fact, I was speaking about both of them, and today I want to talk about what makes these roles great, how they are different from one another, and which ones I find more creepy and appealing.

Personality-wise, you would think that the butlers and maids have a lot in common with the bellhops, but there is actually quite a bit of distance between the two. The top tier butlers and maids of The Haunted Mansion have a much more metered performance. That is to say they personify the old world respectability that the position of a butler or a maid. They move and speak with easy, unassuming mannerisms, even when they are being delightfully frightening. On the flip side, the bellhops of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror can be more of loose cannons, never sure what might be the moment they go from quiet and pleasant to completely maniacal.

In my experience The Haunted Mansion’s maids and butlers seek to be disconcerting, but never overtly scary. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror’s bellhops, on the other hand, can at times go out of their way to make you shiver. They both, however, find a way to use a clever turn of the phrase to emphasize that you are in their world and that their world is filled with creepy corners, death and decay, and plenty of frights.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the fact that maids and butlers reside in the Magic Kingdom, a much more family-friendly environment. Even though their home in The Haunted Mansion is filled with scary imagery, the most terrifying point of the actual ride is when the doombuggies tilt back and descend from the house to the graveyard. Conversely, Disney’s Hollywood Studios is a park that seeks to attract teens and young adults, and the Hollywood Tower Hotel is in and of itself a heart-pounding experience from beginning to end. It is an attraction that is certainly not for the faint of heart or the young.

As a child, just the mention of The Haunted Mansion could send me into a tizzy, and much of that had to do with the creepy factor I found in the butlers and maids working at the attraction. As I grew older I began to love those same Cast Members, and wished I had what it took to be one of them. For the record, I don’t believe I could deliver those illustrious lines without cracking a smile and giving the joke away. As time went on the suspenseful nature of The Twilight Zone called to me, even before there was a Tower of Terror, just as it did with the films of Hitchcock or features like The Shining.

In the end, I think I am drawn more towards the bellhops of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. For starters, TJ, pictured in this article, may be my wife’s all-time favorite Cast Member. Plus I have a very good friend who was a bellhop once upon a time. In fact he was so good at the role of creepy bellhop, you can still see him in promotional materials from Walt Disney World from time to time. There is something about working in a Hollywood relic that is, quite literally, falling down around you, and when it is paired with the day and age of glitz and glamour it just resonates with me.

Should that take anything away from the truly iconic haunted house that employs the maids and butlers? Not in the slightest. They do an amazing job being completely creepy, when I am sure that most of them are precisely the opposite in their daily lives. I just happen to prefer my unsettling Cast Members with a side of sinister malice is all.

At the end of the day, whether you are a butler, bellhop, or maid, the Cast Members of The Haunted Mansion and The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror have one of the toughest jobs in all of Walt Disney World. They have to impart critical information about how an attraction’s traffic patterns flow, safety warnings, and give guests the care and service they deserve, but they have to do it in a manner in which they never let their eerie demeanor down. If you ask me, it’s a killer gig!


Unknown said...

Not sure if you're referencing the bellhop that was so prominient in the 90s promo TV show that highlighted the Tower of Terror but that guy was great. I remember going back shortly after that show aired and what bellhop ushered us into our service elevator but him! Very memorable and I can't think of a time when a cast member was so memorable than that!

Jenn said...

This is incorrect. The scariest part of the Haunted Mansion is the freakin' terrifying bride. Scares the bejeezus out of me! Always has. I think it's that stupid beating heart.

Unknown said...

Fear of elevators makes Tower of Terror the scariest ride ever. On one visit, no one would ride with me. I had avoided it all day and finally made it our last stop for the evening. I slowly walked in letting eager teens run past me. Once in queue to load, our bellhop looked the part but was seemingly distracted by some cute girls who were asking him to join us for the ride. I had taken a seat at the top of the stairs in the empty back row. The bellhop was blushing and quickly and nervously doing all his safety check duties. When he was done and about to leave us he looked at me and asked if I was OK. I was confused but said I was OK. He smiled and asked "Are you SURE you don't want to switch seats?" And with that he turned and walked away for the ride to begin. SCARIEST RIDE OF MY LIFE! All I could do was wonder why I should have changed seats! HM is one of my favorite rides ever but the CMs and Tower combo provide a very creepy, scary ride!