Saturday, November 28, 2015

Phantom Manor-Disneyland Paris-Behind The Story

Location: Disneyland Paris
Area  Frontierland   Opening date  April 12, 1992
Audio-Animatronics 92  Manufacturer  Vekoma

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 Gather a little “Pixie Dust” from Tinker Bell and fly to Disneyland Paris to visit Phantom Manor.

Based on the original design of the Haunted Mansion, Disney has four dark ride attractions. There are three Haunted Mansions (one each in Disneyland, Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom, and Tokyo Disneyland), and there is Phantom Manor in Disneyland Paris, which opened in 1992.

Mystic Manor- Hong Kong Disneyland
Unlike Disneyland's Haunted Mansion attraction and the Disney parks, Mystic Manor has a lighthearted, fantasy-based theme. It is a dark ride attraction, in the Mystic Point section of Hong Kong Disneyland. There are no references to departed spirits or the afterlife, due to differences in traditional Chinese culture

Join Joan and me as we travel to Disneyland Paris to explore Phantom Manor.

A Darker Premise

 The Disneyland Paris attraction contains material of a darker, more graphic nature than any of the Haunted Mansions do.

Phantom Manor takes the DisneylandHaunted Mansion” to another level. It sets the mood with sound and music in a more dramatic fashion. In the Phantom Manor, the decay of death is on full display.  Examples include:  a restless spirit tries to wrestle its way out of a moldering casket; the Phantom can be seen digging a fresh grave; being exposed to the Phantom and his corruptible, mortal state when we encounter him beyond the catacombs; the Phantom as he threatens to pull you into the afterlife near the end of the ride experience;

Research Books and Articles:
Designing Phantom Manor at Disneyland Paris by Alain Littaye
Disneyland Paris from Sketch to Reality  Didier Ghez (Author)
Over the past two months, I have discovered many articles, web resources and books about “Phantom Manor”. Hours were spent exploring the great artwork and images.   I have included an excerpt of Didier Ghez’s words. Didier was the one who wrote all of the captions and text of the book, Disneyland Paris from Sketch to Reality.

In Disneyland Paris, the center of Frontierland is Big Thunder Mountain. 
Excerpts from Didier's text: "...As we continue to follow the story of Thunder Mesa, the town that surrounds Big Thunder Mountain, we stumble upon a rather frightful domicile—what might be considered the second scene of this “grand western”—the terrifying haunted house known as Phantom Manor.

So who is Henry Ravenswood?

Mr. Ravenswood was the wealthy owner of the Thunder Mesa Mining Company, the company that, so the story goes, operates the Big Thunder mine. Like many entrepreneurs who made their fortunes in this era, he built a mansion out West, inspired by the architecture of San Francisco—a style that certainly stood out in this little mining town.

Let’s go behind the story and then ride the attraction, “Phantom Manor”
I discovered many elements in this new storyline and uncovered a number of intriguing insights. I have included the credits and references at the end of the post of those who assisted me.

“Phantom Manor” takes the "scream, bump, jump 'n' boo",  dark ride to the extreme, giving the fun house concept a facelift to the Nth power.  Phantom Manor goes a step in a different direction, bringing a cohesive storyline to the table with gruesome and graphic images in the attraction ride.

The Disney Imagineers created the back story about Frontierland being built from 1849 to 1890.  Henry Ravenswood (1795-1860), founded the Thunder Mesa Mining Company. He was a Western settler who struck gold in Big Thunder Mountain and created the city of Thunder Mesa (Frontierland).

Big Thunder Mountain and the gold mine, happened to be regarded by the “The Shoshoni's Indians”, as a sacred place.  It was believed, that anyone who would disturb the Thunder Bird god that protects it, would endure its wrath.

Thanks to the gold mine, Henry Ravenswood became rich and built himself a Victorian manor high on Boot Hill overlooking Big Thunder Mountain. Phantom Manor sits at the edge of Thunder Mesa, in the well-to-do part of town. 

In its heyday, the Manor was a truly wonderful residence. But over the years the house fell into ruin.

A dilapidated house inside a Disney park?  It was an idea that Walt Disney had always rejected for Disneyland. The Imagineers designed the exterior of Phantom Manor to send the message that it has fallen into decay and that something mysterious might be waiting inside.
Imagineer Jason Surrell said “French officials, weren't interested in a wholesale reproduction of Disney's American parks."

Henry Ravenswood raised a family and had a daughter, Melanie Ravenswood (born 1842).

 Melanie grew into a lovely young girl despite her brash, overly protective father who forbade her to leave the Manor or its grounds to venture into town and socialize.

Melanie became engaged to a train engineer who planned to take her far away from Thunder Mesa, much to the dismay of Henry. Henry did everything he could to stop the wedding.

  In 1860 tragedy struck the Ravenswood family in 1860 when a terrible earthquake hit Thunder Mesa. Henry Ravenswood was crushed by falling timbers. One month later, his wife Martha, also perished due to her weak heart. 
 The attraction

The Phantoms presence is first made aware just inside the gates of the attraction. "The Phantom Awaits".

A cast member dressed as a ghoulish servant opens the doors and invites guests into the foyer of the mansion.

A chilling voice of the Phantom sounds from around the room, politely welcoming guests, telling them the Legend of this place, and inviting them to explore the Manor further. 

Melanie's face fades in and out of the smallest mirror during the commentary.


Guests then enter an octagonal room with four portraits of a young Melanie, pictured in more felicitous times.

The stretching portraits are quite different from Marc Davis' original concepts seen in the Haunted Mansion

Revealing Melanie is in some haunting situations including:

·       having a picnic with her boyfriend as ants, along with a rattlesnake, scorpion, spider and beetle raid their food,

·       riding a boat about to go down a vertical waterfall,

·       picking roses from above a tombstone while a skeletal zombie emerges from the ground,

·       gripping a small rake in one hand, and wading through a small stream as an aquatic monster reaches for her foot.

On Melanie's wedding day, a mysterious Phantom unknown to anyone appeared at the manor. No one really knows who the Phantom is and what happened next, so I’ll leave this part of the story to your imagination.

 While Melanie was preparing in her room, the Phantom lured her suitor up to the attic where he hanged him by the neck from the rafters.

 The floor is lowered and the ceiling is raised slowly at the same time to provide the stretching illusion. This serves the double purpose of both dramatic effect and also bringing guests down from the Manor to where the actual ride begins at real ground level in a separate warehouse-style show building behind the berm,

 Octagonal Portrait Gallery is a cleverly disguised OTIS elevator.

Notice as you exit the elevator, how the lane narrows to form the queue for loading the ride vehicles.

Guests walk along the corridor to transition riders from the Manor to the ride vehicles.

At the end of the hallway stands a large portrait of Melanie Ravenswood, wearing her bridal gown.

 Guests then turn a corner and enter the loading area.  Look above the loading area. A large hall with the Grand Staircase leading to the upper floor. You can see a ghostly, foggy landscape with flashes and bolts of lightning through the huge window above the stairs

Guests board the carriages, each accommodating two to three persons, and then move upwards into a dark space…….
,  past a young Melanie bowing to passing guests while holding a candelabra, singing the entire time.
End part One
 Part 2 next post- Dec. 15-2015  -   Be sure to “Hurry Back”

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Friday, October 30, 2015

Disney Ultimate Collector Trading Cards

My New Journey
When it comes to Disney souvenirs, I am always looking for the unique and unusual. Joan and I have collected many things over the years from our DVC vacations. We enjoy each of our “finds” and enjoy collecting.  Every once in a while we discover NEW opportunities for treasures in each park or resort.

I was heading over to the Magic Kingdom Park on the "Friendship Boat" from Disney’s Wilderness Lodge.  My phone dinged with a new post  on Facebook from a friend that said:

 ( Thank you to for use of their image)

"Dr. Howie-I was in line for the monorail at the Contemporary with a bag full of monorail memorabilia I just purchased at the Contemporary shops.  One of the monorails cast members walks up to me looking at my bag and jokingly says, “So, what’d you buy me?”.  I told him how I love monorails and collect the die-cast monorails.  He asked me if I collect the cards…. “Cards?” I said what cards? …. He said, “Wait here…” He came back with the ENTIRE SET of 12 monorail cards and handed them to me and said, “I only do this once a month to people who obviously love monorails, and you’re my once a month.”….. Magic!!! "

( Thank you to for use of their image)
I had no idea what the Facebook post was talking about.  Cards?  Transportation?  Since I was on the boat, I asked the cast member if he had any information about "Transportation cards".  He shared the details and encouraged me to start collecting the cards.  He then reached into his pocket and gave me card # 11 of the 26 cards.

Then I found this:
Amy said: ( from )
"Because we love all the modes of Disney transportation, we often talk to the drivers/captains if time allows. This is how we first became aware of the Transportation cards. During one of our chats with a friendly bus driver he handed us a collector card of a bus. When we asked what it was, he told us there were more to be collected, and all we had to do was ask the bus drivers and boat and monorail captains for them. We were instantly hooked on this new mission of collecting these free souvenirs that not everyone knew about."


If you have never heard of these cards, you can collect them at Walt Disney World as you travel on different types of transportation.  The Transportation Cards first appeared in 2006. 

There are three series of these cards. Each card is color coordinated, has a picture on the front of the specific transportation vessel, has a character icon, with numbers and contains some trivia on the back.


They are FREE, but very limited. To get a card just ask your driver, pilot or captain.  It is up to the transportation drivers/captains/pilots whether they carry them or not. To collect a whole set, you have to do a lot of asking. Each type of transportation only carries that kind of card; for example bus drivers only carry bus cards and boat captains only carry boat cards.

If they have any, they will be happy to share. Just ASK!

  On my last trip, I discovered that you can also ask for the cards from the Ticket and Transportation Center, transportation buildings, and the cast members who work at your resort’s transportation loading areas.

SERIES Details:  Series One (
Included eighteen cards, which were available from 2006 through 2010. The set consisted of 3 buses, 3 boats, and 12 monorail cards. Since you can no longer get the Series One cards, I decided to search on e-Bay. This is what turned up in the search.


Disney Transportation Cards Series Two  (2009)  

Consisted of 25 cards: 3 buses, 10 boats, and 12 monorails.  My research indicated that this is a very hard set to collect that include the original cards, which are now referred to as 1st edition.  In 2012, the " Grand Yacht One" card was re-released, with a notice that it is referred to as 2nd edition.
These cards are ONLY handed out by the cast members assigned to each of the transportation vehicles listed below.  Card  #25 was made, but pulled because of a typo and because the monorail was involved in an accident and removed from service.

Disney Transportation Cards Series Three   (2013)
This set contains 26 cards: 3 buses, 11 boats, and 12 monorails. Series Three is still being distributed by some drivers/captains/pilots, but are in limited supply.

Thank you to for the images

Disney Transportation Cards Series Four   (2015)
Series 4 is due in 2015,  but has not been received by the drivers/captains/pilots I have spoken with.  It appears to be one of the best-kept secrets of when they will be available.  

 Looks like a research trip to WDW is to solve this mystery.  Hmmm ..What was the phone number of my Disney travel agent?

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Part 2: My day with Walt Disney

Part 2 My day with Walt
 "Let's get lunch" Walt said.   END PART 1t

1:12: PM- May 24, 2014
I walked up to the Cast Member Jen, who was standing at the entrance to "Be Our Guest, Restaurant",  and asked if I could get a table for Walt and Me. She politely explained ADR and said I could wait in the queue, and the wait time would be about 65 minutes.  Walt walked up to Jen and whispered in her ear, " Marc Davis " (one of the seven secret words again). Jen did a triple take when she realized who was with me and said, "This way to Club 71, Mr. Disney."

Walt said, "I would rather dine in the "West Wing", with the other guests if you don't mind" ,he said to Jen. I wondered why he preferred the large dining room instead of the private club, and I was soon to discover why.

The restaurant is located underneath the mysterious castle (home to Beast from “Beauty and the Beast”) in the new Fantasyland.  You pass through an old gateway to a stone bridge and through wrought-iron gates with six beastly figures that remind you of the story of the Beast’s transformation.

There are three locations to dine in, including elaborately themed rooms straight out of the favorite Disney film. As a Guest, you are invited to relax and pull up a chair in the mysterious West Wing, the Rose Gallery or the grand 2-story Ballroom.

Walt and I talked about the "Beauty and the Beast" film and now sitting in the restaurant, Walt said, "When we consider a project, we really study it--not just the surface idea, but everything about it. And when we go into that new project, we believe in it all the way. We have confidence in our ability to do it right. And we work hard to do the best possible job."

As Walt was talking with Cast Member April, my mind flashed back to a conversation that Jeff Dixon (Author of  Key to the Kingdom and Unlocking the Kingdom) and I had a few months back.  Jeff and I were talking about "Walt Disney and the Art of Storytelling."

"Walt Disney knew and understood how to tell a good story. He told stories that people would remember, talk about, and many of them became classics. Walt wanted to do whatever it took to tell the story the best he possibly could," Jeff said.

As I looked around the room, the story started to unfold before me.
Just then, Belle and the Beast passed by our table and  7 year old princess Christian said, "Mom, this is like being in the movie.” Walt overheard the mom say, "I can say this was my most magical experience in the Magic Kingdom. What magic! "

Walt listened to the Guests at the next table as "Uncle Jack," said "Wow! What an amazing feeling to walk into the Beauty and Beast Castle!  Beautifully done. Amazing food, spectacular atmosphere, great service!”

I noticed a Cast Member and a chef at the table behind us. As they finished their conversation, Walt turned around and asked the family what they thought of the "Be Our Guest, Restaurant."
Mimi introduced herself and her family to Walt, and I and she shared her story with us.

"First off, our server Allen and Chef Richard are gems in Disney's crown. Our daughter has many food allergies, which generally means she is stuck with a healthy, but bland meal when we go out. It is always about what she CAN'T have. Allen said "Not tonight!" and told us of the possibilities; then he went to find Chef Richard. Chef Richard laid out the options to our daughter, Ava. Here was her one-of-a-kind, allergen-free meal: A sparkling lemonade with Wild berry foam, fresh, hot dinner rolls, garden salad with balsamic vinaigrette, pasta with butter sauce and lemon sorbet for dessert! Ava said that for the first time, she felt like she didn't have allergies.   As she told the story, her husband Brandon was in tears to hear her daughter say that.  Brandon continued, "The fact that both my wife's meal and mine were delicious, the atmosphere was fantastic & service was superb paled in comparison. Thank you Allen, Chef Richard & Walt Disney World for that magical experience for my daughter!"

Walt turned to me and said, "We want our Cast Members to focus on providing our Guests with the best experience possible.  Disney service is the gold standard for every business.  Our Cast Members are taught to anticipate the needs of the park's guests, just like Mimi, Brandon and Ava."

2:29 PM- May 24, 2014
As we finished lunch, Walt stood up and walked around the West Wing, the Rose Gallery and then the Grand 2-story Ballroom.  He looked at me and said, "Do what you do so well that they will want to see it again and bring their friends."  As we walk out of the ballroom, I am in awe of the real life stories that just played out before me with the Guests, Cast Members and Walt.

After our lunch, we walked towards Cinderella's Golden Carrousel in the Magic Kingdom (now renamed to  Prince Charming Regal Carrousel). I asked Walt to reflect back on the dream of Disneyland and his two daughters.  I wanted to know how he created the old classic attraction 50 years ago and why they still grab the attention of a young child and mesmerize them today.

3:17 PM - May 24, 2014

Walt stopped at the "Carousel" and sat down on a bench. He paused for a moment as he watched the children and their families laugh, smile and play together.

 "You know," he said, " think about the classic attractions like, Dumbo the Flying Elephant (1955; Peter Pan's Flight (1955; Disneyland Railroad (1955; It's a small world (1966; The Haunted Mansion (1969; Pirates of the Caribbean (1967; and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad (1979.   “Part of the Disney success is our ability to create a believable world of dreams that appeals to all age groups. The kind of entertainment we create is meant to appeal to every member of the family.

He stood up and pointed to the "Seven Dwarfs Mine Train."  "I really believe that whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.

Walt continued, "When I was dreaming and designing Disneyland, I believed that I would need to give the people everything you can give them. Keep the place as clean as you can.  Keep it friendly, you know. Make it a real fun place to be. I think they will be convinced and I think it will hang on."

My mind and emotions got the best of me.  What do I say?  I am sitting here with Walt Disney. As I watch the families all having fun and creating memories together, I looked at him, turned my palms upward, spread my arms and said,  Walt, this is it, your dream came true.”

I turned around to ask Walt where he wanted to go next...He was gone! I heard a Guest say, "That looked like Walt Disney...Nah couldn't be.." Or could it?  Was I dreaming?  Did all of this happen? 

Hmm mm, I used my "Smart Phone", and typed "Time Travel-fact or fiction"?

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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My Day With Walt Disney

My Day With Walt Disney
(Part 1 of 2)
  September 16, 2015

Jeff Dixon is a "Disney Author", a GREAT storyteller and my friend. He has written three books; "The Key To The Kingdom", “Storming The Kingdom” and "Unlocking The Kingdom".
I turned the page and then my mind drifted……  It must be true. There it was, right on page 258 in Jeff Dixon's Book "The Key To The Kingdom". "Grayson Hawkes stood in front of the "Cryonic Suspension Cylinder". Dr. James Bedford was the first to be "Suspended" in 1965, and so the urban legend goes that Walt Disney desired to have his body frozen. "
"Yes Hawk, you have the key to the lock on the chamber and the "Kingdom". This is the key that unlocks the rest of the "Kingdom". Would Hawk place the key into to lock and bring Walt back to life? You will have to read the book to find out.
 As I finished Jeff's first book, I asked myself the question: "If Walt Disney came back today, where would I take him in Walt Disney World", to show him how his dream has continued for the past 60 years.

 June, 1959
Nice start to a summer job. Chuck Corson, told us, “Boys, if you can climb it, the job is yours.”   Dick Erb and Chuck Wilks were on their break in the hidden room at the top of the structure.
(Photo credit : by Paul F. Anderson : Disney History Institute

They were talking about their next climb when the door opened and in walked "Yensid". "Mornin boys" he said. He seemed very focused on heading down the hall and then quickly disappeared into the elevator. Under his arm was a box labeled "2021-VR" (Virtual Reality)
"That was strange", said Dick. "There are only 9 of us that know about this break room and the elevator."

What Dick and Chuck did not know, was that the contents of the box included secret development tools and future technologies the "Imagineers" were developing for 2021, the 50th anniversary of Walt Disney World.
6:32: May 22, 2014
Walt Disney placed his "Magic Glass Headset" on his head and said "Glass on." A map of the Walt Disney World Property displayed on his screen. The time travel was quick but always takes his breath away each time he does it. Under his arm was a box labeled "2014-VR".

This was his first trip to Walt Disney World and he needed to store the contents of the box in "Walt's Vault". He disembarked the monorail and headed to the MagicKingdomPark. As he entered the park he placed his "D23 Headband" on and passed through the secure "Optical Turnstiles" He turned right at the hub and headed to "TomorrowLand". The park would not open for another 30 minutes so he had time to store the contents of the "2014-VR" box inside SpaceMountain, sphere #1975-11. He removed 4 items from the box and placed them in his coat pocket.

A Model B-201 Audio-annimatronics was at the door marked AB-1975. Walt presented his "Century Magic Pass" as the B-201 did a retina scan and then the door opened. Walt said, “As Built-1975” and the blueprints displayed on his virtual display. He turned right and then up the stairs heading to sphere #1975-11.
(Photo courtesy of Howie DiBlasi – Inside Space Mountain-Lights ON)

He placed the contents of the box in the cylinder, secured the time lock and cod, thne headed out of the park and back to the Monorail station.

Next stop : Disney's Contemporary Resort.
7:00 AM: May 22, 2014

I meet Walt Disney at Disney's Contemporary Resort. My goal today is to share with Walt, places at Walt Disney World that would emphasize:
Family Fun; Children being happy; Storytelling; Characters; Evolving Technology; Community; Cast Members; True Life Adventures; Park Benches; Dining and Imagineers.

As we board the Monorail, I notice a twinkle in his eye, while he observes excited families that are heading to the "MagicKingdom". The monorail passes the Polynesian Resort and he smiles. As we round the next bend, he grabs his "Smart Phone" and takes a photo of Disney's "Grand Floridian Resort" and winks at me.

We exit the Monorail at the MagicKingdom and head to the entrance. He displays his "CenturyMagicPass" and we walk down "Main Street". As we walk towards the "CrystalPalace" for breakfast, he stops and sits down on a bench. "When I was growing up some of my favorite memories as a boy were in "Marceline Missouri." Thirty minuets later..."Let's get some breakfast."

Walt had a "ADR" (Advanced Dining Reservation) for 8:05 and the cast member guided us towards our table. The characters had just started the “friendship parade” around the tables and then I noticed the line with kids and characters changed direction towards our table. As Walt stood and watched, every character and child gave Walt a "High FIVE' as they passed. At this point I lost it. I mean, what kid wouldn’t want to march around and be friends with Winnie The Pooh, Tiger and Walt Disney?! As a tear rolled down my face, I realized the day had just started.

 TY to for the photo

 8:07 AM: May 22, 2014
As we walked towards the "Walt Disney World Railroad, Train Station", Walt located a park bench and sat down. Forty-five minutes later, I had a history lesson from Walt on his love for trains.

 TY for the photo credit to:
 We headed towards the "Lilly Belle" train and Walt stops to visit with the Disney engineer. As if by magic, Walt Called out "All aboard". As the train headed toward the "New Fantasyland ", I notice Walt's ear to ear grin.
Stepping off the train, Walt picked up a scrap piece of paper on the ground and placed it in a trash can. (Old habits never pass).

 Walt reached into one of his pockets and then handed me a new device that the "Imagineers" had just developed called "Magic Glass" and taught me how to wear them and adjust them.

He then placed his headset on and said "Display New Fantasyland". A map appeared in front of me as a "Hologram". It was so real, I reached out to touch it and did not realize it was interactive. I had touched the "Icon" of the New "Seven Dwarfs Mine Train" attraction". Walt said, "Concept art" and in front of us was the concept art for the attraction. As Walt called out, "Imagineers, Interactive Queue, Storyboard, Pitch, Costs, Engineering, Audio-Animatronics, they appeared as 3-D Holograms. I did not realize I had stopped dead in my tracks. There were 14 people all staring at me.

Walt said "Wait time- "Seven Dwarfs Mine Train"?". We started walking and in the next 4 minutes we were at the entrance. Walt whispered something to the "Lead Cast Member", Denise. We were directed to the front of the queue and loaded into a Mine-Train car. As we waited, I asked Walt what he whispered to the cast member.

He said, "Arrow Development".

Most guests do not know that Arrow is the company that Walt used to design the first tubular coaster at Disneyland called the "Matterhorn". There are 7 secret code words that cast members must remember for special guests. They learn them in the "Traditions Class" whereas new cast members they are taught the heritage that they are stepping into.

WATCH For PART 2 on September 30 -2015

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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Links for the week of Aug 10-2015

Links for the week of Aug 10-2015

LIVE: Students Are Being Engaged in Robotics and Coding thanks to WonderWorkshop |

iPad App Review: iCanConduct is a Great Tool For Teaching Pulse and Rhythm To Young Musicians |...  

NEW BLOG POST: My Day at Google: Lesson Plan Jam Reflection at  

A Guide To Student Led Conferences:

This would be so cool to do in my Exploring Computer Science Class .org