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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