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WDI's X-Scream Makeover of WDW's Haunted Mansion: Part 2

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WDI's X-Scream Makeover of WDW's Haunted Mansion: Part 2

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Picking up where we left off yesterday ... Audio is obviously an important component of the Haunted Mansion. Yet how many times have you been on this Magic Kingdom favorite and had your ride-thru ruined because the attraction's soundtrack was playing intermittently? Where one moment you'd hear Paul Frees clear as a bell and the next you've got nothing but static coming out of the speakers inside of your Doom Buggy?

Previously, there wasn't really a whole lot that the Imagineers could do about this. You see, the in-car audio that you heard as you rode through the Haunted Mansion was received through this tiny little antennae that was attached to the bottom of your Omnimover. And as your ride vehicle moved through this show building ... Well, it would enter a specific show zone in the Haunted Mansion and then receive the signal for the soundtrack that should be played during that particular sequence. Which would then begin coming out of those three speakers that are stashed inside of your Doom Buggy.

Which was a pretty sophisticated audio system for the late 1960s / early 1970s. The only problem is -- given where the antennae was positioned on the bottom of these Omnimover cars -- this receiver regularly got the hell beaten out of it as your ride vehicle made its way through the Mansion. (This explains that brief bit of static that you'd always hear as your Doom Buggy was making its way backwards down along that steep incline from the Attic to the Graveyard. As your ride vehicle would first make its turn and then begin descending at that very odd angle, the antennae on the bottom of your Omnimover would invariably at some point scrap along the side of the ride track. Which would then send a burst of static out through your ride vehicle's on-board speakers.)

Anyway ... Given that people today are now used to hearing crystal-clear audio through the earbuds of their iPods, the Imagineers knew that it was high time that they upgraded the on-board audio that WDW guests experienced while they were riding in their Doom Buggies. Which is why they went ahead & acquired rPod (AKA RidePod) technology.

Powered by a new buss bar system that's been attached to the Haunted Mansion's Omnimover ride track, rPod technology represents a significant step forward in the type of on-board audio that's featured at the Disney theme parks. Now every single Doom Buggy delivers a top quality version of this attraction's soundtrack which is perfectly in sync with the actions that are going on right alongside the ride track.

What's more ... Given that the Mansion's Omnimover cars already featured three speakers, the Imagineers thought that they'd now try & take advantage of recent advances in audio technology. And -- through the clever use of cross fading -- attempt to make it sound as if the Ghost Host (just as he was doing back in the Mansion's Foyer and Portrait Gallery area) was now floating around the interior of your Doom Buggy. Which adds another level of eerie-ness to this already pretty spooktacular attraction.

Mind you, not all of the changes that were made to the Haunted Mansion's Omnimover system were designed to enhance the rider's experience. In some cases, the changes that were made alongside this ride track were actually done to help protect this 36-year-old attraction from some of the crazier members of the general public.

You see, even though WDW management never really likes to talk about this subject ... There are guests who like to get out of their ride vehicles at the Disney theme parks. People who -- in spite of what that safety spiel says (i.e. "Please keep your hands & arms inside the vehicle at all times") -- just can't help themselves. They have to get out of that log, bateaux or Omnimover and then go explore the environment that they're traveling through.

And when it comes to WDW's Haunted Mansion ... Well, while the Imagineers had set up a series on intrusion mats (Which -- when accidentally stepped on -- would then automatically shut down the entire attraction as well as making cast members aware of where exactly a guest had just exited a Doom Buggy), there were still lots of spots where WDW visitors could disembark in the dark and then go exploring. Walk through various set pieces, maybe even make it to the top of the Grand Staircase.

Of course, given how dangerous this practice was / is, Disney did everything that it could to stop guests from exiting their ride vehicle. Even going so far as to station cast members inside of the Haunted Mansion during after-hours events like Grad Nite & Night of Joy at known trouble spots. So that when teens -- who were typically responding to a dare from their friends -- would begin to climb out of their Doom Buggy, this WDW employee (who typically was hidden in the shadows) would then shine a flashlight on the would-be offender and loudly say "Please remain seated." Which was usually enough to prevent that teenager from going through with the dare.

The only problem is it cost money to put someone on dark duty (Which is what Mansion veterans call this keep-the-freaks-in-their-seats assignment during Grad Nite & Night of Joy) constantly. Which is why -- with the hope that these much-needed improvements would then make it that much more difficult to exit a Doom Buggy in mid-ride -- the Imagineers added a second set of intrusion mats to this Liberty Square attraction. Not to mention a brand new system of intrusion beams which -- once broken -- will also automatically shut down the Omnimover system.

Mind you, these new intrusion mats & beams aren't the only additional safety features that have been folded into the Mansion during its most recent rehab. If you'll keep a keen eye out as your Doom Buggy travels down the Corridor of Doors, you'll notice that the green "Emergency Exit" sign that used to really stick out in this part of the show building has now been replaced by a much more recessed version of that same sign. Which will then glows bright red should an emergency situation ever actually arise and WDW guests then need to leave the Mansion ASAP.

All this ... Plus the many changes that were made to this Magic Kingdom favorite's off-load area. Which now make it that much easier (more importantly, safer) for physically challenged & differently abled theme park guests to experience this signature Disney World attraction. Like I said in the first installment of this series, there are lots of changes that have been made to the Mansion that your typical WDW vacationer won't (and -- to be honest -- probably shouldn't) notice. But given that a number of these changes have made this Liberty Square attraction a lot easier for operate (Not to mention safer for WDW guests to experience), it's a good thing that WDI actually made them.

Okay. Enough talking about the enhancements that were made to the Haunted Mansion's Omnimover system. Why don't we climb into a Doom Buggy and go see what the revamped version of this dark ride looks like?

Speaking of dark ... As you board your ride vehicle here in the Entrance Hallway, you may notice that some of the paintings that used to hang in the earlier version of the Portrait Corridor are now on display in the attraction's on-load area. And -- yes -- the Imagineers know that these paintings aren't properly lit yet. Which is why so few WDW guests even notice that they're there.

Give WDI some time, folks. In the months ahead (Before Imagineering finally officially hands the Haunted Mansion back over to Operations in January of 2008), the Imagineers will continue to tweak this Liberty Square attraction. And one of the plusses that is still supposedly in the works is a new low-level lightning system for those four eyes-that-follow-you-wherever-you-go paintings that now hang in the Entrance Hallway.

From here, our Doom Buggy takes us through the newly revamped version of the Portrait Corridor. Which now features four of the pictures that hang in Disneyland's Portrait Corridor. Which undergo a transformation whenever lightning flashes in the windows to your left.

Next comes the Library. Where -- if you'll look close -- you'll notice that there's a book on the table that's entitled "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas." Now some Disneyana fans have chosen to interpret this new volume as well as the other references to Jack Skellington that were added to the Mansion as a part of its most recent rehab (There are a total of four of these now in the revamped version of this dark ride. I'll reveal where the other three "Nightmare" references are in future installments of this series) as sort of a coming attraction for the Walt Disney World version of that extremely popular Disneyland seasonal attraction, "Haunted Mansion Holiday."

Well, far be it from me to tick off all of you Tim Burton fans out there. But I have it on good authority that Phil Holmes -- Disney World's Vice President in charge of the Magic Kingdom -- just hates "Haunted Mansion Holiday." And Phil's reportedly told Disney Parks & Resort execs that as long as he's in charge of that theme park that Disneyland's seasonal redo of the Haunted Mansion will not be coming to the Magic Kingdom.

To be fair, I guess I should point out that Mr. Holmes actually began his career with the Walt Disney Company 36 years ago as a ride operator at WDW's Magic Kingdom. And given that Phil supposedly spent many happy hours working at the Haunted Mansion ... Well, I guess you can understand why this longtime Disney World cast member might have a sentimental attachment to the original version of the Mansion and wouldn't want to see that dark ride ruined by having Tim Burton's creepy characters take over that Liberty Square attraction for four months out of every year.

Mind you, Mr. Holmes wasn't so emotionally attached to the original version of the Haunted Mansion that he wouldn't then allow the Imagineers to make other changes to this much beloved dark ride. Which we'll discuss in greater detail in tomorrow's installment of JHM's "X-Scream Makeover" series.

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  • So does this really mean that wheelchairs and scooters can see the stretching room before being side-tracked through a side corridor to the exit area for doombuggy loading?

    I do know the main load area has no room at all for the chairs, but was unaware that the queue area outside was the real problem for why they loaded up the exit ramp (and missed the stretch).

    It'll make my wife very happy (she has a rollator walker we take to the parks every time we go so she doesn't have to stay standing all day long - the fatigue of that is exaggerated by MS).

  • Every single time I have been in the Haunted Mansion the ride has stopped... could this be due to errent guests?  Or is there a myriad of reasons the Omnimover stops?  I know that at the Disneyland version the glass that seperates the guests from the ballroom scene was cracked by some jerk who thought it would be funny to kick it while the ride was stopped.  

    We live in a very different time...

  • Actually, most of the stops are due to either difficulties or pauses required to get disabled people into the buggies requiring more time than the 30 seconds that the moving platform gives.

    Others are simply due to too many people, usually kids, running onto the moving platform at load time and filling it up with more kids than room in the buggies.  Again, the limitations of the moving platform and the amount of time it gives before you run out of space.

  • Good job

  • Awesome follow-up, Jim! As a certified Mansion nut, I am LOVIN' this series!

    Oh, and I also LOVE Mr. Holmes, because I saw HMH at DL and I thought it SUCKED. I hate NBC and I hated that overlay. I hope it never comes to WDW.

    Interesting stuff about folks climbing out of their cars. I'll be honest ... I know it's wrong ... but I often find myself overwhelmed by the urge to bolt and run around the mansion myself, so I can sympathize to a degree.

    Unlike some other folks, though, I've never given in to the temptation. I'm still waiting for them to offer walking tours, though. ;)

  • Imagineering did not invent the rpod. They bought it from these guys;

    http://www.skeng.com/SKE%20Products.html

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