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A PC Haunted Mansion ?! Now that's scary

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A PC Haunted Mansion ?! Now that's scary

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Forget about "Grim Grinning Ghosts." Get ready for "Prim, we-don't-mean-to-offend-anyone Ghosts."

That's the word coming out of Glendale these days. Reportedly in response to guest complaints about goofy but ghoulish lines like "Drag your wretched bodies to the dead center of the room," the Imagineers will soon be revamping the script for the Haunted Mansion. Deliberately changing lines that Disney cast members on both coasts have said for almost 40 years now in favor of less objectional material.

"Why make this change now?," you ask. Truth be told, those macabre remarks that all of those "butlers" and "maids" have made to Disneyland & Walt Disney World guests over the years were never actually scripted. They were just ad-lib lines that got laughs that -- over time -- then became the pro forma dialogue used in the Foyer and the Portrait Gallery.

Well, that's all about to change. According to my sources at WDI, in order to prevent squeamish guests from being offended by semi-improv-ed remarks like "Please follow the blood red carpet into the Foyer," the Imagineers have now written an official script for the Mansion's entrance area. What's more, the cast members who work at both the Anaheim & Orlando versions of this attraction will soon supposedly be asked to attend acting classes. Where they will then be taught the official staging & blocking for this new script.

As you might imagine, once the news of this proposed change started making the rounds among Disney cast members who work at the Mansion, the grousing began. As one Disneyland vet put it:


Copyright 1964 Disney. All Rights Reserved

"Half the fun of working in the entrance area at the Mansion is that you got to play a character of your own devising. You could put a silly or sinister spin on the butler or the maid. It was all up to you. But now with this official script and the new blocking, that's all going to change. It won't be nearly as fun as it used to be to work at the Mansion."

Of course, Imagineering has an entirely different take on this tale. According to my guy in Glendale, this proposed change isn't about stifling cast members' creativity. But -- rather -- making sure that guests who visit the Disneyland & Walt Disney World versions of the Haunted Mansion get a consistent quality product. As he explained:

"First of all, please let your readers know that we're not touching anything that Paul Frees did for the Mansion. His Ghost Host will remain just as it always has. We'd never dream of touching that recording. It's a crucial component of what makes the Mansion so popular with Disney theme park guests.

As for this new script that we're putting together for the cast members ... It isn't so much that WDI is responding to specific guest comments about offensive material at the Mansion. It's more about 'plussing' the guest experience. Giving Disneyland & Walt Disney World visitors something entertaining & new to view as they move from the Mansion's Entrance Hallway through the Foyer into the Portrait Gallery.

Trust me. Once people hear the new script and see what the cast members are doing now, no theme park guest is ever going to complain again. They're just going to think that this is a clever addition to a classic Disney attraction."


Photo by Jeff Lange

Well, that's what the folks at 1401 Flower Street have to say about this proposed changes at the Mansion. As for the people in Ops who have to safely load a new group of guests into those stretching rooms every 90 seconds so that this attraction can then meet its 2400+-guests-an-hour target ... They're admittedly a little leery about all this talk of an official script for the Haunted Mansion's entrance area as well as classes to teach cast members new staging & blocking. They're worried that any changes made here could then have a significant negative impact on the smooth operation of Disneyland & Walt Disney World's Haunted Mansions.

"So when does this all actually go down?," you query. Sorry. I didn't mean to frighten you prematurely. I'm told that WDI will officially be handing the new script that they've written for the Mansion's Foyer over to the parks sometime later this month. What's more, Imagineering will then be sending an acting coach to both Disneyland and Walt Disney World to help teach cast members the staging & blocking for this new scene. Though that's not scheduled to happen 'til late January / early February.

So what you folks think? Does it bother you that you'll soon no longer be told to " ... drag your wretched bodies to the dead center of the room" ? Or are you genuinely looking forward to hearing the new comical remarks that WDI has cooked up for cast members to say?

More to the point, how do you feel about the idea that -- just because a handful of squeamish guests complained -- Walt Disney Imagineering then felt it was necessary to revamp the Haunted Mansion's script? Eliminating gags that have entertained Disneyland & Walt Disney World visitors for nearly 40 years now?

Your thoughts?

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  • That's no fun. I hope the script is not full of stupid jokes, jokes related to popular culture, or non-scary things.

  • <<"So what you folks think? Does it bother you that you'll soon no longer be told to " ... drag your wretched bodies to the dead center of the room"?">>

    Yes, it bothers me!  Part of the fun of the Haunted Mansion is the cast members- I mean, things like that quote above are icing on the cake.  Hopefully the cast members will still act the same way- I love it when I say "Hi!" to a Haunted Mansion cast member (usually the person at the door), and they just look at me- that's awesome!  How could people complain about those sayings, when [spoiler alert for people who've never been to the Haunted Mansion]

    there's a corpse hanging from the ceiling?!?  You'd think that they'd be complaining about that.

    [end spoiler]

    Without having heard the new script, though, I shouldn't be too negative- heck, it could be a good script.  Who are the people complaining, and why all of a sudden?  Get a sense of humor, people- it's not like they're going to kill you...unless you want to be the 1,000th member of the Haunted Mansion family...

  • At first I was a little torn on this issue, but I say well done to the Imagineers.  I'm sorry but I'm a little tired of the "I don't have to care" look and attitude some of the mansions butlers and maids have cause they work at the mansion and that "they're in character" excuse.  Now maybe those College Program kids will get their act together and have some fun with it.  Now I will say it's only been a handful of times that a cast member has really gotten into their role, at least down in Orlando so maybe a script and some acting lessons are in order.

  • This just ticks me off because it's another case of people in corporate thinking they know better than the cast members on the front lines.  A lot of the lines they say have been battle tested over YEARS of working there so there's almost no way the new script will be better.  Plus it means getting rid of the magical moment where they have kids help open the mansion.  Very sad and just pathetic that they would allow a little complaining out weigh all the fans who have a sense of humor genuinely enjoying themselves.

    Now bringing every cast member at the resort to acting classes...  THAT'S a good idea...

  • What's next?  Making the Tower of Terror PC?  Instead of the floating eyeball, we'll have a puppy that floats by?  Or in addition to the puppy, a kitten and a meerkat as well?  

    I swear, Disney if you use my idea, I expect some money.  

    The improvised dialogue is what helps make the mansion so cool.  This is a shame.  

  • But, according to Jim's guy at WDI, it's not about responding to complaints, it's about plussing, so is it lame complaints, or is it plussing?

  • CBarry...I'm with you. It doesn't sound like these complaints are confirmed. So are you just assuming that it's some "PC" respone (by the way, I hate that term. There is nothing "political" about changing the script. It's not as if they were making racial jokes...but whatever). It seems to me that if it was some PC response they would be changing the hanging corpse scene, which is by far the most frightening and most un-PC thing at Disney.

  • I'll wait to see the changes before passing judgement. I have always had a "hit or miss" experieince entering WDW's HM. Sometimes the cast member are great, other times, the tombstones have a higher energy level than the cast members.

    Let's see if the scripted entrance works. It should still leave room for some individual enhancements by the cast members who want to put in the extra.

  • I would like to reserve judgement until we see the finished product. Much like the Jungle Cruise, I've seen some great butlers/maids and many that were just going through the paces. My hope is that it adds to the story, but still leaves room for CMs to add their own touches.

  • http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/jim_hill/archive/2008/01/03/a-pc-haunted-mansio...

  • Sounds like Jim is spinning the story to me. It is possible that some CMs are going over the top. It is possible guests might be offended. It is also possible some CMs are ust going through the motions and not acting the part making the HM experience less than it could be. I believe the poor CM performances are the issue. Disney wants each guest to have a similar experience. I know I enjoy the mansion much better when the CMs are in character and not just waving you in, shutting the door, and YELLING to get to the center of the room away from the walls. Not very magical or spookey.

  • If this is true it is simply pathetic

  • ARRGH!!!

    Of course I'm angry! Whether the new script is entertaining or not, they're still taking away from the Cast Members AND Guests one of the VERY few unscripted, spontaneous parts of the theme park experience. I'm so sick of these dumb suburban wimps - Disneyland/World is wasted on those people.

    Anyone who complains about being called a "wretched body" only proves that they deserve it.

  • I am not going to pass judgement on the new script until I hear it -- it may be great for all we know! BUT, if this is being done because of people complaining that the cast member's dialog is not PC, GIVE ME A BREAK!!!!

    I am so tired of people or groups complaining that something "Disney" is not pc! Because of this,  the POTC chase scene now has women holding trays of food inwhich the pirates are chasing. This is bull$#@& because historically, pirates did not "lust" over food, it was women (being at sea for months at a time made them quite frisky). Why didn't Disney change the auction scene--it is sporting the idea of white slavery, pimping out prostitutes and women being treated as property?

    Some groups have complained that releasing "Song of the South" in the U.S. will cause racial tension. Again bull$#@&. I have seen Song of the South and nothing is degrading to blacks. This is part of their history and Disney wants to act as though it did not exsist. What..., are groups going to start complaining about "Gone with the Wind"?

    What about the whip that was replaced by a red feather that Timothy holds in his hand on top of Dumbo and when Disney stopped the skippers from shooting the (mechanical) hippos on the Jungle Cruise? People need to get a life!!

    Pokey!

  • Nut and bolts, people.  The CM's are NOT the attraction.  They are there to add to the attraction.  This is the same as the Jungle Cruise, admittedly, on a smaller basis.  And, trust me, the JC goes through the regiments as much as anything else.  It gets loose, it gets tight on the cast members.  It will swing and vary. But, if it goes TOO far...and it has happened on the JC too often and on the Mansion as wel, then, the cast member becomes the focal point and takes it off the attraction.  This ias exactly what happened with Maynard in California.  I'm not knocking his talents, I am stating he went way too overboard and made himself the star...forgetting that the star of the experience is the given park and the atractions.  

    In the last few years, the Jungle Cruise was put through the paces with a new script that was law. But, the "battlet ested" material that the cast members ahd been using was also implemented into the new script, and, a script advisory board was formed for cast members (at Disneyland, at least) to submit new jokes for implementation consideration on ar egular basis was established.  And, those jokes - once going past Imagineering script team and legal, were used.  

    AGain, it is directly stated in the JC training guide that the Skipper is only a part of the show, there to introduce the guests travelling the river to the scenes and experiences along the way.  And, the "Tried and true" material of over 40 years still is constant today.  I figure this is the same for the Mansion.  The Butlers and Maids are there only to introduce you to the wonders inside the creaky old doors.  Going over  and beyond it...can lead to problems.  

    The thing that grieves me about this is - that if Jungle Cruise Skippers and Haunted Mansion Cast members are being "taught to act and how to portray roles", then, this confirms that those attraction hosts are, indeed, entertainers, and, equally deserve the lower ring of entertainer pay offered at their given resort union contracts for their duties when in those roles on those attractions.  (In California, this would be an Innoventions Ring 1, I believe - not the folks who do the show, but, those who host the games and such.)  It's about a two dollar plus to the basic hourly rate going for CM's otherwise.

    And, if the CM's on Mansion and Jungle can be written up for not being funny enough (I've seen it), then, they are already expected to be entertaining...and, even more so deserve the income that should go to an entertainer as well.  

    The public is a rare bird.  They react to the slightest statement that may be taken wrong.  And, in the theme park industry, the CM's have got to be aware of that with a high level of perception.  Family Market. and, it means just that.   Knowing how the family is going to perceive something....

    Example.  A "friendly monster" working Knott's 'Camp Spooky' one Hallowen season.  A show for the kids during the day.  This family goes by with a youngster drinking an icee out of a Snoopy shaped container.  It's Halloween.  Monster shuffles by and interacts with kid.  Everyone laughs.  Monster adlibs," Oohhh...drinking Snoopy's brains....coool!  Me like the purple ones....."

    Kid laughs.  Dad laughs.  Family goes on the way.  

    End of the day.  Monster gets hauled before the day manager and taken to task for the line of improv dialouge.  The mom had a hissy on this.  Both managers are laughing themselves over the silliness of it, and, monster is dismissed with a warning not to suck brains in the vicinity again.

    That's a harmless joke.  Animation shows on Nik show and reference worse things in some of their "kiddie spooky" cartoons.  A big friendly monster is funny to dad and son.  But, the mom?  Who knew what was going to set her off?

    It's the same with Mansion, Cruise, Tower...anywhere a CM can add a touch of character to their role and bring another depth to an attraction.  It's a highly touchy business, and, somehow, seems to get more and more that way.  So - this happens.  Big deal.  I saw JC Skippers grouse like hell when they were told about the new strict regulations, the loss of the "personally chosen hat", the  heavily guarded scriptiing and managerial watching of performances...

    But, you know something?  It went on being the Jungle Cruise.  And, the personalities that made the best skippers still made them the best and the funniest skippers out there.  And, they wound up being just as happy with the changes as they were before.  It will be the same, I am fairly certain, with the Mansion.  The best CM's will remain the best CM's.  It's about the attraction, not the individual.  If a CM is, "to the manor born", then, that is their love.  Same with the good skippers.  It wasn't about them.  It was about the Jungle.

    Just some thoughts this mourn.

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