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Monday Mouse Watch : Disney World's new grim grinning gracious ghosts

Monday Mouse Watch : Disney World's new grim grinning gracious ghosts

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Do you remember that story that JHM ran back in January? You know, the one where we talked how -- in response to guest complaints about somewhat gruesome gags like "Please drag your wretched bodies to the dead center of the room" and "Please follow the blood red carpet into the Foyer" -- the Imagineers had decided to rewrite the lines that cast members say whenever they work at WDW's Haunted Mansion?

As this news began bouncing around the Web, the Mouse's PR team -- of course -- issued its standard denial. Insisting that there were absolutely no plans in the works to retool the spiel for this much-beloved attraction.

Which might come as a surprise to the 100+ cast members who currently work at this Liberty Square favorite. Given that -- just last month -- they all took part in three-hour-long classes where they were then taught the Mansion's brand-new officially sanctioned script & blocking.

It was Walt Disney Imagineering itself that picked up the cost of this retraining. Back in May, they actually flew two LA-based acting coaches out to Orlando. Who then walked Mansion vets through the way WDI wants this show to go from here on in.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Mind you, Imagineering's main goal here wasn't to stifle cast members' creativity. But -- rather -- to make sure that, from here in, Magic Kingdom guests will receive a consistent level of performance whenever they visit the Mansion.

Of course, recognizing that the HM's maids & butlers might get bored if they have to perform the same line of dialogue over & over & over again ... Well, that's why WDI prepped a script that actually gives these cast members some options.

According to the new Haunted Mansion spiel & show narration that I was recently shown, WDW cast members will have a variety of lines to choose from in any given situation. Take -- for example -- if they're dealing with guests who are standing outside of this attraction, eager to enter the Foyer. To entertain these folks 'til the group that's already inside can then safely make their way into the Portrait Gallery (AKA the Stretching Room), Mansion staffers can say:

  • Please wait. Your time will come.
  • Please wait. It is not your time
  • Please wait. It is not yet your time.
  • Please Wait. We are preparing your final arrangements


Photo by Jeff Lange

And then when it's time for this next group of guests to enter the Foyer, Imagineering's staff writers want WDW cast members to open the Mansion's front doors and say:

  • We've been expecting you
  • The master has been dying to meet you
  • Do come in
  • Please move all the way into the room. There are many souls to follow

And once it's time for this same group of guests to move from the Foyer into the Portrait Gallery, here's what WDI now wants the butlers & maids to say:

  • The master will see you now
  • Please / kindly step to the dead center of the room
  • Step all the way in, please
  • Please step lively. The happy haunts are waiting
  • Step lively please. Your time has come.
  • Step lively please. Others are dying to come in.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Please note that there's absolutely no mention of "wretched bodies" and/or "blood red carpet." More importantly the frequent use of "Please" and "Kindly."

Why are WDW cast members -- whenever they work at the Mansion -- now supposed to stress polite over fright? Well, that's because the Imagineers -- from here on in -- want HM staffers to treat each Magic Kingdom visitors as if they actually are Master Gracey's guests.

Mind you, according to what the acting coaches told these WDW cast members, it's okay if they put a somewhat sinister spin on each line of dialogue that the maids & butlers say. Just as long as (on the surface, anyway) they still appear to be being polite.

But the agenda that's being really being serviced here is ... Well, by stressing politeness over being frightening, Disney's looking to rein in those WDW employees who -- for years now -- have been going out of their way now to deliberately frighten the guests. Which made that first trip to the Haunted Mansion a particularly unpleasant memory for some of Disney World's younger visitors (More importantly, their parents).

Soooo ... What do Mansion vets have to say about this mandatory retraining? Especially that part where these same cast members had to sign a document which stated that they had actually been taught the Mansion's new spiel & blocking. More importantly, that these WDW employees then agreed to make use of this material the very next time that they worked a shift at this Liberty Square attraction.


Photo by Jeff Lange

Well, from what I hear ... Most Mansion vets are now fairly blasé about this whole affair. Given that they anticipate that -- once WDI moves on to its next assignment -- that the cast members who work at this Magic Kingdom favorite will then revert to their old routines. Abandoning the Haunted Mansion's fancy new spiel & blocking in favor of the old tried & true stuff.

Unfortunately, what these WDW cast members don't realize is that the Imagineers aren't quite finished "plussing" the Mansion yet. That -- since there's still a number of effects that they still want to fold into this newly enhanced attraction (Take -- for example -- those unearthly flames that they hoped to soon set ablaze in the ballroom's fireplace) -- that the guys from WDI are going to be hanging on for a while. And as long as they remain in the vicinity, these Imagineers are going to be keeping very close tabs on who is actually making use of the Mansion's new spiel & blocking. More importantly, who isn't.

So in the weeks and months ahead, it's going to be extremely interesting to see what happens with the Magic Kingdom's Haunted Mansion. Whether the cast members who work there actually embrace this attraction's new spiel & blocking. Or whether they just wait 'til the Imagineers aren't paying attention anymore and then return to their old ways?

Your thoughts?


Photo by Jeff Lange

Speaking of the Haunted Mansion ... The photos that were used to illustrate today's article were graciously provided by Jeff Lange.

And speaking of Mr. Lange ... Jeff's actually wondering what sort of Disney-related disc JeffLangeDVD customers would like to see next. So if you could please take a moment to go take part in the poll that MouseSteps is currently ... Well, I know Mr. Lange would be very grateful for your input. More importantly, one lucky participant in this poll will then win a free copy of the Epcot Flower & Garden Screensaver CD that Denise Preskitt recently put together.

So you wanna win yourself a free screensaver CD? Then please go check out Jeff Lange's "Next Title" poll.

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  • Sorry, I'll side with imagineers and acting coaches over what the foyer and hallway employees are suppossed to say to customers, no matter how "veteran" the mansion employees may be. Usually, I seem to get the greeters that say something that they've come up with all on their own: "OK, go ahead,"   "OK, doors are open"     "C'mon we need to get a few more in - step inside."  The other end of the spectrum are the hyper-employees where it becomes all about how much attention they can draw to themselves, rather than playing a character that enhances the ride's experience.  How the park chooses to uphold the new standards is HR's latest headache.

  • The new lines seem lame, but hey, at least its not generic and still somewhat related to the ride.

  • Still a lot better than my old lines at "Winnie the Pooh"...

    "Push down on your honey bar, then pull up... make sure it's sticky stuck!"  Ohhhh, barf.  But hey, it made people smile, even if it was kind of at my expense.

  • I never want to get stuck in the "that's always been the way we did it" mode.  I'll reserve my judgement on these changes, however, until I see them in practice a couple of times.  I would have divided my previous visits into two categories: CMs who were doing a job and made you feel like you were getting on a ride, and CMs who made you feel like you were intruding in their domain (not that that was a bad thing - I liked that!)  A good HM CM will be able to take these new lines and create a wonderful experience with them.  Rather than a feigned indifferent 'I've got to let you wretched souls in' attitude, a sinister welcome, like all the horror movies where the intended victims are invited into the house of their destruction, could be pulled off and quite appealing.  I'm now in my wait and see attitude.  I'll know more Saturday.

  • I agree -- all the spooky lines in the world don't make a difference if they're recited without care.  The last time I was on HM in 2004 the CMs said the lines but with a distinct "Listen to US Aren't We Spooky Ooooo" vibe to them -- relying on the words and a "disinterested" tone of voice to make it spooky.  Instead they just sounded disinterested.

  • I think it is...amusing, I guess is the word....that in the "PC" universe of Disney these days, references to blood are verbotten, but the more spiritually-based references to "souls" etc. etc. with all of their religious connotations are perfectly dandy. Is this a rebirth of genuine spirituality? OR are they so secularly blinded that they just plain missed it?

  • I love the Mansion, and anything that will "plus" its ambience is fine and dandy with me. The last time I visited the World, the CMs were a very mixed bunch - some were having fun with it, some were "meh". I've worked at amusement parks in the past, and I can tell you I would have LOVED to work at an attraction like the Haunted Mansion and joined in on the fun. Amusement parks in general don't offer high pay, but it can be a damn fun job if you abandon your attitude and just get into it. For the Mansion, gloomy "maids" and morose "butlers" are essential to keep the magic going. I'm glad the Imagineers are taking notice and making an effort to preserve the Mansion's appeal.

    I also got a mixed bunch of CMs at the Tower of Terror. But a couple were outstanding - two "bellboys" who really got into the otherwordly vibe. The importance of good CMs can't be overestimated. Perhaps Disney should consider raising the pay so that good CMs with those priceless commodities of ENTHUSIASM and EXPERIENCE will be induced to stay on. Consistently good performances aren't likely if there's a high turnover.

  • "Perhaps Disney should consider raising the pay so that good CMs with those priceless commodities of ENTHUSIASM and EXPERIENCE will be induced to stay on."

    Now that's both funny (to me), and scary (to Disney's accountants).

  • gigglesock hit the nail on the head. It doesn't matter what lines you give them to recite, if the CM's aren't into it they'll still suck and it'll still be bad show.

    On an unrelated note, last time I checked the fireplace in the ballroom scene already had "unEarthly flames" in it. Green ones, to be precise.

  • I just rode the ride 2 weeks ago. Didn't even notice the new lines from the CMs, but I loved all the new enhancements to the ride! Fantastic stuff. Try to linger in the stretching room. I already knew from Jim's articles that the gargoyles would echo the stay together line, but then one last one whispered in a rather eerie fashion, "Get out!"

  • I was just at the Magic Kingdom a few days ago and, I went on the Haunted Mansion twice. Both times, the CM said move to the dead center of the room and pretty much did and said the same thing. One thing that bothered me, was that both CM I had were very cheery and didn't really have any enthusiasm at all. they talked to us like we were about to get on It's a Small World. On my second time riding, a cast member opened a door in the foyer and walked right over to our 's and started talking to him about a rotation right in front of everyone. Overall I like the changes except the bride disappointed me. She isn't as scary as she was before.

  • Unfortunately with the pay system at Disney they can't give some a raise without giving ALL a raise.  That's HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of dollars more with every dollar.

    Pickstar, I think he's talking about enhancing the flames somehow more.

    The lines that WDI gave were all good and fit the theme.  Some CM's just get big heads when it comes to change and get all huffy at the expense of guest experience.  This doesn't seem too much to be about "PCing" the ride as "fitting into the theme".  There's nothing really gory about HM, it's more about the creepy then the scary.  They seem right on for once.

  • Tuckenie said:

    "Unfortunately with the pay system at Disney they can't give some a raise without giving ALL a raise.  That's HUNDREDS of MILLIONS of dollars more with every dollar.

    Pickstar, I think he's talking about enhancing the flames somehow more."

    Yeah, I thought about the flames thing immediately after I posted that ... too bad you can't edit posts on this board. Oops ...

    As far as the pay system goes, I wonder if they've ever considered that they could probably give their people a 20% increase and then lay off 30% of them. Underpaid people don't perform nearly as well as those that are fairly compensated and the bottom 20% of the performers on a given team cost more than the 80% who are doing it right in terms of management headaches, etc.

    Get rid of the dead weight and pay the remaining people a whole lot more and you'd be better off. But it's that old corporate bottom line mentality that pervades American businesses today ... screw everyone, make as big a buck as you can, and that's all that matters.

  • Generally, I agree with gigglesock.  Though I'm a big fan of the old dialogue, a great majority of riders are children, who, more often than not, will not understand that type of humor.  The new spiel, while lame on paper, can really be "plussed" simply by having enthusiastic cast members,  For the rest of my opinion on that matter, see Pickstar. XD

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