Monday, April 30, 2012

Attractions - The Art of Plussing (Haunted Mansion)

There is so much that could be written about this classic attraction.  From the “Doom Buggies” to the hitchhiking ghosts; from the stretching room to the graveyard scene, this attraction is a testament to the art of Imagineering.  As your ghost host carries you on a journey through the dark halls of this attraction, the imagery, sounds, and Imagineering tricks are woven together with one of the most memorable soundtracks of any attraction to create a totally immersive experience suitable for young and old alike.  And though this attraction is a classic, it too has been a focus of “plussing” over the years. 

Grim Grinning Ghosts have been socializing here since 1971, and in that time only a few minor changes have taken place.  The majority of updates to this attraction have been minimal or have had no real bearing on the storyline.  However, recent changes in the queue graveyard area add a greater dimension to the experience.  The most interesting point – at least to this author – is that Disney has chosen to invest time and money into making guest experiences in the parks more enjoyable on the whole, not just inside the attractions.  As you may know, lines do get long during certain peak times of the year.  Standing in those long lines, while trying to simultaneously control the heat and your children, may result in a less than fond memory.  To help alleviate those moments of stress, make the wait time seem shorter - or at least more enjoyable, Disney has focused efforts on improving attraction queues.  The Haunted Mansion is among the most recent of attractions, along with The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh and Space Mountain, to receive such attention. 

So, what might you encounter in the queue?  Well, for starters, you will encounter the sharp wit of the Imagineers.  Only Disney could make epitaphs that invoke the sparkle of eternal youth – laughter.  While some are simply funny, others give clues to encourage interaction with the queue itself.  For example, one tombstone claims that “He’s gone from the world of trouble and strife.  But a touch of your hand brings his music to life.”  Curious guests are now fully engaged in the attraction before ever setting foot inside the mansion itself.  Hands brush across the tombstone as music now fills the air.  Music isn’t the only way to engage guests.  Disney does a great job of trying to engage multiple senses in this process.  Another grave, for a sailor of course, squirts water. 

The last portion of this attraction to recently be plussed involves the “Hitchhiking Ghosts”.  For years the ghosts simply rode along with guests who refused the offer to fill the vacancy for one more resident.  Now, these intrepid ghosts actually interact with the guests to once again create a fully immersive, interactive and enjoyable guest experience.  So, “don’t close your eyes and don’t try to hide, or a silly spook may sit by your side…” because these grim grinnin’ ghosts truly do socialize.

Let us know what you think.  Do you like these changes?  Do these changes help reduce the feeling of long wait times?  Add your comments below.

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