Just hours after our preview report, Walt Disney World opened its new Haunted Mansion interactive queue to guests for the first time. In a limited soft opening, guests could experience new crypts and tombs featuring new and fun variations on familiar Haunted Mansion characters.
It’s been almost a year since Disney first tested the concept of adding an interactive crypt to The Haunted Mansion’s queue and after weeks of construction, theme park guests waiting in line to enter the boundless realm of the supernatural could today see, hear, and interact with a few playful spooks before even stepping inside the attraction.
On this very busy Monday at the Magic Kingdom, the first soft opening of the new Haunted Mansion queue area took place. Not everything was fully operational and one area was still sectioned off, but the majority of the new queue area was functioning and being happily enjoyed by hundreds of guests that poured through between roughly noon and 5 p.m.
In the former location of the turnstiles in the Haunted Mansion queue, guests now have the option to split off to the left to what Disney calls “the graveyard,” or stay to the right and proceed directly into the attraction. A cast member was stationed at this split to instruct guests what the difference between the two lines was.
During the soft opening, I had a chance to experience the new Haunted Mansion queue area, bringin back a photo-filled report and walkthrough for you below. But first, enjoy a video showing off all of the interactive elements of the new Haunted Mansion queue:
Update (3/15/11): One day after posting our first look, Disney has released an official video tour of the Haunted Mansion interactive queue, featuring Imagineers discussing the additions:
As guests take the left turn into the graveyard, they first come upon a row of what are five potentially talking busts:
Today, however, this was the area that was not available for guests to interact with. It was blocked by a row of small shrubs. Guests could easily peer inside to take a look at these five new Haunted Mansion characters. They are:
Bertie – Avid hunter and expert shot, in the end that’s what he got.
Aunt Florence – Never did a dishonorable deed. Yet found face down in canary seed.
Uncle Jacob – Greed was the poison he had swallowed. He went first, the others followed. His killer’s face he surely knew, now try to discover who killed who.
The Twins, Wellington & Forsythia – Departed life while in their beds, with identical bumps on identical heads.
Cousin Maude – Our sleeping beauty, who never awoke the night her dreams went up in smoke.
The busts pose a riddle for guests to solve, determining which character killed which. Each features a different weapon on the plaque. It’s quite similar to the interactive test Disney ran a few months ago.
UPDATE (3/16/11): Two days later, the busts have been painted to look “weathered” and fit in with the rest of the new queue area. They’re still not functional yet, though will eventually whisper to approaching guests, telling them the story of how each character died, allowing guests to help solve the murder mystery. Thanks to Brandon for the updated bust photos below:
Moving past the busts, guests will immediately find a familiar and shockingly close sight on the right in the form of two tombstones that previously resided in the old Haunted Mansion graveyard next to its entrance. These new stone versions of the tombstones pay tribute to Imagineers Marc Davis and X. Atencio:
Marc Davis was responsible for much of the concept art that shaped the look of the Haunted Mansion. X. Atencio wrote the lyrics to the famous “Grim Grinning Ghosts” song featured in the attraction. These tombstones are now available for guests to pose with for photos up close and even touch.
Upon arriving at these tombstones, guests get their first glimpse into the majority of this new graveyard area. Just past these two tombstones is the crypt for the musicians of the Haunted Mansion.
On the first side is one of two interactive wall plaques featuring numerous instruments that act as buttons. When guests press these instruments, the melody of “Grim Grinning Ghosts” can be heard playing from the crypt in that instrument’s sound. Guests pressing multiple instruments will hear all of them harmonize together.
Both sides of this crypt feature the same concept but with different instruments, one side more traditional like the graveyard band and the other a bit more wacky.
On the end of this crypt is a representation of the organ that’s in the ballroom of the Haunted Mansion. This organ is also interactive and guests can press the keys of the organ and hear “Grim Grinning Ghosts” played on a pipe organ.
Adorning the top of the organ are ghostly heads along with a large raven with shimmering red eyes.
However, here instead of just hearing it guests are gently sprayed with mist as they press the keys. It’s a surprise that sent a few guests today quickly pulling their hands back. Inscribed on the organ is the word “Ravenscroft,” a tribute to Thurl Ravenscroft, the lead vocalist of the singing busts inside the Mansion.
Past the musician crypt and outside the graveyard area lie several tombstones, each paying tribute to Disney Imagineers – some tombstones formerly located in the old Mansion graveyard and one new one honoring Harriet Burns.
Back into the graveyard, guests find the new location of Master Gracey’s tombstone, now available for taking pictures with. No rose was present atop the new tombstone (nor is there room for a body to be buried in front of it, really).
Beyond Gracey’s iconic tombstone is the huge new sea captain crypt. Reaching out from the crypt though not moving are the sea captain’s hat, arm and two legs.
The crypt itself reads:
Here floats Captain Culpepper Clyne. Allergic to dirt so he’s pickled in brine. He braved the sea and all her wrath but drowned on land while taking a bath.
Upon approaching the crypt, guests are frequently squirted with water as if the crypt is filled with water but due to many cracks in its sides is leaking. A number of audible gags are heard coming from the sea captain, who has either recently perished inside or his ghostly voice is simply lingering around his tomb.
Guests will hear the sea captain sing a “drunken sailor” song, will witness bubbles emerging from the top of the crypt as the sea captain is heard drowning, and occasionally guests will get an extra surprise when the sea captain sneezes, emitting a large burst of mist coming from the top of the crypt.
Here is a sneeze in progress:
UPDATE: While I did not try it myself, apparently attempting to “plug” the “leaks” in the crypt with your finger will cause another leak to spring up elsewhere. Give it a shot, if you dare. And don’t blame me if you get wet.
Moving from that crypt around another switchback guests encounter the final large new crypt of this new graveyard area which represents the library scene. The two sides of this library crypt feature stone books that push in and out by themselves, much like in the actual library scene inside the Haunted Mansion. Today one of the sides didn’t appear to be working. The other side was quite active and guests seemed to have a good time pushing the books back in.
UPDATE: The books on either side of the library crypt feature familiar Haunted Mansion imagery that include a dynamite barrel and a bust with an axe in its head. Apparently these make up a “cryptogram” that needs to be solved… any guesses? The symbols match up to letters to spell… what? Only a diligent fan who spends plenty of time in this area will decipher the riddle.
But if you don’t have the time or need a hint or two, we’ve cracked the code and solved the mystery of the library crypt. At that link, we offer a downloadable key to take with you to help decipher the message as well as the complete solution of what it says.
A third side of this crypt features a visually interesting tableaux where Prudence Pock, the “poetess” of the Haunted Mansion, is working on her poetry. A glowing animated book resides inside, adorned with some decaying flowers.
Prudence is overheard trying to complete a few of her poems, looking to guests for help. Perhaps speaking to her is a good idea…
It seems that the books on either side of this crypt help complete the poetry lines, though it wasn’t entirely clear how today.
The fourth side of this library crypt features a plaque commemorating Prudence Pock.
Here’s an overview of the area after passing behind the library crypt, to give an idea of the graveyard’s overall layout:
Nearby, a wall mausoleum of sorts features four new Imagineer tribute tombs:
Farewell forever, Mister Frees, your voice will carry on the breeze.
(Tribute to Paul Frees, voice of the Haunted Mansion’s Ghost Host.)
Drink a toast to our friend Ken, fill your glass and don’t say “when.”
(Tribute to Imagineer Ken Anderson, developer of many early concepts for The Haunted Mansion.)
While brother Roland here reposes, his soul’s above one supposes.
(Tribute to Imagineer Rolly Crump, whose work on the “Museum of the Weird” attraction idea made its way into the Haunted Mansion.)
A train made a stain of absent-minded Uncle Blaine. Rest in pieces.
(Tribute to Blaine Gibson, sculptor of hundreds of Audio-Animatronic heads, including almost all of the presidents in the Hall of Presidents.)
Looking high up on a hill above the whole graveyard, guests will spot additional single name tombstones, featuring the Hitchhiking Ghosts, Ezra, Phineas, and Gus, amongst others.
Finally, around the backside of the sea captain’s crypt are two portholes that today did not appear to have any visual features or effects. It’s unclear whether these will function as anything more than simple decoration in the future.
From there, guests rejoin the rest of the queue in area that was previously just past the old turnstiles. On the left, the old Haunted Mansion graveyard still sits, mostly intact from its previous form though minus the Master Gracey, Marc, and Francis Xavier tombstones which are now featured elsewhere in the graveyard (as previously mentioned). Madame Leota’s tombstone still resides near the entrance of the Haunted Mansion. Today, the old graveyard area was still hidden by a green covering, as the entire project is not yet complete.
UPDATE: By request, I have added the photo below showing the Haunted Mansion as seen from the shore along the Rivers of America. (Yes, the line was so long on Monday that this extended portion of the queue was being used – a 65+ minute wait!) Some have wondered if the new queue area interferes with the Mansion’s exterior look…
As you can see, the new area is completely unseen unless you are next to it, inside it, or looking down from the riverboat as it passes by. It is virtually unnoticeable from any other vantage point. And since guests aren’t required to walk through it to enter the attraction, if you find that the interactive queue isn’t your cup of tea, you can simply ignore its existence completely and enjoy the ride.
The most unique aspect of these new additions to The Haunted Mansion are that they will be open for guests’ enjoyment and don’t require any additional FastPasses or even waiting in line. They’re part of an existing line for a classic Disney attraction that’s a must-do for almost every visitor to the Magic Kingdom. With long lines being the number one complaint of any theme park goer, no one can argue against creating additional entertainment in a previously *ahem* dead space.
Throughout the opening today, guests were watched as they played in the new area, to allow Imagineers to improve on the flow and interaction in the coming weeks. After the soft opening ended, the state of the interactive crypts was being looked at by Disney employees.
I was told the soft openings of the new Haunted Mansion interactive queue will continue for another couple days, unannounced and unscheduled. After that, the area will return to an “adjust” phase until it officially opens within a few weeks, likely at the same time as the unveiling of the new Hitchhiking Ghost effect at the end of the ride.
More photos from the new Haunted Mansion interactive queue: