First Look: New Haunted Mansion animated Hitchhiking Ghost mirror scene effects materialize at Walt Disney World playing pranks on guests

in Disney, Entertainment, Featured, Magic Kingdom, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World

This morning Walt Disney Imagineering unveiled its most impressive and interactive effect to date, adding playful new versions of the famous Hitchhiking Ghosts in The Haunted Mansion who take delight in pranking unsuspecting guests. The classic dark ride has always featured ghosts “who follow you home,” appearing sitting next to guests by way of mirrors in the attraction’s final scenes. The with new technological advances, Disney’s Imagineers have created more lifelike and fun ghosts than ever before seen in the ride.

Ezra, Phineas, and Gus are certainly prankish spooks as they climb in, on, and around Doom Buggies, toying with guests who I witnessed today laughing their heads off in the new scene – quite literally.

Video cannot do this new ghostly mirror effect justice, as it needs to be seen and enjoyed in person for the full interactive appeal. But if you can’t make to the Magic Kingdom any time soon, watch the video below, with several passes through the enhanced scene:

In my four rides through The Haunted Mansion today, I saw Ezra pull my head off my shoulders and replace it with his own, Gus take his beard off of his face and put it on mine, and Phineas blow my head up in a Disney-style balloon, only to let it deflate in the air, landing back on my neck. Nearby, guests riding with two people in a Doom Buggy had their heads swapped or found any of these Hitchhiking Ghosts sitting on top of their carriages, sometimes shining a lantern on them.

While a bit grainy in the video above, the effect in real life is flawless. The mirrors are as clear as ever, with the ghosts looking just as good. The effect is convincing, as if the ghosts are truly sitting in and around the Doom Buggies, with great depth given to the ghosts. The animation is smooth and guests around me seemed to love the latest bit of “plussing” added to The Haunted Mansion. The technology used to track guests’ movements, enabling ghosts to interact, is completely hidden, leaving nothing but pure Disney magic.

Here are a few video screen captures from the antics of the ghosts:

This latest round of new effects in The Haunted Mansion continues and ongoing effort to enhance the attraction that included new scenes being added four years ago. But it seems, for now, the dark ride’s additions are complete, with the new interactive queue open and inside effects and animatronics all in place. After a anticipation-filled few weeks of the Hitchhiking Ghosts being temporarily covered by flat projections, Imagineers have now shown off what they’re capable of creating with the stunning new fun that ends a ride through The Haunted Mansion.

All Haunted Mansion fans should immediately find their way to the Magic Kingdom to witness these new effects for themselves, as they are truly incredible to see in person.


  1. Yes! So cool. Please bring to California! 😀

  2. Aaron

    THIS IS GONNA DESTROY DISNEY AS WE KNOW IT!!! FIRE IGER AND ALL HIS ILK AND…..wait this is actually awesome, never mind

  3. Ryan

    Uh… those are most certainly not animatronics, but still very awesome indeed.

    I’m willing to bet however that a majority will hate this just like they did the extended queue.

    1. walkingdisneyfreak

      I think he was talking about right before the hitchhiking ghost scene, where they’re holding out their thumbs. Those are animatronics.

      1. Ricky Brigante

        Correct. The mirror scene definitely does not use animatronics, but if you the link on the word “animatronics” above leads to the previous article about the return of the side-by-side Hitchhiking Ghost animatronic figures. Sorry if the wording was not clear.

    2. joshdarkensins

      I definitely hated the new que with a passion but you can tell alot more care and thought went behind this than went into the que. Even though i feel like this is a little too comical and perhaps not creepy and mysterious enough it still gets my approval and is definitely an improvement. Now there really is a grande finale to the ride. amazing technology

      1. disfan

        Not “creepy” enough?? Are you new here? It’s 999 HAPPY Haunts. Haunted Mansion in not intended to be a creep show.

  4. I thought of a similar idea years ago: Replace the mostly-static figures behind the mirror with video screens. Someone at Imagioneering must have read my mind. LOL! It looks awesome!

  5. Jonathan Rice

    That’s AWESOME. It’s a great way to use technology to plus a great attraction without taking away from the original look and feel of an iconic attraction. Walt would be proud!

  6. wazomike

    This looks amazing! Much better than anything I had expected. I really hope they start to bring things like this out to the other mansions (specifically California please!)

  7. Looks great, as long at the three-dimensionality is preserved (not “projection-y” looking), and reports say that the full 3D look is there. So good on them. More than anything, the look and feel of this reminds me of the “Lonesome Ghost” cartoon (anyone else think so?), which is more than appropriate for these ghosts at this point in the show. Hey, it turns out the ghosts actually like us, much to our relief. This mirror effect looks like a winner.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      I can assure you that the 3D look is most definitely there. The ghosts truly appear to be sitting in or on the Doom Buggies, just like the old figures. There is true depth to the effect and it looks nothing like the simple projections-on-black that were present while they worked on this.

      Good comparison to “Lonesome Ghosts.” I hope we see more animations (and characters) show up here in the future.

  8. DON’T Faint.

    I like it!

  9. Just a little less “cartoony” and CGI-looking, please.

  10. Wow! This looks absolutely amazing – I’m gobsmacked. Disney always seems to come up with new ideas and surprises I never even considered they would do – they have outdone themselves this time!

  11. Otto

    Thanks Ricky for binging us this information.
    I love the Mansion inside and out and it´s getting better and better.

  12. Marina

    Whoaaaaaa!!! Truly amazing!

  13. Thanks so much for sharing. The new effects look amazing! I posted a link to this post on my blog for others to view.

  14. Did the guy in the doombuggy after yours pull the ghost off the top of his carriage? Does this make sense. It looks like (3rd time around) that the guy grabs the ghosts leg and drags him into the buggy!

    1. Ricky Brigante

      I don’t think he pulled the ghost… I think the ghost fell down on his own.

      1. That would be really cool though!!

  15. Joe

    Congrats on the engadget nod, Ricky!

  16. Monica DiFranco

    The giveaway here is that people were able to get an image on a consumer camcorder. In order to do that there has to be light. The ride itself is too dark, and so the light is coming from behind the ghosts. That means that you’re not seeing a reflection; you’re being shown a video of yourself that is emitting its own light. The technique would be sort of like stopping a Tivo for a split second, then resuming it. During that split second the computers swap the heads and such. There could be several such tiny pauses as you pass by. Current video and computer technology would have no problem with this sort of thing.

    1. ahecht

      Watch at about 30 seconds into the video. There are (and have always been) lights shining on the doombuggies so that the passengers’ reflections are bright enough to see. The reflections, as always, are real, but the ghosts are a superimposed using a half-silvered mirror, just like the old effect. The only difference is that instead of the ghosts being a physical animatronic behind the mirror they are now a projection on a screen behind the mirror. The animation is always very careful to make the effect (switched heads, lantern beam in front of disappearing heads, beard, etc) brighter than the reflection so that you don’t see the guests real head shining through.

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