Phantom Manor is an attraction at Disneyland Paris, located in Frontierland. It is the Disneyland Paris equivalent of the American Haunted Mansion attractions, telling a more elaborate and darker backstory than its counterpart as well as using a Western theme, the attraction has many unique scenes and altered takes on classic ones.
History and Development
As Disneyland Paris took on a great level of sophistication and detail, Imagineers chose to place the re-imagined Haunted Mansion in Frontierland and, taking cues from Europeans' love of the old American West, constructed an elaborate storyline connecting all of Frontierland, particularly the newly-christened Phantom Manor and Big Thunder Mountain.
The story was given a darker tone than the original attraction. Imagineer Jeff Burke was assigned the role of executive producer for the construction of this park's version of Frontierland and, with help from fellow Imagineer Bob Baranick and show writer Craig Fleming, it was decided that the story related to Phantom Manor would have to be congruent with that of Thunder Mesa, the fictional town portrayed in Frontierland. A similar treatment was also given to the Paris version of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
A major influence for the story of the ride was Gaston Leroux's novel The Phantom of the Opera, as well as many European gothic legends, which were altered for the Western setting.
The architectural style is Victorian Second Empire and the exterior of the Manor itself is based on the house in the Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho . Former Imagineer Marc Davis disliked the derelict aspect of the building, stating "Walt would never approve of it".
Like the other Haunted Mansion rides, only the first scene takes place in the mansion structure itself, with the remainder of the ride taking place in a show building hidden from park guests.
The attraction itself would center around the popular bride character of the other Haunted Mansions. The Phantom, who only narrates the walk-through portions of the attraction, would be voiced by Vincent Price, but the Parisian demands for a French audio track lead to an early replacement of the narration by one recorded by Gérard Chevalier, who had done French dub work over Price before.
The attraction, along with the rest of Paris' Frontierland, would serve as a large homage to the un-built Western River Expedition, with Phantom Manor using a ghost town take on the shelved attraction's western town scenes.
Unlike the more light-hearted and comical American and Japanese Haunted Mansions, Phantom Manor is much darker, scarier and more dramatic in tone and features an all-new orchestral musical score composed by John Debney.
Henry Ravenswood was a Western settler that struck gold in Big Thunder Mountain and founded the Thunder Mesa Mining Company, thus creating the town of Thunder Mesa. Ravenswood became rich and built himself a grand Victorian manor high on a hill overlooking Big Thunder Mountain where he raised a family and had a daughter, Melanie Ravenswood.
Big Thunder Mountain was rumored by natives to be home to the Thunder Bird--a powerful spirit possessing a treasure. According to the legend, its wrath could be materialized into a terrible earthquake. However, Henry would not believe such stories.
As time went on, the gold in Thunder Mesa ran out and Melanie grew from a young girl into a beautiful young woman and the time came for her to get married. She became engaged to Jake Evans--an intelligent train engineer who planned to take her far away from Thunder Mesa, much to the dismay of Henry. Henry did everything he could to stop the wedding, but his useless attempts were put to a stop when a terrible earthquake killed him and his wife Martha and Melanie was never heard from again.
After several years, the story of what really happened came out from underneath the rubble: On Melanie's wedding day, a mysterious phantom unknown to anyone in the house appeared in the manor. While Melanie was preparing in her room, the phantom lured her suitor up to the attic, where he hung him by the neck from the rafters.
In the ballroom, the bride sat alone. Hours went by with no sign of the groom. The guests slowly filed away, leaving Melanie alone in the house with its staff of maids and butlers. "Some day", she told herself, "he will come". And so, having never taken off her wedding dress or dropped her bouquet in preparation of her loved one's return, she wandered the house aimlessly, singing melancholy songs of lost love.
The Phantom was still in the house, laughing at her humanly devotion to her intended husband. One by one, he invited his dead, demonic friends from the afterlife to fill the house in an eternal party. The shape of the house was slowly transformed surreally by the evil forces.
Years passed and the house decayed, both inside and outside. Dusty cobwebs covered every inch and the disheartened staff stopped caring, for it was rumored that Melanie had lost her mind. She wandered the house for years and years, singing softly to her groom while all around her demons and ghosts reveled and danced. Everywhere she went, she was reminded of the wedding. The phantom's eternal laughter still carried through the walls of the house. Outside, the once-beautiful grounds were falling apart and crumbling. The gilded staircase and structure were dotted with mold and trees and every plant on the grounds died. As if sensing the evil inherent in the house, nothing living set foot there. Even so, Melanie kept her hopes, waiting for her love's return, never figuring why he had left.
The earthquake that killed her parents cut a huge gouge in the west half of the property and in the crumbling ghost town of the old Thunder Mesa. The deserted buildings were rumored to be called Phantom Canyon, the dark supernatural version of the town, and anyone who entered the ghastly old town at night never came back.
Melanie's beautiful voice still carries over the town at night, through the walls and night air. And, sometimes, people still see lights in the house.
Some nights, when the moon is full and the sky is clear of clouds, you can still hear the lonely mourning of the bride, the maniacal laughter of the Phantom and the faint tinkle of glass and laughter of party guests.
The Phantom is speculated to be Melanie's father Henry Ravenswood, seeking vengeance from beyond the grave. It's possible that he also placed a curse upon Melanie and the rest of the spirits living within the grounds of the Manor to prevent Melanie, who still waits for her groom to this day, from reuniting with her husband.
Like the traditional Haunted Mansions, only the introduction of the ride (the stretching room) takes place in the visible Manor. The main ride itself actually takes place in a hidden show building behind the Manor.
Phantom Manor's omnimover system seems to be a carbon copy of the original Disneyland version's system, since the Omnimover layouts of both are almost identical, but not completely--Phantom Manor's version is slightly longer, primarily to accommodate the Phantom Canyon scenes that substitute for the graveyard scenes in the other incarnations. Many scenes from the previous Haunted Mansions are replicated, but altered to incorporate the new Western theme and plot, such as the Stretching Room, the Portrait Gallery, the Endless Hallway, the Conservatory, the Corridor of Doors, Madame Leota’s Seance Room, the Ballroom and even the busts singing Grim Grinning Ghosts.
Outside Queue Area
In the original Haunted Mansions at Disneyland, Magic Kingdom and Tokyo Disneyland, the mansion was designed to look clean and aesthetically-pleasing. Phantom Manor, however, is designed to look clearly derelict and stands at the top of a small hill looking out onto the southern side of Big Thunder Mountain, with a commanding view of the washed-out trestle, the mining camp and the second lift hill. The Manor's grounds are untended, overgrown with weeds and scattered with dead vegetation.
Upon entering the grounds, guests can see a bat guard box and a plaque on the wall which reads Phantom Manor — Non Omnis Moriar (Latin for "I shall not die completely"). A derelict gazebo stands on the lawn that has a tea set laid out. Originally, these used to move to mimic two people pouring and drinking tea.
The gazebo also contains a music box playing within. (Since 2001, this music box track is also used in Disneyland's version during Haunted Mansion Holiday.) The guests then pass through the gardens, climbing the carriage road and stairs leading to the manor's garden pavilion.
This is also the only mansion in any of the parks that actually has the guests enter the ride through the front door. Shadows and lights can be seen from within the windows and an occasional image of the mysterious bride.
Note: During development of this attraction, the queue area was to be housed in a haunted coach barn and stable. The barn was scrapped in favor of the garden pavilion, due to budget concerns and other considerations.
After leaving the garden pavilion, the guests continue walking up the pathways towards the Manor, along the porch and queue outside the front door, where they wait to be admitted into the house. A cast member dressed as a macabre servant opens the doors and invites a small group of them into the foyer. This foyer contains a dusty chandelier and two mirrors and is lined with dark wood paneling. The voice of the Phantom sounds from the ceiling and around the room, politely welcoming the guests, telling them the legend of the place and inviting them to explore the Manor further. The face of Melanie Ravenswood fades in and out of the smallest mirror during the narration.Note: The Phantom was originally voiced by Vincent Price, but his narration was only used during the first few months of the attraction's operation, since legal agreements that required the narration to be primarily in French resulted in a French actor, Gérard Chevalier, being brought in to record a French version of Price's narration. Chevalier used to be a dub for Price in many of his movies. However, some small pieces of Price's recordings are still in use, particularly the Phantom's evil laughter.
The Stretching Room
Guests then enter an 8-walled room with four portraits of a young Melanie, pictured in more felicitous times. Melanie is having a picnic with her fiancé in one portrait, holds a parasol in the second, picks roses in the third and steps through a stream in the fourth. The Phantom comments about the gallery and asks the visitors if they have noticed that the walls are stretching.
The room actually appears to stretch and the paintings grow taller, revealing that Melanie is in some haunting situations including: having a picnic with her boyfriend as ants, along with a rattlesnake, spiders, scorpions and beetles raid their food; riding a boat about to go down a vertical waterfall; picking roses from above a tombstone while a skeleton emerges from the ground, gripping a small rake in one hand and wading through a small stream as an aquatic monster reaches for her foot.
The Phantom mentions that the chamber has no windows and no doors, offering their guests a "chilling challenge": to find a way out. After his maniacal laughter echoes away and when he adds that there's always his way, the lights go out. Lightning and thunder effects fill the space as the ceiling turns invisible, showing an ominous skeletal figure hanging the groom (who had his hands tied to his back) by the neck from the rafters with a noose in the attic while laughing. Then suddenly, the lights go out completely and the guests are shrouded in darkness. The Stretching Room's lights slowly come back on and a hidden door opens, revealing a hallway lined with portraits.Like in the Disneyland version of the ride, the Stretching Room is a cleverly disguised elevator. The floor is lowered and the ceiling is raised slowly at the same time to provide the stretching illusion. This serves the double purpose of both dramatic effect and also bringing guests down from the Manor to where the actual ride begins at real ground level in a separate warehouse-style show building behind the berm, hidden through the use of a large group of trees to render it invisible from Big Thunder Mountain and the rest of the park. The ceiling above is actually a scrim, which conceals the skeletal figure hanging the groom scene until it is lit from above.
As the guests walk down this hallway, they see four portraits, slowly morphing into more macabre images, some of which were taken from the California version:
- A knight and his horse on a cliff both becoming ghostly beings
- A young woman in a Greek temple sprouting snakes from her hair and becoming Medusa
- A ship sailing across the sea becoming a tattered and ghostly version of itself sailing through a storm
- A woman reclining on a sofa turning into a were-panther
Again, like the California version, the Changing Portraits hall is designed to transition riders from the visible Manor to the show building that houses the actual ride.
At the end of the hallway stands a large portrait of Melanie Ravenswood, wearing her bridal gown.Guests then turn a corner and enter the loading area--a large hall with a grand staircase leading to the upper floor. One can see a ghostly, foggy landscape through the huge window above the stairs. Old furniture line the walls and sitting on a shelf is a bust of a stern-looking woman, who stares at the guests as they pass by. An unbroken train of black omnimover vehicles known as Doom Buggies move through the center of the room, alongside a moving platform to enable easy loading.
Guests board the Doom Buggies (each Buggy accommodating two people) and the carriages move up a flight of stairs and into a dark space, past a young Melanie bowing to passing guests while holding a candelabra, singing the whole time.
A twitching suit of armor then comes into view, although this effect is not obvious and can be missed in the semi-darkness. Beside the armor is a seemingly Endless Hallway, with the vision of Melanie appearing and disappearing in the distance while the candelabra that she is holding remains in view.
On the left side of the Corridor is a Conservatory containing a piano. At first glance, it seems to be playing by itself, but one can notice a ghost pianist's shadow falling on the carpet (this effect is achieved by the use of mechanical keys). A large red-eyed Raven sits on a music stand next to the piano and squawks madly.
The Doom Buggies then travel through a corridor lined with doors. As guests pass each door, they hear pounding, knocking or shouting behind them and the knockers seem to move by themselves, as if their inhabitants are struggling to get out. When the last door is reached, guests can see two skeletal hands clutching at the top, trying to force their way through. The Doom Buggies pass a small hall containing a demonic grandfather clock with a large "13" on its face (instead of the usual 12) and its hands spinning backward as it chimes.
The buggies then enter a round Seance Room, where a crystal ball sits on a central table. In it, wrapped in a mist, is Madame Leota's disembodied head. As the guests watch her, she summons ghosts and dark creatures to a mysterious ball in both English and French (translated in English below):
- Goblins and Ghoulies, creatures of fright, we summon you now, to dance through the night!
- Esprits et fantômes, sur vos fiers destriers, escortez dans la nuit la belle fiancée! (Spirits and Phantoms, on your proud Stallions, escort the beautiful Bride into the night!)
- Warlocks and Witches, answer this call! Your presence is wanted at this ghostly ball!
- Des douze coups de minuit aux mâtines sonnantes, nous valserons ensemble, macabre débutante! (As twelve strokes of midnight sound from the bells, we shall waltz together, gruesome debutante!)
- Join now the Spirits in Nuptial Doom, a ravishing Bride, a vanishing Groom...
Guests leave the Seance Room and move along a balcony looking down into the Ballroom, where a ghostly wedding reception is taking place. Melanie stands on a staircase, singing and looking up at the Phantom, who stands in an open window, laughing at her. Ghostly guests enter the room with wedding presents, then sitting around the dining table, where a moldy wedding cake is waiting for them. Drunken ghosts swing precariously from the chandelier above the table. Elegantly-dressed pairs of ghostly dancers twirl around the Ballroom, as a spirit organist sits at a massive organ, playing a haunting waltz on it as wraiths fly out of its pipes. Apart from plot-related theming, this scene is similar to the classic Haunted Mansions' ballrooms.
Then, the vehicles enter the Bride's Boudoir (which replaces the attic in the other Mansions). Melanie, now an elderly lady, sits weeping in front of a mirror filled with the shape of an enormous skull, while a music box and an old gramophone play. The mirror with the skull is a reference to the legend of Bloody Mary. The clock displayed in the room has a blade pendulum, in reference to Edgar Allan Poe's "The Pit and the Pendulum", which was also the basis for a movie featuring Vincent Price.
The Doom Buggies leave the Bride's Boudoir through an open double door and glide across a terrace and then into a vast graveyard, past the Phantom (whose skeletal face is revealed) standing before an open grave, with an undead dog growling beside him. The Doom Buggies then travel underground (presumably Boot Hill) and see a series of coffins being opened by their skeletal inhabitants. The Phantom Five then come into view, singing Grim Grinning Ghosts as the dead skeletons join them in music and dance.
Through a hole, the Buggies then enter Phantom Canyon--a twisted, supernatural version of Thunder Mesa. Great rifts in the earth surrounding the Buggies suggest that an earthquake has happened, which reenacts Thunder Mesa's turning point from a prosperous community to a ghost town. An eerie-looking skeletal stationmaster stands before a ramshackle train station, offering the riders train tickets to Phantom Canyon. Guests then pass a ruined town hall, where a mayor (who speaks clips of dialogue from Paul Frees' Ghost Host narration) stands, inviting guests to be the Manor's 1000th ghost. As he tips his hat, his head comes with it. A shoot-out follows between a ghost bank robber fleeing on a mule and a cowardly sheriff, with Big Thunder Mountain in the distance. Guests see a pharmacy, where a green-faced chemist drinks a potion. This is followed by a saloon whose front wall has caved in. Inside it, there is a dancing showgirl, a bartender and a man playing a honky-tonk piano that has a hand holding a candelabra sticking out of it. Four invisible gamblers play poker nearby.
Much of Phantom Canyon was derived from a planned scene of a wild mining town called Dry Gulch in the Western River Expedition. Phantom Canyon utilizes the space that is occupied by the Graveyard scene in the regular versions of the ride.
Another cackling figure of the Phantom, this time a revolting corpse, gestures to a luxurious-looking coffin, inviting the guests to stay forever. As the guests see the silhouette of the Manor atop a hill, they enter a dark passage, where Melanie's skeleton is seen floating and radiating a ghost-like glow as she points to the way out. The vehicles enter a subterranean chamber lined with large gilt-framed mirrors in which the ghostly image of the Phantom can be seen above the Buggies along with a reflection of the guests themselves. The Phantom then violently shakes the Buggies before dissipating in a puff of smoke, but not before hearing one last laugh. The vehicles then enter the manor's wine cellar, where the guests disembark and walk towards the exit.
As the guests make their way back towards daylight, a tiny figure of Melanie stands to the side of the passageway behind bars, telling guests to "hurry back" and to "bring their death certificates".
Finally, the guests exit through a gardening shed and out into Boot Hill--a cemetery filled with humorous gravestones, as well as ride-oriented gravestones for the Ravenswood family and several others.
If you turn around to look back at the house, you can see the Phantom looking out the window over the exit. He is easier to see at night, since there is a light shining behind him.
In the cemetery, one can hear Melanie's beating tomb, both a reference to the original Haunted Mansion bride, whose red beating heart could be seen through her chest, and Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart.