Monday, September 12, 2011

Phantom Manor: Trip Report & Review Part 2

Continued from Part 1...

"Let us continue our tour; there is much to see, so look alive, and stay together; I'd hate to loose you all so soon..."

After boarding our Vekoma carriages, we progress up the up a short staircase and under an archway into total darkness. Out of the darkness, the first thing we will catch a glimpse of is a mirror on the wall which reflects the light from the previous room, the grand staircase. A little matter I forgot to mention in the first part of the post is that Phantom Manor pulls off nicely is the transition from light to dark. When we enter, the house has both natural and ambient lighting in the Foyer, unlike the Walt Disney World mansion, where you step straight into the disorienting darkness of the underground foyer. We round a corner and come face to face with the veiled figure of Melanie Ravenswood herself. Still young and beautiful, she bows as we pass further into the darkness.

Turning another corner, we are pointed down the endless hallway that appears at all the other Mansions. A candelabra floats midway down the shaft of doors. But before we can move onward, who should appear out of thin air but the beautiful bride herself, holding the candelabra, floating mid-way down the hallway, with a ghostly glow to her airborne figure. This effect is achieved in a similar way to the ballroom ghosts at all the other mansions. Pepper's Ghost; as they call the effect; is a reflection & lighting gag that can make things reappear and disappear, or create ghost-like figures in a way similar to seeing your reflection in a piece of glass. The effect is quite amazing here, because of the condensed space it's being created in, and the fact that your facing directly towards the figure at eye-socket level, unlike in the ballroom, where the ghosts are bellow and above you. We move onward as John Debny's Orchestral arrangement's of "Grim, Grinning Ghosts" is suddenly accompanied by sound of a piano. The shadowy figure of the pianist, who is actually the Phantom himself; according to official Disney documents; is seen spread across the floor of the conservatory. The keys of the piano move on their own, and the sound of the air-pistons that accompany the gag in the states is no where near as loud or obnoxious. The cars continue backward into the darkness, still facing in the direction of the endless hallway; as though the cars wish to proceed down the hall, but are being dragged onward by a more powerful, unseen force. It's been said that Melanie may have been warning us not to go down the hallway; so the unseen force could be her trying to pull us onward to safety; or it could be the Phantom dragging us away from his heavenly daughter towards the hell he has in store for us. You can decided that for yourself!

The carriages proceed blindly backward through the darkness, which is only pierced by the light of a few flickering chandeliers above our heads. The sounds of terrible monsters and creatures fill the air, trying to get out of the doors that are just visible a few feet from our faces in the inky blackness. Looking closer, it's apparent that the door knockers are turning on some of these doors; some are even shaking in their frame as though something powerful is pounding away on them. One looks as though it's a breathing body, inhaling and exhaling like it was made of rubber (it probably is, but it's supposed to be made of wood) and another is about to be pushed out of it's frame by skeletal hands that have grasped the top of the door itself! The sounds in Phantom Manor's Corridor of Doors are much scarier then the original Disneyland recordings. Gone is Thurl Ravenscroft's comical "Let me outta Here" or the helpless wining of the trapped ghosts. These spirits sound more demonic, and give the scene scarier flavor. We round a corner and face a grandfather clock, whose hands are spiraling out of control; backwards; chiming the hour 13. The eyes in the infamous Rolly Crump wallpaper glow green as we pass onward into a huge dark room.

The Seance will start us with a few problems that some fans have with Phantom Manor. Many people criticize the way Madame Leota looks in the attraction. They say she looks hideous. Well, I hate to break it to you all, but the Madame Leota we are all used to in the American parks isn't exactly your stereotypical Gypsy woman. Generally, they are portrayed as unsightly, middle-aged laddies who are ether overweight or sickly thin, wearing way to much make-up, and covered in zits and moles. Oona Lind is not ugly by any means, but the way she is projected gives here a plump look that fits the general stereotype. So we have a slightly more realistic looking gypsy head; anyhow, she begins to summon the ghosts for a supernatural wedding party for poor Melanie. Gone are the instruments and objects that float about the room. Instead, they are replaced by great pillars with leering gargoyles that frame the circular chamber. The carriages progress onward, up an incline toward a balcony overlooking a grand hall.

The heart of all the Disney Haunted Mansions is the Ballroom, where the worlds largest pepper's ghost effects are staged daily. The Phantom Manor ballroom is slightly different then the versions we see in America, because it refers back to Ken Anderson's original idea of a wedding party instead of the Birthday (or Death Day) party we are all used to in the Mansions. The ghosts are all dressed in Victorian area clothing; no Kings, Queens, Pharaohs or Sultans are seen mingling about the crowd. (Seen to the Left is a Doll-Faced Ghost Girl who occupies the space normally occupied by the Knight and Egyptian Princess) They are all local ghosts here in Frontierland. They have dumped their wedding gifts in a pile near the entry side of the room, and ghosts have gathered around a table topped with a huge, moldy, collapsing wedding cake. Melanie stands on the balcony looking over her party; she's the only human other then an mysterious laughing shadow-like figure seen standing in an open window. This is of course, the Phantom, watching from a far. The dueling ghosts are no more, replaced by a formal painting of the Manor in it's better days. The ghosts waltz about the floor on the far side of the room to a haunting solo played by a man in a purple tux with curly hair seated at an enormous pipe organ. The carriages turn away from the party and head down a long, dark passage; the sounds of the evil laughter and the pipe organ still echoing in the air.

A glimmering light at the end of the passage reveals itself as a fireplace. Above it is a painting of Melanie Ravenswood, in her wedding dress as usual. (You'd think it's the only piece of clothing she owns) The sounds of clock chimes are heard in the room while the tinkle of a music box and wine of an old gramophone (seen to the right) add to the atmosphere. Melanie is seen seated at here distorted make-up table, looking very old. In three minutes, she goes from beautiful young woman, to frail old granny. Anyway, the distorted mirror isn't the only piece of distorted furniture. This room, the Bride's Boudoir, gives me second thoughts about McMansionland's abstract design.

"WHAT!?! ARE YOU INSANE!?! McMANSIONLAND IS PURE EVIL!!! A FREAK OF NATURE! HOW COULD A ROOM IN PHANTOM MANOR POSSIBLY GIVE YOU SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT A TUMOR ON THE WALT DISNEY WORLD MANSION!?!"

Hear me out. In the darkness, this room fits into the house perfectly. Light it up, and your sure to be scratching your head. This room is filled with cartoony-looking furniture and elements. Maybe I'll do a post about this room later, to explain. As we only spend about 15 to 20 seconds in this room before we are dragged out into the garden where the Phantom is waiting with a surprise for us. We are about to take a huge detour in the attraction; Where the American version is scrapped for a more story-realistic climax; and that I'm sure your all interested on hearing what I have to say about it. We shall continue onward in part 3...

"I'll be waiting for you on the... Other side... Have a frightfully good time... "

To Be Continued...

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