Phantom Manor is an attraction located at Disneyland Park (Paris) in Marne-la-Vallée, France. It is the park’s version of the Haunted Mansion attractions at Disneyland, Magic Kingdom, and Tokyo Disneyland, although many scenes from the Haunted Mansion have been reimagined to coincide with a darker theme. Located in Frontierland at Disneyland Paris, the attraction opened with Euro Disneyland on April 12, 1992.
The attraction combines a walk-through portion with Omnimover vehicles, and features special effects and Audio-Animatronics. This version of the popular Haunted Mansion rides has a different plot line which is similar to that of The Phantom of the Opera. It is also designed to be scarier and darker than the other Haunted Mansion rides. The ride also has a unique soundtrack featured in the American and Japanese versions.
While planning Euro Disneyland, Tony Baxter, executive designer for Walt Disney Imagineering, decided that certain staple Disney attractions would have to be modified for the new park. The Haunted Mansion was among these, and was given a darker tone than the original attraction. Jeff Burke was assigned the role of executive producer for the construction of this park's version of Frontierland and, with help from 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 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, the secondary plot focusing on the abandoned bride Miss Havisham from Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, as well as many European gothic legends, which were altered for a Western setting. The architectural style is Victorian Second Empire, and the Manor bears a strong resemblance to Bates Manor from Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho. 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, the remainder of the ride takes place in a building hidden from park guests.
On January 7, 2018, the attraction closed for an extensive refurbishment set to upgrade the attraction's special effects, introduce new figures, bring back the Vincent Price narration, and feature a more coherent storyline that firmly identifies the Phantom as Henry Ravenswood, replaces the Stretch Room portraits with new ones depicting ill-fated grooms that Henry thought weren't good enough for his daughter, and have Melanie take an interest in the riders. The attraction reopened on May 3, 2019.
The story of Phantom Manor was inspired by the never-built Western River Expedition, which was a Pirates of the Caribbean-style attraction designed by Marc Davis for Walt Disney World's Frontierland before it evolved into Big Thunder Mountain Railroad.
Henry Ravenswood (born 1795) was a Western settler who struck gold in Big Thunder Mountain and founded the Thunder Mesa Mining Company, thus creating the city of Thunder Mesa (Frontierland as a whole). Ravenswood became rich and built himself a Victorian manor high on Boot Hill overlooking Big Thunder Mountain, where he raised a family and had a daughter, Melanie Ravenswood (born 1842).
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, Ravenswood would not believe such stories. Time went by, and the gold in Big Thunder Mountain became scarce, making miners dig deeper into the mountain.
Melanie grew from a young girl into a beautiful young woman, and became engaged to a 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 (born 1802). It seemed the Thunder Bird had been awakened, and the family was never heard of 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 appeared in the house. While Melanie was preparing in her room, the Phantom lured her groom up to the attic where he hanged him by the neck from the rafters. In the ballroom, the bride sat alone. Hours went by with no sign of the groom. Guests slowly filed away, leaving Melanie alone in the house with the 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 flower bouquet, in preparation for her loved one's return, she wandered the house aimlessly, singing melancholy songs of lost love.
But the Phantom was still in the house, laughing at her human devotion to her intended husband. One after one, he invited his dead, demonic friends from the afterlife to fill the house in an eternal party. A dark curse fell upon the house, and the shape of the house was slowly transformed by the evil forces. No one ever set foot in the house ever since.
Inside and outside, the house was decaying with age. Dusty cobwebs covered every inch, the disheartened staff not 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 ever trod there. Even so, Melanie kept her hopes, waiting for her love's return, and never figured why he didn't show up at the wedding.
The earthquake that killed her parents all those years ago 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.
Today, no one knows if Melanie Ravenswood is still alive in that old house on the hill. If she is, then she is well over 100 years old. Her beautiful voice still carries over the town at night though, through the walls of the house 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 the laughter of party guests. Whether she is alive or not, what is well known is that poor Melanie never really left the crumbling mansion. She waits for her groom until Judgment Day.
Many people believe the Phantom to be Melanie's late father, Henry Ravenswood, seeking vengeance from beyond the grave. Others believe that it is the pure spirit of evil, and that a curse was upon the young girl.
A 2019 refurbishment would firmly identify Henry Ravenswood as the Phantom and expand on his hatred for Melanie's groom by introducing a series of ill-fated suitors that he had murdered before the final earthquake accident.
Like the Haunted Mansions located in other Disney parks, only the introduction of the ride (the Octagonal Portrait Gallery) takes place in the visible Manor. The actual ride itself takes place in a show building hidden behind the Manor.
Phantom Manor's Omnimover portion is for the most part similar to original Disneyland Haunted Mansion's system, since the Omnimover layouts of both are almost identical, but not completely. The main difference is that Phantom Manor is slightly longer, primarily to accommodate the Phantom Canyon scenes that substitute for the graveyard scenes in the other rides. Many scenes from the regular Haunted Mansions are replicated, but altered to incorporate the new Western theme and plot, such as the Octagonal Portrait Gallery, the Portrait Corridor, the Endless Hallway, the Conservatory, the Corridor of Doors, Madame Leota’s Seance Room, the Ballroom, and even the busts singing Grim Grinning Ghosts.
In the original Haunted Mansions at Disneyland, the 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 mine elevator, 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, at night, the light in the gazebo flickers. The gazebo also contains a music box playing within (since 2001, this music box track is also used in Disneyland's version for use on the annual seasonal overlay). This is also the only mansion in any of the parks that has guests enter the ride through the front door. Shadows and lights can be seen from within the house at nighttime. Melanie can also be seen from a window in the façade carrying a candle from one window to the next.
Guests walk up the pathways towards the Manor, along the porch and queue outside the house where they wait for admission. 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 panelling. The voice of the Phantom sounds from the ceiling and around the room, politely welcoming guests, telling them the Legend of this place, and inviting them to explore the Manor further. Melanie's face fades in and out of the smallest mirror during the narration.
In 2019, the mirror with Melanie's face was replaced with a family portrait of Melanie and Henry standing in front of Phantom Manor, with projection mapping used to turn the room from its dilapidated state to something closer to when the Ravenswoods were alive, with the painting also flashing back in time.
The Phantom was originally voiced by Vincent Price, but legal agreements that required the narration to be primarily in French. While Price recorded a French spiel, it was seen as unsatisfactory and he was replaced by French actor, Gérard Chevalier, who served as a dub actor for Price. However, a small piece of Price's recording was still in use: the Phantom's evil laughter. In 2019, Price's voice was brought back, editing together his English and French recording sessions to create a bilingual experience.
The Secret Room (Stretching Room)
Guests then enter an octagonal 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 Melanie is in some haunting situations including:
- Having a picnic with her boyfriend as ants, along with a rattlesnake, scorpion, spider, and beetle raid their food
- Riding a boat about to go down a vertical waterfall
- Picking roses from above a tombstone while a skeletal zombie emerges from the ground, gripping a small rake in one hand.
- Wading through a small stream as an aquatic monster reaches for her foot.
The 2019 overhaul has replaced all of the portraits with a new series of paintings of Melanie with a different suitor. Melanie disappears from each painting to reveal each suitor's fate orchestrated by the Phantom. These include:
- Barry Claude, an oil tycoon who was chased up a tree by a bear
- Captain Rowan D. Falls, a sea captain who is sent over a waterfall in a boat.
- Sawyer Bottom, a timber mill owner tied to a log about to be sawed in half
- Ignatius "Iggy" Knight, a miner who was blown up in a dynamite explosion, similar to one of the paintings in other Haunted Mansions.
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 the Phantom 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 maniacally. The 2019 version of the scene removes the groom and has the Phantom looking down holding the noose in his hand, as if to threaten the guests below with a hanging. Then suddenly, lights go out completely and the guests are shrouded in darkness. The gallery'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 Octagonal Portrait Gallery is actually a cleverly disguised OTIS 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, while lowering guests from the Manor to where the actual ride begins at real ground level in a separate warehouse-style show building behind the berm, hidden by a forest of trees to render it invisible from riders on Big Thunder Mountain and the rest of the park. The ceiling above is actually a scrim, which conceals the Phantom hanging the groom until it is backlit from above.
The Portrait Corridor and Grand Staircase
Stepping out of the Stretching Room, guests walk down the Portrait Corridor, which takes them from the Manor visible from within the park over to the show building that houses the actual ride. As the guests walk down the corridor, they see four portraits, slowly morphing into more macabre images, all of which were taken from the California (and have since been added to Walt Disney World) version of the ride:
- A knight and his horse on a cliff both becoming ghostly beings.
- A young woman in a Greek temple sprouts snakes from her hair and becomes Medusa.
- A ship sailing across the sea becomes a tattered and ghostly version of itself sailing through a storm.
- A woman reclining on a sofa turns into a were-panther.
The 2019 refurbishment of the attraction features a new set of portraits that transform with a flash of lightning.
- A portrait of Henry Ravenswood that transforms to reveal his identity as the skeletal Phantom
- A redone version of the sailing ship in a storm that appears to be the Flying Dutchman from the Pirates of the Caribbean films.
- A cowboy riding his horse near Big Thunder Mountain during a storm, turning into a skeleton as the lightning flashes.
- A pistol duel in front of the Manor that changes to show Henry shooting a man in the back.
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 the Grand Staircase leading to the upper floor. One can see a ghostly, foggy landscape with flashes and bolts of lightning through the huge window above the stairs, with the 2019 refurbishment adding a new figure of Melanie looking out the window watching the storm. Old furniture line the walls, and sitting on a shelf is a bust of a stern-looking woman, who stares at guests and seems to follow them as they pass by. An unbroken train of black Omnimover vehicles known as "carriages" move through the centre of the room, alongside a moving platform to enable easy loading.
The Bride's Welcome and Endless Hallway
Guests board the carriages, each accommodating two to three persons, and then move upwards into a dark space, past a young Melanie bowing to passing guests while holding a candelabra, singing the entire time. This figure was removed for the 2019 version of the attraction with her physical introduction and has been moved to the load area.
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. The Phantom was added to this scene in the 2019 version as he appears next to Melanie.
The Music Room
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 (presumably the evil phantom) 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.
In the 2019 overhaul, the Music Room is decorated with wreaths and memorial portraits of Melanie's past suitors, with a re-animated Phantom shadow ominously playing the Wedding March.
The Corridor of Doors
The carriages then travel through a corridor lined with doors. As guests pass each door, they hear pounding, knocking, or shouting behind it, 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 carriages 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 walls are lined with wallpaper covered in demon eyes, of which start to glow green.
The carriages then enter a round Seance Room, where a crystal ball sits on a floating central table and at one time, ghostly shapes appeared in the windows surrounding the room. In it is Madame Leota's disembodied head. Behind her is a raven perched on a chair. As 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!
- Spirits and ghosts, on your proud stallions, accompany the beautiful bride through the night!
- Warlocks and Witches, answer this call! Your presence is wanted at this ghostly ball!
- From the twelve knolls of midnight to the morning bells, we shall waltz together, gruesome debutante!
- Join now the Spirits in Nuptial Doom, a ravishing Bride, a vanishing Groom...
The 2019 refurbishment to the attraction replaced John Debney's music for the scene with the Seance Room music from the regular Haunted Mansions.
The Grand Hall
Guests leave the Seance Room and move along a balcony, looking down into the ballroom, where a ghostly wedding party takes place. Melanie stands on a staircase, singing and looking up at the Phantom who stands in an open window, laughing at her as lightning flashes behind him. Ghostly guests enter the room, bringing in 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 ghostly organist sits at a massive organ, playing a haunting waltz on it as wraiths fly out of its pipes. Apart from plot-related retheming, this scene is similar to the regular Haunted Mansions' ballrooms.
The 2019 refurbishment briefly replaced the John Debney musical arrangements with the organ music from the regular Haunted Mansion attractions, though after negative response in soft-openings, the Debney music was brought back. Additionally, the Phantom now looms over Melanie's shoulder in an open window behind her instead of across the way.
The Bride's Boudoir
Leaving the Ballroom, the vehicles enter the Bride's Boudoir (which replaces the attic scene in the regular rides). A dying fire is cackling in the fireplace, then guests see Melanie is now an elderly lady and she has given up looking for her long lost groom, she sits weeping at a giant mirror filled with the shape of an enormous skull, while a music box plays, as well as an old gramaphone. 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.
In the 2019 refurbishment, the Phantom's face now cackles at Melanie from the mirror, which no longer has the frosted skull pattern.
Into the Underworld
The carriages leave the Bride's Boudoir through open double doors, and glide across a terrace and then into a stormy graveyard, past the Phantom with a shovel (whose skeletal face is revealed) standing before an open grave, with an undead dog growling beside him, the Phantom laughs as the Doombuggies pass by. This is Phantom Manor's version of the friendly but frightened groundskeeper and his dog in the other Haunted Mansions. The carriages then travel underground, presumably Boot Hill, and see a series of coffins being opened by their skeletal residents as well as the skeleton hands attempting to pry open a coffin from the inside, usually in the conservatory scene in the Haunted Mansion. Four white marble busts then come into view, bearing the expressive faces of four Phantoms singing Grim Grinning Ghosts, as the dead skeletons join them in a dance.
Through a hole, the carriages then enter Phantom Canyon, which is a twisted, supernatural version of Thunder Mesa. Great rifts in the earth surrounding the vehicles suggest that an earthquake has happened, which reenacts Thunder Mesa's turning point from a prosperous community to a ghost town. An eerie-looking animatronic figure stands before a ramshackle train station, offering the riders train tickets to the Underworld. Guests then pass a ruined town hall where the mayor (who speaks clips of dialogue from Paul Frees, the original rides' Ghost Host) stands, inviting guests to be the Manor's 1000th ghost. As he tips his hat, his head comes with it. A shootout follows between a bank robber fleeing on a mule and a cowardly sheriff, with Big Thunder Mountain in the background. Guests see a pharmacy where a green-faced pharmacist drinks a potion of some-sort, 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. Every once in a while, a hand with a candelabra appears out of the piano. Four invisible gambler figures 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 at the Magic Kingdom, later retooled into their version of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad. Phantom Canyon occupies a space that in the regular Haunted Mansions is used for the graveyard scene.
Another cackling figure of the Phantom, this time a revolting corpse in rags, gestures to a coffin, intending to make the guests permanent residents of the ghost town.
In 2019, the Phantom's clothing is no longer torn and he is now a full blown skeleton in a top hat with glowing red eyes as he was before, and laughs maniacally while gesturing to the coffin next to him.
As they see the silhouette of the Manor ahead, they enter a dark passage, where Melanie's skeleton, floating and radiating a ghost-like glow is pointing 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 carriages along with a reflection of guests themselves. The Phantom then violently shakes the carriages before dissipating in a twinkling of lights, but not before hearing one last laugh. Vehicles travel through a wine cellar, where cast members await to help them disembark their carriages, and they walk toward the exit.
In the 2019 refurbishment, the Crypt is completely redone to feature a mausoleum containing the remains of all of Melanie's deceased suitors, with the hand of one of the grooms bursting from their grave still ready to propose. Melanie, driven stir-crazy by her years of loneliness and torment from her father, offers a somewhat manic wedding proposal as she joins us in our carriages.
As guests travel towards day light, 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, guests exit into Boot Hill, a cemetery filled with humorous gravestones, as well as ride-oriented gravestones for the Ravenswoods and several others. If one should turn around to look back at the house, they can see the Phantom looking out the window over the exit and down at them, before he closes the curtains. It is easier to see him at night, since there is a light shining behind him. In the Cemetery, one can hear Melanie's beating heart in her tomb, both a reference to the original Haunted Mansion bride, whose red beating heart could be seen through her chest, and to Edgar Allan Poe's The Tell-Tale Heart.
- An opening narration by Vincent Price was recorded and initially used. However, due to a deal with French officials, the attraction's audio had to be primarily in French; thus the narration was rerecorded by Gérard Chevalier, who had provided a dubbed French voice for Price in some of his movies. Price's narration is available on the CD The Haunted Mansion - 30th Anniversary (1999 CD).
- The attraction features an orchestrated score by John Debney. Although it is based on Buddy Baker's Grim Grinning Ghosts, it provides the attraction with a darker, more romantic tone. In the climactic Phantom Canyon scene, a big-band-style swing version of "Grim Grinning Ghosts" is heard, compared to the original version's "spirited" but straight meter.
- In the early 2000s, Phantom Manor was given a special Halloween celebration. Known as The Phantom Wedding, it featured a large scrim covering the whole building, which was used for projection of Melanie's recreated wedding. In 2005, however, this celebration was replaced by another.
- In the early morning hours of April 2, 2016, the body of a cast member was found inside the attraction. He had been working on lighting backstage and his death is understood to have been accidental and due to electrocution. The ride was closed pending an investigation.
- ↑ Tavss, Jeff (April 4, 2016). "Disneyland Paris worker found dead in haunted mansion ride". ABC News 10.