Theme Park Ranger
March 25, 2011
Walt Disney World is extending, enhancing and invigorating the Haunted Mansion queue at Magic Kingdom.
It's a work in progress, and if this were a full-blown attraction and not just the queue, we would say it's in the "soft opening" phase. For the past couple of weeks, theme-park guests have been allowed periodically to tour the new scene.
What the lucky ones have seen: Cranky crypts, transplanted tombstones, stylish statues that are instant photo ops and a handful of sight gags and other tricks.
When I visited last week, a cast member stood where the turnstiles used to be and gave guests the choice of taking the left side to go "through the graveyard" or the right side to go straight into the attraction.
The new area isn't large, but it's packed with intriguing elements that play off the Haunted Mansion motif. They might be so interesting that they will slow down the line.
So far, there's just a little bit of interactivity. If you touch the composer's crypt on the engraved musical instruments, you hear music from that instrument. There are whispers — from the Internet, not from grim grinning ghosts or Imagineers — that more is forthcoming.
The look is in keeping with characters within the classic Haunted Mansion, and there's dark humor involved. The crypt for Captain Culpepper Clyne sporadically gurgles because he drowned in a bathtub. It's spooky, but it won't wig your kids out any more than they already are about the attraction.
Disney says the queue's fine-tuning will continue through the end of March.
Wait times are a top gripe of theme-park customers, and I'm all for entertaining distraction in these situations. But I'm surprised Haunted Mansion's queue was so high on the to-do list. Its line moves pretty steadily thanks to the constantly loading Doom Buggies inside, and it has pre-show activities already, including the stretching portrait room. Plus, the attraction had a face-lift and enhancements just a couple of years ago.
Higher on my wish list is something — OK, anything — to relieve the pain of waiting in line for Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, just across the pond from Haunted Mansion. It's horribly monotonous and isolated with dozens of those old-school switchbacks and few chances to spot the roller coaster in action.
Nearly as painful, but with no easy fix, are the rides that can't be reloaded while running, such as fellow Magic Kingdom staples Wild Tea Party, Astro Orbiter, Magic Carpets of Aladdin and Prince Charming Regal Carrousel. There could be hope as the Fantasyland expansion plan calls for interactive activities while waiting for either side of the doubled Dumbo the Elephant ride.
Time (in line) will tell.
4 queues to love
•Islands of Adventure raised the standard with the castle-encased queue for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey, which opened last year. Guests snake through what's essentially a museum of all things Potter with statuary, moving portraits and glimpses of key characters.
•There's a calm before the storm while waiting for the Manta roller coaster at SeaWorld Orlando. Riders first watch rays and other sea life drift along in an aquarium built beneath the thrill ride loading station.
•The scenes keep changing within IOA's The Amazing Adventure of Spider-Man queue. The setting is real — the Daily Bugle newsroom — and unreal (what's with that dusty-aqua paint color everywhere), but it gets your attention and starts the story long before the ride takes off.
•It's a dirty job, but somebody's got to theme it. The Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios definitely has a run-down, lived-in look, and the boiler-room section is Spartan but in an effective way.
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