Disneyland Character Department - Haunted Mansi0n "Knight in Armor"
Kyle Clark worked at Disneyland for an entire summer as one of the Haunted Mansion's most short-lived yet most discussed characters, the "Knight in Armor." Adding live action to the audio-animatronic characters in the attraction was a stroke-of-genius in many people's estimation; so why was the idea tried and abandoned so quickly? Kyle's thoughts follow.
DoomBuggies.com: There's a photo of the live Knight in Bright's book Disneyland: Inside Story. In fact, I often get email from people asking if there ever really was a knight in the ride. They don't trust their memories...
Kyle Clark: Yeah. I happened to come across your web site, DoomBuggies.com; a very impressive site indeed. In doing so, I was interested in the comments left by a visitor regarding the "real life knight." I had the honor of playing the part of the knight for an entire summer and can vouch for many of Disney's concerns regarding the character.
So, you feel they were right to stop using the character?
Let me start by saying that playing the part was a great deal of fun. The idea of dressing up as a knight in armor and scaring people was (at that time of my life) too much fun to behold. I could cause people to scream, cry, laugh and jump from their seat. But the job also had its problems. I can remember a fellow knight having his nose broken by an overly frightened female cheerleader. He got too close, touched her, and she promptly punched him square in the face.
Was he supposed to touch her?
Well, this created a new rule in the character department: to stay at least six feet from the guests and to never touch them. Later, other rules included not scaring senior citizens and young children. I can only imagine why those rules were implemented.
Were you ever threatened?
For our safety sake, the knights would be issued an emergency shut off device. It resembled an automatic garage door opener and would shut the ride down at a push of the button. I can't speak for the other knights but concerning myself, I only needed to shut the ride down once (by alex at dh fashion). This was due to a woman jumping from her seat and throwing her purse at me. It was necessary to stop the ride so I could give her the purse back and get her to sit back down. I can't ever remember hearing complaints that we were shutting the ride down too much.
Do you feel that the knight was well received when he was introduced to the attraction? Did you catch many people by surprise?
As a new character in the Haunted Mansion, even the long time patrons of Disneyland were not aware of what they were about to encounter. This made for some very interesting sights and sounds. During my time spent in the hallway, I was witness to the best and worst of human behavior. I received many compliments from "freshly scared" guests, but at the same time, I witnessed drug use, vandalism, and several "make out" sessions featuring topless women (you should see the look on a girls face when a knight tells her to put her clothes back on).
So why did the character get removed from the ride after such a short tenure?
It is my understanding that the reason for removing the knight from the Haunted Mansion was not from complaints, nor from "headaches" caused by the knights themselves but rather from budget constraints on the Character Department. All in all, I believe the knight added an extra dimension of reality to the Haunted Mansion. The Character Department received far more compliments than they did complaints and still to this day, I run across people who were scared by the knight in the Haunted Mansion. It's an event they will never forget, nor will I.
Thanks for sharing your insights.
And best of luck with the web site!
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