The following review is from the perspective of a young fan of Phantom Manor, and offers some interesting details on a typical visit to the attraction.
If youíve never been to Phantom Manor, it may look somewhat weird to you. It looks very old and not maintained, unlikely for typical Disney attractions. The house looks deserted; as if it was breaking up. I read somewhere, but I can't remember where, that when WDI (Then WED Enterprises) designed the Haunted Mansion for Disneyland, Walt didnít want the house to look old, or falling apart; he wanted it to look neat and shiny, so nothing could interfere with the guestsí perfect mood, and nothing would spoil the feeling that they are in another world. (Thatís the reason why the Haunted Mansions look so pristine, like all the other Disney attractions).
He was right, but I think that the old deserted look of the manor is something WDI needed, in order to fit it into the Frontierland of Disneyland Paris. In fact, it looks so old that I'd suspect they never really finished refurbishing its outside. There were places I spotted broken wood that I think resulted from Mother Nature (or some angry guestsÖ) I am not saying that its condition is not good; on the contrary, the more they donít touch it, the more realistic it looks! For example, inside the queue house, on the lamps, there are fake cobwebs and also real cobwebs!
The garden is shaded with overgrown trees, which makes it a very pleasant and relaxing place. When the queue passes it, guests often sit there and rest! Itís too bad that the scary music only begins at the gazebo, with the music box. If it had then continued to the queue "house" with ghostly voices mixed with small parts of the macabre version of Grim Grinning Ghosts, it would have given those guests some scary atmosphere!
I heard that there should be a mysterious candle in the Manorís window near the queue and that there should be a ghost in the outmost right window, right next to the entrance door. Well, I saw neither one. I searched for them and I couldnít find either. Maybe Disney took them out, for some unknown reason. I know at least that the ghost was there before, because I've seen a picture. I was really lucky, in that one of the six times I went to the Manor (yes, only six--I was with a bunch of people who didnít want to be there all day!) a Cast Member dressed as the Phantom was having pictures with the crowd in the queue!
Another cast member photographed and gave a numbered piece of paper that said something like "Go to Town Square Photography and pick up your photo." It has the logo of Phantom Manor, and a little map of Main Street USA directing to Town Square Photography.
It appears that this photo is the only Phantom Manor merchandising available! Although there is a wagon selling some creepy stuff right at the entrance to the Manorís garden, the closest thing to Phantom Manor there is a mask similar to the Phantom (a simple skull mask). I also asked the CM there if thereís anything bearing the logo of Phantom Manor, and he said that there isnít.
Venturing Inside the Manor
The first time I went to Phantom Manor (on this trip), the CM inside the stretch room read the line "You may not believe it, but beauty once lived in this house; lovely isnít she?" in English while he was pointing to the paintings! This line is also read in the room before the stretch room in French while the image of the bride is glowing from within the mirror. I thought this was really nice, since this line is combined from a few lines from the English soundtrack that was replaced by the French one. But the next time I went to the Manor, the CM didnít read it. Even when the first CM (the one that read the line in the beginning) was in the stretch room again, he didnít read this line. Too bad.Inside the stretch room in Phantom Manor, the Ghost Hostís voice (I mean, the Phantomís Voice) travels through the room! Each one of his lines is heard from a different wall in the directions of the paintings! I only noticed it in the fourth time I went on the ride. I think the manor has undergone a minor refurbishment; itís a bit different from what I remember a year ago. (This report was submitted in September 1998 --CM.)
I donít remember it being so dark. Itís often hard to pay attention to small details and thatís a pity. The singing busts are located in the entrance to Phantom Canyon, where every few meters you hear the Grim Grinning Ghosts music in a different form. Itís kind of nice, but when you pass the busts you can hear only one verse of the song, and then the music changes. Inside Phantom Canyon there are wine bottles placed in different locations. Their labels were specially designed by WDI and they are very funny. Itís almost impossible to read them while riding, but you can view them in the book Walt Disney Imagineering by Hyperion. For example, one bottle bears the label "Old Imagineer" and another bottle bears the label "Villa Chastain." Chastain and Tujunga are off-site Imagineering facilities. Take a good look at the faces of the Animatronics, and you will see how the Imagineers make them look so scary in the dark!
Exploring Boot Hill
Boot Hill is one of my favorite places in the park. When youíre there, you feel very far from Thunder Mesa (the theme city for Frontierland), which is located on the other side of the "rivers of the far west." I think itís very nice that Imagineers put the geysers near Boot Hill and not on Big Thunder Mountain, because it gives a very good view of them and all of Frontierland. The best time to visit this (and also the Manor) is at night. One of the times I went to the Manor was very late, before the Main Street Electrical Parade, at about 10 pm, and it was so good! There were not many people, and all the dimmed lights outside were on. All the area was silent, so the weak music in the queue area did its job perfectly. After riding, we went to visit Boot Hill. It was empty of people and it was very windy, so the trees there were hitting the tombstones. It was quite scary! I was actually afraid! I think I heard a voice from one of the big coffins, like someone was trying to get out... cool! And after that, walking down the way, hearing the singing bride just perfected my Phantom Manor night experience.As long as I can remember, haunted houses have excited me. After visiting Phantom Manor for the first time last year, and for the second time this year, I can say that Phantom Manor is the ultimate haunted house! However, Iíve never been to the Haunted Mansion, and I canít wait... I guess itís also the ultimate haunted house, just another version!