Video Update: Hitchhiking Ghosts animatronics replaced, for now, by computer-generated projections in Disney’s Haunted Mansion

in Disney, Magic Kingdom, Theme Parks, Walt Disney World


Just hours after we first wrote about projectors being added to the finale scene of The Haunted Mansion at Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Disney has unveiled a new, but quite possibly temporary, effect depicting the attraction’s famous Hitchhiking Ghosts in an all-new animated form.

The Audio-Animatronic figures of Phineas, Ezra, and Gus, collectively the Hitchhiking Ghosts, have been – for now – replaced by computer-generated projections. This includes the three ghosts initially standing next to each other, thumbs extended, as well as the ghosts formerly seen riding in Doom Buggies alongside guests, via mirrors. The mirrors and previous scene have been covered – for now – by black screens, onto which the CG ghosts are projected.

After a quick trip to the park tonight, I bring back with me video of this “update,” but with a footnote: While fans are often quick to pass judgement on additions of any sort in a Disney theme park, I encourage you to consider that these changes are temporary in nature.

With that said, here is the short video, followed by more of my thoughts:

Given the ongoing enhancements outside The Haunted Mansion, it’s likely the new interior effect(s) will not be completed until those changes are as well.

Cast members working at the Mansion say that behind the black screens, the Audio-Animatronic figures are being worked on. With this scene being a vital and memorable one to the Mansion, it’s easy to imagine that these projections are essentially animated construction walls, if you will, temporarily blocking the work going on behind them. If that is indeed their use, then they offer a wonderful alternative to simply blacking out the scene or closing the attraction while work progresses. At least guests can still enjoy the attraction and get the basic idea of the finale scene while improvements are made.

I’ve also been told, unofficially, that many interactive elements are making their way into the attraction, not only in the queue but potentially in this Hitchhiking Ghost area as well. Additional equipment may allow guests to interact with these ghosts – or the ghosts may interact with guests! For the moment, this technology is either not fully installed or not functional.

So while it may be easy to jump to conclusions, condemning Disney for “ruining” a classic attraction, I recommend holding off any opinions on this update until it is officially complete. In the meantime, don’t expect any Hitchhiking Ghosts to climb into your Doom Buggy with you, but rather look for them to sail merrily alongside, as only happy haunts can do.


  1. Westcoast Brian


  2. John Pokojny

    That cannot possibly be complete. I am sure there is more to come.

  3. Coby Stump

    Yes these projections are…

    Only for now
    For now discomfort
    Only for now
    For now there’s friendship
    Only for noooowww
    Foooor Noooow
    Only fooor nooow!

  4. PAUL

    i think they will make that scene more interactive by having it where the ghost you see sit with you also will talk to that person in there doom each person can have a ghost actually talk to you.if they can do this it will make a classic dark ride more interactive and even better.

  5. PAUL

    haunted mansion is and always will be a classic dark ride to me.and this ride is a good memory to me.cause of when my grandparents used to take me to disneyworld that would be one of the attractions we would go on first.before any other ride haunted mansion brings back a good memory to me.

  6. Spanky

    ugh..I am actually torn about this as I do CG stuff for a living. Having DISNEY animators do interactive elements could be stellar , but I also love animatronics. Don’t need to constantly repair the CG stuff though, and you could switch it overnight by replacing the footage. tough call for me, especially if they keep the look and essence of the design…..

  7. Folks DO realize that sitting still and observing something is still an interactive experience, right? Only it’s your mind, your imagination, your inner child, your WHATEVER YOU WANT TO CALL IT that’s doing the interacting. Everything needn’t have the in-your-face, touch-me-I’m-tactile, “Listen ma, it electronically garbled my name!”-quality of a Chuck E. Cheese restaurant for kids to enjoy it.

  8. Ub Avery

    Sorry, to break it to you guys, but these changes are probably permanent. Disney wouldn’t spend all the money to animate these guys unless they were permanent. If you look at the ghost they are clearly hitchhiking in the wrong direction. I bet they are going to rear project the same animation behind the mirrors. If you swap between front and rear projection you will get a mirror image, thus the ghosts would be hitching in the right direction again. I doubt interactivity has anything to do with this, one LCD projector and a scrim is simply cheaper to maintain than a conveyer belt of heads on sticks.

    1. Ricky Brigante

      You’re probably right. But the effect will not remain as it is now. So in that sense it is temporary. The scene is bland with the projections on black screens, but once combined with guests’ reflections it could prove to be a much more interesting effect than before.

      Likewise, I’m the tableaux featuring all 3 ghosts standing next to each other will ultimately feature a full set, not just a projection on a black screen. If the same projection is placed inside the scene via a Pepper’s Ghost effect (or scrim), then it will be far more convincing and enjoyable.

      For now, it’s a bit bizarre.

    2. @dave diznee

      hey, we’ve placed ezra, phineas, and gus back in the mansion, they were out for a “make under” so now thay should be ready for another eternity!

Add Your Voice