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.