Welcome back friends and fiends of TMSM. We’ve come to the dead end of our journey to a place that deviates from the spooktacular formula of the Mansions and Manors in other Disney Parks worldwide. You’ve now crossed over into a land Far East, and into the realm of rare antiquities, some of which bring curses and other curious delights. Let us explore the Mystic Manor of Hong Kong Disneyland.
When Disney Parks expanded into Hong Kong there wasn’t a substantial amount of real estate to work from so Imagineers made due with the space they had and opened up shop in 2005. The new Hong Kong Disneyland featured some reimagined classics, but wasn’t yet fully completed to the Mouse House’s standards. Eventually the park was given the green light to expand, and three mini lands were planned as part of the expansion, one of which would include a haunted mansion style ride, a dark element that the park was undoubtedly missing. When Imagineers began to plan for this new iteration of the Mansion they came across a culturally significant reason to halt digging in the ground.
Culturally, the Chinese have a different relationship to the deceased than the rest of the world. Spirits of their ancestors are honored, but also avoided at all costs. As Imagineers learned more about their audience, a gaggle of Grim Grinning Ghosts was not going to translate into the kind of happy environment Disney parks are known for. So they took a cue from the Tower of Terror in Tokyo, which had been given a different storyline spin and adapted to the culture in Japan. You see, the Tower of Terror as we know it in the states was not shown in Japan, and Imagineers had to get creative. In doing so they built a story about a wealthy explorer who founded the Society of Explorers and Adventurers (S.E.A), and he collected obscure antiquities from his travels. The story goes that he picked up a cursed Shiriki Utundo idol that converted his hotel into a Tower of Terror; and just like that, the stateside attraction now had a new plot in Tokyo. As fate would have it, or maybe it was always in the cards, that plot would lend itself to the creation of an entirely different experience in Hong Kong.
Since the Society of Explorers and Adventurers existed at another Disney park, Imagineers felt it could be expanded to Hong Kong Disneyland by way of a new Manor, built appropriately at Mystic Point. Mystic Manor is dubbed a “Tropical Victorian Eclectic” house that sits on a lush green hill near the Jungle River Cruise. The scenery of the pre-existing Jungle Cruise benefitted the build in that there wasn’t a lot of space for Mystic Manor, but by borrowing from the landscape, it gave the attraction a much larger feel. Once the location and architecture of the manor was decided, the story for the new ride began to be weaved. Lord Henry Mystic, an original founding member of S.E.A built Mystic Manor to house a museum with an extensive artifact collection purveyed from his many travels, and serve as his home. Lord Mystic has a trusty monkey companion named Albert who Imagineers added to the ride that aligned with Chinese culture signifying mischief. It was a great way to set the tone of the ride given the limited time to tell a complete story. Guests are led to believe that meeting Lord Mystic and getting to tour the museum is a very distinguished and honored opportunity. Those who ride know that they are in for trouble when they meet Albert at the museum.
All the characters introduced at the Manor are essentially caricature versions of real people, with a cartoon feel that appeals to audiences of all ages. Another stark contrast to the Mansions is the lack of a Doom Buggy. Like the Parisian experience the mode of transportation through the ride is different. Guests board a carriage like Disneyland Paris, but it’s not a typical carriage. This contraption is a Mystic Magneto-Electric Carriage, built by Lord Mystic himself. The trouble starts when Lord Mystic excuses himself from the Acquisitions and Cataloguing room where he has greeted his guests. Little Albert, being a mischievous monkey begins to inspect a newly acquired music box artifact. This artifact allegedly possesses mysterious powers, and once Albert opens it a mysterious magic dust escapes from the artifact and all hell breaks loose. This magical dust brings to life everything it touches and given that the whole place is a museum with sometimes scary and curious artifacts, guests are in for a wild ride. While in the Mystic Magneto-Electric Carriage guests chase Albert through every room in the house. Things begin to escalate and get decidedly more sinister depending on the different artifacts in each of the rooms. The whole experience culminates to a crazy vortex that appears to be ripping the entire museum apart all around you until Albert is finally able to catch the dust trapping it back in the music box. The moment this happens, guests are transported back to the Acquisitions and Cataloguing room just in time for Lord Mystic to return, completely unaware of the disaster that just occurred. To add an element of comedy, Lord Mystic tells Albert specifically to not touch the music box; a little late don’t you think?
Speaking of music; fans of Danny Elfman’s work will find delight in knowing that the entire score for the ride was composed by Mr. Elfman. The same master of haunting music that gave us spine tingling tunes for some of the most beloved Tim Burton movies, especially Nightmare Before Christmas. Imagineers created the ride with a very Tim Burton feel including artifacts that are otherworldly and sometimes grotesque. Given this direction, having Danny Elfman on board to provide a musical journey was a dream come true for Imagineers working on Mystic Manor, and a true testament to the dream team that is Burton and Elfman.
And so dear sweet readers of TMSM, our journey through the history of the Haunted Mansion and the Manors inspired by the iconic attraction has come to its true dead end. What will never die is the fascination with these attractions at every Disney Park worldwide. People of all ages, genders, and cultures are bound together by the memories made when visiting Disney Parks and the different experiences of walking through halls where grim grinning ghosts, phantoms and mystic occurrences are all the stuff the best nightmares are made of. When you take a moment to really think about that, how we are all connected in one way or another by the Haunted Mansion like a giant séance circle of life, you can’t help but realize, it’s really a small world after all… or is it a small afterlife after all? You decide… until then; I hope you have a Happy Halloween and cheers to many happy haunts!
- Will Galaxy’s Edge be available during Extra Magic Hours? - May 23, 2019
- Three Limited Disney Rewards for Summer - May 16, 2019
- Walking in Walt’s Footsteps - May 9, 2019