This morning's entire mission was to get onto the new reopened Haunted Mansion. For, you see, the Haunted Mansion has pretty much been closed for the entire summer so the Disney Imagineers could give it a much needed refurbishment. While they had her "opened up" for surgery they decided to add a few enhancements.
My wife and I decided that there was no point to get to the Magic Kingdom at 8AM for the Early Magic Hours since that would mean that we would be standing at the rope to Liberty Square for an hour waiting for it to drop at 9AM.
So, we got up and got to the park at around 8:30AM and got into the very huge crowd at the Liberty Square rope near the center hub. We didn't think we could get to the one in Fantasyland in time and figured it would be much more crowded than the one we were in.
As we figured, as soon as the rope dropped people started sprinting like they were at the big bridal gown sale that occurs in most towns every year. It was funny to see. We just swiftly walked. I think we could've powered through the pain of our blisters (we put moleskin on them to help protect them this morning) if we had to, but what was the point to run to just get into a log jam anyway.
The crowd that awaited us was a bit more than I was expecting. There was no order to the madness it was just chaos as a giant crowd of people were being merged into a line that was only 2-3 people wide. Plus, the line did it's usual Disney thing and snaked around and around giving you a false sense of progress.
I have to admit that the line moved very fast. I don't think it ever stood still very long. It was for this reason that I really didn't get to take many pictures on the outside of the queue such as the gravestones. I can tell you that a nice touch was that real cut red roses were placed at the headstones for both Master Gracey and Madame Leota.
Once we got into the stretching room I was quickly looking for things that had changed. Everything seemed cleaner and you could tell the audio was different. The voice of the "Ghost Host" moved around the room as advertised but it was more like a surround sound like demo you'd see at the beginning of a movie than anything really cool. It didn't really feel like it was right behind you or anything. But any improvement is a good one in my book.
Once you get out the stretching room, you are quickly herded onto your Doom Buggy. The doom buggies went down a corridor with plain, non-enhanced spooky portraits on one side, then you move into another corridor that had the portraits that were advertised. They are the ones like you see at the Disneyland Haunted Mansion that you experience in their queue from the stretching room to the doom buggy.
As soon as we got into the library we broke down. At the time we thought the ride stopped to load some wheelchair bound passengers because we knew there were a few behind us. It was later that we found out that it truly broke down (my wife overheard cast members talking about it).
The new staircase effect is very, very cool. It really doesn't have a Harry Potter feel like everyone was trying to describe. It got the 100% Disney dark ride treatment. There were floating candelabras and ghostly footprints all illuminated in glorious black light. Unfortunately for us, there was something wrong with the audio at this point. What I think was supposed to be thunder sounded more like a jack hammer.
Except, and I may be mistaken, I didn't see the beating heart in the ghost bride that you could see in Disneyland's version. Everything else is pretty much the same. I think the hidden Mickey in the graveyard scene is gone now, but it was a quick attempt to look and I may have missed it or my view may have been obscured.
In the ballroom scene, I think the Imagineers have put out new plates on the dinner table. I think they used to be metal and now they are china.
In regards to all the scenes that stayed the same, my wife and I both feel that the colors are now more vibrant and the ghosts are much crisper, clearer and colorful than before. It very much has a brand new feel. You'd never know that this was a ride that opened with the park in the 70's.
We found out that the Annual Passholder preview will not begin until September 14th. At that point, there will be a separate line for Annual Passholders between opening and noon. My wife and I will be definitely riding this at least one or two more times. Now that I know that I lack any skill at taking pictures on this ride, I'll be just sitting back and admiring the skill, creativity and talent of Disney's fine Imagineering staff.
On my grumpy 5 harrumph scale, I give this attraction a solid 6!