Everyone has their favorite attraction at Disneyland Paris. Many enjoy the thrills of the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, others love the more classic rides like Peter Pan’s Flight, and quite a few prefer to go over to the Studios for Crush’s Coaster or Tower of Terror. But for me, none of these rides hold a candle to the best version of the Haunted Mansion in the world, the one that takes place in the mysterious Ravenswood Manor, known to many as the iconic Phantom Manor. Why do so many people love this ride? What is so appealing to thousands of fans around the world? Now that it’s been one year since this legendary attraction has reopened, I thought that I’d take a look at Phantom Manor and how my viewpoint of it has changed over the years that I’ve known it. Of course, multiple ride spoilers ahead for the attraction!
The Legend of Phantom Manor
A few days ago I was looking through some old Google Docs and one in particular stood out to me. Many years before traveling to France, before I was even thinking about where I would be going for college, I was taking a French class. One of our assignments was to write about a tourist attraction in France as if we had just visited it (to practice passé composé, yay). Most people chose sites like the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, Versailles, and the Louvre. And me? I wrote about Disneyland Paris (to the surprise of absolutely no one reading this article). But looking back on this essay, I was quite amused to find that the attraction I claimed as my favorite was Phantom Manor, which was “similaire à la « Haunted Mansion » à Disneyland et Walt Disney World, mais est plus effrayant et très beau” (no, I don’t know how I passed this class either).
When I finally arrived at Disneyland Paris for the first time in August of 2018, I knew that I wouldn’t be entering Phantom Manor just yet as it was closed for refurbishment, but based on the rumors, the attraction would be reopening later in the fall so I wouldn’t have to wait for too long. Little did I know that I would be waiting for nearly nine more months, nearly the end of my first year in France. But during that time I would become a Phantom Manor expert, watching in-ride POVs hundreds of times and listening to the Phantom Manor Suite while doing my assignments or just chilling in my apartment. By the time that Phantom Mano reopened its gates and allowed guests inside once more, I would be ready to greet the beautiful Melanie and the terrifying Phantom face-to-face.
“Let Me In, Let Me In!”
For legal reasons, these photos are a joke. I promise that I never actually tried to break into Phantom Manor, no matter how tempted I was (you can ask my mother, she was the one who took these photos).
On the day of the InsidEars party on April 12th, 2019, I was glued to my phone screen, anxiously refreshing Twitter over and over again in the hopes of getting new information on Phantom Manor. I had been waiting for this day for months and could only hope that my patience had paid off. Suddenly I let out a scream of joy and ran over to my friend’s apartment, banging on her door. “MAY THIRD, THE MANOR IS OPENING ON MAY THIRD!” I was screaming over and over again until she opened the door. “I know, I heard you screaming through the wall,” was her response. When Tom Fitzgerald showed the portrait of Henry Ravenswood that magically turned into the Phantom I let out another shriek, claiming that “I knew it, it was her dad, I knew it!” My friend just continued to give me looks that seemed to say “Girlie, I love your passion, but please shut up”. But there was no shutting me up that night. Finally, there was an official date. I would actually be able to go into the Manor I had dreamed about for years.
The level of temptation I had to upgrade my Annual Pass to an Infinity Pass to attend the Reopening Party for Phantom Manor on April 30th was unreal. Fortunately for my wallet, I decided to wait until May 3rd with the rest of the public for the Manor to officially open its doors. But as luck would have it, Disneyland Paris announced that Magic Plus Annual Pass holders would have the chance to access the attraction a day before everyone else, so I immediately booked a BlaBlaCar for May 2nd, ignoring any other responsibilities I had that day (finals who?).
The Manor Opens Its Doors
May 2nd, 2019 – A day that would go down in history as the longest I’ve waited in line for a ride at Disneyland Paris. I arrived at the parks as soon as Early Magic Hours began, speed-walking to Frontierland and taking my place in the small line that had formed in front of the Manor. It was quite appropriate that it was a rainy day, but a bit of a pain with all of the umbrellas in line. But after 3 hours (including an opened delay, what a shocker), the gates opened and we were allowed to enter the gardens of Phantom Manor. A chill went down my spine as I walked through the gorgeously detailed queue, taking in every detail and trying not to miss a thing. On my first ride-through, there were many tears shed as I was simply in awe of actually being in a Phantom Manor Doom Buggy. Over and over again I flashed my Annual Pass card to the Cast Member at the gates and clambered up the steps, anxiously awaiting my next turn on the ride.
At first, I was not the biggest fan of the Phantom Manor refurb. When I first went through the ballroom scene I let out out a cry of dismay when I realized that they had replaced the beautiful music with some Haunted Mansion tune. The new nods to Haunted Mansion weren’t subtle at all, especially in the beginning where the trembling knight replaced the Melanie animatronic. And don’t get me started on the plot. To quote The Godfather (kind of), “Look at how they massacred my girl!” Poor Melanie is portrayed as a boy-crazy woman desperate for a husband (or any partner if you consider the final scene, but that’s another story). Here are some memes I created that day to deal with my frustration at some of the changes that had been made to the plot that I had been familiar with for so long:
But after riding in a Doom Buggy ten times that day, I was able to appreciate some of the changes that had been made. First of all, the lighting design? Chef’s kiss Incredible. Beautiful. Show-stopping. Hearing Vincent’s Price narration was something that I had never expected to experience and I had a wonderful time listening to it over and over again while trying to memorize it as quickly as possible. Sure, I may not have loved the storyline, but the new portraits were stunning and the effects took me ages to figure out. The new animatronics awed me with their fluidity (even if I’m still laughing at the “Terminator eyes”). Some things take time to adjust to, and Phantom Manor was no exception.
My Time at the Manor
In the year since Phantom Manor has been open, I’ve been on the attraction over one hundreds times. Sometimes I’ve been on it the minute the clock strikes 10 in the morning, other times I prefer to ride it at night. One time I even got to ride it at midnight during an Annual Pass Soiree. There have been quite a few different fun times in the Manor. My friend and I went on the ride when were a little tipsy which led to some fantastic commentary for my Snapchat friends, including me saying “Pepper’s Ghost” so many times that it didn’t make sense anymore. Another time I decided to see how many times I could go through the ride in a row without getting out of my Doom Buggy. I reached 10 times in an hour before giving up and heading over to Big Thunder Mountain for my FastPass time. Quite a few Cast Members at Phantom Manor seem to remember me from that day and give me a friendly wave before letting me go on for a second time.
Why do I love this ride so much? I had never had this much love for Haunted Mansion, even though I did enjoy it. Maybe it’s because of its ties to The Phantom of the Opera. It could also be the beautiful score, a haunting tune that remains stuck in my head for the rest of the day, Melanie’s operatic notes on repeat. Some of my friends believe that it’s my undying (hah, get it?) love for Melanie Ravenswood. Or maybe I just really have a strong passion for the Pepper’s Ghost effect! To be quite honest, I don’t know the exact details of how I fell in love with Phantom Manor. For some reason, I’ve formed a close connection with this attraction that has brought me endless hours of joy. I’ve written a 40,000-word story about the Manor for National Novel Writing Month, joined forums dedicated to the attraction, and learned parts of the ride’s music on the piano. I even met a few of my closest French friends through Phantom Manor and we’ve gotten to ride it together several times, pointing out all of our favorite effects to each other.
If I could go back in time and see the original ride before the refurbishment, would I? Of course, with zero hesitation. Seeing Little Leota in the wine cellar and the original decaying Phantom animatronic at the end of the ride would be a dream. But I also appreciate the time and effort that went into Phantom Manor 2.0, especially all of the technical aspects like lighting and audio. While the plot is questionable at best, Melanie and her heartbreaking story will always be my favorite plot of any Disney attraction. Where else can you find something so dark, so beautiful, so twisted? Definitely not on any other ride in Disneyland Paris. So consider this my tribute to a ride that has been an influence on such an important time of my life. Thank you, Phantom Manor. I miss you every day and can’t wait to return to your haunted halls.
Disclaimer: All of the beliefs stated in this series are my opinions, not the opinions of DLPReport and its associates. I only wish to give my thoughts and do not intend to hurt anyone with my words.