Why are there no ghosts on the Haunted Mansion ride at Hong Kong Disneyland?

Many of the attractions at Hong Kong Disneyland may look familiar to fans of the original park. Rides like Dumbo the Flying Elephant, It’s a Small World, and Mad Hatter Tea Cups are true recreations of their counterparts operating 12,000 miles away in Anaheim, California.

It’s not easy to spot the American inspiration behind Mystic Manor. Although the ride lacks skeletons, ghosts, and puny tombstones, it does revolve around Disney’s beloved haunted mansion. In the Hong Kong version, a mischievous monkey opens its owner’s magical music box and brings the animated artifacts in the maze house to life.

The story manages to be both funny and scary without the Grim Grinning Ghost appearing, and that’s by design. Mystic Manor exemplifies the considerations that must be taken into account when adapting American entertainment for a global audience, especially when death is a major theme.

The original Haunted Mansion opened at Disneyland California in 1969. The attraction took the haunted house concept popularized during the Great Depression and reimagined it with Hollywood-level special effects.

After being greeted by the “Ghost Host” (the disembodied voice of legendary voice actor Paul Frees), guests are led into a room where seemingly ordinary panels stretch out into horrific scenes. For the ride portion, the “Doom Buggy” ferries passengers past traveling ghosts, a mysterious bride, and a psychic who resides in her own crystal ball. Characters are brought to life through great animation and holograms. The tone of the story is equal parts haunting and humorous, which helped the ride become one of the most popular Disneyland attractions of all time. A version of the Haunted Mansion has appeared at nearly every location where Disneyland has opened in the decades since.

When Disney opened its second park in Orlando in 1971, the Haunted Mansion was among the opening day attractions. The adjustment was simple. The biggest difference was the facade, which was changed from the New Orleans Southern Gothic style to the more “exotic” (at least from a Florida perspective) Northeastern architectural style. Bringing this concept to Hong Kong Disneyland after more than 40 years will be more complicated.

Ghosts are viewed differently in Hong Kong and China than they are in the United States. Ancestor worship forms part of many people’s daily religious practices, so spirits are usually viewed with respect rather than mockery.

“Scary” ghosts are also part of the culture, but it’s no laughing matter. While supernatural horror stories can be a form of escapist entertainment in the United States, people in Hong Kong and China are more inclined to view malevolent spirits as a serious threat. Within the culture, anything from health problems to relationship problems can be traced back to them.

Death is associated with a tangible form of bad luck that sticks to everyone who crosses its path (some anthropologists even refer to this as “death pollution”). There are many rituals that mourners follow to cleanse themselves after the death of a loved one. If the deceased passed away in the home, they can open all the windows or clean the house to rid it of unwanted energy. So, while an animated ghost carrying his head in a hat box might entertain American audiences, a depiction of death like this might be confusing at best to Hong Kong natives and disturbing at worst.

“We wanted to be sensitive to any cultural concerns regarding ghosts or the spirit world with our Asian guests,” Mark Shermer, executive creative director of Walt Disney Imagineering, said in a statement reported by The Escapist. “So just lifting the idea of ​​The Haunted Mansion from our other parks wouldn’t really work. But the idea of ​​mystery and conspiracy and the supernatural we thought might have broader appeal.

For the Hong Kong version of The Haunted Mansion, Disney’s Imagineers thought outside the hat box. Mystic Manor does not adhere to any of the common tropes associated with haunted houses in the United States. Instead, it follows the origin story of Lord Henry Mystic and his pet monkey Albert. They live together in an old mansion filled with rare antiques that Henry collected during his travels, including an enchanted music box.

Albert the Monkey can’t resist opening the box, releasing a cloud of magic dust that makes objects in the house come to life. As the knights advance through the house, they are treated to dancing instruments and medieval weapons rather than singing ghosts and ghouls. You can watch a video of the trip below.

The attraction embodies the mystical spirit of the original while being sensitive to local cultural sensibilities. Striking this balance was no simple matter, which may explain why it took Disney eight years to launch the ride after opening its park in Hong Kong in 2005. And those years of planning paid off: In 2013, Mystic Manor opened and was later honored with Themed Entertainment Association Award for Outstanding Achievement in Attractions, all thanks to its original story and use of special effects and sound animation technology (also, for its trackless vehicles and Danny Elfman’s musical score).

Today, Mystic Manor is one of five “Haunted Mansion” rides operating in Disney parks around the world. Others are designed to suit their location. For example, Phantom Manor in Disneyland Paris takes on a darker, more mature tone. But taking on Hong Kong Disneyland represents the most dramatic departure from the Anaheim attraction. Shanghai Disneyland is currently the only Disney park without a Haunted Mansion, which is likely due to the same cultural differences that kept one away from Hong Kong for so long. If Shanghai Disney wants to change that, they have a winning blueprint to follow.

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