The Haunted Mansion Holiday takes place shortly after the events of the film it conjoins with, The Nightmare Before Christmas, where Jack Skellington, who tried to create his very own twisted Christmas in a Halloween-style overlay in the movie, now discovers the Haunted Mansion, home to 999 Happy Haunts. Deciding to spread joy to the mansion's gloomy residents for the holidays, Jack and his creepy crew from Halloween Town bring hundreds of Jack's original evil Christmas presents and decorations to the manor and deck the haunting grounds for a thrilling and chilling holiday for the Grim Grinning Ghosts inhabiting the abandoned house, setting the stage for the ride itself.
Upon visiting the mansion, guests first see that the facade has been completely redecorated, with jack-o-lanterns, candles, and a countdown clock to Christmas Eve. Jack's sleigh has landed on the roof, his twisted Christmas recipe dangling from it. A scarecrow wearing a Sandy Claws outfit stands in the front yard, and an Oogie Boogie topiary is placed next to the pet cemetery.
In the foyer, a grim rendition of Making Christmas plays while the Ghost Host, speaking in rhyme, begins to tell the story of what is happening at the mansion. Doors open, letting guests into the famous octagonal portrait gallery. Large stained glass paintings line the walls, depicting innocent Christmas scenes, and the ceiling itself is stained glass, showing a wreath and a large bow tied in a knot. After the doors close shut, all goes dark with the horrendous sound of the paintings breaking in half. The room begins to stretch, the paintings now showing scary Halloween-Christmas toys and ghosts rising up. As the tension rises, a spider crosses the ceiling, changing the colors on the ceiling itself, as guests realize that it does more than disappear. The ceiling partially breaks, creating the grin of a Jack-o-lantern. It finally smashes altogether, while Jack, as Sandy Claws, leans down into the room, shouting,
"Happy holidays, everyone!"
The room goes dark again. A dreadful scream and the shattering of bones is heard, the evil grin reappearing briefly. When the lights come back on, the empty cupola is seen, while the doors reopen. Guests are lead into a hallway, with windows to the left and paintings to the right, while Kidnap the Sandy Claws plays. The first painting shows Santa and his sleigh, which turns into Jack in his coffin sleigh. One of the reindeer turns into Zero, who comes to life and flies into the next painting. As Zero comes in, a snowman turns into a stack of pumpkins; the next, Jack as Sandy Claws into his Pumpkin King suit; the next, the mansion itself becomes decorated with pumpkins and candles; and finally, Sally holding a small Christmas tree, which burns to a crisp. A pair of busts stare at guests as they pass by and a creature that has burrowed into the wall points to the Loading Area, with a sign reading, "Free Sleigh Rides".
In the Loading Area, guests can see a huge animated Christmas card, showing all of the characters from Halloween Town, wishing you a Merry Christmas. The "Merry" on the card also changes to "Scary" and back every few seconds. After you board, the Doombuggy glides upstairs, with presents all around the top of the staircase. The Vampire Teddy Bear lures you nearer with a bait present.
Guests float past an Endless Hallway, with bone decor all around. Zero floats inside, barking happily, while another bone floats at the front end, with a tag reading, "To Zero". In the Conservatory, a group of flowers has sprung to life and now forms the choir. A man tries to escape his Christmas-wrapped coffin, but the Vampire Teddy Bear sits atop, a hammer in hand. The hallway, which guests travel through backward, has been redecorated as well, with skulls and garlands. Doors on either side make strange screams, screeches, cries for help, and maniacal laughter as though something on the other side was trying to get out. A monstrous man-eating wreath waits above the guests, reaching out to grab them, one arm outstretched, the other caught in a light fixture. More of the comically vicious flowers seem to be sprouting from it. A demonic grandfather clock chimes 13 as the hands spin wildly backward, and a note next to it reads "To Leota: 13 Special Gifts for You! -Sandy Claws"
In the Seance Room, Madame Leota recites the "13 Days of Christmas", her 13 Christmas gifts. Tarot cards showing all of her gifts and the Halloween Town residents who gave them to her float about the room, while the Vampire Teddy Bear sitting on her chair rings small bells. A zombified nutcracker imitates Leota chanting her incantations.
The Happy Haunts finally begin to materialize in the ballroom. A ginger-dread house sits on the table. An immense Christmas tree surrounded by presents is in the middle of the room, with glowing skull and jack-o-lantern ornaments and ascending and descending spiders grabbing lights. Like everything else in the house, the tree died a long time ago, with one green branch at the top. A ghost train travels in a small circle at the base of the tree. Ghosts dance right through the tree and presents, while a ghost organist plays Kidnap the Sandy Claws as a waltz and wraiths float out of the pipes.
In the Attic, all of Jack's presents have been stored, while the melody of What's This? bounces around. Ghastly, glowing presents lie about the room, adorned with wrapping paper covered in barbed wire, bones, and snakes. Three jack-in-the-boxes pop up and would either scream or laugh to scare passing guests, along with a bullet-hole riddled monster pullstring duck and a snarling toy train, with tentacle-tracks. A long, black and orange snake, having eaten some presents, sits with Jack's Naughty and Nice list hanging out of its mouth.
In a climactic finale, the Graveyard has been completely covered in snow and the spiral hill from Halloween Town sits in the middle of the graveyard, covered with snow and singing, glowing jack-o-lanterns. Orange Christmas lights hang from trees everywhere. The Vampire Teddy Bear sits in one tree, nibbling on a light fixture. Jack Skellington, dressed as "Sandy Claws", greets guests at the gates, wishing them a Merry Christmas with his dog Zero. Tombstones and crypts everywhere are decorated with small bows and ribbons, and some of their occupants pop-up to say hello. Guests pass a quintet of busts, topped with singing jack-o-lanterns. Spooks go for a bicycle ride with a bonedeer chasing them around in circles. A group of ghosts congregate around a hearse, drinking tea, while one of them sits out of his freshly opened coffin. Giant ice angels with jack-o-lantern heads play to the macabre Christmas Carol being sung throughout the scene. A mummy sitting in his sarcophagus tries to talk with an old man, but he's too deaf to hear; a Christmas tree next to them is wrapped in bandages. Two "Phantoms of the Opera" loudly belt out their voices, while a beheaded knight, his executioner, and a prisoner sing as a trio, next to their Christmas tree decorated with hatchets, ball-and-shackles, and chains. Guests finally enter the exit crypt, with the Vampire Teddy Bear appearing one last time playing his own small horn.
Oogie Boogie, as Oogie Claws, has taken over the crypt as "Oogie's Holiday Trick and Treats", and hands out Tricks and Treats to all guests in a wicked game of Halloween-Christmas roulette. Guests pass by three mirrors, where they can see what present they're getting this year. If you get a question marked coffin, Lock, Shock, and Barrel jump up in each mirror, laughing mischievously. After disembarking your Doombuggy, Sally waves goodbye as the shadow of Jack's sleigh passes over the moon and she tells you to:
"Hurry back...hurry back! Be sure to bring your Sandy Claws sack...I'll be waiting to open my Christmas present...Hurry back! Hurry back..."
When the ride first opened, the soundtrack used was composed by Gordy Goodwin. It was slightly based off of the original Grim Grinning Ghosts, but it was mostly twisted Christmas songs, and many tracks were done in similar styles to the original, such as the organ in the foyer, the organist's crazy waltz in the ballroom, the upbeat jazz in the graveyard, and a solemn a capella piece to wish guests goodbye as they leave the attraction. For the second year of the ride, the soundtrack was completely redone by John Debney, being based off of the songs "Making Christmas", "What's This" and "Kidnap the Sandy Claws" from the movie. The original lyrics in the graveyard scene were, for the most part, kept, while a new background piece was composed to go along with them. Despite the new score being thought of as an improvement overall, the music in the Stretching Room was changed back to its original state mid-season because the Imagineers felt that it worked better that way. In the third year, the Exit Crypt was changed to a new Oogie Boogie ending, and the original Attic music was used instead of composing a new piece. The ride soundtrack has remained the same ever since. The queue area uses the music box from Phantom Manor, but in 2002, nine Scarols were added to the queue, with the lyrics hung so that guests could sing along. However, some guests complained about them so much that they had to be removed, and the music box is now used by itself.
Differences Between Years
When the festive attraction first opened in 2001, many changes have been made between seasons to different parts of the ride. Here are some of them back in 2002 which was 1 year AFTER the festive attraction opened through 2017:
- In 2002, a new soundtrack was unveiled, but the Stretching Room was changed back soon after opening. Also, the original 2001 attic music is currently being used to underscore the scene in which guests encounter Oogie Boogie in an exit crypt.
- Along with the new soundtrack, nine Scarols debuted to be played in the queue. They were removed a couple seasons later due to complaints.
- A new Gingerbread house is designed and constructed every year for the Ballroom scene, being made from real gingerbread and icing. The following is a list of each year's gingerbread house:
- 2001: A twisted, monstrous version of the mansion, with arms hanging off the sides to keep the house balanced. One arm has a cake, which the birthday ghost blows out. Around the mansion, ghosts can be seen rising out of their graves to join the celebration.
- 2002: A stack of presents in the shape of the mansion.
- 2003: Oogie Boogie standing on a roulette wheel with a small gingerbread house in one hand, a bowl of ice cream in the other, and two dice cakes on his leg.
- 2004: Zero's doghouse with bones for columns. Around the doghouse were various treats for Zero, who would appear in front of the house and fly around it before disappearing
- 2005: The mansion with a man-eating wreath on the front, impaling gingerbread men on the table with forks and knives.
- 2006: The mansion with tentacles and snakes coming out of the sides, and skeletal hands prying off the top, like the man in the coffin in the Hallway scene.
- 2007: The mansion jack-in-the-box, with Jack in a jester's hat and two jack-o-lanterns bouncing out of the top and a crank on one side.
- 2008: A gingerbread coffin, which opens to let the gingerbread zombie inside sit up.
- 2009: A scary-go-round, with bonedeer and Zero spinning around.
- 2010: A mansion shaped like a tombstone with Jack popping out in a similar fashion to the pop-up ghosts in the graveyard. It also features the quintet of singing pumpkins in front.
- 2011: A mansion that transforms into a hideous monster, with glowing eyes, columns for teeth and a large tongue.
- 2012: Jack's house on top of a large hill with Zero floating around the top of the tower and a ghost train traveling around the table. The train carries a cupcake, which the birthday ghost blows out whenever it travels to her side of the table.
- 2013: An advent calendar mausoleum, with thirteen doors. Each week, a new door is opened, and a new cookie with Jack's face is added. The thirteenth door has Jack as Sandy Claws.
- 2014: An iron maiden shaped like the mansion that opens to reveal a gingerbread man inside.
- 2015: A massive mansion of cards with spiders being used to lift pieces up like cranes while construction worker gingerbread man stands around it. The house leans to the side as if threatening to topple over.
- 2016: A mansion that is similar in appearance to Sally. A ghost's arm protrudes from the mansion's front and its eye can be seen in the upper window. The ghost appears to be sewing itself inside, not unlike the ghost that appears to be walling himself in in the graveyard.
- 2017: A mansion that's covered in bugs that scurry around as a giant Oogie Boogie stands behind it, having pried the roof open, so he can eat all the bugs.
- 2018: A gingerbread house decorated for Christmas that is being uprooted by a giant spider.
- 2019: A mansion with various gingerbread figures of characters from the attraction both on and around it. At the center of the mansion is a man-eating wreath with a large number 50 within its maw to commemorate the Haunted Mansion's 50th anniversary. Figures of the Hatbox Ghost, Pickwick, the Bride, and Madame Leota are seen on the mansion's roof, appearing and disappearing. To the left of the mansion are figures of the Singing Busts and the Hitchhiking Ghosts while the Caretaker and his dog can be seen on the right.
- Zero used to float on the dining room table, but he now floats above the dead tree.
- In 2003, the Exit Crypt was changed from Lock, Shock, and Barrel to Oogie Boogie, as Oogie Claws, and different presents were added to the mirrors. Also, 10 hidden Oogies were hidden around the attraction, both inside and outside, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of The Nightmare Before Christmas premiering in theaters. This scene variation of the exit crypt has been used for every subsequent year afterward.
- A ghost train was part of 2012's gingerbread house, but it is now located around the base of the Christmas tree in the ballroom.
- For the 13th season, a new animation was added to the Stretching Room. Instead of the normal ceiling disappearing to show a static Jack, the ceiling is now stained glass, which turns into the face of a Jack-o-lantern before Jack breaks through it. Jack is now full-bodied and moves, and the normal cupola is seen afterward, with the Ghost Host's corpse still hanging around.
- Also for the 13th season, in the portrait hall, Zero now flies through each portrait, causing the transformation. This effect has shown to be problematic for the Imagineers because the paintings can lose synchronization, meaning that they have to revert to the original effect. Nonetheless, the effect is still used intermittently.
- The narration for the Stretching Room is actually part of Tim Burton's original poem, “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” which the movie itself is based on.
- The overlay now features Oogie Boogie with the scene as mentioned above.
- One of the "hidden Oogies" a one monkey band version remains in the attraction. It can be found in the attic scene of the dark ride where the Christmas gifts that Sandy Claus Jack Skellington delivered to the space above Haunted Mansion Holiday.
- The original idea for the attraction was for it to have been themed around Charles Dickens' The Christmas Carol. This was scrapped in part due to the story being much more idyllic and wholesome than the Haunted Mansion would allow tonally.