Hi! So I'm a regular contributor to the Haunted Mansion Wikia and a big fan of the Haunted Mansion franchise in general who's done alot of research on it in the past and seeing as how the majority of wikia article alterations lately have been about the 2019 refurbishments of Phantom Manor, I thought I'd break down my opinions on the changes.
Feel free to use this for discussion, just thought that I'd share.
Vincent Price's Return
Ok obviously I love the return of Vincent Price as the Phantom. I'm into watching alot of retro-horror movies, classic Tim Burton projects and studying old actors not to mention having loving his performance in The Great Mouse Detective. Also all of this is not to mention how Vincent was an advocate for equality acts at a time when support for the communities were incredibly rare and he himself was a bisexual man.
What I'd really like to say that I appreciate here though is how they kept in much of the french. I personally am francophone and I was concerned that they would remove the french so much that the Paris park-gowers would be somewhat ostricized but they didn't and I deeply appreciate it.
So although I did love much of the original Phantom Manor, alot of it did somewhat urk me through either the jankiness/lack-of-spectacle of certain effects and whenever it just followed the original mansion so much that it lacked in indapendent identity. The Foyer is honestly one of my favourite changes because it is a wonderful effect to have the room change around you, it works in the story, and it allows the attraction to gain more of an indapendent identity from it's parent attractions in America as opposed to the original which was somewhat underwhelming with the very mundane Mélanie in the mirror effects.
I will say however I'm somewhat confused by (presumably) Mélanie in the portraits wearing her wedding gown alongside Henry.
The Stretching Room
Here I'm going to talk both about the new Stretching Room in terms of show-scenes and in-terms of it's story connotations but in seperate paragraphs.
As-far as show scenes go, it is amazing and (to me at-least) a welcomed change over the original. The paintings visually look much better then the originals which weren't bad but clearly didn't have the heart or attention that the originals did. These paintings are much more aesthetically pleasing with the amount of colour, shading, detailing and character. The inclusion of things like how the settings showing you what these men's professions were or how each man's fall (in Rowan's case literally) is ironic based on those professions (except maybe for Barry's) is very dark-humoured and very Haunted Mansion in my opinion. Also personally I do love the sheer brutality of Barry and Sawyer's deaths.
The inclusion of having Mélanie disappear from the portraits is a great example of building off of the original attraction rather than simply replicationg it. It makes sense in the story which they are choosing to tell, it is distinct to the ride and it adds to the magic of the attraction.
Mixed Bag here.
I do like how Henry/Phantom (and I'm going to get to my opinions on that) have a history of murdering Mélanie's suitors and how they used their wealth and power to make the problems go away. I feel like that fleshes out Henry's personality and motives and sets up the Phantom's psychopathy much better. I would however like Disney to work out a way to reveal how exactly Henry arranged those deaths but honestly that's a nit-pick.
I do not like the exclusion of Jake's corpse from the cupolla. I sincerely do like the inclusion of the other suitors but more-so as an expansion of the original storyline rather than a retcon of it. The portraits of the new suitors would perfectly set up the murder of Jake by the Phantom but excluding him from the active narrative creates more problems then it's worth. For example: Why did Mélanie lock herself away from the world if not waiting for Jake? Why is there a ghostly wedding party if she never had a doomed wedding? Why is she in bridal gown if she never had the twisted wedding? Why did she stay in Thunder Mesa after the Earthquake of 1860?
Just the sheer inclusion of Jake's corpse would solve all of those plot-contrivances instantly, tie it in better with the original ride and make the Phantom more intimidating than he is waving a noose at guests which guests can't even really see because of the perspective and lighting. The corpse is clearer for building him up as being a murderer.
On the one hand I legitimately do like the new portraits. I think that the western-style portraits definately help Phantom Manor's narrative and setting which was somewhat absent during the manor portions of the original. I also think that this is once again another good instance of the ride distinguishing itself apart from the Haunted Mansion while still keeping in theme of being a reimagining of it. The portrait of the Cowboy mirrors the Black Prince but for the new setting. Henry Ravenswood turning into the Phantom mirrors Master Gracey but for the new story. The Flying Dutchman- well being perfectly honest I still don't get what's going on with the Flying Dutchman (I mean why is it on fire? The Black Pearl was the one that was set on fire not the Dutchman). But the duel portrait I love because it is actively; giving you a better look into Henry Ravenswwod's pre-mortem character, giving you a wonderfully dark-humoured visual gag, expanding the mythos, not only referencing but building off of a classic Haunted Mansion image to meet the new attraction, and subverting the anticipations which Mansion fans have for the portrait from already knowing what happens with the normal duelists.
What I don't like however is that they are the lighting-flash portraits rather than the slowly morphing ones. Not that I don't think the new portraits work well as flashing ones, I do. Also not because I dislike flashing portraits in general or think they look bad, in fact as-far as effects go I think they look great. However keeping in mind that the original Phantom Manor had the morphing portraits, I feel like going to flashers is a down-grade as opposed to the mainstream mansions where they were intended to be morphing but were always installed as flashers.
On a much, much nit-pickier note I wish they did something new with Mélanie's portrait. The static portrait feels kinda out of place in the corridor so I feel like they could have added some sort of effect to it. Maybe they could have had her eyes move? Used lighting to give her chest a sort of beating heart glow? Included a singing or beating-heart sound-effect coming from a painting. Really anything.
It's gorgeous and creepy. Enough said.
The Phantom is Mr. Ravenswood
So I might as well aknowlege the Elephant-Crypt in the room and I know that some of y'all will disagree with me on this.
Honestly I'm completely fine with cannonically making him Henry Ravenswood. Making the Phantom's identity anonymous always came off to me as kind of being a contrivance from the large changes made to the original script. This being that the original script had more possibilities for who the Phantom could be but the alterations to the backstory left Henry as the only real candidate. I mean there was honestly never much doubt regarding if Henry was the phantom or not cause he was the only real candidate presented so the making it anonymous never completely worked in something as story-reliant as Phantom Manor. Making him and Henry cannonically the same character allows for us to understand both figures much better, it's more interesting in this instance to have them both have more backstory because of how story-driven Phantom Manor is opposed to the Haunted Mansion where all story is sub-text so the Ghost Host's abstract identity functions much better or like something like the original Phantom Manor backstory where there were actual other candidates to the Phantom's identity.
The Armour, Endless Corridor, Music Room and Corridor of Doors
Im cool with it. No strong opinions. Lighting and colours look better now. Do feel like they could have thrown a picture of Martha Ravenswood in here somewhere but, meh.
Though did anyone else hear Pat Carroll (Ursula from the Little Mermaid) laughing during the corrdor of doors in the background or was that just me?
K this is not a comment on the scene itself but more a problem which I have with the attraction changes in general. Why did they not explain Leota? I feel like this was hinted towards before the renovations but I thought they were going to explain Leota in Phantom Manor. We have no idea what Leota is doing there and Phantom Manor is supposed to be incredible story driven. We don't even know if this is the same Madame Leota from Haunted Mansion! Was she working for Mélanie or Henry? How did she die? What the heck was she doing there? Did she bring Henry back as the Phantom? We know more about the Haunted Mansion Leotas and those are supposed to be the ones with vague backstory. Disney you had the perfect opportunity to shed some light on her, flesh out the story more and distinguish Phantom Manor more from the original but NOPE. Guess not.
The animatronics in the Pepper's Ghost effect definately look better but I've got a problem with this scene. The Phantom and Mélanie animatronics SUCK. Honestly, the originals worked so much better here and while they may have been relatively static they were arranged and positioned to fill out the scene more and look like they had more character. This new positioning looks like a cheap halloween decoration with no character or movement.
I legitimately love the Phantom in the mirror effect but I still feel like they could make the All is Vanity set-piece look better.
The new Phantom animatronic looks great and Goliath also looks much better so no complaints there.
Looks good. No strong opinions.
The animatronics definately look better here and in what I'm sure might be a controversial opinion, I like the new sky. I get that some of you probably liked the original for it being vague as to if you were in literal Phantom Canyon or in the Underworld but as far as show-scnes go the night sky here looks infinitely better and makes the colours in the town itself pop out much much much better than they did before.
Im torn as to the new Phantom because on the one hand, the animatronic is one of Dinsey's best and is so fluid and full of (after) life but on the other hand I will miss the old rotting corpse Phantom which I feel like worked towards a sort of thematic-narrative in the attraction.
The Exit Crypt
I do like the removal of Little Mélanie because I feel she was kind of a mess narratively since she was played by Leota, intended to be Mélanie but acted out of character for Mélanie. I don't however like the inclusion of crazy Mélalanie. I was talking before about how I liked many of Phantom Manor's changes were distinguishing the attraction from Haunted Mansion while expanding on what they did take but I consider crazy Mélanie a step back. She totally seems to be just a forced connection to my girl Connie and it comes off as being out of character for everything we see of Mélanie in the attraction. They could have just kept the Phantom in the mirror. They could have added Mélanie but made her creepily weeping beside guests in a haunting way. Crazy Mélanie just does not work in the ride's narrative.
I also think that they should have replaced Little Leota Mélanie with something. Maybe a melancholly Mélanie saying "Hurry Back" in full sincerity not wanting to be left alone? Maybe they could actually take the opportunity to expand Leota's character and give Leota a tomb which "Oona Leota" is standing in-front of? The scene just seems so absent here.
This was a wasted opportunity to add more mythos to Boot Hill. They could have explained Leota or the new duelist Henry killed or maybe even the cowboy? But nah. They just left it.
Ultimately I legitimately do like alot if not most of the changes made but the changes (or lack of changes) which do upset me, tend to legitimatley frustrate me although many of them should be generally easy fixes.