Thursday, April 17, 2008

You will never believe the real origin of Phantom Canyon's inhabitants !

All of of you, Disneyland Paris fans, who ride Phantom Manor again and again may think - thanks to all the "Phantom Manor" fans' websites - that you know all about it. But today you will learn amazing secrets you've never heard before.
Phantom Canyon is the last part of the ride, after the doom buggy has been through the skeletons' section. In a way, it's the grand finale for the entire attraction. Its design was changed from that of a cemetary, as with the other Haunted Mansions, to a surreal, other-worldly ghost town. This ghost town is not deserted, but has some rather unique Audio-animatronic inhabitants, to be precise. And it's their story I will reveal now.

When the park was being built in the early 1990's, it was in the backstage shops of Walt Disney World where most of the Audio-animatronic figures were made for Phantom Manor. At that time, Jeff Burke, DLP Frontierland's show producer had to choose the "faces and bodies" of Phantom Canyon's future inhabitants. For the skeletons in the previous scene, WDI purchased plastic skeletons from a company that normally supplies these "bony creations" to medical schools and colleges one or two at a time.
For the "underworld" of Phantom Manor, the skeletons were purchased in bulk and in different dimensions - larger for men "crypt characters", smaller for the women.

And the largest skeleton acquired in multiples was 6' 3" for the infamous Phantom figures.

But for the "human" characters of Phantom Canyon, it was another challenge entirely.

Now it's not well known, but sometimes instead of adding the expense of sculpting new heads and bodies for a different configuration of AA figures, Imagineers can cleverly select from masks and molds made for figures featured as AA characters from previous attractions. With the magic of figure finishing and new costumes, a whole new cast appears. For instance,some of the ghosts of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion first showed up in Pirates of the Caribbean. It's not only simpler and less expensive, but the budget savings can be utilized to enhance lighting, special effects and other production values of the attraction.

Now, let's get back to Jeff Burke, WDW construction shops and the town's folk of Phantom Canyon. If you've been on the ride at DLP, you remember the bank robber and his donkey. Well, his face and body are from a mask and mold first used for a character in EPCOT's World of Motion, as well as the donkey!

And the face and body of the scared sheriff hiding behind the lampost, is also featured as a skinny pirate onlooker in the auction scene of WDW Pirates of the Caribbean.

Mind you, Jeff's first choice was to have used the terrified groundskeeper standing at the cemetary gates in Haunted Mansion's final scene. By the way, from that same scene, a howling dog among the tombstones has been turned into a snarling "hound from hell" lunging toward your doom buggy after you leave the Bride's bedroom.

Other inhabitants of Phantom Canyon including the piano player...

...the bartender, the saloon girl...

...and the druggist, they all made their debuts in various scenes of the World of Motion.

But perhaps the least expected surprise comes from the character of the mayor who welcomes us to Phantom Canyon. He's the one who greets you by not only removing his hat but his head as well. You're not going to believe who he is - REALLY! Believe it or not the mayor of Phantom Canyon is the Imagination Pavillion's....DREAMFINDER!

Quite frankly, I've never noticed by myself before, but indeed he IS the Dreamfinder character of EPCOT's Journey into Imagination attraction. And the voice of this macabre mayor wishing you, "Welcome, foolish mortals..." is none less than the talented Paul Frees, who serves as the voice of your " Ghost Host" throught out Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.

So next time you ride through Phantom Manor and your doom buggy approaches Phantom Canyon, don't forget to wave a warm "Hello!" to the "Dreamfinder" mayor and all the other characters who are versatile enough to be currently frightening you, while they are also entertaining guests at other Disney Parks.

Attraction poster: copyright Disney Enterprises Inc

Photos: Alain Littaye

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