Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The secret letters of DLP's Phantom Manor

What you'll see today are rare documents from Phantom Manor ...although anyone who do the ride pass each time at two feet from them! These letters are part of the theming, anyone can see them but nobody can read them because of the moving doom buggy!

Here is the whole story: When we prepared the Disneyland Paris, from Sketch to reality book back in 2000, we needed photos of Phantom Manor scenes. Disneyland paris photo library had thousands of photos, but not of every scene. So, as i am also a professionnal photographer, after the park was closed and with a DLP escort, i spent some nights shooting pictures not only inside Phantom manor, but also in Pirates of Caribbean, It's a small world, Peter Pan's Flight, etc..

And for Phantom manor i had the pleasure to walk around inside the manor, taking pictures of all the needed scenes. At one point i arrived near the "Bride in front of the mirror" scene. Right in front of it, on the other side of the doom buggy track, there is some furniture, and upon it, those letters. Simply by curiosity i shoot a picture of them....and forget all about it, until recently when i found back the slides.

And what is written on them is amazing! It took time for me to decipher the writing as the photo is not perfectly sharp, but you'll find the text below.

First these letters are written in FRENCH! I must remind you, that, although the park is in France, Phantom Manor is located in Frontierland which is supposed to be the old AMERICAN west, and so the letters should be written in english! Does this mean that we have here the first theming mistake in Frontierland? On a certain point, yes, but this does't matter really, what is interesting is why these letters are written in french, and most of all, what is the text talking about?

Here is what is written, first in french, and then in english with a translartion i did for you of two only letters where the whole text is visible. Hope that my translation is not too bad...

First letter, supposedly written by the son of Phantom Manor's owner, Mr Ravenswood:

Mon Père,

Je suis lasse de notre conflit.
Ce constat me mène à me rabaisser sans pudeur devant vous tellement il est difficile, je l’avoue, de vivre sans ( sous ) votre grande richesse.
Père, je vous prie d’accepter mes excuses les plus hypocrites que j’ai jamais pu faire.

Votre cher fils.

English translation:

Dear Father,

I am tired of our conflict.

This report leads me to decrease me immodestly in front of you, as it is so difficult to live under your great wealth.
Father, please accept the most hypocritical apologies i ever did.

Your dear son.

Second letter, supposedly written by Melanie Ravenswood lover - the one who will be - in Phantom Manor's mythology - killed by Mr Ravenswood:

Dear Mélanie,

Il est temps maintenant d’annoncer à votre père votre amour pour moi. Je ne supporte plus de voir votre beauté...(déchiffrage du texte impossible)...qui lorgnent sans cesse sur votre douce et volumineuse poitrine. Il est donc temps de vous offrir à moi.

Je baise...(déchiffrage du texte impossible)

English translation:

Dear mélanie,

It is now time to announce to your father your love for me. I can't stand any more to watch your beauty...(impossible to decipher the text)..who peer endlessly at your sweet and voluminous chest. It is now time to offer you to me.

I kiss...(impossible to decipher the end of the text)

Now, what do we have here? A letter - even a "hot" letter - from Melanie's lover who will be killed soon after this writing ( obviously it was not a good idea to suggest to Melanie to announce her love for him to her father, Mr Ravenswood ! ), and, two a letter written by Mr Ravenswood's son - so, Melanie's brother - with a "perfume" of coming suicide...

There is just one little problem: in Phantom Manor's story line, Mr Ravenswood don't have any "son", and Melanie don't have any brother!! Was it a real mistake or a private joke done by WDI props people?

So, what happen? Why are these letters written in french and not in english, and have a text who take some "liberty" with the attraction's story line?

Well, i asked a friend imagineer involved in the creation of Frontierland about this. After he thanks me for "sharing this interesting and seemingly provocative discovery from (my) archives" (!) he gave me the answer to this riddle...

During the final days of dressing the sets, not only for the Manor but overall Frontierland, the lead team of WDI Glendale prop people were assisted by French set and props dressing associates. This accounts for some of the "love letters" being written en français.

As to the questionable content, "your dear son", etc.., It seems that i figured it out perfectly. Because it was so far from the guests vision, it would only be discovered upon closer scrutiny - like me with my camera. So, it was the perfect kind of private, inside joke that someone working on the project could do. Some WDI designers always include hidden "Mickeys" in their work, but here we have a jokester who takes this practice to a completely different and cleverly humorous level. Hidden in plain sight!

So, next time you will ride Phantom Manor, instead to look at the bride and the mirror, have a look on the other side of the track. Because your doom buggy will be moving, you'll still won't be able to read those letters, but you won't mind, as now you are in the secret of what is written on them...


Anonymous said...

curious letters...
if you look just beyond the son's letter, you'll see another letter when it said : "je vous aimes... M[...]grosse(?) lonte (?).."
Who's said "je t'aimes" to Melanie ? it can't be the fiancé because the sign is different...
Another secret ?

About the "brother/son", don't you think that the fiancé called the Melanie's father "Mon pere" ? it will be logical...
But why i said that "it difficult to live under [his] great wealth" ?
and why the Father kill him after ?

it's just an idea but... i think it will be good to "dig" this way...

Anonymous said...

Hi !
Really thanks for these letters, I've been searching for them for months, it's very interesting !

Anonymous said...

First of all, even if the passengers sould'nt see these papers, I'm surprised to find so much grammatical mistakes in the french text.

I'm now wondering if the reason the father killed the fiancé is some kind of insestual relations between memanie and the fiancé.

What do you think about?

Anonymous said...

incest ?? between the brother and the sister ? hu hu ! i don't think that Disney will accept this story.... lol

Anonymous said...

Hi, I wor on this attraction, (I'm french and my appologie if there are some english mistaes.) Mélanie's lover is in fact her cousin tho is(until his death on a stretch room) a minner.

Jacob Donnelly said...

these letters shed some light on the "hard to find" story of the beloved PhantomManor!!!

I think that itis a fabulous twist and the imagineer who thaught it up should be comended!!! (even if it was a joke)

(also love the twist that Melanies lover is a minner!)

Someone should write a book or better yet, a cartoon/film version of phantommanor lik the old technicolour type westerns!!!! YEAY PHANTOM MANOR!!! X

Anonymous said...

Fils just means child heads up not specifically son. So the first letter is dressed "Your Child" meaning Melanie

Alain Littaye said...

No, "fils" in french is essentially masculin, it can't be written by a girl talking about her. If it was a girl she would have written "fille "and not "fils".