Wednesday, January 18, 2012

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

All of you, Disneyland Paris fans, who ride Phantom Manor again and again might think - thanks to excellent "Phantom Manor" websites - that you know all about this DLP beloved attraction. But, today, you will learn amazing secrets you've never heard before.

In Phantom Manor "Phantom Canyon" is the last scene of the ride, after the doom buggy went through the graveyard and skeletons section. In a way, it's the grand finale of the ride. It's a totally different finale than the one you generally experience in the others Haunted Mansions. In Phantom Manor WDI Imagineers designed a surreal ghost town, and this ghost town have some rather unique Audio-Animatronics inhabitants. It is their story that I will tell you now.

In the early 1990's, while WDI Imagineers were building Phantom Manor's structure the Audio-Animatronics figures were made in WDI workshop, at Walt Disney World. 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 that guests meet in the previous scene, WDI purchased plastic skeletons from a company that normally supplies these "bony creations" to medical schools and colleges. For the "underworld" of Phantom Manor the skeletons were purchased in bulk and in different dimensions - larger for the men "crypt characters", smaller for the women.

And the largest skeleton acquired, used for the infamous Phantom character, was 6' 3" tall.

But for the "human" characters of Phantom Canyon it was a totally different challenge.
It's not well known but sometime - to avoid the expense of sculpting new heads and bodies for new kind of Audio-Animatronics characters - Imagineers can do a selection from masks and molds designed for AA characters of previous attractions. Then, with the magic of WDI designers and new costumes a whole new cast appear. For instance,some of the ghosts of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion previously showed up in Pirates of the Caribbean. Not only it's easier and less expensive, but the budget savings can be used to enhance lighting, special effects and other production values of the attraction.

Now, let's get back to Jeff Burke, WDW workshop, and the folks of Phantom Canyon. If you did the ride at DLP, you probably remember the bank robber and his donkey. Well, his face and body are from a mask and mold previously used for a character of 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 in the auction scene of WDW Pirates of the Caribbean.

Mind you, Jeff's first choice was to 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 when you exit the Bride's bedroom.

Edited : Richard, a faithful D&M reader sent to me the pictures below of the DL Haunted Mansion organist. As i mention in my text that the scared sheriff's head was used previously for a Pirates of Caribbean character, Richard thought that it might be instead the head used for the organist in the Haunted Mansion, and looking at these pictures i must admit that the scared sheriff and the organist faces looks very similar.

The best was to ask my good friend Jeff Burke who was DLP's Frontierland show-producer and Jeff answered to me that "the AA head used for the organist and the scared sheriff in Phantom Manor is indeed from the same sculpture with some distinctive makeup variations. However, he was not sculpted originally with Phantom Manor in mind but rather was fashioned as one of the extra figures for "Pirates of the Caribbean"."

In two words, the same sculpted head was sculpted first for a Disneyland POTC character first, then used for the HM organist at Disneyland and then for the scared sheriff at DLP's Phantom Manor! Amazing, isn't it?

Other Phantom Canyon inhabitants includes the piano player...

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

...and the druggist. All of them began their AA "career" in various scenes of the now extinct World of Motion attraction.

But the biggest surprise probably comes from the Mayor character who welcomes us to Phantom Canyon. He's the one who greets you not only by removing his hat, but his head as well! You're not going to believe who he is really or should i say who "he" was in a previous "life": Believe it or not, but the mayor of Phantom Canyon is DREAMFINDER, the main character from the beloved Journey into Imagination attraction!

Quite frankly, I've ride Phantom Manor dozens of time and never noticed it before but indeed Phantom Canyon's mayor is/was the Dreamfinder character of EPCOT's Journey into Imagination! And the voice of this macabre mayor wishing you a "Welcome, foolish mortals..." is none less than the talented Paul Frees, who is the voice of the "Ghost Host" in Disneyland's Haunted Mansion.

So, next time you will ride through Phantom Manor and when your doom buggy will go down to enter Phantom Canyon, don't forget to say a warm "Hello!" to the "Dreamfinder" mayor and all the other characters who are versatile enough to scare you at DLP after they entertained guests in a previous "life" at others Disney theme parks.

Note: Progress City USA has posted today an interesting article about Dreamfinder and you can read it HERE !

Don't forget to pre-order a collector's copy of the Disneyland Paris book, on its way for reprinting. Anyone pre-ordering the book has a 20% discount on what will be the final price when the book will be released, so it's better to place your order now. The book is absolutely gorgeous, Just go HERE to learn more about the book and how to place your order. And if you have never seen the book here is a brand new video that we did, and which will show you EACH page of the book!

Pictures: copyright Alain Littaye or Disney


Disney Showcase Key said...

So I was true!
I've noticed before the relation between "Phantom Canyon's mayor" and "Dreamfinder" .
I used to say it as a joke to my friends when riding the attraction, thanks for your confirmation!
A very interesting post, with many others discoveries :-).

Anonymous said...

Great update. A lot of the characters used over and over in Disney attractions were actually sculpted or cast from people who worked at WED in the 60's and 70's. Maybe they were chosen for their hands, feet, arms, body gestures,or even faces as with Madame Leota in the Haunted Mansion. Even Thunder Mesa's Show Producer Jeff Burke's image can be found in Epcot's American Adventure in the Civil war depiction of two brothers. Jeff wearing Blue. I was asked to pose for Will Rodgers figure.

Anonymous said...

If you look closely at the faces within the original Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyalnd, you notice that several of the same faces are reused over and again, even within the same scene. Two of the quivering hostages watching the mayors dunking are twins! As that scene becomes the auction, more of the same faces are redressed again, and again throughout the ride. Ever noticed that the framed 'family photos' in the Haunted Mansion corridors are the same few faces over and over? True too.

Tom said...

Dreamfinder, waw!!!

I'm just reading the D23 magazine about WDW and they mention Dreamfinder and WoM again. This is so cool (and so obvious when you know it, haha)

Josh said...

I know that some of the characters are reused in other attractions (America Sings and Splash Mountain is possibly the best example of that!), but just to clarify, the ones in Phantom manor are new AA's moulded the same as the original characters? Or do we actually have one of the Dreamfinders in Phantom Manor in a second use?

Either way, that is one of my favourite scenes in the ride, it's great to know the history of it!

Marco Antonio Garcia said...

Very interesting! Attractions with AA characters are still the best ones for me. And Phantom Manor is my favorite DLP attraction! It is the best version of the attraction in my opinion, it needs some updates like the Florida and California versions had, but in essence it is the best version...

wc said...

Thanks for posting this fun information. While I've known that reusing molds and entire figures has long been common practice at WDI, I didn't know about these particular figures.