Haunted Mansion Holiday is what happens when two holidays collide. Since October 2001, Disneyland has transformed its Haunted Mansion into an attraction inspired by Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas for the fall and winter. Jack Skellington plays Sandy Claws as he makes a good-faith, but wholly misguided, attempt at presenting his version of a Christmas celebration. The result is a like a nightmare-ish attraction by Courier and Ives.
Approaching the exterior of the Haunted Mansion, the first thing guests will likely notice is pumpkins and colorful signage affixed to the gates outside of the Haunted Mansion. This is but a slight precursor of what’s to come, as guests will find that “visually busy” is a motif of this overlay.
As guests continue to pass through the outdoor queue approaching the mansion, they will notice a staggering number of candles and jack-o-lanterns affixed to the mansion. These 400 plus candles and 100 plus jack-o-lanterns kick the ambiance up a notch, and inform guests that something extra ghoulish is taking place inside the mansion.
Once inside, the fully-immersive and thorough overlay continues. Make no mistake, this isn’t a mere enhancement to the Haunted Mansion along the lines of adding a few Jack Sparrow Audio Animatronics to Pirates of the Caribbean. For the holidays, Haunted Mansion becomes an entirely new attraction, with a completely new storyline and script, and show scenes that are familiar, but have been so dramatically transformed in some places that they’re barely recognizable.
Over two-dozen Audio Animatronics figures are added for the Nightmare Before Christmas overlay and bright neon colors throughout the attraction make the Haunted Mansion take on new life. One such Audio Animatronics figure arrived in 2003 with the addition of Oogie Boogie. Not only was an Oogie Boogie Audio Animatronic added to the end of the attraction, but several other references to Oogie were also added throughout the attraction, and outside, and a special “hide and seek” game encouraged guests to spot all of the Oogie Boogies before the attraction’s concluding Audio Animatronic.
The icing on the cake is, literally, real icing, as Disneyland Resort Foods assists in building a gingerbread house that sits atop the dining room table in the Haunted Mansion’s Grand Hall. This gingerbread house is the centerpiece of the attraction, and is different every year.
For 2011, the gingerbread house stands six feet tall, consisting of 500 pounds of gingerbread and tons (well, not literally) of frosting. As the top of the house spins from “happy” to “sad” it becomes a gingerbread monster, showing its devilish glowing eyes and opening its jaws to reveal sharp teeth. Each year the Haunted Mansion Holiday gingerbread house takes months of planning to design. This year it took three weeks to build in the Disneyland Resort Central Bakery!
As the Doombuggies continue past the ballroom scene and enter the graveyard, they find it a little more chilly than normal. This is because the graveyard in the Haunted Mansion finale is covered with 7,500 square feet of ghostly white snow. Trees in the graveyard are decked out with thousands of tiny orange lights, some of which have even tangled-up Jack’s ghost-dog reindeer.
Whomever it dawned upon that Disneyland should do a Nightmare Before Christmas overlay to the Haunted Mansion is a genius. The Nightmare Before Christmas perfectly melds together Halloween and Christmas, making its shelf-life as an overlay double the length of any other holiday overlay, since it encompasses two consecutive holidays. Well, consecutive in the Disney universe.
Overall, Haunted Mansion Holiday is amazing. Sarah prefers it to the original Haunted Mansion at Disneyland. That’s saying a lot. We were simply blown away by all of the detail. These details throughout Haunted Mansion Holiday are so plentiful that a voluminous title could be written on them alone and likely still not cover everything. In lieu of that, I’ll advise you to keep an eye out for the Sarah the Monkey Bride and the Oggie Boogie figure playing cymbals, which are both little nods to the attraction’s past, when you take your tour of the mansion during the holidays!