Disney has announced that the stately grounds of the Haunted Mansion will expand with a new immersive outdoor queue and retail store at Disneyland in 2024. This post shares timeframes and details, concept art of the gardens and gift shop, and our commentary about the badly-needed and overdue changes to New Orleans Square.
According to Disney, the ‘spirited metamorphosis’ of the Haunted Mansion will begin at Disneyland Resort in 2024, as the additions will build on the story and lore of the Haunted Mansion. The new grounds will immerse guests in “enhanced theming,” as well as a new retail shop adjacent to the attraction’s exit.
Local legend suggests the manor known today as the Haunted Mansion was first built by a prosperous sea captain. To this day, the mansion’s staff faithfully maintains the happy haunting grounds. The expanded queue will tie into these stories and more, including new gardens inspired by Master Gracey, Madame Leota, and the one-eyed cat.
Each of the gardens will feature unique elements ranging from a water fountain and gazebo to themed statuary and landscaping. In fact, guests will be able to see a new greenhouse where the groundskeepers for the Haunted Mansion grow their plants. The pet cemetery and horse-drawn funeral hearse will continue to reside on the attraction’s grounds.
But wait, there’s more! In addition to the new queue, there’s a beautification project in New Orleans Square and a new place where Madame Leota will materialize outside Haunted Mansion…
Disneyland felt it was time to continue Madame Leota’s presence beyond the walls of the Haunted Mansion with an all-new retail shop.
The carriage house of the Haunted Mansion in the concept art above belongs to Leota, and will be a standalone shop between the current exit of Haunted Mansion and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure. Disney is just “dying” to tell you more about in the future.
Disneyland will also make enhancements to the plaza adjacent to Tiana’s Palace Restaurant.
Disney recognizes that this area around the former French Market is one that holds a lot of memories and history, and an elegant new park-like setting will be a place to relax and enjoy the ambiance and live entertainment under the shade of new and historic trees.
Disneyland will take the opportunity to help improve the accessibility of these areas which includes a new elevator exit from the Haunted Mansion for guests with disabilities.
Construction on these additions around Haunted Mansion and New Orleans Square will begin in January 2024 at Disneyland. More about the final arrangements will be shared early next year. For now, consider this dismaying observation: the objects found in Leota’s garden will be inspired by her incantation. Dun dun dun.
In terms of commentary, my first thought is how badly this is needed. Moreover, it smartly repurposes space that’s currently underutilized (former FastPass kiosks and stroller parking) or improperly utilized (Magnolia Park).
We won’t be surprised to hear from Disneyland fans who are (naturally) skeptical of any plans to mess with the mansion. We also won’t be shocked if there’s disappointment that New Orleans Square is getting even more attention while Tomorrowland languishes.
These are both totally valid viewpoints, especially given the reverence for both the attraction and its land. If anything in Walt Disney’s original magic kingdom is sacred and should be treated with the utmost care and respect, it’s Haunted Mansion and New Orleans Square.
And in fairness, the changes at Walt Disney World–both ongoing with Hatbox Ghost and previously with the interactive queue–don’t exactly instill a lot of confidence. Thankfully, Imagineering’s infatuation with interactive queues has worn off–there’s a big difference between interactive and immersive, and this is the latter. I’d argue that the current queue is also immersive, so hopefully this will be more of the same, and Imagineers don’t get carried away with “story-ifying” the space to an absurd degree.
However, there are also the practical realities of operations. And I’m guessing some of those who are expressing surprise or skepticism have not experienced New Orleans Square or Haunted Mansion on a busy day or night–particularly between October and December.
During peak season or the heart of Haunted Mansion Holiday’s run, it’s common for the standby queue to spill out into the walkway and overtake the entirety of the Magnolia Park courtyard between the attraction and what will soon be Tiana’s Palace Restaurant. That quaint area and its lovely fountain are impossible to enjoy (and are anything but serene!) when they’re overflow queue.
Obviously it’s not going to be relevant this year, but if you want to see true chaos, try to pass through New Orleans Square towards Critter Country prior to the start of Fantasmic. It’s exceedingly difficult to navigate, as two crowds collide: those for the nighttime spectacular and those for Haunted Mansion.
It’s safe to assume that this will only worsen once the reimagined Fantasmic returns and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure debuts. The nighttime spectacular and attraction will see renewed interest in 2024 and 2025, leading to logistical problems that didn’t exist previously or presently.
As such, from an operational perspective, all of this makes a tremendous amount of sense and is occurring in anticipation of a bad situation getting worse. Frankly, it should have happened back during Project Stardust, which is the project aimed at widening walkways and improving guest flow ahead of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
Speaking of things that should’ve happened, we’re still disappointed that the reimagined Toontown didn’t get a walkway connecting to Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. Connecting the two lands would’ve been huge from a crowd flow perspective, indirectly lessening the congestion in both New Orleans Square and Fantasyland. Although it would’ve required relocating some backstage facilities, it would’ve been well worth it in the long term. (It’ll have to happen eventually if other expansion occurs in Disneyland and annual attendance continues to increase.) But I digress.
From a thematic perspective, the jury is still out for me and will be until seeing how it materializes. When viewing Disneyland divorced of operational realities, New Orleans Square was pretty much perfect as built, with few opportunities for “plussing.”
I’ll admit that I haven’t been wild about many of the changes to New Orleans Square in the last decade or so, including the transformation of French Market into Tiana’s Palace. (I don’t feel too strongly about that, aside from strongly believing they should’ve spent more time and money to replace Hungry Bear with it.) But I also recognize that sometimes there’s tension between themed design and practical realities of an operational theme park visited by millions of guests each year, as well as their preferences and behavior.
Ultimately, this is all a long-winded way of saying it’s important to view this Haunted Mansion area expansion through the prism of actual theme park operations at Disneyland, and not just in the vacuum of “pure” themed design or how this area used to exist and operate two decades ago. A lot has changed since then, including but not limited to annual attendance levels, queue management, stroller usage, and crowd dynamics.
Suffice to say, the expanded grounds of Haunted Mansion are absolutely needed and the purpose-built queue will be an unequivocal improvement over how things work much of the year, which is total chaos and overtaking the Magnolia Park area. That was and is the practical reality of this portion of the park, and having a dedicated overflow queue for Haunted Mansion should dramatically improve traffic flow through this corridor to Critter Country and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure.
What do you think of Disney expanding the grounds of the Haunted Mansion with a new immersive outdoor queue and retail store at Disneyland in 2024? Think this will improve crowd flow and is needed before Fantasmic returns and Tiana’s Bayou Adventure debuts? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!