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Disney's Haunted Mansion making room for new ghosts

Orlando Sentinel

Original Article »

June 09, 2007

Horror of horrors! Tourists hoping to experience The Haunted Mansion at Disney's Magic Kingdom are being greeted by a "Closed for renovations" sign tacked to a locked gate.

Disney plans its first major overhaul of the popular Humor-driven attraction this summer, including technology updates and a few new ghosts. The ride closed Wednesday and should reopen by mid-September.

Ride designers are promising revisions consistent with those made recently at other "classic" Magic Kingdom attractions such as the Pirates of the Caribbean ride last year and the It's a Small World ride the year before -- enhancing effects without altering the story or traditional features.

"It's going to be fabulous," said show producer Kathy Rogers of Walt Disney Imagineering.

Yet as with the Pirates and Small World attractions -- considered classics partly because of their roots to legendary Disney designers and even Walt Disney himself -- The Haunted Mansion's loyal following presents both a blessing and a curse.

On Friday, the locked gate at The Haunted Mansion's entrance drew a steady stream of visitors who approached, grumbled and moved on. For the Uhlir family from Lake Zurich, Ill., and the Saar family from Boston, the promise of improvements in three months was little consolation.

"It was a great ride. I really looked forward to it. Now it's closed," said Daniel Uhlir, 12, visiting with his parents, Jeff and Beth, and brother Kevin, 5.

"Why do they have to close it now?" asked Tanya Saar, who arrived with daughter Anastasia, 8.

When it comes to finding a three-month window to close the ride, the logistics are complicated, said Phil Holmes, Disney World vice president for Magic Kingdom.

"Off-season" crowds now are so strong that there is little difference with the summer season, Holmes said. During the summer, virtually all other attractions are open, so this wound up being the best possible time, he said.

Holmes, who was a ride attendant when the Magic Kingdom opened 36 years ago, said he is as fond of The Haunted Mansion as anyone.

He said he understands the consternation of park visitors confronted by the "closed" sign. He said Magic Kingdom got the same reaction when the Pirates and Small World rides were temporarily closed.

"Each time, I think, we came out the other side and people embraced and appreciated the fact that it was refreshed, even improved," Holmes said.

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