Since it’s closure in September of 2001, River Country has been left abandoned. It’s unclear why it remains and has not been demolished, but it is out of bounds for the public.
The internet is full of photos and several videos taken by urban explorers who have snuck into the abandoned park. You are free to view them, but I won’t be posting them here, as I don’t condone it. Not only is it trespassing, but abandoned areas are not maintained and can therefore be dangerous to go walking around in.
Taking issue with trespassing, I get, but “abandoned areas are not maintained and can therefore be dangerous to go walking around in?” That’s basically discouraging people from hiking.
Here, followers. Check out these photos—the grounds are gorgeous, far prettier than when they were operational—and daydream about Disney re-opening it as a park for picnicking, strolling, and meditation.
Mickey’s Not-So-Scary Halloween Party’s Mickey’s Boo-To-You Halloween Parade
This section of the parade, alone, is worth the cost of admission, but the Hitchhiking Ghosts irritate me. They shouldn’t be riding on a float—they should be walking after it, trying to hitch a lift! What a missed opportunity.
Also, their movement is distracting. Why don’t the other characters in the parade who’re based on animatronics have to do the Robot? Rassumfrassum Halloween Grinching, et cetera.
Asked by enkblogs
"According to the official WED summary of the ride, released in the summer of 1969, you exit the attic window, then you ‘suddenly ‘fall’ backwards off the roof,’ and then you ‘descend past grasping, demon trees.’"
What’s more, he finds (some) merit in the theory that we’ve died.
I think entirely that the ‘you die’ fan scenario is hot air, short version.
As for why so softly - it’s not a thrill ride, that’s the normal doombuggy vehicle speed, and you tilt backwards to look up at the night sky and raven and spooky trees because looking forwards would mean you see…..nothing! (the back of the vehicle in front of you and darkness, which is boring).
Essentially, it’s a stand in for walking down a set of stairs. The Mansion experience is a story which requires a conveyance out of practicality for getting anything resembling a proper amount of guests through the ride in an hour to meet operating capacity. You’re not supposed to think of the vehicle, really, as part of the experience of the story, hence why it is so nondescript - flat black, not decorated. It’s the same exact shape as the AtomMobiles from Inner Space, not a custom design for the Mansion.
Furthermore, the early record released coinciding/a little before the Mansion opened (story and song from the Haunted Mansion) relates exactly the experience guests have inside and tells about the young teenage couple walking upstairs to the second level to see the endless hallway and the rest, then out a broken window onto a widow’s walk from the attic, then down a flight of stairs again to the graveyard. There are no corresponding stairs themselves in the ride because that’s a concession to practicality of vehicles, but the ascent to the hallways is indeed flanked by wooden bannisters from the loading area, and metal ones line the ramp downwards from the attic.
Simply put, the whole thing about ‘you die!’ was a fan concoction at some point because it sounds good and people looking too hard for ‘secret knowledge’ when there’s plenty of obscure Mansion trivia and imagery that actually exists - the sensationalistic/’dark’ being associated with Disney draws more attention. I have read basically every interview with Mansion principles in the E-Ticket magazine (Rolly Crump, Ken Anderson, Marc and Alice Davis, X. Atencio) and scripts and summaries by those who didn’t live long enough to be interviewed in the ‘modern’ fan scene (Claude Coats, Yale Gracey) and no one mentions the symbolic death thing, not even once. It’s not in Jason Surrell’s definitive book either.
If people enjoy the idea, more power to them, but it’s a simple fact that was never intended or implied on a scripted or design level by the Imagineers and writers who actually conceived the Mansion - there’s zero evidence to support that was the intent at any stage.
"Some people have interpreted this as a fatal fall, so that you are now one of them as you make your way through the graveyard jamboree. But the ghosts still ignore you, except for the popup ghosts, who are still trying to scare you, and nothing the Ghost Host says later on suggests a change in your condition. Why you survive the fall unharmed is not explained. One supposes that the same force that compelled you to move through the house (represented by the doombuggy) buoyed you up safely as you softly descended.
"I only bring that up because there is yet another way to read this portion of the ride. Normally, I am cool toward Freudian interpretations, but I have to admit that they work rather well here, so maybe this time there’s something to that approach. The house is the womb in which you have gradually been prepared for entry into another, different world. You fall through the birth canal (and all that dark underbrush, heh heh) and miraculously land unharmed, borne up safely by invisible hands, and now you’re in that other world big time. Ta da, you’ve been born. If you hold to the ‘death’ interpretation of the fall from the attic, this Freudian interpretation plays right into your hands.
"I’m not saying I fully buy into any of this, and I bring it forward with reluctance, because if you give them Freudians an inch they take a mile. ’Yeah, yeah, that’s gotta be it! And notice that the first person you see is a ‘caretaker,’ and why is there no bathroom or bedroom in the Mansion? And…well, you KNOW what Constance and her hatchet are all about, don’t you? DON’T YOU?? And….’"
Personally—I’m a structuralist, so I’m more interested in interpreting the text than I am in guessing the author’s intent—and I think the Mansion supports the idea. And while I admit that none of it is set in stone, I can’t imagine that it’s a coincidence that we enter a graveyard on our backs.
It’s not like they had to fit the ride into a building that already existed, or built the ride and then realized at the last minute that there was no scene linking the attic to the graveyard. It was all made from scratch, and it would’ve been just as easy to build a staircase that would lead us downstairs.
A sign that hung outside of the Haunted Mansion while it was under construction,
written by Imagineer Marty Sklar.
"Walt mentioned the [Haunted Mansion] project during an interview with the BBC in London, as he expressed his sympathy for all of the ghosts that had been displaced from their ancestral homes due to the London blitz during World War II and new construction to make way for modern housing. He then announced that he planned to build a sort of retirement home at Disneyland for all of the world’s homeless spirits. ‘The nature of being a ghost is that they have to perform, and therefore they need an audience,’ Walt said.”— Jason Surrell, the Haunted Mansion: from the Magic Kingdom to the Movies
Wow, Walt. Too soon.
"The scenes [in Storybook Land] are constructed on a one-tenth scale. Conventional landscape treatment would soon have swallowed up all the little houses. Japanese bonsai culture might have provided a solution, but it would have been prohibitively expensive to cover the entire area. Instead, plant material with very small leaves and a relatively slow rate of growth was selected and planted without removing the roots from the containers. Normal growth was thus inhibited and, although in some cases containers disintegrated after four or five years, most of the plants have been permanently retarded. Even so, our gardeners must devote five times as much attention to pruning here as elsewhere in the Park.”— Morgan Evans, Disneyland, World of Flowers
Disneyland: where plant abuse is cute.
It just dawned on me that this sign couldn’t be more horrifying, even if Guillermo del Toro designed it.
Imagine that thing coming to life and trying to chase a girl down a hallway on its raw little topping-legs.
Oh my god this is what Jungle Cruise skippers are doing while their attraction is under refurb
"THE JUNGLE CRUISE WALL EXPERIENCE"
I’m terrified that some executive will watch this and say, “Wow, that was great, the ride’s been holding them back! Get me a bulldozer and plans for a Prince Caspian Meet-and-Greet!”
"Though not as intricately constructed as a Shakespearean play, a story exists. In fact, Imagineering legend and Disneyland veteran Tony Baxter believes that, in the end, combining the seemingly divergent work of Marc Davis and Claude Coats inadvertently gave the Haunted Mansion a fairly solid three-act structure.
"In Act One, which begins slowly and ominously in the Foyer, guests anticipate the appearance of the happy haunts, and experience poltergeist activity and unseen spirits.
"Madame Leota provides the curtain that separates Act One and Act Two. The medium conjures up the spirits and encourages them to materialize, which they promptly do in the swinging wake in the Grand Hall and the Attic.
"The descent from the attic window into the Graveyard takes guests into Act Three, in which they are completely surrounded by the ghosts who are enjoying the manic intensity of a graveyard jamboree. Finally, one of three Hitchhiking Ghosts materializes beside the guests in their Doom Buggy before the exit."— Jason Surrell, the Haunted Mansion: from the Magic Kingdom to the Movies
And just like that, T-Bax provides one of the most “structureless” attractions with a crystal-clear Experiential Story.
Asked by kaiyves
Nerdy, maybe, but it makes a ton of sense—especially given this plaque in the park that shows the Forbidden Mountain and its neighbors.
All of them have colloquial names (except K2, which Wikipedia says was a placeholder that stuck when no one could settle on a better name).
Besides, the back half of that park is awesome at assigning easy Western names and then sneaking more authentic names in, like “Asia” and “Anandapur,” and “Africa” and “Harambe.”
I suppose the benefit of omitting the Forbidden Mountain’s local name is that it draws our attention without stealing the spotlight from the surrounding Himalayas. It’s kinda like putting it in the center of the plaque, without actually saying, “Hey, it’s more important than Mt. Everest!”
Cool point, Kai!
The top photo makes location clear enough - in front of Splash Mountain as you approach via Adventureland, I believe. This is in an intriguing bit of thematic nuance, which as far as I know no Imagineer or designer has ever addressed in print (or been asked about, for that matter) - not mentioned in the Imagineering design ‘pocket’ sized MK edition of the book series the company released in the late-2000’s.
It’s interesting especially as the sign is meant to look ‘defaced’ - the supposed family name of Gastley is crossed out with red paint and ‘Haunted’ scrawled above it, and the arrow added. Why do that at all (from a design standpoint) and not just have it say Haunted to start with? There has to be some kind of intended backstory here, but who knows what it was or what happened to it? The sign would have gone up in the 90’s, so not original to the 1971 park - meaning it’s the brainchild of a relatively recent Imagineer.
Recent additions to the interactive queue area and around Liberty Square muddy the waters further - references are made to a caretaker named Crump (a tribute to Rolly) on a crate going to Gracey Manor, and there’s the ‘Dread Family’ portrayed in the newly-added cartoonish busts outside the attraction - why have busts of all of them on the grounds if they didn’t live/die there? And of course Constance Hatchaway named as the bride adds another potential ‘owner’ to the mix, also relating her to marrying a ‘George Hightower’, who supposedly owned the Mansion at some point (and also a relative of Harrison Hightower from DisneySea’s Tower of Terror).
For all that meandering and indecisive design about ‘who’s Mansion is this anyway?’, I find the simple, easy-to-overlook, puzzling Gastley Mansion sign the most compelling simply because no one knows what the intent was. It’s just an oddity, and a very obscure one, without even the start of a visible ‘reason’. That makes it intriguing.—
I. Emma Spook, on the Magic Kingdom’s version of the Haunted Mansion, and its Diegetic Name
As fascinating as it is, puzzling. What I love about this sign is how it respects the timeframe of Frontierland.
In the Imagineering Field Guide to the Magic Kingdom, Alex Wright talks about how—as you work your way around the Rivers of America—you travel through different eras of American history. At one end, you have the Mansion, which is set in the early 1700’s, and by the time you reach Splash, you’re in the late 1800’s.
That leaves plenty of time for the Mansion to prosper, and then wither so much that someone would bother to graffiti one of its signs. What a lovely touch.
Marc Davis was one of the most influential Imagineers of all time. Chances are, if you like Disney’s parks, he had something to do with it.
He’s certainly one of my artistic heroes, and—like any worthwhile hero—when he says something I disagree with, it forces me to evaluate my beliefs.
Well, it took three years of research, but I can now say honestly that, in the following quote, Marc Davis pisses me off.
“[Walt] didn’t like the idea of telling stories in this medium. It’s not a story-telling medium. But it does give you experiences. You experience the idea of pirates. You don’t see a story that starts at the beginning and ends with, ‘By golly, they got the dirty dog.’ It wasn’t that way.”
Apparently this was a jab at former CEO Michael Eisner, who filled the parks with narrative structures that were designed for films, but not parks. In that context, I agree with Davis’ gist.
What pisses me off is his phrasing. Eisner may have used the word “story” as a slogan to rationalize some tasteless choices, but he didn’t change its definition.
Theme parks are full of stories! It’s part of what makes ‘em so special. The difference between an amusement park and a theme park is that a theme park is unified by…well…a theme—which is a narrative concept.
What’s more, there are tons of narrative structures that were designed exclusively for the parks. They don’t exist anywhere else. If we wanted to tell a Forensic Story, for example, we couldn’t do it in a movie or a novel. It would be too oblique. We’d have to tell it in real life, by committing a crime and then toying with the police.
Theme parks and narratives have been revolutionizing one another for the better part of a century, and the results have been fascinating. Despite that, their relationship is barely being studied.
Davis certainly isn’t encouraging anyone to do so with that quote. To me, that’s a shame—but maybe I’m being too harsh. After all, the quote gets one thing right. Most attractions don’t have a story.
They have two.