Muppets Haunted Mansion is one of those shows that Disney+ was clearly made for. It takes two different parts of the massive Disney machine, the Muppets, and the theme parks, Disneyland and Walt Disney World, and brings them all together in a way that gives both of them fresh life.
For many, seeing The Muppets on screen again in a major production, and one that is so good, will be enough to make Muppets Haunted Mansion a yearly tradition, but the show is especially funny if you’re familiar with Disneyland and Magic Kingdom’s Haunted Mansion, as the special is full of direct references to one of the most popular attractions Disney has ever created.
The Address Sign
The references to the classic attraction begin as soon as Gonzo and Pepe arrive at the Haunted Mansion. They stand by an iron gate that includes a metal sign with the house number, 924. The sign itself is the same shape and design as the sign that denotes the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland, Bonus easter egg, the number 924 is a reference to Jim Henson’s birthday, September 24.
Upon entering the grounds, Gonzo and Pepe meet a gravedigger and his pet dog. The character played by Darren Criss is a reference to animatronic gravedigger, and his dog, who you'll find near the end of the ride, and who are both just as terrified as these two.
The gravedigger’s song includes several references to humorously named characters and their, frequently rhyming, manner of death, You’ll find similar tombstones while you’re waiting in line for the Haunted Mansion ride at both theme parks .The opera singing ghost is also a direct reference to one you’ll see in your ride.
Grim Grinning Ghosts
The song from the Gravedigger culminates in some singing busts, including one that’s broken, and the lyrics to “Grim Grinning Ghosts.” Even if you don’t know the Haunted Mansion ride, you likely know this song and these iconic busts.
The Ghost Host
When Gonzo and Pepe finally make it inside the mansion, they’re introduced to their Ghost Host. This is the same name given to the disembodied voice that follows you throughout the attraction. He's performed on the ride by Paul Frees.
No Flash Pictures
In both the Muppets Haunted Mansion and the Haunted Mansion ride, the Ghost Host asks that you take “no flash pictures” ghosts are sensitive to such things you see.
The Stretching Room
As with the actual Haunted Mansion ride, the first room Gonzo and Pepe find themselves in is the stretching room, which has “no windows, and no doors.” It also includes the classic portraits you’ll find on the ride, but the characters have all been replaced by Muppets, so Janice is about to be eaten by a crocodile, while Crazy harry is about to blow himself up. Not a shock.
Much of Will Arnett’s monologue once the room starts moving is pulled directly from what the Ghost Host says on that part of the attraction, as is the bit about "sympathetic vibrations."
As with Disneyland’s version of the Haunted Mansion, leaving the stretching room brings you to a hallway that contains a series of portraits. These portraits shift back in forth between looking mundane and looking scary. Several portraits in the special are specifically referencing ones you’ll find on the ride.
Bunsen and Beaker make their Muppets Haunted Mansion cameo as busts that seem to follow Gonzo as he walks by. Busts that do the same thing can be found on the Haunted Mansion attraction. At Disneyland you walk past them before entering your ride vehicle. At magic Kingdom they arrive after.
Backwards Running Clock
In the background of the hallway after Pepe has his run in with John Stamos, you’ll see a clock that’s running backwards. You’ll find this while cruising through the ride. While it's hard to tell in the special, one assumes it strikes 13.
Miss Piggy appears in Muppets Haunted Mansion as Madame Pigota, a reference to Madame Leota, the disembodied head in a crystal ball. Much of her early dialogue is pulled directly from what Leota says during her portion of the ride, including calling for music to be played.
The maid that arrives to clean Madame Pigota’s crystal ball is actually Walt Disney Imagineer Kim Irvine. She has two specific connections to not simply the Haunted Mansion, but this specific scene. Irvine is the daughter of Leota Toombs, the face of Madame Leota on the Haunted Mansion as well as the voice of "Little Leota," found at the end. Irvine herself was used as the model for the version of Leota that appears in the Haunted Mansion Holiday overlay at Disneyland every year.
The Swinging Wake
After seeing Madam Leota on the Haunted Mansion, you’ll be escorted to a party that several ghosts are throwing. They’re dancing, hanging from the chandeliers and also dueling with each other. A very similar scene follows Madame Pigota, that shows Rowlf playing the organ, Wayne and Wanda dancing, and more.
The Hatbox Ghost
One of the newer additions to Disneyland's Haunted Mansion is the Hatbox Ghost. It was actually an effect that was attempted when the ride first opened in the 1960s, but it didn’t quite work. When the tech caught up, it was added, and Fozzie plays the role here.
999 Happy Haunts
The Ghost Host appears during the party to reference that there are 999 ghosts living in this Haunted Mansion, the same number that resides in the attraction, “But there’s always room for one more." The number 999 appears again as the room number that Gonzo enters to face his fears.
Standler and Waldorf make their appearance as hecklers, but instead of sitting in a stationary balcony, they appear in a floating cart. This is a Doom Buggy, the same ride vehicle you use on the Haunted Mansion.
If there was any doubt that the pair are in a Doom Buggy, mid-way through the big song number, the Doom Buggy stops, and we hear a safety message asking everybody to remain seated. If you’ve ever found your ride vehicle stopped on the Haunted Mansion, you’ll know this is the identical message you’ll hear.
Constance Hatchaway - The Bride
Taraji P. Henson plays Constance Hatachaway in Muppets Haunted Mansion. She's a woman who has been married several times, and whose husbands all lost their heads. After you leave the party on the Haunted Mansion ride you’ll meet Constance, and see wedding portraits of her and all her husbands, both with and without their heads. When you see the bride, her heart glows red in her chest, just like it does in the special.
While Pepe is distracted by The Bride, the Ghost Host sends Gonzo on a different path by getting him to follow a floating candelabra. In the Disneyland version of the attraction this is the very first effect you’ll see as your Doom Buggy goes past a hallway. You'll also see it at Disney World. You move past a long hallway and you can see the candelabra floating in place at the end.
The Screaming Doors
As Gonzo moves down the hallway he crosses by many doors that seem to be alive. The door handles shake, the knockers move on their own, and they sometimes seem to be breathing. You'll also hear the sound of people crying out behind them. You’ll see and hear much of this on the ride as well.
The final words of the Bride in Muppets Haunted Mansion echo the final words you’ll hear as you leave the Mansion at Disneyland and magic Kingdom as well. While Constance Hatachaway says it here, on the ride, the words come from the same Leota Toombs that is the face of Madame Leota.
As you leave the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland or Magic Kingdom you’ll be warned to look out for hitchhiking ghosts. As your ride vehicle moves past some mirrors you’ll see them sitting in your Doom Buggy with you. The same hitchhikers end up hitchhiking a ride with Gonzo and Pepe in their limo.
Nearly every element of Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion is on display at one point or another in Muppets Haunted Mansion. It’s not quite the same as actually going on the ride, but it’s maybe the next best thing.
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