Disney’s newest ride-based movie was released to the world on July 28th and as the resident “Haunted Mansion obsessed” person, I knew I had to talk about it. I have a Haunted Mansion tattoo, with Hatbox Ghost as the main focus. Interestingly enough, in my tattoo, he’s holding the Hitchhiking Ghosts in his hatbox, but I digress.
I truly think that Haunted Mansion fans are going to love this movie. Die-hard fans who know everything about the ride will find things in almost every scene that will make them act out that Leonardo DiCaprio meme (you know the one) because I definitely did that a lot!
Minor spoilers ahead! Mostly just about how the movie and the lore of the ride intertwine. So, if you know the ride you’d be ok to move forward.
999 Happy Haunts
The story-building in this movie was very strong. They introduce the characters quickly, tying them together in a fun and interesting way. Ben, LaKeith Stanfield, is our main main character, but I love that they focused on everyone else just as much and made all of the characters feel fleshed out. Gabbie, Rosario Dawson, and her son Travis, Chase W. Dillon were endearing. They had their own arc and challenges that made them just as important as Ben. Owen Wilson was hilarious as Father Kent and Tiffany Haddish and Danny DeVito were also just perfect. Each and every character had a journey that showed growth and change. It was very well done. Overall, I genuinely loved the main cast!
The story itself was good, though pretty simplistic. I think it left the right amount of room for the Mansion itself to do the talking. You can tell that director, Justin Simien (also former Cast Member), is a huge fan. It was clear he wanted to do justice to all of the conspiracy theories and the stories that fans and Disney Imagineers have already created.
The way they tied Leota in, making her partially responsible for the haunts, was very cool and I love the way Jamie Lee Curtis’ portrayed her. They did an excellent job staying true to the character and I think Leota Toombs would be proud!
The Hatbox Ghost’s Lore
Our main antagonist is the Hatbox Ghost, or Hattie as some fans affectionately call him, a character in the ride with a long, winding journey and a cult following. The backstory they created for the movie was pretty cool, but it definitely strays away from the ride’s lore a bit. They bring in elements from the ride’s story, like Gracey and Madame Leota, but also give it its own twist. They actually combined Gracey and the Ghost Host into one character and strayed away from the ride, but I think it makes sense for this story. Plus, people who aren’t as invested in the ride’s story won’t even notice! Having Hattie take hold of Gracey’s grief and (redacted because spoiler!) was a good way to tie the whole story together in a cohesive way.
Giving Hatbox Ghost a true name (Alistair Crump), and a true backstory, on top of making him the villain, was something I enjoyed about this movie. His motivation was solid, and they gave viewers a good explanation about why he was the villain. I also like the fact that you can’t tell this is Jared Leto at all. When I found out he was playing Hattie I groaned because of his past and his tendency to go out in left field with his characters. Hattie is near and dear to my heart, so I was thankful that this really was Hatbox Ghost as Hatbox Ghost, and not Leto taking over the character making him into something gross and weird.
The Easter Eggs from Haunted Mansion
There are a few articles already out there about Easter Eggs, but I just want to gush about my favorites. First, April-December was the huge painting that leads to the seance room, so cool! All of the paintings in the corridor between the stretching room and the Doom Buggies were hidden somewhere in the movie too. Disney World’s Haunted Mansion facade made an appearance as Crump’s Manor. That was a really nice touch! They, unfortunately, didn’t show either of the Phantom Manor or Mystic Manor facades. Maybe the Phantom Manor will get its own movie? One can only hope!
Another great tiny joke that got me was “Did you hear that his head is still here?” because that was definitely mocking the infamous Walt’s Frozen Head joke! I loved the spider that crawls out of the hat because it seemed like a nod to the beloved “gunshot” spider in the Disneyland version of the ride. The Doom Buggies callout in the seance room was so clever and pretty minor, but when you see it you’ll instantly get it! The Hitchhiking Ghosts and the caretaker were great additions and the blue-faced lady blowing out the candles made me smile! There was just so much that I could go on and on, but I think that you should go watch this movie and see them all for yourselves!
One thing I was minorly perturbed by was how little Connie did in this movie! Constance Hatchaway, our murderous bride, was not in the movie enough. They honestly downplayed her story and didn’t make her as killer as she could have been. She made a few appearances and they do take you through her attic, but I wanted more!
Overall Haunted Mansion Thoughts
Overall, I’d say that this movie tied everything together really well. The story is solid but simple. There is enough fan service to make die-hard fans happy. Everything comes together in a very fun way. I laughed, cried a little bit, and loved looking for Easter eggs. It’s the perfect movie to kick off spooky season. Yes, it’s spooky season, Mickey’s Not So Scary starts in two weeks and Halloween decor hit shelves months ago. It’s also the perfect movie to get your Haunted Mansion fix if you can’t make it to the parks.
I recommend checking out the Haunted Mansion. I think this one hits the nail on the head and is almost as good of a ride to movie adaptation as the first Pirates of the Caribbean.
Did you watch Haunted Mansion? If so let us know what you thought in the comments below! Also, let me know what Easter eggs you caught!