Among the new crop of family-oriented Halloween fare on Disney Plus is this little piece of amusement park magic.
Now, if you’re any kind of Disney World fan, you already know that the Haunted Mansion is not just a beloved, 51 year old ride at Magic Kingdom, it’s got its own cult following. In the gift shops, you can find souvenirs and momentos from all the Disney movies you love, and all your favourite characters of course, but also your favourite rides, of which Haunted Mansion is arguably number one. You can buy t-shirts with the same damask pattern as the mansion’s wallpaper, pieces featuring the hitchhiking ghosts, mouse ears with the famed cameo pin on the bow, many tributes to fan fave Madame Leota, the floating head in the crystal ball, replica maid outfits similar to the ones worn by cast members working the ride, and even merchandise featuring the singing busts, which are not actually on the ride itself, but a sight to see and enjoy outside the mansion while you wait in line. It’s such a popular ride that Disney already made a movie out of it back in 2003 starring Eddie Murphy (the same year as they released another ride-inspired film, Pirates of the Caribbean). It wasn’t great, but that just leaves the door open to do better, which Disney will attempt to do next year, with Justin Simien helming the remake, set to star Owen Wilson, Rosario Dawson, Tiffany Haddish, and LaKeith Stanfield. THIS is not that movie. This is a movie starring the Muppets, and involving the ride. It is sure to please fans of the Muppets, fans of the ride, and families looking for not-scary Halloween fare. It’s hard to lose!
On Halloween night, Gonzo is challenged to spend one night in The Haunted Mansion. Obviously Gonzo is known for his bravery as the resident daredevil, so this should be a piece of cake for him (a piece of wedding cake, perhaps? Around this time of year, Disney sells tiny wedding cakes in the park in reference to the one on the ride). The Great Gonzo (voiced by Dave Goelz) brings along his pal Pepe (Bill Barretta), the King Prawn (do NOT call him a shrimp!), because what else are friends for?
Gonzo and Pepe encounter the entire Haunted Mansion gamut, including the caretaker (Darren Criss), the host (Will Arnett), and of course the bride (Taraji P. Henson), who is so gosh darn good she can pronounce king prawn in just such a way as to give you instant wood. Pepe is enchanted, and agrees to marry her, which would trap him inside the mansion for all of eternity. Which, as fans of the ride will tell you, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I’ve visited the Haunted Mansion less than a handful of times but I can see its charms, and this movie is careful to pay tribute to as many as possible within 52 minutes (that’s brisk, baby!). You got your 999 ghosts; Statler and Waldorf in a doom buggy, Constance Hatchaway with her beating red heart and suspiciously high number of dead husbands; a stretching room with magic paintings; even the obligatory photo op at the end, complete with creepy uninvited guests.
The ride’s wide appeal is thanks to its signature Disney finesse with the details and its playful approach to the classic horror haunted house. It’s a ride fit for the whole family, as is this newest Muppet oeuvre on Disney Plus.