Ride Through This Year's Haunted Mansion Holiday at Disneyland

September 28, 2015, 8:40 PM · With the arrival of HalloweenTime and Mickey's Halloween Party at California's Disneyland, the Haunted Mansion Holiday has returned. Disney today released a time-lapse video of its culinary professionals assembling the 10-foot "house of cards" gingerbread replica of the Mansion facade that dominates the ballroom scene in the ride.

What you can't tell from the video is the overwhelming gingerbread aroma you will smell as your Doom Buggy turns the corner from the Seance into the Ballroom. Just imagine that as you watch our ride-through video of Haunted Mansion Holiday. Remember that this year features the addition of the Hatbox Ghost, which debuted at the regular Haunted Mansion last May.

Haunted Mansion Holiday remains through the Christmas season, which ends January 6, 2016 at the Disneyland Resort.

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Replies (16)

September 29, 2015 at 2:17 AM · Something I'dd like to know (accountant-wise...) about the Halloween makeovers, is (sorry, feasibility hooked professional deformily.. lol ) where is the hard prooven ROI from the operation?

Any real ROI would consist in upping revenue from MORE attendance on those days, balanced to the just as well upping COST of the complete temporary makeovers. Is it positive ? Is it just break-even? Or is it (shhhhhtttt, don't tell...) negative?
Including the business fact that it is difficult to compare if people you attract in specifically such a makeover-holiday period, would NOT have come otherwise at all !? (in a different period of the year?) Are you WINNING attendance, or are you just making costs to DISPLACE them in the yearly timeframe ?

I know this is a difficult exercise but THE correct question to pose anyway. A theme park is a business.
My own educated guess: from the side of successfull parks (who intentionally do not NEED makeovers to get their audience, different from flimsy-business parks, who could get their 'only' boost during the year by installing a folly by period) it is AT BEST a break-even operation, seen on year profit balance. At best. I believe it's slightly negative, still on year profit balance.

But there is an additional factor in the consideration: competition. "The others do it as well, so we've no choice, we MUST.."
In other words, Holiday specials could add to start with, to "general marketing profile" (>> "they always do something special, they're good") and second , the yearly makeover COST RISE provoked by competition is a collective ROI-loss in the whole leisure sector. But seemingly unavoidable.
Collective = no one really is a winner, all try to KEEP their share, instead of loosing it to "the other one".
(Other example : ticket price rebates, which are competition-viral and harming the WHOLE sector.)

Food for thought

September 29, 2015 at 5:51 AM · Um, Herwig, did you just ask a question? I know there's a bit of a language barrier there, but I totally got lost trying to follow your thought process.
September 29, 2015 at 7:57 AM · Herwig is assuming doom from the holiday makeovers. He is saying the holiday decorations are not helping to make the parks profitable because of costs. My counter argument is there's a reason that merchants call the holiday shopping season Black Friday. That's when they become profitable in a losing year.

Disney theme parks are clearly profitable as reported every quarter. So this speculation is pure nonsense. Because some guests don't like how Disney catered (or sold out) to customer demands, they make ridiculous claims.

September 29, 2015 at 8:26 AM · Herwig, your ponderings are interesting, but are you really suggesting that Disney is not acting in its own financial interests? The present-day Disney must be one of the most successful businesses in history. I don't think it's a coincidence that Disneyland, a park with a relatively large base of annual pass-holders, choses to cater to that crowd by giving them reason to come back as the seasons change. When those people return over and over, Disneyland profits not by admission costs (beyond selling more annual passes) but by the purchase of food and merchandise. Walt Disney World, by contrast, has many less annual pass holders, so the need to get them in the gates on a regular basis is lower, hence no Halloween ride overlays.

But, just curious, are you actually upset that a company would do something for its guests for which they might lose money? As theme park fans, it is our job as consumers to want the best experiences for our dollar. Disneyland is one of the most expensive theme parks in the world. I certainly want and expect these kinds of attention to detail. If I get the sense, even for a second, that they are going cheap with the experience, after spending more than $100 for a single day at the park, it destroys the magic. I think Disney knows this. And their balance sheet speaks for itself. (Oh, and I am SURE there is "hard proven ROI" going on, but they aren't going to share that with us)

September 29, 2015 at 9:13 AM · I don't know if this actually gets a lot more people through the door but it's not like Disney is a losing baseball team, people are coming anyway. And it's a neat little extra thing for people to see that live local that would come out for it I'm sure. I wouldn't book a trip off of it specifically, I'd book a trip because it's in Disneyland and it's where I'd want to be.
September 29, 2015 at 9:36 AM · Herwig Writes: "Any real ROI would consist in upping revenue from MORE attendance on those days ..."

I Respond: It also keeps TNBC franchise in front of people -- selling DVDs, t-shirts, etc. Jack Skellington seems to be a VERY popular character.

September 29, 2015 at 9:55 AM · Trust me, Disney is printing money with Haunted Mansion Holiday. And don't forget that the development cost is spread across both Anaheim and Tokyo, where the overlay also plays. TH nails it -- the overlay encourages ancillary revenue from merchandise sales, in addition to helping to drive attendance (and annual pass sales) for HalloweenTime and the Holiday Season.

Another HUGE element in seasonal celebrations at the Disneyland Resort is the food. Disney adds seasonal menu items that help drive F&B sales, and help bring those AP-holders back to the park. (And encourage day visitors from the area to upgrade to APs.)

Companies make a huge mistake when they cast their ROI analysis too narrowly, looking at individual elements instead of the synergy of a package. All the elements of the seasonal celebrations work together to create financial winners for the Disneyland Resort.

That said, DLR's specific formula is based upon strong local AP sales. In a market that depends upon out-of-town visitors (e.g. Orlando), the same formula might not work.

September 29, 2015 at 10:01 AM · To reiterate the points made above, Haunted Mansion Holiday helps sell Halloween Party tickets and is a major selling point in marketing materials during Halloween Time and the holiday season. And, well, it's very popular.
September 29, 2015 at 12:28 PM · To all. I'm opening a real discussion here.
I gave ALL different parameters that are at play.
Especially the fact that quarterly (monthly whatever) figures do not represent yearly. The true analysis is never made/published.

Acting in it's own interests for any leisure company, can be just as well :
- driving more attendance on yearly basis by some heaavy investment, (in bringing new attractions),
- lowering costs in a way it's not really seen (f.i. 100% imports from China),
- raising general marketing profile ,
- NOT loosing attendance to nearby competitors (like with the most popular seasonal events "everybody" does, like Haloween
- which also could be the visitation time-shift effect I mentioned, delivering just break-even on yearly base

Do we KNOW the real numbers? No we don't.
Everybody is speculating !
Yes, the discussion is open.

September 29, 2015 at 1:37 PM · In my opinion, Haunted Mansion Holiday is still the best seasonal attraction ever created. In fact, I would say it is superior to the original version of the attraction. Seriously, except for first-time visitors I would absolutely suggest visiting during the October-December window if you can only go once per year just for this ride.

As for the debate about whether the ride is profitable, I'm not sure whether it is directly profitable as I do not know how many more people visit the park just for the ride. I will say that the line is about triple the length during the holiday version (and is long enough that Fastpass is used), but how many of those visitors wouldn't have visited anyway is unknown. However, I'm pretty sure the attraction is indirectly profitable, as interest in Nightmare Before Christmas would have likely died out long ago otherwise. The film is over 20 years old, yet the property seems to be more popular than many Disney properties half that age.

September 29, 2015 at 3:21 PM · Interesting topic. The seasonal overlays of these parks is something that is truly impossible to directly measure the success (or ROI) of, and it is not limited to Halloween, but any events which don’t charge separate fees for. When it comes to Disney though, I don’t necessarily think that’s important. I attended Disneyland about 10 years ago during the Halloween period, and was amazed at the decorations, in particular the Haunted Mansion overlay. I still remember this, and the attention to detail is a contributing factor to me wanting to go back.

Whilst each of these things (seasonal overlays, theming of manholes, high-end customer service as examples) may not provide a ROI, the net effect of their 1% contributions has made Disneyland one of the most successful theme parks in history. This is primarily due to the goodwill generated in its guests and fantastic word of mouth.

Sales of TNBC merchandise and the tickets to the Halloween parties can be used as surrogate markers to the overlay, and as previously mentioned Disney is most likely making a killing with these.

September 29, 2015 at 3:48 PM · Great, Grant
It seems you are the first one here, who seems to understand the underlying accountant's reality ! :-)

Your contribution is actually saaying :
"It is important to do, regarding the upping of the general marketing profile" ?
(One of my 4 main categories)

September 29, 2015 at 4:15 PM · By the way, at Robert:
"... In a market that depends upon out-of-town visitors (e.g. Orlando), the same formula might not work. ..."
Indeed, absolutely not.

That's the 5th possibility: earning extra catering money, from otherwise less productive year pass sales. To give an example of how year passes are used by MANY local area people :
-> Easy evening hop-in hop-out. Extremely low on site consumption. (Back on the road is both cheaper and higher quality)
Well known, world over.

If we would do a firmly anchored CITY-based park in Europe, and want to make money from catering, the quality must be AT LEAST as good as the average in town, and with comparable pricing. Otherwise, the BETTER eating place is just 15-30 minutes from the park's gates... (I'm actually also studying a possible Brussels-city park)

Hard business reality.
(The good performing example of totaly City-based park is Tivoly Gardens, Kopenhagen)

September 30, 2015 at 2:17 PM · A very common misconception is that Disney Annual Passholders don't spend anything once they're in the park. That statement couldn't be further from the truth.

The reality is the majority of Disney's passholders spend money while visiting the parks. In fact, a past article had an expert stating that passholders spend more in relation to the time spent in the park versus non-passholders. The point being just because someone shows up for a couple of hours doesn't mean they're not spending money. If they visit during dinner hour they're just as likely to purchase dinner as an all-day guest.

Furthermore, there is a small percentage of Disney passholders that spend more money per person than anyone else, and so much so, that they more than make up for the few who spend very little.

Herwig may try to argue that passholders are not valuable, but ask any theme park executive and they will aggressively refute that statement. Season or annual pass sales are a very important component of a successful park.

September 30, 2015 at 8:34 PM · A very simple question I have is how come Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom doesn't receive the same holiday overlay to their Haunted Mansion, Space Mountain and It's A Small World attractions as Disneyland does?
September 30, 2015 at 9:28 PM · We were there last week, and I can assure you, the seasonal overlay is a SMASH. On Friday evening the stand-by line was 125 minutes. OVER TWO HOURS for Haunted Mansion, a ride with a continuous loading system. I still can't believe it.

What stood out to me most about the overlay is that technology has come a loooooong way since they built Haunted Mansion. Frankly, the overlay absolutely crushes the original ride. Just consider the Old Man and his Dog you first encounter in the graveyard. Mildly diverting. But at Halloween they're replaced with a ten-foot, rail-thing, wildly articulate Jack Skeleton dressed as Santa. Frankly, it's amazing he's standing on two legs, let alone doing the speedy jig he performs (which is on par with Ariel's Ursula for broad articulation). If they can do that on a temporary basis, why am I watching lame, barely mobile zombie arms trying to escape a coffin the rest of the year?

Simply, the seasonal overlay is SO fantastic, it makes the regular ride seem tame, maybe even lame. The new Hatbox Ghost is totally phenomenal looking (and the effect is pristine, hurray for that internal-projection technique), but even HB can't make up for lame clacking door handles and a SILLY carnival head that inelegantly POPS up--and dropppssss--as you pass by.

Maybe the only thing from the original ride that still wins is the song.

I'm not interested in the ride becoming the Haunted Nightmare Mansion Before Christmas, but there's a real argument for applying some of this "temporary" technology to the actual ride. It must not be TOO expensive if they can afford to trot it out for half the year, so why not drop a modest amount and revamp (no pun intended) the year-round ride?

Pirates is still totally fresh; the Haunted Mansion could use more new ghosts.

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