November 20, 2023, 4:18 PM ·
Welcome to Hong Kong Disneyland week on Theme Park Insider.
In addition to covering the opening of World of Frozen last week, I spent time getting to know the rest of Hong Kong Disneyland. So I will posting daily reviews of what I thought were the four top attractions in the park, followed by a park-wide trip report and visitor’s guide.Let’s start with what is probably the consensus top ride in the park and one of the top dark rides in the world – Mystic Manor.Full disclosure: I spent the money to fly to Hong Kong as much to ride Mystic Manor as to see what Disney had done with Frozen. This ride was my white whale in the Disney theme park world, and after having ridden it now – multiple times! – I can report that it was well worth flying across the Pacific to experience.Here’s the set-up: Lord Henry Mystic has invited you into his home to tour the art and antiquities that he has collected over his lifetime. The latest is a music box that legend says can bring inanimate objects to life when played. Of course, Mystic’s companion, confidant, and partner – a monkey named Albert – just can’t wait to get its hands on the thing.
All this plays out on a four-car trackless dark ride through the various rooms of the manor, where Imagineers throw all sorts of fun stagecraft tricks at us along the way. As you might have inferred from that set-up, Mystic is a member of Disney’s Society of Explorers and Adventurers. That frames Mystic Manor as the counterpoint to Tokyo DisneySea’s Tower of Terror. To use a “Frozen” metaphor, Henry Mystic is the Kristoff to Harrison Hightower’s Hans. Unlike the plundering Hightower, who actively disrespects the items he “collects,” Mystic’s not up to anything obviously evil here – indeed, he warns Albert not to touch the music box. Mystic Manor’s queue also sets up perhaps Disney’s most flattering description of the S.E.A.:”The mission of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers is to collect, conserve, and curate valuable cultural and artistic artifacts from around the world and to make them available to the public in an artistically pleasing and sensitive manner. It is furthermore the mission of this organization to equip and mount socio-cultural expeditions to discover, explore, chronicle, and protect the artistic achievements of human society, past and present, exalted and forgotten.”
The Society of Explorers and Adventurers in 1899, as portrayed in the Mystic Manor queue. Henry Mystic is seated, while Harrison Hightower stands at left.If you want a deep dive into the creation of Mystic Manor and its S.E.A. storyline, I recommend that you check out two previous posts of mine here on Theme Park Insider: a recap of the D23 Expo session on the creation of Mystic Manor and follow-up interview with former Imagineer Joe Lanzisero, who was a creative director on the attraction.For those not into the whole S.E.A. thing, a snarky way to describe Mystic Manor would be to call it the “bougie Haunted Mansion.” Disney surmised that a haunted house for 999 ghosts wouldn’t resonate with Asian audiences the way it hit with Americans, so it chose to tweak the concept. The result was Mystic Manor, which plays with spirits and enchantments, but not ghosts. Still, the ride contains references to its predecessor, most notably by including the eye-shifting busts from the Haunted Mansion queue, which some riders might spot just to the left of the Medusa mosaic in the Mediterranean room.Each of the four cars gets a different POV throughout the ride. I chose a video that provided the best view of the ride’s climax, in the Chinese Salon. However, that meant I missed the view of the Mansion busts in the video above.Like Haunted Mansion, Mystic Manor is just pure theme park fun. It’s a delightful romp through a madhouse of curiosities, with an engaging original musical score by Danny Elfman and a mischievous, yet lovable, main character. This is a master class in theme park storytelling and experience design. And, as I said before, it’s a great reward for anyone who makes the trip to Hong Kong Disneyland.Coming tomorrow: Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars.For discounted tickets to the park, please visit our partner’s Hong Kong Disneyland tickets page.And to keep up to date with more theme park news, please sign up for Theme Park Insider’s weekly newsletter.