Chief Counsel Michael Stailey advises Disney theme park fanatics not to be tricked into thinking this spooky Halloween treat for the kids has anything to do with the legendary Haunted Mansion.
Boo to you!
When hinges creak in doorless chambers and strange and frightening sounds echo through your iPod, whenever candlelights flicker where the air is deathly still, that is the time when ghosts are present, practicing their terror with ghoulish delight.
Welcome, foolish mortals, to Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. I am your host…your Ghost Host. Kindly step into the dead center of the screaming room please, and make room for everyone. There's no turning back now.
Our tour begins here, with this DVD, Disney Sing-Along-Songs: Happy Haunting Party at Disneyland. Prepare yourselves to follow the adventures of Sam (Isaiah Griffin, Little Nicky), Sally (Rachel Ham, Mr. Show), and Zach (Tyler Hoechlin, 7th Heaven) as they spend Halloween with Mickey, Minnie, Goofy, Donald, and the gang. I'm certain these young actors look back with fondness and pride on these award-worthy performances, deftly displaying their acting, singing, and dancing prowess for the entire world to enjoy for decades to come.
But I digress…
Your cadaverous pallor betrays an aura of foreboding, almost as though you sense a disquieting metamorphosis. From the mansion's front lawn, we enter a sound stage bearing no resemblance to the mansion's actual interior. You quickly notice as the blood of the Disney fanatic standing next to you begins to boil and steam starts shooting out of his ears. Or is it simply your imagination? Nevertheless, you must now consider this dismaying observation: your remote control has disappeared and, for the next 30 minutes, you are my captive audience.
Oh, I didn't mean to frighten you prematurely. The real chills come later. Now, as they say, "look alive," and we'll continue our little tour. And let's all stay together, please. If you insist on lagging behind, you may be forced to spend all of eternity in the Sing-Along Songs video catalog.
And heed this warning: the spirits will materialize only if you remain quietly seated at all times. We find it delightfully unlivable here in this ghostly retreat. Every room has wall-to-wall creeps and hot and cold running chills. Shh…listen.
Minnie leads a group sing-along of "It's Halloween" that spawns a spontaneous conga line, with the likes of guest ghouls Dracula, the Mummy, the Wolf Man, and a bevy of tiny trick-or-treaters in their park-going guise.
And now a narrator approaches to take you into the boundless realm of the supernatural. Take your loved ones by the hand, please, and kindly watch your step. Oh yes, and no flash pictures, please. We spirits are frightfully sensitive to bright lights.
Our tour guide is none other than the evil magic mirror (Corey Burton) from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. He's in the union with me, so I'll refrain from making any unkind remarks, but pull me aside after the show and I'll tell you all sorts of stories.
While Mickey and his pals prepare for the evening's festivities, the narrator has requested we join Sam, Sally, and Max in a series of creepy challenges throughout this pseudo-mansion…and you don't have much of a choice. Unlike other entries in the Sing-Along series, this one is a full scripted adventure with a somewhat cohesive storyline. That's the treat.
Our first test is to locate the mansion's crystal ball, in which we will find clues to a mysterious mission. Might we possibly see the famed Madame Leota up close and personal? No. What Sam uncovers is the room of someone named Gypsy Lee and a rather small, non-descript, crystal ball inhabited by no spirits whatsoever. Another trick. The mirror activates the ball's enchantment and our trio is transported into the animated world of "Five Little Pumpkins." More music, merriment, and interpretative dance. Apparently, the choreographer was frightened away at the front gate.
Armed with freshly carved jack-o-lanterns, we return downstairs to join everyone else decorating for the party, to the music of "Grim Grinning Ghosts" and a montage of classic, ghostly Disney clips.
All that decorating has everyone famished, and it's up to Chef Goofy to feed the masses with his world famous recipe for "Chicken Lips and Lizard Hips"—a decidedly non-Halloween tune.
Running away from having to eat that particular treat, we wind up in front of the pseudo-mansion's library, where our narrator introduces us to a condensed version of the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow." Brom Bones scares Ichabod Crane into histrionics with his song of the Headless Horseman. Unfortunately, the original voice of Bing Crosby has been replaced with an uncanny sound-alike with a robust cadre of modern backup singers.
But the music is only a tease to get us through the secret door behind the bookcase. Inside is a treasure trove of costume ideas including "Five Little Witches" for Sally—a slightly disturbing musical photo shoot of young ladies preparing for the Halloween ball; "Spooky Scary Skeletons" for Zach—a green-screen graveyard adventure intermixed with Disney's 1928 Silly Symphony The Skeleton Dance; and the wild and wacky wizardly romp "Cast My Spell" for Sam, complete with clips from The Sorcerer's Apprentice, The Sword in the Stone, Sleeping Beauty, Aladdin, and more.
Unfortunately, as we return to the grand hall in our new costumes, everyone has disappeared. Before we can possibly be disappointed, Merlin appears and transports us to Disneyland's Toon Town for "Trick or Treat," with the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf, Huey, Duey, and Louie, Chip and Dale, Cinderella's Fairy Godmother, and more.
Fully stocked with candy and treats, we are transported back to the pseudo-mansion for the "Monster Mash." But not before Sam figures out that our strange otherworldly guide is, in fact, my old friend The Mirror, much to delight of everyone at the party. Oh look, the happy haunts have received your sympathetic vibrations and are beginning to materialize. They're assembling for a swinging wake and everyone's invited to join in.
And, thus we've come to the end of another Sing-Along adventure. Since we're not in the actual Haunted Mansion, there are no hitchhiking ghosts to follow you home. However, I'm sure your own little ghouls and goblins will haunt you until you play this DVD again and again and again. Hurry back…hurry back. Be sure to bring your death certificate. We're always dying to have you.
Psst…back here, behind the tapestry.
Now that I'm off the clock, we can speak frankly. Transferred over from its original 1998 VHS release, this 1.33:1 full frame presentation display exhibits brilliant fall coloring, a slightly grainy image (lacking the digital crispness of a modern release), and a warm and inviting Dolby 2.0 stereo (English). No bonus features here, aside from the standard Disney DVD coming attractions. However, in all honesty, this is one DVD you won't mind pulling out for the little monsters each year when leaves turn, the air chills, and pumpkins reveal their true faces. Happy, harmless, Halloween fun.
For you Disney fans looking for real Haunted Mansion thrills? Have I got a treat for you…The Extinct Attraction Club's Haunted Mansion Story: Volumes 1 and 2, which I will be taking you on a tour of very soon. Until then…stop by and say hello when you visit Disneyland, Walt Disney World, or Disneyland Paris. What can I say, I get around.
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