Mystic Manor

Mystic Manor

Mystic Manor is a dark ride attraction at Hong Kong Disneyland. The story is based around Lord Henry Mystic who opens up his house to display. Mischief ensues after his monkey Albert opens the music box.

From a S.E.A. point of view, Mystic Manor is a key attraction, taking the concept from Fortress Explorations and revitalised it.


Mystic Manor was built as part of the 2013 Hong Kong Disneyland expansion. The Imagineers behind it, Joe Lanisero and Robert Coltrin, from an early stage they wanted to build a Haunted Mansion-type experience due to the lack of dark rides in the park.

“There weren’t that many dark rides in the park, so we felt that a Haunted Mansion-type experience was the right thing”

Robert Coltin, talking about Mystic Manor in ‘The Haunted Mansion - Imagineering a Disney Classic

A direct lift of The Haunted Mansion wouldn’t have suited the Chinese market. The Chinese audience doesn’t view ghosts, or spirits in the same way as the western culture - they believe the spirits of the dead should be honoured and respected, which made The Haunted Mansion in its current form a difficult fit.

Joe Lanisero brought in fellow Imagineer and show writer Micheal Sprout, they had previously worked adapting the Twilight Zone - Tower of Terror into for the Japanese market. The same approach was taken with Mystic Manor, they started again with the Haunted Mansion and built an attraction with a new original storyline, using the latest technology.

For this ride, the Imagineers took influence not from Tower of Terror which they had previously worked on but from Fortress Explorations, just across the harbour in Tokyo DisneySea. We don’t know why the Imagineering team decided to use this attraction as the basis of Mystic Manor but in doing so they created the S.E.A. concept we know today.

So what does this newly redeveloped secret society need? Interesting characters! Micheal developed the character of Lord Henry Mystic, an upper-class English gentleman who travels the world collecting treasures and antiquities. As part of the ride story Lord Mystic has opened up his house as a museum so guests can see his latest collection, which includes a mystical music box.

Image of Alfred stuck in a giant spider web, taken from the Mystic Manor queue line

All good Disney characters have a sidekick and Lord Mystic was no exception, his pet monkey (which are considered mischievous in Chinese culture) named after his uncle Albert. Albert is a key player in the story of the ride, he is the one who opens the music box, unleashing its power.

While the Imagineers were developing the characters they realised they have a lot of stories to tell you in quite a short pre-ride show. With the more realistic character design from Fortress Explorations or Tower of Terror, this was difficult - it’s a lot easier to convey emotion and tell a story with cartoon characters. The team enlisted the help of creative director Mark Schirmer and concept designer Ethan Reed to transform the photo-realistic Lord Henry Mystic and Albert into their cartoons variants we recognise now. This has created one of the many oddities of S.E.A, the inclusion of both cartoon and photo-realistic art styles.

“Originally, Lord Henry and Albert were going to be a lot more realistic looking. I have a background in animation, so I think about these things — the expressiveness of an animation character, giving them big eyes, and exaggerated features. The early Imagineers knew this. Marc Davis and Blaine Gibson, when they created all the characters for the Haunted Mansion and Pirates, they’re not real. The proportions are all exaggerated. The eyes are bigger. The limbs are exaggerated. All that’s for an easy read. In our attractions you just have seconds to tell people what they’re suppose to be feeling about this character. The ride is only five minutes long, and we’ve got so much story to tell. These guys have to be recognisable immediately.”

Joe Lanzisero and Mark Schirmer, Disney 2013 D23 event. Thankfully transcribed on Theme Park Insider

Original concept drawing of Lord Henry Mystic with Alfred, use with permission Disney & More, Copyright Disney

Ride Pre-show & Queue

Now we have the story and characters it needed to be articulated to the guests. The story of the ride is told through the pre-show video that you can find further up the page. However, the story of the characters is told through the queue line.

“When we base an attraction on a movie, our guests come pre-wired with some emotional connection to the experience. They’ve seen the movie. They have the music from the movie. They know the characters from the movie. It’s all in their head. So our job becomes planning those trigger moments. On a Winnie-the-Pooh ride, you’re going to want to see Tigger bouncing around and hear the Tigger song. We just have to show that, and boom, that triggers in people’s heads this emotional connection. We were starting here with a blank sheet of paper, so it became important for us to start establishing who these characters were and how they got to know each other. So besides that pre-show film, as you walk through the queue line, it’s like a museum in his house. It’s Lord Henry showing photos of his travels and the other members of the Society. But we also set up how Lord Henry first met Albert. He chose to rescue Albert, and it really creates this bond. They love each other. It’s really a father and son-like relationship.”

Joe Lanzisero and Mark Schirmer, Disney 2013 D23 event. Thankfully transcribed on Theme Park Insider

Source: Chris Turner Concept Art, copyright Disney

The queue line includes a group portrait of the society in 1899 which introduces us to the following members:

You will notice that you can see Harrison Hightower III on the far left of the portrait. Tower of Terror had no links to S.E.A. before Mystic Manor, Harrison Hightower as a character was a good fit for the society and his storyline was folded in.

The Mansion

Harrison Hightower is not the only link between Mystic Manor and Tower of Terror. Joe Lanzisero has mentioned that they took some of the architecture cues from Tower of Terror.

“We took some of our design cues from ToT, where there are architectural nodes to Hightowers international travels”

Joe Lanzisero - The Haunted Mansion, Imagineering a Disney Classic

Mystic Manor is also heavily inspired by Carson Mansion in California.

Source Carson Mansion


2020/08/20 - Disney Parks Blog posts a new virtual tour of Mystic Manor

Additional Resources