Mystic Manor is a trackless dark ride found at Hong Kong Disneyland that opened in 2013 along with the surrounding themed area of Mystic Point. Its closest relatives at equivalent Disney properties are the well known Haunted Mansions and Phantom Manor, though in this case the smallest park in the chain opted for an entirely fresh narrative – a highly welcome change as far as I’m concerned, I do love a unique experience.
And this ride certainly is that. The striking exterior dominates Mystic Point, particularly as it is the only attraction of note in this ‘land’. A lot of care and attention has clearly gone into making this attraction fit into its own suitable surroundings and have a real atmosphere. This is also something I greatly admire, as I believe the biggest and best highly themed rides deserve a certain presence that extends beyond the boundary of the building that contains them. Immersion doesn’t have to start at the queueline entrance, you can already be vibing off of the attraction the moment you set eyes on it.
That’s exactly how I felt as we stumbled up to this one for the first time on a miserable rainy day. Never mind the wet shoes, seeing this in person is a wow! moment to make you stop and admire the intricate details. Does that spiral staircase even function? Due to the weather it was unnervingly quiet for such a major theme park and, I don’t know if this usually happens, staff were at the queueline entrance dressed in maid outfits ready to personally escort guests from this point and into the first preshow. The extra attention was certainly welcome.
The preshow itself introduces the premise of the ride – the owner of the mansion (and his pet monkey) are inviting us to view their museum collection of artifacts obtained from extensive travels throughout the world via a design of his own invention, the clever carriages that form the basis of the ride hardware. A narrated, projected slideshow becomes extraordinary at the point in which the animatronic monkey, Albert, appears for the first time. This is classic Disney theme park magic at it’s finest, an endearing character and awe-inspiring piece of technical design all rolled into one.
Now that the scene has been set, we can be escorted once again to the carriages that await us. We’re already at the third level of wonderment for me here as I just love watching trackless ride vehicles going about their business, particularly in the station area. With sensors working overtime and no real fixed path to follow they hustle and bustle about the loading areas, pausing to let each other by as they approach in a wonderful display of artificial intelligence.
This alone continues to entertain me throughout the entire ride sequence as the cars are usually dispatched in batches of four that travel together. Each one will follow a slightly different route to the others in the group, splitting off at certain intervals to view ares from separate angles and perspectives, enhancing the rerideability factor. When they aren’t paused to observe a particular scene or following one of the more linear paths in the attraction the opportunity is often taken to dance around each other, maintaining a satisfying flow and dynamic feel to the attraction, there’s never a movement that feels out of place.
Technological distractions aside, the scenery and soundtrack on this ride is phenomenal, of course. In the first room we meet the real animatronic Henry Mystic before Albert pops up again and ends up disturbing one of the trinkets, unleashing some magic dust that begins to make all the other artifacts come to life. The automated tour begins regardless and guests become witness to several areas of the collection all animated and spiced up in any manner of inventive ways, from projection trickery to physical effects.
The deeper we travel into the exhibits, the greater the peril, particularly for our monkey friend who runs into a number of dangerous mishaps alongside us, you really do start to feel for him. It culminates in a spectacular sequence in a room surrounding a central statue who conjures up a storm. The vehicles whirl about in chaotic fashion as the walls themselves begin to tear apart all around, the music and sounds build and soar along with this and everything yet again becomes just wondrous to behold, a real ‘this is why I love this hobby’ freeze frame in time.
Luckily, the strange powder manages to end up back in its container and they all lived happily every after.
Mystic Manor took Disney dark rides to yet another level for me. Sadly it’s been a fair few years since I last visited this attraction, though it remains firmly embedded in my mind as an extremely standout experience and their greatest attraction with its own unique story conjured up specifically for the park.
From a purely selfish perspective, I did wish sometimes they would strike more of a balance between original ideas like this and the Intellectual Properties that dominate the park lineups. My personal bias lies in wanting to see all the creativity stem from the theme park itself rather than relying on other sources of media (or business sense) to do the thinking. The forming of this opinion is actually mostly owed to Mystic Manor itself, though it has been opened to deeper consideration as the years have passed – after all they did go and prove me wrong a couple of years later!