Moviefan12: To close out this Muppety event, I am joined by my friend, The Creature to look at Muppets Haunted Mansion. This is interesting as Muppets are no strangers to adaptions, see their takes on A Christmas Carol and Treasure Island. But this is the first time, we’ve seen them tackle a ride and I’m all for it. Many years ago, Creature, myself, and an ex-friend spent all of October looking at The Haunted Mansion. The adaptations of the Mansion are quite expansive themselves from an old record featuring a young Ron Howard that was alright, a Marvel miniseries that does a good job of capturing the spirits, and then there’s the movie. (Shudders)
Creature: Ah yes, the movie…I try not to think about that one. Sadly, given that Guillermo Del Toro’s aspirations to make his adaptation of the Haunted Mansion were scrapped, it’s becoming even harder. However, this one did a good job at serving that purpose though. I will say that while it’s no surprise to see the Muppets creating different adaptations over the years, it was quite a surprise hearing they would take on The Haunted Mansion. It’s a property that I didn’t think they would touch upon.
Moviefan12: Well, there is the upcoming movie with Owen Wilson and Danny DeVito but even then, I am skeptical and in the meantime, this is a perfect celebration of The Mansion. I can understand what my friend here is saying as it does seem somewhat out there for The Muppets to do a special based on a singular attraction. Not the first time they’ve celebrated the parks, however.
However, there is a difference between The Muppets being at Disney World and using the canon and lore of The Haunted Mansion to build a special around. Something that works is that the special can balance the silliness and scariness of the ride. FYI, if you watch the Behind The Attractions episode on this ride, the Imagineers have a debate as to whether The Mansion should be silly or scary. I think there should be a balance and besides Horror Comedies do exist.
Moviefan12: The plot is admittedly simple we follow Gonzo and Pepe as they do to the Mansion for a Halloween challenge to spend a night in the mansion to see if they can survive. In many ways, the plot is window dressing for both Muppets and Mansion references.
The Creature: It’s definitely an easy way to make both entities work for each other’s benefit. On one hand, the Mansion is the same place where Gonzo’s favorite magician, The Great MacGuffin, disappeared one hundred years ago. On the other, the Mansion is rumored to be haunted with everyone who enters never coming out. It’s very simple, but it works.
Moviefan12: Precisely this and Gonzo (besides being the best Muppet) was the perfect character to use for this story considering this history of stunts and dangerous acts. This ties into something that Kermit tells Gonzo at the beginning of the special.
You don’t have to be great to be the Great Gonzo
It’s such a small line but an important lesson that Gonzo learns in one of the more horrifying ways as we see Gonzo rapidly age when he enters Room 999.
And while this is all going on, Pepe has caught the eye of Constance Hatchaway/The Bride. They never refer to her by that name in the special by a tweet announcing Taraji P. Henson’s casting in the special confirmed that who she was playing and thank god.
Seriously, this is something that a lot may not consider but The Haunted Mansion already has a villain (with a body count no less) and it is so nice to see her being used as she is just so creepy and evil. I mean, who’d you rather have, Constance a beloved character from the ride that is truly scary or an evil butler in the movie?
The Mansion isn’t like other rides such as Jungle Cruise where characters had to be created for the story as it has a whole cast of characters to pull from and that is something the people behind Muppets Haunted Mansion understood. Also, there is something kinda funny about a Black actress playing The Bride in this special considering that Ramsley in the movie was motivated by racism.
This is also where Gonzo proves himself to be great as even though he survives the night in the house, he goes back to save Pepe from death and a wedding overseen by Uncle Deadly that isn’t going to end well. This also goes back to what I mentioned of Constance having a body count as we see the ghosts of all her husbands that she has killed. They don’t get into it with this being family-friendly special but I know in other adaptions such as the Marvel miniseries, they hint that Constance marries and kills her husbands for their money. (FYI really read that book as it is quite good)
The Creature: The choice of having Constance as the villain is pretty easy compared to Ramsley. He didn’t really bring that much to the overall movie. Constance has a lot more character to here in the mere moments she appears in the ride than the surprise villain twist they pulled for him (plus the ride also strongly implies she killed all of her husbands though no reason is given, wealth is probably the big motive). Seeing Pepe meet her in the attic definitely was a clever way to reveal that she’s the villain.
Moviefan12: Yes, I would agree with this and this also ties into something else I appreciate about this special. So many of the rooms that you see on the ride get time to shine such as the Attic with Constance or the ballroom, which they cleverly turned into an At The Dance segment from the original Muppet Show
This is also where we get to see the fun casting choices to see which Muppets were playing what ghosts. My fave is perhaps Fozzie as The Hatbox Ghost.
Having said all this, I think this is a good time to move on to the characters. Now, there are a lot of celebrity cameos from the late Ed Asner to Danny Tejo to John Stamos but the only two that have meaty roles are Will Arnett and Taraji P. Henson. You could maybe argue that Darren Criss as he gets the first (and arguably the best) song. Now, something nice about this special unlike other classic Muppets adaptions is that a Muppet is the main character.
Gonzo performed by Dave Golez
Moviefan12: Gonzo is such the perfect choice for a Halloween special and I have already explained this in detail but everything about Gonzo fits the spirit of Halloween like a glove. You saw how much he loved the thrills and chills of being in the Mansion. Almost makes me wonder what a Muppets Tower of Terror would be like. I did enjoy watching Gonzo take in the Mansion and slowly learning he doesn’t need to be so outrageous to be loved.
Creature: Given that nearly all of the adaptations have the Muppets as supporting roles, it was indeed a nice change that Gonzo was the main character for it. Gonzo is definitely the prime choice for a Halloween special. He’s easily the most enjoyable character to watch and it was nice to see him learn that people like him for who he is and not just for doing his tricks.
Pepe The King Prawn performed by Bill Baretta
I know so many of us ’90s kids would have loved for this to be a Gonzo and Rizzo special but Pepe being the person that loves parties and wanting to hang out with famous people works. Also, I just don’t think Rizzo would’ve fallen for Constance as easily as Pepe did. He is a lot of fun in this special. I know some people find him annoying and I get that but I believe that he worked well for what the story needed him to do.
Creature: I never really thought that Pepe annoying in this and he definitely worked for the role he was given in the special.
The Ghost Host played by Will Arnett
Moviefan12: To reveal who Will Arnett actually is would be a bit of a spoiler, so for now, I feel that it’s best to just judge him as The Ghost Host. The first thing you have to do is take Paul Frees/Corey Burton out of your mind as Arnett’s Ghost Host is a little different. Which is fine as I don’t think you’d want an exact copy. The Ghost Host from the ride is more macabre with his jokes and you do get a sense of that with Arnett’s but there’s more silliness to Arnett’s take which is to be expected with both the Muppets and the actor playing him. I mostly know Will Arnett as the host of Lego Masters where he does a lot of dad jokes and you do get some of that with his version of The Ghost Host but I truly do enjoy his version of The Ghost Host. Interestingly, Arnett as The Ghost Host is the first time that the character has had an onscreen presence.
Creature: I’ll admit seeing Will Arnett as the Ghost Host threw me off a bit when I first saw it. Although, I do understand that his version was going for the more comedic approach than the original Ghost Host so it would make sense to have someone like him in the role. He did a fine job taking the role and adding some silliness to it while reciting many of the ride’s original dialogue.
To me, the best part of the special besides the references has to be the music. It works in capturing the feeling of the Muppets, The Haunted Mansion, and Halloween perfectly.
Rest In Peace
Moviefan12: This is probably my favorite song from the special and also probably the most reference-heavy as it took the names on the tombstones that you see outside the Mansion and turned them into a song.
They also somehow turned the queue area of the ride into a song. How do you do that? It’s just so genius! Much in the same way that the graveyard is a preview of the ride, this song is a great preview of the special.
Creature: It was a fun song to start off the special that made a clever use out of the classic pun heavy tombstones you see prior to entering the mansion. Plus I enjoyed some of the cameos that they had throughout it.
Moviefan12: I also really like this song and the part atmosphere of it. This song was originally going to be called ‘Be Our Ghost’ and be a parody of that classic Beauty and the Beast song. You still get a taste of that with a reference Yolonda makes to a Beastly cartoon. Though the most accurate thing in this number is Statler and Waldorf’s Doom Buggy coming to an abrupt stop. I can attest to that as I first watched this at Disney World and the day after, I rode The Haunted Mansion with my nephew and that exact thing happened.
Creature: This one was my personal favorite of the songs. It was a very fun song that perfectly fits the tone of the whole special. Plus, I’ve had my fair share of being stuck on the Mansion as well, though I usually was in the Graveyard enjoying “Grim Grinning Ghosts” on a loop (which I enjoyed)
Tie The Knot Tango
Moviefan12: I don’t have a lot to say about this song, it’s fun but not memorable. It fits this version of Constance and it’s cool that she gets a villain song but the other two songs were better. The most memorable of this song was her husbands talking about how they were killed. That’s funny especially with how graphic the penguin is.
Creature: I have to agree that this is probably the least memorable song for me in the special as well. It does fit for Constance’s character but it’s not as enjoyable as the previous ones that came before.
Dancing in The Moonlight
Moviefan12: And what would a Muppet special be without The Muppets doing a cover of a classic song? It fits, it works, and just has so much joy after everything Gonzo and Pepe went through. Ending with his song reminds me of something I’ve heard about children and horror, it’s okay to scare them as long as you let them know everything will be okay in the end. I truly believe that is the purpose that this song could serve in a meta sense for young viewers but on its own, it’s just a fun inclusion.
Creature: I’ve been hearing the original recording of this song for many years so it was definitely a surprise to hear it covered by Dr. Teeth & Electric Mayhem in the special. It was a fun cover from them and does add to the likability of the special.
Constance Hatchaway played by Taraji P. Henson
Moviefan12: Much like The Ghost Host, this is a much more comedic take on Constance. The edge that she’s known has been dulled but that works. To be honest, when Muppet villains come to mind, none are truly scary or threatening but more comedic villains. And that is very much the case with Constance. She’s fun and you know she’s evil but she doesn’t feel like the truly evil version from the ride or other adaptions. Not a knock but something to consider.
Creature: It is true that they toned her down considerably seeing as how it’s going for the family-oriented approach. Regardless that they gave her the more comedic approach to fit the tone of the special, she still makes her secret intentions (at least to Pepe) known early on and it works in her favor without making her seem uninteresting. Final Thoughts
Our Final Thoughts
Moviefan12: This special is so much fun that I have already watched it twice this year. I have a feeling that this’ll become regular Halloween viewing for me in the future. I’d love to see The Muppets do other specials like this. I suggested on Twitter that maybe next year, they do Muppets Tower of Terror with Miss Piggy as the main character. But even if that doesn’t happen, this is a blast, and can’t recommend it enough to both Muppets and Mansion fans.
Creature: I enjoyed the special. It was fun seeing the Muppets dive into new territory with their adaptations and I always like when franchises dive into Halloween or horror-oriented content.