Disney sometimes works in mysterious ways. For many months, it has been working on plans to make attraction waits less tedious and more entertaining. Who could be against that? For me, the mystery is how Haunted Mansion at Magic Kingdom got so high on that to-do list.
I mean, the constant-load feature of the Mansion means the line moves right along, and there's already a good bit of entertainment before entering the doom buggies. Plus, the attraction had a facelift in recent memory that added the staircase room, Floating Leota, attic changes and a new sound system in the portraits room, among other touches.
On the other hand, the Haunted Mansion is loaded with storytelling opportunities to liven up the classic attraction. That's what you'll see in the new, expanded graveyard scene outside the building's entrance.
Right now, it's hit-or-miss as to whether you can walk through the new area. It's pretty much in trial-run mode, and reports have it closed at some points during the day.
I lucked out yesterday because the new stretch was ready for viewing. After traveling through the front switchbacks, a cast member (stationed where the curious turnstile once stood) informed us that you could go down the left lane from the graveyard stroll or take the right lane and go straight into the attraction. (Whether that will be the option in the future is up for debate.)
In the graveyard: New busts (photo op) and old tombstones, an interactive crypt that plays music when you touch it, another crypt that holds — barely — Captain Culpepper Clyne (it gurgles and does other water-based tricks), a haunted bookcase and other spooky elements that relate to the Haunted Mansion, which opened with the Magic Kingdom in 1971.
It's a nice little diversion, but some Disney purists will quibble with the tone. (I found one online who felt it was too Chuck E. Cheese and that Walt would, ahem, roll over in this grave). I liked it, though it may make the line more hurky-jerky as folks stop to inspect the scenes.
The Disney Parks Blog says a grand opening of the queue is expected by the end of the month. Did you roll your eyes at the thought of a grand opening for a queue? When it's totally up and running, we'll revisit and report.
But if we're taking nominations for future enhanced queues, I say next up should be the deadly dull Big Thunder Mountain Railroad house. It's practically torture. Where's that suggestion box?