I’ve been excited for Muppets Haunted Mansion since it was announced, so I had to watch it as soon as it came onto Disney+ yesterday! Muppets and the storyline of the Haunted Mansion seemed like they would go so well together and I couldn’t wait to see it. Thankfully, Muppets Haunted Mansion l̶i̶v̶e̶d̶ ̶u̶p̶ ̶t̶o̶ exceeded my expectations. In fact, I only watched it a couple of hours ago and I’m already wanting to watch it again!
For starters, this is a film for Disney Parks fans and I think that’s important because we don’t see a lot of content like this in generally really geared specifically for fans of Disney Parks over the movies. As a result, I’m not sure what or how much a viewer who is totally unfamiliar with the Haunted Mansion would get out of this, or if they’d even be interested in the first place unless they were just really into the Muppets, but I think that’s ok. It could spark interest in the Haunted Mansion for someone new to it, and it’s loaded with fun nods to the attraction and Easter eggs for fans who already love the Mansion.
I don’t really want to give away spoilers in this review, but I’m also not sure there is much to give away and that’s actually something I really enjoyed about Muppets Haunted Mansion. I was thinking back to the older Haunted Mansion movie, from 2003 starring Eddie Murphy, and how even though I’ve seen it a few times and it’s *fine* I feel I can safely say it is not an objectively good movie. I could never really figure out what it was that didn’t work about it, but after seeing Muppets Haunted Mansion, I think I’ve got it.
The Haunted Mansion (2003) tries too hard. It adds exposition for characters we didn’t need that only ended up overcomplicating the story, and putting the comedic style of a 2003 Eddie Murphy movie over the storyline of the Haunted Mansion is too much. The Haunted Mansion’s content is solid enough on its own that I don’t think it needed to add lots of new comedic elements and character backstories, in fact, I would argue that doing so took away from what the Mansion is all about and made the movie less enjoyable.
In Muppets Haunted Mansion, all of the added comedy from the Muppets is so tied into the source material that it is really just playing off puns and storytelling that we know works. The Haunted Mansion is one of the best theme park attractions anywhere, and has been really since it opened in Disneyland in 1969. I think it is so successful for a reason, and doing too much with the source material would only take away from it.
Muppets Haunted Mansion really did strike the perfect balance with this. The nods to the attraction were not just subtle Easter eggs, but rather Muppets characters portraying characters from the ride, as Muppets usually do in their movies, but in a respectful way that was really just fun to watch and probably something that only the Muppets could really pull off. The only truly new additions in terms of the Haunted Mansion were the The Great MacGuffin and the original songs, and I believe both worked seamlessly with the traditional storytelling featured in the Mansion. The songs especially were some of my favorite parts of the movie. Even though they just created for this special, they perfectly captured the punny, spooky feel of the songs that have been in the attraction for over 50 years.
The celebrity cameos were also everything you would expect from a Muppets production, with some notable appearances including Kim Irvine, Disney Imagineer and daughter of Leota Toombs (who played Madame Leota in the attraction), and a posthumous appearance by Ed Asner, as Muppets Haunted Mansion was his final project. The Ghost Host, played by Will Arnett, was also an excellent casting decision and his role really did provide just the right level of spook and intrigue without taking away from Gonzo and Pepe as they were the film’s lead Muppets.
I found myself smiling and laughing multiple times during Muppets Haunted Mansion, and I think it’s safe to say this is my favorite Muppets movie now (yes, even ahead of Muppets Treasure Island.) It is definitely on the list for an annual Halloween tradition, and I would love to see them do more with this in the parks (Muppets overlay at the Haunted Mansion anyone?)
Muppets Haunted Mansion is now available to stream on Disney+ along with a full schedule of Hallowstream programming in time for spooky season. If you are visiting Disneyland, there is also a Muppets Haunted Mansion exhibition currently on view in the lobby of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and Muppets Haunted Mansion has made its way into some PhotoPass opportunities and the preshow of Muppet*Vision 3D at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Walt Disney World.