Disney: The Best Changes to the Haunted Mansion for Haunted Mansion Holiday

Professional photograph of Haunted Mansion Holiday used for the Disneyland Resort website. Copyright goes to the Walt Disney Company.

Hey! Hallie here!

Around this time of year, I always plan to go on Haunted Mansion Holiday at least once. It’s the best time of the year to ride the Haunted Mansion, especially for a ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ fan. The premise of Haunted Mansion Holiday is Jack Skellington taking over the mansion and decorating it for his own Christmas celebration, which effects the mansion from October until the end of December. You can see his decorations, and sometimes messily scattered equipment, around the mansion. The characters from ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ also make appearances throughout the ride. It’s a giant overlay for the attraction. There isn’t much they don’t decorate or replace inside the Haunted Mansion for the holidays. Because I love these decorations, I’m going to talk about some of my favorite additions to the ride. While Haunted Mansion Holiday isn’t an overlay exclusive to Disneyland in California, it’s the version I’m most familiar with. As such, I’m going to stick to the decorations that appear in California. With that out of the way, let’s get into it!

Gingerbread House:

This is exclusive to Disneyland in California, so of course I had to mention it first. Every year the Disneyland Haunted Mansion Holiday gets a new monster gingerbread house. All of them are made out of actual gingerbread and are always insanely large and insanely detailed. They also move. One year there was a massive gingerbread coffin opening to reveal a skeleton gingerbread man. Another year there was a replica of the Haunted Mansion that seemed normal, until glowing red eyes lit at the top and the mansion cracked down the middle to become a wide, jagged, mouth. Then there was a giant replica of Jack Skellington’s house from ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ with a ghost train moving around it. It’s always the highlight of the ride to see what the imaginers and chefs have come up with. The effects only get bigger every year.

Stretching Room:

This room is completely different during the holidays. The usual narration is replaced with a poem from Tim Burton’s ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ book. All the paintings are replaced with various ‘Nightmare Before Christmas’ paintings that reflect each line of the poem. Some show the monstrous toys Jack created while others show Jack on a sleigh or amidst presents. At the end of the rhyme, where guests would usually see the hanging man, we see Jack peeking down on us from above. The effects for this particular part of the sequence were improved a few years ago. Before the improvement, there was a giant Jack Skellington face that’s eye sockets and mouth lit from within while Jack wished the guests happy holidays. Now we have a screen that shows a fully animated Jack Skellington leaning over to deliver the line. Between the creepy music and the skeleton projections on the walls, it sets the mood for the entire ride.

Madame Leota’s Parlor:

Madame Leota has an entirely new setup for Haunted Mansion Holiday. Instead of the floating instruments surrounding her table, the room is filled with tarot cards that feature the characters from ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’. Madame Leota is chanting a creepier version of “The Twelve Days of Christmas”, and each verse can be matched with one of the tarot cards floating above. The crystal ball her head’s within is decorated more like an ornament and surrounded by other colorful ornaments. Her table features a zombie nutcracker, a large amount of candles, and a certain mischievous presence I’ll talk about later. It’s a really gorgeous room. The music is a bit more mysterious once you enter and the art on each tarot card is delightfully adorable. Behind Madame Leota’s table you can often see another decoration lit up behind her. It’s changed through the years, but a star made out of cards has been the most recent décor. There’s always something new to notice, especially since the cards turn too fast for you to take in all of them in one go.


This is the star of the show every year. (Other than the gingerbread house, of course). At the end of the ride you’ll see the graveyard is covered in snow. A full sized, animatronic Jack Skellington in full Sandy Claws gear welcomes you at the entrance. Zero is right beside him, looking adorable. Also, a few feet away, you can spot Sally leaning against a gravestone and dreamily staring at Jack. If you look behind the gravestone you’ll see one of her legs kicking up and down. The basket full of food she gives Jack in the movie can also be seen next to her. Going farther in, you’ll see most of the ghosts in Christmas hats and the singing busts have been replaced with singing pumpkins. Behind the singing pumpkins there’s a giant mass of snow with pumpkins decorating it that comes into a familiar spiral at the top. There’s also various giant pumpkin-headed angels blowing trumpets. After you exit the graveyard, you run right into Oogie Boogie, another awesome animatronic, who spins a wheel to see what gift you get. Fingers crossed you get the mystery option, Lock, Shock, and Barrel blasting you with air as you leave.

Vampire Teddy:

You’ll see a familiar mischief maker follow you throughout the entire ride. At first he’ll use a fishing line to offer guests the suspicious box Lock, Shock, and Barrel initially planned to release on Santa. Later in the ride you’ll see him sitting on top of a coffin to keep its struggling inhabitant inside, perching behind Madame Leota with a bell, and gnawing on some sparking Christmas lights. He’s both adorable and unsettling every time you spot him.

The Music:

This is slight praise and slight disappointment. Of course, on the inside of the ride you’ll hear a lot of Danny Elfman’s original music from ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ done in several fun ways. Outside of the building, however, you’ll hear what sounds like a creepy music box. This is actually the music for Phantom Manor in Disneyland Paris. It’s a gorgeous piece, but I also miss some of the music they used to play in the que for Haunted Mansion Holiday. For a few years you could hear the Citizens of Halloweentown attempting some Christmas carols with varying amounts of success and accuracy. It was fun to hear, and as much as I love the Phantom Manor soundtrack, I miss it.

That’s it! There are plenty more decorations to enjoy while you’re on the ride that I didn’t mention. Tokyo Disneyland also has a Haunted Mansion Holiday with different decorations for guests to enjoy. If you’re curious about either of these, there are always high quality ride-throughs you can find on YouTube. Hopefully the parks will be open for the holidays next year so more people can experience how amazing this version of the ride is. Every year there seems to be some complaint about the ride appearing around Halloween. Many feel that it’s too Christmasy, or it isn’t scary enough to put up for the Halloween season. But ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’ is probably the most popular “scary” thing Disney has created, and who can blame them for wanting the detail in this overlay to be seen for a longer time during the year?

Don’t do anything fun until I get back!


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