The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

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The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Towerofterror.jpg
The Hollywood Tower Hotel
Hollywood Studios
Land Sunset Boulevard
Opening date July 22, 1994
Hosted by Rod Serling
Height requirements 40" (102 cm)
FastPass + Yes (Group A)
Based on The Twilight Zone

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is an attraction located on Sunset Boulevard in Disney's Hollywood Studios.

Attraction History

The concept of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror actually began in Euro Disney [1]. In the late 1980's, Disney wanted to build a new attraction known as Geyser Mountain [1]. The attraction would have ended with a jet of water pushing the ride vehicle up and down a drop shaft [1]. Although the attraction was never built, the drop shaft concept was one that stuck in Imagineers mind.

While work on Euro Disney continued, Disney was also planning a massive expansion for Disney-MGM Studios. The new area would be known as Sunset Boulevard, and it would feature new restaurants, stores and hopefully a new "E Ticket" attraction. Although initially Disney Imagineers pitched attractions such as Dick Tracy's Crime Stoppers and Toontown Trolley for Sunset Boulevard, none of the projects were green lit [1]. Then, in the fall of 1989, director and producer Mel Brooks met with Disney Imagineering. Disney CEO Michael Eisner wanted Mel to produce his films at the Disney MGM Studios. Furthermore, creating a new attraction with the producer was something that appealed to both Imagineers and Brooks [2]. The original idea that Imagineers came up with was called "Castle Young Frankenstein" [2]. The proposed attraction would have featured a village with winding streets, all of which led to a castle. As Imagineers continued to brainstorm however, the attraction was changed to "Mel Brooks' Hollywood Hotel"[2].

Early Tower of Terror concept art

The idea of a Hollywood hotel was one that had actually originated right around the time that the Studios opened [2]. Disney Imagineer Bob Weiss wanted to create a resort hotel that was based on the art deco Hollywood hotels of the 1930s[2]. Imagineer C. McNair Wilson then suggested that the hotel be the scene of a murder mystery, which guests could solve by investigating clues hidden around the hotel[2]. The hotel cast members, would be able to give guests small hints that would lead them to clues. If guests solved the case, they would be given a certificate for their efforts[2]. Eventually, the idea of the murder mystery in the hotel led Imagineers to consider re-theming half of the hotel as the Hollywood Horror Hotel[2].

Although these ideas proved to be the most influential, Imagineers also came up with other ideas for the Hollywood Hotel. One idea would have featured Vincent Price narrating the attraction as guests took a "ghost tour" [3]. Another suggestion was to create a comedic version of the Haunted Mansion featuring Mel Brooks and Young Frankenstein [2]. Finally, Imagineers Steve and Tim Kirk suggested a hotel/attraction hybrid that would have had guests being driven from the Orlando International Airport in a 1930s station wagon [2]. Eventually, however Imagineers proposed working the theme of the Disney-MGM Studios into the attraction. They came up with a story that would feature a murder mystery and a dead director. It would be up to the guests (who were playing extras) to try and figure out who committed the crime.

Although the murder angle of the story was eventually dropped, Imagineers liked the idea of guests trying to solve a mystery within the haunted hotel [3]. Disney decided that to enhance the attraction, it needed some kind of movie tie-in. Imagineers eventually agreed on the idea of theming the attraction after the Twilight Zone. The initial concept of the attraction, called for cast members who would dress up like various employees of the hotel. Each employee would seem a little unstable, (such as a bell boy who walked through the line asking if guests wanted to check any luggage) [4]. Other enhancements to the queue, including an old man who would "come to life" and interact with guests, and an Audio Animatronic elevator repair man were eventually discarded [4]. Disney decided that the cast members would slow down the line too much, and park Operations was hesitant to assign more cast members to the attraction then was absolutely necessary [4].

Rod Serling, the host of the Twilight Zone.

After deciding on the basic concept of the attraction, Imagineers began working on the plot. In order to tie in the attraction with the rest of the studios, it was decided that guests would be filming a "lost episode" of the Twilight Zone [3]. Although Rod Serling (the host of the Twilight Zone) had passed away in 1975, Disney Imagineer's still wanted to include him in the attraction. To do this, Mark Silverman recorded an impersonation of Rod, which was synced with the introduction of a 1961 episode titled "It's a Good Life" [5]. The background image was then replaced with images of the Tower of Terror, thus giving the attraction an "authentic" Twilight Zone introduction.

As far as the layout of the attraction was concerned, it was decided that guests would enter the attraction on foot. Here, they would discover an abandoned hotel lobby, setting the mystery into motion [6]. Guests would then watch a preshow video, which would tell them the attraction's backstory [6]. The attraction would then conclude with guests going into the haunted elevator (the drop shaft) and discovering what really happened in the hotel[6].

One problem that Imagineers had to overcome when designing the Tower of Terror was the fact that most drop rides usually involved guests laying on their backs. Disney felt that this was not family friendly, and they attempted to find a new ride method[6]. Partially based on the ride mechanism that was designed for Geyser Mountain, Disney developed a way to use multiple ride vehicles that would be able to both travel horizontally, and then drop vertically[6]. The addition of multiple shafts also let Imagineers increase the capacity of the attraction[6].

With both the attraction plot and the ride mechanisms complete, construction on the Tower of Terror began in 1992[6]. Imagineers soon ran into trouble however, when it was discovered that the initial site of the Tower actually sat on sinkhole[6]. This setback required Disney to move the location of the attraction, albeit slightly. Finally, on July 22, 1994 the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror opened to guests [7].

Since its opening in 1994, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has seen a significant amount of changes. In May of 1996, a second drop was added to the attraction [6]. Besides the original thirteen-story drop, guests now also fell eight stories. During this refurbishment, the first photo that was taken of guests was also removed [6]. The photo was originally taken early on in the attraction, and then later used in the 5th Dimension scene [6]. The idea was that guests would be able to see themselves in their ride vehicle as they entered the 5th Dimension [6]. Unfortunately, the process was unreliable and in 1996 the effect was removed [6].

Further additions came to the Tower in 1999, when a third drop was added to the attraction [8]. The update was known as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: Fear Every Drop! At this time, new lighting effects and music were added, and the lightning effect was updated [8].

The most recent change to the Tower of Terror came in 2002, when the drop sequences became randomized by a computer [6]. This allowed every ride on the Tower of Terror to be different and unique, meaning that guests could never be sure when they were going to drop[6].

On April 19, 2015 it was announced that Disney would be adding a lounge and bar to the Hollywood Tower Hotel near the attraction's exit[9].

Attraction Plot

Queue

The queue for the Tower of Terror begins as guests enter the hotel's gate. Inside the grounds, guests wind through the overgrown gardens of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Along the way, they pass by signs (which point to the stables, tennis courts and swimming pools), crumbling statues, and overgrown shrubbery.

After reaching the entrance to the hotel, guests enter a decaying lobby. The lobby is seemingly preserved, as guests can see a table set with tableware, food, a copy of the Los Angeles Examiner (dated October 31, 1939), abandoned suitcases near the front desk, and an unfinished game of mahjong. The centerpiece of the lobby is an owl sculpture which is surrounded by a circle of dead flowers. Behind the front desk in the lobby, guests can see an elevator with broken doors that is out of order. After being informed that their rooms are not ready yet, guests are ushered into the library.

Preshow

Inside the Library, lightning strikes the hotel, shutting off all of the power except for a television set which seems to be working by itself. As the TV turns on, the opening for the Twilight Zone begins to play. Rod Serling tells guests that in Hollywood 1939, the Hollywood Tower Hotel was a star in its own right. As glamorous people enter the elevator, the tower is struck by lightning, causing the guests to vanish. Rod Serling then shows guests the maintenance service elevator which is still working, and "waiting for you". He then informs guests that in tonight’s episode they are the stars of the Twilight Zone. Finally, the television turns off and guests are ushered into the boiler room, where they enter the service elevator.

Actual Ride

Once inside the elevator, Rod Serling tells guests:

"You are the passengers on a most uncommon elevator about to ascend into your very own episode of The Twilight Zone."

The elevator then begins rising for a moment before coming to a stop. Here, the doors open revealing a long corridor. At first, the only recognizable object in the corridor is a single window directly across from guests. Then, as a storm rages outside, the five ghosts of the dead 1939 guests (who were shown in the preshow) appear, inviting guests to come and join them, before disappearing in a wave of electricity. After the ghosts vanish, the corridor fades away, turning into a field of stars (with the window still remaining). The window then morphs into a more ghastly looking window before shattering. After the window shatters, the elevator doors close and guests begin ascending again. Rod Serling then informs guests:

The ghosts of the doomed guests from 1939.
"One stormy night long ago, five people stepped through the door of an elevator and into a nightmare. That door is opening once again, and this time, it's opening for you."

As his narration ends, the elevator moves horizontally into the Fifth Dimension. Here, odd sights and sounds from the television show's opening can be seen. As guests travel through the Fifth Dimension, the Twilight Zone theme song plays. After guests reach the back of the scene, a star field opens in front of them (like an elevator door) as Serling warns guests:

"You are about to discover what lies beyond the Fifth Dimension, beyond the deepest, darkest corner of the imagination, in the Tower of Terror."

At this point, guests begin the drop sequence. Although the drops are now randomized, every ride includes one complete drop (from the top to the bottom of the tower) and one "fake drop". Also, at some point during the drop sequence, the elevator doors open in front of guests, allowing them to see the park from a height of 170 ft.

After dropping, guests reach the basement of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, where they see a short clip which shows items from the show’s opening sequence, as well as Rod Serling and the 1939 elevator passengers falling into a vortex. Before they exit, Rod speaks to guests one more time:

"A warm welcome back to those of you who made it, and a friendly word of warning; something you won't find in any guidebook. The next time you check into a deserted hotel on the dark side of Hollywood, make sure you know just what kind of vacancy you're filling. Or you may find yourself a permanent resident of... the Twilight Zone."

Exit Path and Gift Shop

After exiting the elevator, guests travel down a long hallway, eventually reaching what appears to be the "Lost and Found" of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Here, they can purchase ride photos which were taken in the drop shaft when the elevator doors opened (revealing the park). After passing by the lost and found, guests pass by a decrepit fountain and then the dining room of the hotel; The Sunset Room. Outside of the dining room, a menu which is dated October 31, 1939 can be found. Guests then enter a gift shop which sells Twilight Zone and Hollywood Tower Hotel merchandise.

References to the Twilight Zone

Throughout the entire Tower of Terror attraction there are references, tie-ins and tributes to the television show The Twilight Zone. For the most complete list of these references check out:

http://www.towerofterror.org/secrets/twilight-zone-references

Cast

Rod Serling- Himself (Mark Silverman impersonated him for additional dialogue.) [10]

Bellhop Parviz Perry Vessali [10]

Child Star- Lindsay Ridgeway [11]

Nanny- Charlotte Helms [10]

Watch the Preshow

To see the short film shown before guests enter the service elevator, click play below.

Fun Facts and Trivia

  • According to a plaque on the outside of the hotel, the Hollywood Tour Hotel was founded in 1917 [12].
  • The corridor where guests see the 1938 ghosts holds rooms 414-426 [13].
  • The music played throughout the ride is taken from various episodes of The Twilight Zone TV show. The score was arranged by Richard Bellis [14].
The inspection certificate found inside the elevator.
  • The inspection certificate inside the elevator is dated October 31, 1939 and signed by Cadwallader. Cadwallader is a character from the Twilight Zone television show that ended up being the devil [15].
  • The elevator's certificate number is 10259 which is a reference to October 2, 1959 (the date that the Twilight Zone premiered) [15].
  • By the concierge desk, there is a thirteen diamond award from AAA [12].
  • Imagineers set up the mahjong game in the lobby, in a way that allowed players of the game to see that it was authentic [12].
  • While Imagineers were looking through a furniture catalog from the 1930's, they decided to contact the company to see if they were still in business. The company was, and Disney used some of their furniture in the hotel [12].
  • The landscaping in the hotel's garden was influenced by the hills of Griffith and Elysian Parks in Los Angeles [12].
  • Disney Imagineers watched every episode of the Twilight Zone at least twice in order to capture its essence for the attraction [12].
  • The clip of Rod Serling shown in the preshow was taken from an episode of the series titled "It's a Good Life" [15].
  • In the episode Serling says, "Tonight's story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States”. Imagineers used the beginning of this phrase in the preshow [15].
  • The Tower of Terror is 199 ft tall due to the fact that FCC regulations require a red flashing light to be placed on buildings that are at least 200 ft tall [12].

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 https://web.archive.org/web/20120106171353/http://www.towerofterror.org/history/origin
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 2.8 2.9 http://www.studioscentral.com/early-development-tower-terror
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 https://web.archive.org/web/20120106171335/http://www.towerofterror.org/history/design
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 https://web.archive.org/web/20120106172759/http://www.towerofterror.org/history/early-development
  5. http://towersecrets.com/tower-of-terror-rod-serling-intro-video/
  6. 6.00 6.01 6.02 6.03 6.04 6.05 6.06 6.07 6.08 6.09 6.10 6.11 6.12 6.13 6.14 http://www.martinsvids.net/?s=Tower+of+Terror
  7. http://www.wdwinfo.com/wdwinfo/guides/mgm/st-tower.htm
  8. 8.0 8.1 http://www.wdwmagic.com/attractions/the-twilight-zone-tower-of-terror/news/25feb1999-tower-of-terror-fear-every-drop-profile-announced.htm
  9. http://wdwnt.com/blog/2016/04/breaking-twilight-zone-tower-of-terror-at-hollywood-studios-to-add-themed-bar-inside/
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 http://www.disney-pal.com/California%20Adventure/twilight_zone_tower_of_terror_video_sound.htm AUTHORS NOTE: Although the credits are listed for the Disney's California Adventure version of the attraction, the same film is used in both attractions
  11. http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0725864/bio?ref_=nm_dyk_trv_sm#trivia
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 12.3 12.4 12.5 12.6 http://land.allears.net/blogs/jackspence/2010/02/twilight_zone_tower_of_terror.html
  13. http://www.hiddenmickeys.org/WDW/Studios/Secrets/TowerTerror.html
  14. http://www.richardbellis.com/filmography.html
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 http://towersecrets.com/twilight-zone-references-in-the-tower-of-terror/