- “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 maintenance service elevator, still in operation, waiting for you. We invite you, if you dare, to step aboard because in tonight's episode, you are the star, and this elevator travels directly to...the Twilight Zone.”
- ―Rod Serling
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror (or just the Tower of Terror) is a simulated freefall drop tower thrill ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, and at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris. It is based on the classic anthology television series The Twilight Zone and is hosted by the series' creator and host as portrayed by, Rod Serling (voiced by Mark Silverman in the attraction).
The original incarnation of the attraction opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 1994 and the Paris version opened in 2007. A similar attraction that dropped the Twilight Zone theme opened at Tokyo DisneySea in Japan in 2006. One version of the ride opened in California in 2004 but was later replaced with Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT! in 2017. Opening to rave reviews and hailed as an instant classic upon release, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has become one of the most popular Disney attractions ever made. Its popularity even spawned a 1997 TV film, becoming the first theme park ride to have a film adaptation.
The attraction's premise has guests visiting the legendary Hollywood Tower Hotel. Once a lively resort for the Hollywood elite, it, unfortunately, closed after a disastrous accident where lightning had struck the building, causing several wings of the hotel to vanish and kill five people in an elevator that plummeted on October 31, 1939. The hotel, now dilapidated and haunted, has mysteriously reopened having guests experience the events of that fateful night aboard one of the service elevators as they enter their own episode of The Twilight Zone.
The hotel's exterior features a huge, blackened scorch mark across the front of the facade where lightning had struck that eerily glows purple at night. Elevator doors leading to the missing floors of the building are exposed, opening upon the arrival of screaming riders. All of the cast members wear a costume that resembles a bellhop from the 1930s. At over one thousand (US) dollars per uniform, it is the most expensive costume in the entire chain.
At 199 feet, it is the second tallest attraction in the Walt Disney World resort, next to Expedition: Everest which stands 199.5 feet. (From 1999 to 2007, the Tower of Terror was third tallest, as the wand decorating Spaceship Earth temporarily added 41 feet to that 180-foot tall attraction.) The Tower of Terror is only 199 feet high at Walt Disney World because of FAA regulations that require a fixed red light beacon to be added to the top of any 200-foot or taller building. Imagineers thought that the beacon would take away from the hotel's 1939 theme, but still wanted to make the tower as tall as possible. At the Disneyland Resort, the Collector's Fortress, which was originally the Tower of Terror from 2004 to 2016, stands at 183 feet making it the tallest attraction at the resort, as well as the tallest building in Anaheim.
With the demolition of the Sorcerer's Hat, the Florida version of the attraction has been promoted to park icon status in promotional material and the My Magic Plus app, though other materials and merchandise suggest this status is being shared with the Earful Tower.
CBS licenses the rights to The Twilight Zone™ to the Disney Theme Parks.
Attraction storyline and description
Queue & Pre-Show
In both versions of the attraction, guests enter the once-luxurious Hollywood Tower Hotel through its main entrance gate, the in-story explanation being that you are booking a room or suite at the hotel to stay for a few nights on your vacation. The outdoor queue winds itself through the hotel's overgrown gardens, where ghostly 1930's jazz music plays, and enters the lobby. The lobby is filled with decades worth of dust, cobwebs, and various items left by guests from the night of the incident.
From this point, guests are lead to the hotel's library to wait as their "rooms are still being prepped". Through the window, guests can observe that there is a thunderstorm going on outside. Lightning strikes and the television set comes on, apparently of its own accord.The opening sequence from Seasons 4 and 5 of The Twilight Zone plays, followed by an explanation of the events hosted by Rod Serling: the story of how one of the main lobby elevators plummeted after being struck by lightning, causing the five people inside (Claire Poulet, Gilbert London, Dewey Todd, Sally Shine, and Emeline Partridge) to vanish into the Twilight Zone. He then invites the guests to step aboard the maintenance service elevators, which sadly are the only elevators still in operation in the hotel.
With that, the TV abruptly shuts off and a sliding wall in the back of the library opens. The guests exit the library and enter the boiler room, where they wait until their elevator is ready.
Once onboard, the elevator ascends to various show floors while the voice of Rod Serling provides the narration. Riders witness the bizarre, unsettling nature of the hotel as they travel beyond the realm of the real world and further into the "5th Dimension". At some point, Serling informs the guests that they're now about to experience what had happened to those five people all those years ago and the ride's drop sequence begins.
Although it is designed to feel like a freefall, the elevator is actually accelerated downward faster than the pull of gravity, making guests levitate out of their seats for extra thrills. Once the ride has finished, the guests exit the hotel, via passageways in the basement, into the ride photo viewing area, and the hotel gift shop.
Disney's Hollywood Studios versionThe ride system employs specialized technology developed specifically for Disney, particularly the ability to move the vehicle in and out of the vertical motion shaft. The elevator cars are self-propelled, automated vehicles that lock into the vertical motion cabs. The cabs move into and out of the elevators horizontally, move through the "Fifth Dimension" scene, and into the drop shaft.
After the vehicle has completed its drop profile, the vehicle propels itself to the unload area and then back to the show shaft. The Floridian ride system runs on a loop, though it's not as efficient as the newer "franchise" versions used in California, Paris, and Tokyo. The self-propulsion system used in the vehicles often causes some long and complicated downtimes which are, of course, frustrating to cast members and guests.
In this version of the attraction, the voice of Rod Serling greets the now-seated passengers the moment the elevator doors close, saying "You are the passengers on a most uncommon elevator about to ascend into your very own episode of The Twilight Zone". The elevator rises for a few seconds before coming to a stop.
The doors open to reveal a corridor populated by the five lost ghostly occupants from 1939, who then disappear. The corridor fades to a starlit night sky, except the window at the end of the corridor. The window then morphs into a more ghostly black-and-white version and shatters (like in the opening sequence of each episode).
The elevator doors close again and the car continues ascending. Serling's voice continues: "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".
At the top, the doors open again and the car mysteriously moves forward out of the shaft, through a section of the ride called "The Fifth Dimension": a surreal collection of objects and sights, once again in the style of the television show's opening sequence. A field of stars appears at the end of the corridor. After the segment is done, the stars fade, forming a hidden Mickey right before disappearing, then reveals a vertical line, which splits in half and opens like elevator doors. Serling's voice is heard again, saying "You are about to discover what lies beyond the fifth dimension, beyond the deepest, darkest corner of the imagination, in the Tower of Terror".
After the elevator moves into the shaft, the randomly-selected drop sequence begins. At one point, doors in front of the riders open to reveal a view of the park from a height of 13 stories. In the years since the attraction's initial opening, a randomized pattern of drops and lifts have been added, where the ride vehicle will drop or rise various distances at different intervals. Other effects were also added, including new projection images of the breaking window, wind effects, ominous black-lit figures of the five ghostly original riders, and even fake endings. These changes were made to make every trip to the Twilight Zone a different experience.
After a series of these drops have been made, the opening sequence of the show's third season plays (showing images of the objects from Season 5's opening, the lost passengers and Serling) as the vehicle enters the hotel's basement. Then Rod Serling's voice says, "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." The elevator doors reopen for the last time and the guests disembark, making their way into the hotel's gift shop, Tower Hotel Gifts.
The current slogan for the ride is "Never the Same Fear Twice!!"
Disney California Adventure versionWhile retaining the same exact concept and theme of the original attraction in Florida, the version at Disney California Adventure Park had some major differences.
Imagineers redesigned the entire ride system for the west coast incarnation of the attraction and made some general changes to many show scenes. The attraction featured three elevator shafts. Each shaft, in theory, is its own separate ride with its own separate operating system. Doing this made it easier to repair individual areas of the attraction without causing the entire attraction to go down.
Each shaft has two vehicles and two loading levels. It is designed so that the lower vehicle can be in profile while the upper vehicle is loading, making the attraction much more efficient. Since each vehicle loads and unloads from the same point, it also saves space. Since this system works so much more efficiently, it is the system used in both the Paris and Tokyo versions of the ride as well.
When the show cycle started, the vehicle pushed backward away from the elevator door while a starfield and a purple spiral appeared on the doors. The voice of Rod Serling said: "You are the passengers of a most uncommon elevator, about to take the strangest journey of your lives. Your destination...unknown, but this much is clear--a reservation has been made in your name for an extended stay." A door closes, placing riders in darkness as the elevator ascended.
The first stop for the elevator was a hallway with a large mirror. Rod Serling told the riders to "wave goodbye to the real world". As they do, lightning struck and electricity began to arc around the mirror and the reflection of the riders is replaced by a ghostly silhouette of themselves. The passengers' reflection then disappears as Serling says "For you have just entered...The Twilight Zone!" This was actually a thermal-mirror, which shuts off to reveal the dummy vehicle behind it. The elevator door closed as it moved to the next show scene.
As the door reopened, it revealed a corridor of the hotel, with an elevator door located on the far end of it. Here, Serling said "What happened here to dim the lights of Hollywood's brightest showplace is about to unfold once again", which is followed by an appearance of the ghosts of the 5 passengers. Electricity coursed through the hallway after their disappearance as Serling said: "One stormy night long ago, five people stepped through the door of an elevator and into a nightmare." The hallway slowly faded away into a starfield with the lost passengers standing in the now-open elevator that was at the end of the hallway. Serling then says "That door is opening once again, but this time, it's opening for you." The haunted elevator then drops.
A second later, the guests' elevator began its drop sequence: a drop from the show scene to the first floor, then rise to the "13th" floor. After flashing strobe lights and the photo opportunity, the elevator has a short drop, followed by a longer one, then a rise that goes 2/3 of the way up to the top and an immediate fall down to "B3." The lights flicker as the elevator goes all the way back up to the top. It is then that the top floor doors open and you are treated to a sky-high overview of both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
It paused there for a moment and fell into place between the load levels (so that both load levels give the same ride) and a door opens again and you see an elevator door. The vehicle then moved toward the door. The Twilight Zone theme began to play again as Rod Serling said, "The next time you check into a deserted hotel on the dark side of Hollywood, be sure you know just what kind of vacancy you're filling or you may find yourself a permanent resident...of The Twilight Zone."
The door opened and the guests disembarked from the ride vehicle, making their way to the Tower Hotel Gifts shop.
For the Disneyland Resort's HalloweenTime events, the exterior of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure received special sound and lighting effects.
In July of 2016, the Walt Disney Company announced that they will officially be retheming the California Adventure version of the ride into an attraction themed to the 2014 Marvel film, Guardians of the Galaxy. The announcement was met with astoundingly negative feedback by fans. Despite the backlash, the ride officially closed on January 3, 2017, with the new ride opened on May 27, 2017.
Walt Disney Studios Park versionThe Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Walt Disney Studios Park is based on the same design as the version at Disney California Adventure. However, it was originally "Imagineered" for the Paris park at the same time as Tokyo's tower and planned to open just two years after the opening of the park itself. When financial troubles again hit Disney's Parisian resort, the attraction was put on hold. In the meantime, it was constructed for California Adventure as an added crowd-puller. It continues to serve as the main landmark of Walt Disney Studios Park.
The attraction was finally green-lit for Paris in 2005 and opened officially in January 2008 right in the middle of the Walt Disney Studios park, behind the "La Terrasse" seating area. It has been joined by a major new theme development producing an outdoor Hollywood Boulevard of faux movie sets. Unlike its American cousins, the Paris Tower was constructed using concrete rather than steel due to French construction guidelines and standards.
The Paris and California versions were originally believed to become identical versions upon completion, but construction in Paris showed several differences and additions when compared to the 2004 Californian version.
The official name of the attraction in all French publications (but not at the attraction itself) is La Tour de la Terreur - Un Plongeon dans la Quatrième Dimension.
Some sections of the attraction's audio narration and pre-show videos have been translated into French, including a new voice recording from an impersonator of The Twilight Zone's original French host, with separate English and French versions being presented.
On January 14, 2017, the Star Wars: La Célébration Galactique show was placed right next to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror and utilized projection mapping on The Hollywood Tower Hotel exterior. Other events have used the stage and projection mapping hardware since.
A New Dimension of Chills
On September 28, 2019, the Tower was updated with new show experiences in its different drop shafts. These updates focus on the little ghost girl and a different set of supernatural threats. As named and described in press releases, the three experiences consist of:
- The Malevolent Machine: The little ghost girl haunts your elevator, but she’s the least of your worries now. As soon as you take your seat, this malevolent machine only has one goal – to trap you! The elevator will screech and clank with macabre glee as it shoots you up and forces you down without warning. Your only hope is to hold tight and scream! Will you be able to free yourself from the machine’s grip?
- The Shaft Creatures: They know you’re here, so whatever you do, don’t scream! Frightening creatures are loose in the elevator shaft and are looking for distressed souls to terrorize. The louder you scream and plead for mercy, the more powerful they become. Can you stay silent while plummeting down 13 unlucky floors at the speed of fright?
- The 5th Dimension: A sinister poltergeist has opened a portal to the 5th dimension, and wants to take your soul with it! Prepare to question everything you know as real as you drop into a terrifying psychedelic journey between two worlds. Will the little ghost girl be able to save you?
Tokyo DisneySea version
- Main article: Tower of Terror (attraction)
A similar event happened with the Disneyland Paris' version of The Haunted Mansion, which was instead called Phantom Manor. The facade is elaborately gothic in architecture and is located in the American Waterfront area of the park, opposite the S.S. Columbia cruise liner.
Twilight Zone References and Design Information
In an effort to be true to the spirit of The Twilight Zone, Imagineers reportedly watched every episode of the original television show at least twice. The attraction buildings are littered with references to various Twilight Zone episodes, including:
- In the hotel lobby in the California Adventure version, there is a door with "22" in brass numbering. This is a reference to the episode "Twenty Two".
- In the lobby of the hotel at California Adventure and Walt Disney Studios Paris, on a couch sits a dusty old doll. Some say the doll is supposed to be Talky Tina from the Twilight Zone episode "Living Doll," but others say it's Sally Shine, the little girl in the pre-show and ride experience, from the 1997 TV movie Tower of Terror. Others think the doll is simply a Shirley Temple doll.
- Following the Twilight Zone television opening sequence, Rod Serling's opening lines in the introduction video in the pre-show are as follows: "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...". In the original episode, "It's a Good Life," Rod Serling says "...is a map of the United States." In the Tower of Terror opening lines, he says "...is a maintenance service elevator, still in operation, waiting for you...". Mark Silverman provided the entire voice impersonation of Serling for this particular dialogue sequence for both the Florida and California versions of the ride.
- At all versions besides Tokyo's, the pre-show includes the little girl holding a Mickey Mouse plush toy, along with her still holding it in the hallway scene during the ride. At California Adventure, there is a picture behind the counter in the gift shop that is said to be of Walt Disney at a Tip Top Club party holding a Mickey Mouse plush toy as well.
- Outside the libraries at California Adventure, in the glass case adjacent to the doors, there is a gold thimble accompanied by a card that reads, "Looking for a gift for Mother? Find it in our Gift Shop!" This is a reference to the episode "The After Hours".
- In the library, the Mystic Seer fortune-telling machine from the episode "Nick of Time" can be seen sitting on the high shelf.
- In the Florida library, there is the book titled To Serve Man from the episode of the same name.
- At California Adventure, envelopes with the names Rod Serling and Victoria West can be found in both libraries, near the sliding wall--a reference to the episode "A World of His Own". In Library 1, it sticks out of the top of the green books. In Library 2, it sits in front of the books. The green books contain titles of select Twilight Zone episodes. Other books in the libraries are in various languages from around the world, including German and Danish.
- The trumpet from the episode "A Passage for Trumpet" can be seen in the display while exiting the libraries.
- The queue at both the California Adventure and Paris versions features a reference to the episode "Little Girl Lost". Chalk marks on the walls are in the same style that they were in the episode when trying to find where the portal to find the girl was. This can be found in the upper level of the boiler room next to the attraction warning signage at each of the 2 versions. Periodically, the girl's voice can be heard calling out for help from the wall and from the radios around the boiler room.
- The elevator has a plaque that says the last time the elevator was checked. Its number is 10259, which is a nod to the date October 2, 1959, the date The Twilight Zone first aired. The plaque also states the elevator was checked by Mr. Cadwallader, the sinister deal-maker from the episode "Escape Clause."
- After guests are loaded onto the elevator, the needle indicating which floor the elevator is on moves past the 12th floor. This is a reference to the 9th floor in the episode "The After Hours".
- As the ride vehicles arrive at the unloading area in the Florida version, the slot machine from the Twilight Zone episode "The Fever" can be seen.
- Upon exiting the Paris version, the display cases on the ground floor contain advertisements for, among other things, a "Housemaid Wanted" (a reference to the episode "I Sing the Body Electric") and for "A Pair of Reading Glasses Wanted" (from the episode "Time Enough At Last"). There are some 20 advertisements of this nature at the exit of the Paris version.
- As the ride vehicles arrive at the unloading area in the Florida version, the flying saucer from the episode "The Invaders" is hanging from the ceiling. The eponymous characters of that same episode can be found on display in the libraries at the Florida and California versions.
- Both of the elevators unload areas of the Florida ride contain a display featuring, among other things, the ventriloquist dummy "Caesar" from the episode "Caesar and Me".
- There is a display case in the photo gallery of the California Adventure version that contains two items relating to the episode "A Thing about Machines"; one is a typewriter (with the GET OUT OF HERE FINCHLEY message)--the card next to it reads "Almost Writes By Itself", there is also an electric razor--its card reads "Has A Long Cord - Can Follow You Everywhere." There is also a toy telephone from the episode "Long Distance Call" with a card saying "Perfect for the children's room and those late night calls from Grandma."
- "Picture If You Will...", a phrase Rod Serling used in more than one Twilight Zone episode, appears in the gift shop where guests can buy their on-ride photos.
- While exiting the California Adventure version, there is a display window for "Willoughby Travel", a nod to the episode "A Stop at Willoughby".
- In the photo gallery of the California Adventure version, there is a poster advertising "Anthony Fremont's Orchestra." Anthony Fremont is the young boy with god-like powers from the episode "It's a Good Life". The poster also appears in the lobby of the Florida version.
- One of the shafts at California (called the "Charlie" shaft by its cast members) features the mirror scene below the hallway scene while the other two ("Alpha" and "Bravo") feature it in the opposite position. This is because the engineering room (which contains all the computers that operate the attraction) is located behind the mirror scenes for Alpha and Bravo.
- According to Imagineers, the California version contains no Hidden Mickeys. This is because Imagineers wanted to put more effort into references from The Twilight Zone.
- In Florida's queue, just before the library, there is a board with white letters that announce various events scheduled at the hotel. Some of the letters have fallen to the bottom, and if you peer into the case, you can see that they spell out "EVIL TOWER U R DOOMED." These letters have since been removed. Several petitions on the Internet are active in hopes of returning the letters to the directory in the Florida lobby.
- In the library in the California version, there are several nearly-identical books on one of the shelves, all labeled with "TZ" at the top. The books' titles are those of popular episodes of The Twilight Zone.
- The Tower Hotel Gift Shop at the exit has featured extensive amounts of Twilight Zone merchandise, such as books and action figures of famous Twilight Zone characters, including the Devil and the Gremlin.
- Florida's new gift shop now has Talky Tina from the episode "Living Doll" sitting behind the register counter.
The ride's main theme was conducted by Richard Bellis and incorporates Marius Constant's iconic Twilight Zone theme, along with the season one theme by Bernard Hermann. It can be found on several Disney Theme Park albums:
- Disneyland/Walt Disney World Music Vacation (as part of a medley)
- Walt Disney World Resort: The Official Album (1999 CD)
- Walt Disney World Resort: Official Album (2000 CD)
- Official Album: Walt Disney World Resort Celebrating 100 Years of Magic (2001 CD)
- The Official album of the Disneyland Resort (2005 CD)
The outdoor queue for all versions of the attraction plays over 20 classic jazz songs from popular artists of the 1930s to accent the tower's 1939 setting. The songs, listed alphabetically by artist, include:
- "There's a House in Harlem for Sale" - Red Allen
- "Jungle Drums" - Sidney Bechet
- "When the Sun Sets Down South" - Sidney Bechet
- "I Can't Get Started" - Bunny Berigan
- "Mood Indigo" - Duke Ellington
- "Alabama Home" - The Gotham Stompers
- "I'm in Another World" - Johnny Hodges
- "Jeep's Blues" - Johnny Hodges
- "Jitterbug's Lullaby" - Johnny Hodges
- "Pyramid" - Johnny Hodges
- "Deep Purple" - Turner Layton
- "Uptown Blues" - Jimmie Lunceford
- "We'll Meet Again" - Vera Lynn
- "Wishing (Will Make it So)" - Vera Lynn
- "Sleepy Time Gal" - Glenn Miller
- "There's No Two Ways About It" - Frankie Newton
- "Remember" - Red Norvo
- "Dear Old Southland" - Noble Sissle
- "Inside (This Heart of Mine)" - Fats Waller
- "Delta Mood" - Cootie Williams
In Hollywood, California, visible from Highway 101, are the Hollywood Tower apartments on Franklin Avenue. A plaque by the front door reads:
HOLLYWOOD TOWER. 1929. SOPHISTICATED LIVING FOR FILM LUMINARIES DURING THE "GOLDEN AGE" OF HOLLYWOOD. PLACED ON THE REGISTER OF HISTORIC PLACES BY THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF INTERIOR.
In popular cultureSince the opening of the original attraction in Florida, the ride in all its incarnations has gained a large cult following and has appeared in various media.
Tower of Terror
- Main article: Tower of Terror (film)
Tower of Terror was a 1997 TV film based on the attraction of the same name starring Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst. The story followed Guttenberg as a down-on-his-luck journalist who, along with his niece and a few others, attempt to free the ghosts of the legendary Hollywood Tower Hotel who've been trapped there since 1939. The film premiered on October 26, 1997, as part of the ABC network's The Wonderful World of Disney. Unlike its source attraction, the film has absolutely no connection with The Twilight Zone.
In October of 2015, Disney announced that a new film based on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was in the works with a script treatment by John August, screenwriter of Big Fish. The film is intended to be a theatrical release completely separate from the 1997 film and will also have no association with The Twilight Zone.
In one of the drawings from Epic Mickey, there was a large Gothic building representing the Hollywood Tower Hotel.
- The Hollywood Studios' version has its shaft rigged with various fake screams in order to provide a much more thrilling atmosphere. However, they're generally barely heard due to it commonly blending in with real screams from other riders. It is unknown if this occurs in other versions.
- The ride, as said in some promo videos, was allegedly based on a lost Twilight Zone episode.
- Tower of Terror (Tokyo DisneySea)
- Guardians of the Galaxy - Mission: BREAKOUT!
- The Haunted Mansion; another classic, horror-themed Disney Parks attraction.