Amazing Facts About the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
The Hollywood Tower Hotel doesn’t have any reviews on Yelp. You won’t find a ranking for it on TripAdvisor, either. This hotel is no longer in operation. Should you visit the property, you’ll see dust and cobwebs and other tell-tale signs of abandonment. Decades ago, a tragedy occurred here. The place has been condemned, its unfortunate guests damned to live in a boundless void. It’s not a happy story yet you’ll delight in the details. Here are a few amazing facts about the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Mel Brooks’ Tower of Terror?
Imagineers didn’t plan to build a Twilight Zone attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. During the blue sky phase of the project, park planners dreamt of a different kind of attraction. They wanted to build something spooky that would have some humor as well. Their inspiration for this potential ride building was…Mel Brooks.
Yes, in some alternate dimension, the spot where the Hollywood Tower Hotel resides today looks more like the castle from Young Frankenstein. The 1974 film merged the concepts of humor and horror in a way that Disney found appealing. Yes, this situation mirrors the same debate from the 1950s over the direction of Haunted Mansion.
The detail that might surprise you is that once Disney ruled out a Young Frankenstein-style attraction, they weighed the potential of a Stephen King ride. Since the park was movie-themed, park officials relished the idea of the king of the horror flick holding court here. Eventually, some level-headed person deduced that a place modeled after the Overlook Hotel wasn’t the best fit with Disney’s theme park business model.
So, we got a Tower of Terror instead!
A Voice from the Great Beyond
One of the unheralded oddities of Twilight Tower of Terror is the presence of Rod Serling, who died in 1975, 19 years before the ride’s opening. You may dismiss the difficulty of this, as archival footage is part of the introductory video. It’s not difficult to do that in order to keep the spirit of Serling alive after he shuffled off his mortal coil.
Disney did a lot more than that, though. Imagineers planned the entire ride around the footage that they could display of Serling. Then, they added entirely new dialogue to tell the rest of the story. Thanks to a clever bit of editing, Serling’s appearance cuts away while his voice carries on.
At this point, Disney is no longer playing the host’s voice. Instead, they hired a Serling family-approved vocal mimic named Mark Silverman to impersonate the host of The Twilight Zone. Silverman’s performance is so good that you’d never even realize that it’s a second actor portraying Serling rather than the host himself. Thanks to this clever audio/video editing trick, Disney has helped Rod Serling to live again!
The Scariest Elevator on the Planet
You think of Disney as a safe environment for you to spend your vacation, and you should! Park officials expend vast resources to maintain the best safety record in the industry. Disney builds sensors across all parts of their attractions and automatically shuts down anything that functions at less than 99 percent!
With Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the company did something weird. This next part will sound unsafe, but I swear it’s fine. Please don’t freak out.
When Imagineers strategized about building the most thrilling drop tower ride possible, they had an epiphany. The flaw with their plan was elevator technology itself. The very nature of elevator manufacturing worked against Disney’s plans. Elevators are built under stringent safety codes, not unlike the ones used for theme park attractions.
Disney needed something different. They needed an elevator that would bounce wildly in the shaft. Otherwise, their elevator might as well come with Muzak playing. Company execs took the unusual step of asking for a unique elevator design. Specifically, they asked for one without the standard safety system implemented.
Disney wanted to control the velocity of lift and decline. They needed an unprecedented elevator design to achieve their goal. From now on, every time you ricochet wildly, remember that it’s because this elevator doesn’t have a standard safety system!
PS: Don’t worry. Disney built their own!
Take the Penny Test!
One of my favorite days to visit Cedar Point is when park officials there invite local students to learn while they play. Cedar Fair, the management team in charge of Cedar Point, hands out this impressive stack of paper that has physics calculations. It shows the underlying mechanics of their many marvelous roller coasters, many of which seem to defy the known laws of physics.
What does any of this have to do with Twilight Zone Tower of Terror? One of the most memorable parts of the practical applications of physics is on display during drop tower rides. You will experience virtual moments of weightlessness as the ride apparatus drops you at a terrifying speed.
When I say weightlessness, what I mean is that your speed is identical to the speed of any other object in that matter. An elephant and a duck would drop at the same velocity. Seriously! You may be skeptical about this statement, but you can see it in action.
The next time you have an empty seat next to you – please don’t do it when a guest is beside you – and want to test the laws of physics, pull out a penny or other small coin. Right as the first drop occurs, release the penny.
During the moment that you are in the downward spiral, the penny will “hover” in the air. It’s not actually floating. It’s merely going at the same rate of speed as you! Here’s a video of the concept on a different drop tower attraction. Since Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is just as likely to go up as down, it’s actually kind of hard to do the Penny Trick. In this video, you can watch someone try, but it’s tough to see.
The penny trick demonstrates high-level physics concepts in a way that any Disney fan can understand.
How Many Easter Eggs Can You Spot?
Disney couldn’t possibly build a ride themed to The Twilight Zone without paying tribute to some of the show’s most famous moments. Imagineers have too much pride for that. So, from the moment that you enter the Hollywood Tower Hotel, you should be on the lookout for some of the many Easter eggs hidden in plain sight.
Here are just a few of them that an attentive person might notice at the Hollywood Studios version:
- A book entitled To Serve Man from the episode of the same name
- The elevator repair number is 10259, honoring the October 2, 1959 television premiere
- The slot machine from The Fever
- The Mystic Seer fortune teller that wreaks havoc in Nick of Time
- The flying saucer from The Invaders
- The trumpet from A Passage for Trumpet
- The terrifying ventriloquist’s dummy from Caesar and Me
These are some of the most easily identifiable ones. Imagineers who have worked on the project suggest that there are many more waiting to be discovered.
A trip to the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is one of the most satisfying experiences possible on a Disney vacation. And these new details should enrich your enjoyment on future trips. Just remember to be polite to other guests if you plan to try the Penny Trick, okay?