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Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
Tower of Terror

Opened

July 22, 1994

Designer

Walt Disney Imagineering

Ride length

3:10

Height

199 ft. (60.7 m)

Number of vehicles

8

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, more commonly known as the Tower of Terror, is a drop tower thrill ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World. It is based upon the television show The Twilight Zone. It is the original version of the attraction, opening at Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney's Hollywood Studios) in July 1994.

The attraction takes place in the fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel (itself inspired by the Hollywood Tower, named a historic landmark by the US Department of the Interior). The story of the hotel, adapted from elements of the television series, includes the hotel being struck by lightning on October 31, 1939, mysteriously transporting an elevator cart full of passengers to the Twilight Zone, and causing an entire wing of the building to disappear. The exterior of the attraction resembles an old hotel with a blackened scorch mark across the front of the façade where the lightning struck it. All of the Cast Members wear a costume that resembles that of a 1930s bellhop. At over USD$1000 per uniform, it is the most expensive costume in the various theme parks. At 199 feet (60.7 m), it is the second tallest attraction at the Walt Disney World Resort, shorter only than Expedition Everest's 199.5 feet (60.8 m). The Tower of Terror is 199 feet (60.7 m) high because of FAA regulations that require a fixed red light beacon to be added to the top of any 200 feet (61.0 m) or taller building. Imagineers thought that the beacon would take away from the hotel's 1939 theme.

Attraction Description[]

Queue and Pre-Show[]

Guests enter the hotel through the main entrance gate. The outdoor queue winds itself through the overgrown gardens of the Hollywood Tower Hotel and leads to the lobby. Inside the lobby, it is dark and the whole place is covered in dust. There is a yellowing copy of the Los Angeles Examiner dated October 31, 1939, a table set with tea and stale pastries, several suitcases, and a cobwebbed owl sculpture surrounded by a circle of dead flowers that appears to be the centerpiece of the room.

Behind the front desk is the broken elevator, its sliding doors having slid off their grooves. A sign still reads "Out of Order." Everything in the hotel has apparently been left undisturbed ever since it closed decades ago. Guests are informed that their rooms are not quite ready yet. For the time being, guests are asked to simply enjoy themselves in the hotel's library. The library is full of not only books, but exotic antiques, a television, and plenty of Twilight Zone memorabilia. Through the window, guests can observe that there is a thunderstorm going on outside.

Lightning strikes and the television comes on, apparently of its own accord. The opening sequence of Season Four of The Twilight Zone plays, followed by a supposedly "lost" episode hosted by Rod Serling. Serling explains the mysterious events that caused the hotel to close back in 1939. Serling then states that the present evening's atmosphere is similar to that of the night the guests have just witnessed, but this time they are the ones involved in events. He also mentions that one elevator in the hotel is still in working condition: the maintenance service elevator in the basement boiler room. He invites the guests, if they dare, to board the elevator and discover the secret of the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

With that, the television shuts off and a back exit from the library opens. The guests exit into and move through the boiler room, at the end of which they are placed upon a row to stand on a marker of their choice, awaiting the elevator's arrival.

First Ascent[]

Once they are seated inside the elevator, Rod Serling greets 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 its first stop.

The doors open to reveal a long, dimly-lit hotel corridor with a single window at the opposite end. A violent thunderstorm is raging and lightning flashes outside the window. Ghostly images of the five doomed guests from 1939 appear for a moment, then vanish in a burst of electricity. (These ghostly images, while thought to be holograms, are actually a classic example of a Pepper's Ghost effect. Other Pepper's Ghost effects at the Walt Disney World Resort include ones inside the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom). The guests disappear in a burst of lightning. The corridor then fades away, but the window remains and morphs into a creepier black-and-white version and shatters in the now star-filled hallway, like in the opening segment of each episode.

The Fifth Dimension[]

The elevator doors close and the car continues its ascent. Serling's voice continues on, saying, "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." The elevator stops once more. The doors open to what at first looks like a maintenance room, but slowly morphs into an endless field of stars. The elevator car emerges horizontally from the lift shaft and enters a section of the ride called The Fifth Dimension, which is a bizarre collection of sights and sounds and starfields, once again in the style of the television show's opening sequence. A rendition of The Twilight Zone opening sequence plays throughout. The scene ends as the elevator reaches another star field which splits and opens much like elevator doors. The elevator enters another vertical shaft. 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."

Drop Sequence[]

On the last word of Serling's narration, the elevator starts its drop sequence. Rather than a simple gravity-powered drop, however, the elevator is pulled downwards, causing most riders to rise off their seats, held down only by a seat-belt. At least once during the drop sequence, wide elevator doors in front of the riders will open to reveal a view of the park from a height of about 170 feet (52 m). The back of the "Hollywood Tower Hotel" sign partially obstructs the view.

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, lightning flashes, and ominous blacklit figures of the five ghostly original riders. These changes were made so that each trip on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a slightly different experience. The ride was reprogrammed most recently in its fourth conversion. The result of the reprogramming is that the ride system allows for any number of randomized drops and lifts. When guests enter the drop shaft, a computer randomly chooses one of four drop profiles, one of which is a modified version of the ride's third incarnation. Regardless of the number of randomized drops and lifts, each drop sequence always features one "faux drop" meant to startle the riders, and one complete drop through the entire tower. Since each trip results in a unique drop sequence, Florida's slogan for the ride is "Never the Same Fear Twice!"

After a series of these drops have been made, the elevator returns to the basement of the decrepit Hollywood Tower Hotel. A movie plays, showing elements from the season four opening sequence, along with the 1939 elevator passengers and Rod Serling, falling into the "vortex" seen in the season three opening sequence. Rod Serling's voice states, "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." Guests then exit the elevator, leaving the hotel through the gift shop.

Technical Info[]

The 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 cabs are self-propelled automated ride vehicles, called an "AGV" or autonomous guided vehicle, which lock into separate vertical motion cabs. The cabs can move into and out of elevators horizontally, move through the "Fifth Dimension" scene, and on to the drop shaft. After the elevator cab has completed its profile, it propels itself to the unload dock and then back to the show shaft.

In order to achieve the weightless effect the Imagineers desired, cables attached to the bottom of the elevator car actually pull it down at a speed slightly faster than what a free-fall in gravity would provide. Two enormous motors are located at the top of the tower. The motors are 12 feet (3.7 m) tall, 35 feet (11 m) long, and weigh 132,000 pounds. They are able to accelerate 10 tons at 15 times the speed of normal elevators. They generate torque equal to that of 275 Corvette engines and reach top speeds in 1.5 seconds.

Facts & Trivia[]

  • The preshow includes the little girl holding a Mickey Mouse plush toy, along with her still holding it on the hallway scene.
  • As the ride comes to a stop, the slot machine from the Twilight Zone episode "The Fever" can be seen.
  • Both of the elevator exit areas contain a display featuring, among other things, the ventriloquist dummy "Caesar" from the Twilight Zone episode "Caesar and Me."
  • In an effort to be true to the spirit of The Twilight Zone, Disney Imagineers reportedly watched every episode of the original television show at least twice. The attraction buildings are littered with references to Twilight Zone episodes.
  • This ride appeared on the Disney Channel's Halloween edition of Walt Disney World Inside Out with guest star Gilbert Gottfried.
  • Following the ride's success, Disney produced a 1997 film based on the attraction, starring Steven Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst. Many shots were filmed at the Orlando theme park, whilst some of them were shot on Burbank movie sets.

Incidents[]

On July 12, 2005, a 16-year-old girl from Kibworth, Leicestershire, UK complained of a severe headache and other symptoms after riding the Tower of Terror. She was taken to an Orlando hospital in critical condition, where she underwent surgery for intracranial bleeding. On August 6, 2005, she returned to England via air ambulance. While she reportedly had ridden the attraction several times previously during her visit with no ill effects, she had been in pain for a few days prior to the incident. She had suffered a massive stroke leading to cardiac arrest. After an examination by both Disney and state inspectors showed no ride malfunction, the ride was reopened the next day. The girl returned home safely after spending six months in the hospital due to two heart attacks and surgery. On February 13, 2009, the victim's family sued Disney for negligence in the ride design, failing to adequately warn riders, and not providing proper safety restraints. They are seeking at least US$15,000.

Sources & External Links[]

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