Picture if you will, hoards of people who like lemmings off a cliff, assemble themselves in winding lines, obediently following each other to a broken service elevator for the express purpose of experiencing screaming horror in a runaway car.
Welcome to the Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror at Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. This is not only one of the most unusual theme park attractions anywhere, but one that takes advantage of very creative technology invented just for this purpose and found nowhere else.
It is actually known as the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, in honor of Rod Serling’s masterpiece of science fiction and personal horrors that form the basis of the attraction back story.
When you first ride the Tower of Terror it is likely you will be a little apprehensive. For some, motion sickness is a concern since high speed and fear of uncontrolled falling is not something we normally willingly choose. But as much as your stomach might remind you of the rapid ups and downs, what the heck… it will be fun and does end eventually. But do read the caution signs!
An memorable part of this attraction is the queue area which features an introduction from that 1960s Twilight Zone episode called “It’s a Good Life,” although a really good impersonator dubbed audio over the original. Remember, look closely at the room, you will be surprised what you find (especially Twilight Zone aficionados).
As with most everything about Disney parks, there are numerous web sites of unofficial resources gathered and presented by Disney’s biggest fans. For example, a Tower of Terror fan tribute site is towerofterror.org. Included are audios that bring back all the memories of this attraction for those who have been there and done that. There are other comprehensive Disney affinity sites such as AllEars.Net that also provides excellent background for park planning. Then of course there is YouTube and multi-media sources online for recordings to view the actual ride experience.
Here are a few facts you might not have realized about the Tower of Terror. There are real props from episodes of the Twilight Zone TV series scattered in the Hollywood Tower Hotel. The attraction is one of the three tallest buildings at Walt Disney World, at 199 feet (one-half foot less than Everest and just short of having a required red light to protect air traffic). The attraction back story references a lightning strike on the hotel at 8:05 pm on October 31, 1939 during a party of the Tip Top Club. The result was a young couple, bellhop, child actress and her nanny suddenly disappearing, appearing only when YOU are taking your elevator ride… through the Twilight Zone.
The elevator does not really drop (sorry for the spoiler); it is actually pulled back and forth with a maximum speed of 39 mph. There are four Tower of Terror attractions in Disney parks including Orlando, Paris, Anaheim and Tokyo. The spirits you see are using a theatre trick called “Peppers Ghost”. Yes, it is done with mirrors; sorry too for that spoiler, since there is no such thing as ghosts (except at the Magic Kingdom Haunted Mansion).
But most important, and what brings back riders multiple times, is that a computer now controls the “drops” and you never know how many or how long you will be trapped during each ride. There is an interesting video also on the Internet from the Modern Marvels television series which illustrates some of the technical aspects of the Tower of Terror attraction.
This is definitely a “fast pass” attraction, more so during the busy season. FASTPASS reduces the time you have to spend in line, particularly for the most popular attractions. Swipe your admission pass and get a receipt with a period of time that you come back to walk right into the ride; no waiting.
And, if you are really into Disney movies you might seek out the 1997 Tower of Terror movie starring Steve Guttenberg. The Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion are not the only times Disney promoted a theme park attraction with live action movies.
The Walt Disney World Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror is well worth the wait in line (we are all lemmings at the “World”). And it is OK to ride several times during your visit, since because of computers your experience is never the same. But when you exit your elevator car, listen carefully to hear…
We trust your stay at the Hollywood Tower of Terror Hotel has been a pleasant one, and please do come back and see us again.