- “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 simply, just The Tower of Terror) is a simulated freefall drop tower thrill ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios in Lake Buena Vista, Florida, Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, California and at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, France. It is based on the classic anthology television series The Twilight Zone and is hosted by the series' creator and host, Rod Serling.
The original incarnation of the attraction opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 1994, with the California version opening ten years later and the Paris version in 2007. A similar attraction that dropped the Twilight Zone theme opened at Tokyo DisneySea in Japan in 2006. 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 of all-time. Its popularity even spawned a 1997 TV film, becoming the first theme park ride to have a film adaptation.
In the attraction's premise, inspired by themes of the television series, guests visit the legendary Hollywood Tower Hotel. Once a lively resort for the Hollywood elite, it 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 31st, 1939. The hotel, now dilapidated and haunted, has mysteriously "reopened" having guests experience the events of that fateful night aboard one of the basement freight elevators as they go on a bizarre, frightening journey through the Twilight Zone.
The hotel's exterior features a big, 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 and closing upon the arrival of screaming riders. All of the cast members wear a costume that resembles a 1930's bellhop. 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 at the Walt Disney World Resort, shorter only than Expedition: Everest's 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 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 183-foot attraction is 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 appears 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.
The ride system employs specialized technology developed specifically forDisney, particularly the ability to move the vehicle in and out of the vertical motion shaft. The elevator cars are self-propelled, automated vehicles which 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 appear 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!!"