Saturday, January 30, 2010

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror:
Leave Your Stomach on the 13th Floor

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.

There is a fifth dimension, beyond that which is known to man. It is a dimension as vast as space and as timeless as infinity. It is the middle ground between light and shadow, between science and superstition, and it lies between the pit of man's fears and the summit of his knowledge. This is the dimension of imagination. It is an area which we call the Twilight Zone.
Thank you Rod Serling, whose introduction that I quoted was itself spine tingling even before the tv show began, and serves as the inspiration for an attraction that took some getting used to for me.

When I first rode the Tower of Terror at MGM (now Hollywood Studios) I was a little apprehensive. I go to Walt Disney World for the whole experience of being there, and not just to do the rides. In fact, motion sickness keeps from going on several rides, like the Aerosmith Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster just next door or even Expedition Everest. [Then again, fear of losing my lunch may be a factor.]

Tower of Terror at Night

The above photo of the Tower of Terror at night is a favorite which I found on Flickr. It is from one of the best collections of Walt Disney World pictures that I've found. I hope to use more of them in the future, including two more below.
But this last trip in December we actually went on the Tower of Terror three times. My stomach reminded me each round of the rapid ups and downs, but what the heck… it was fun. Also, my wife loves this ride and I love Rod Serling, especially since he was my college graduation speaker. [Boy, I am aging myself; but wait until I start talking about Walt Disney and the 1964-65 Worlds Fair which I attended many times.]

Speaking of Rod Serling, the queue area does show an actual introduction to a 1960’s Twilight Zone episode, called “It’s a Good Life," but that’s not just Serling’s voice but also a really good impersonator dubbing over the original. And, if you’re really into Disney movies you might have seen 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.

If you haven’t already noticed, when I provide information on attractions I’ll give you links and information that some might consider “spoilers." You may not want to know all the secrets and behind the scenes information, so be aware. I’ve never found this to be a problem since knowing more makes me more attentive. I look forward to seeing to whatever I’ve learned about.

In fact, this last trip Mary Ann and I took one of the Magic Kingdom back stage tours, which makes us more excited about going again and again. But you may not like to know secret behind the “magic”, so I just wanted to issue that warning because of the background information you'll find on the web links and video's I've provided here.

By the way, it’s no surprise that the web has a ton of information on the Tower of Terror. One of the best and most comprehensive about the Tower of Terror is Plus, AllEars.Net provides a good summary, and there’s always Wikopedia. Then of course there's YouTube, and a video of the entire ride experience below.

Here are some things about the Tower of Terror I’ve heard or read about. There are really 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 the World, at 199 feet (one-half foot shorter 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… through the Twilight Zone.

On the TowerofTerror.Org web site, they also provide audios that will bring back all the memories of this attraction for those who have been there and done that. One is part of the Disney Company promotion, but there are many more, like this one from the attraction Preshow which only the experienced guests can visualize. Click on those purple links to hear the audio (and view the web links).

The elevator doesn’t really drop (sorry); it’s 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 for that spoiler, since there is no such thing as ghosts (except in the 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. This next video is part of the Modern Marvels television series and describes some of the technical aspects of the Tower of Terror.

Planning Tip: 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 can simply walk right into the ride. There are limitations and some things you should know, so I have included a web site you can check out for more information. Click on the wdwcentral blog, another Disney fan site and one like mine without paid advertising that provides planning and information for WDW.

So this has been my summary on the Walt Disney World Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror. It’s well worth the wait in line (we're all lemmings at the World); also multiple visits, since your experience is never the same.

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.