15 June 2010

Through the door of an elevator

In the early years of Disney-MGM Studios, it was clear that the park had a definite story to tell about Hollywood, however, there was not a niche audience for the park. The Magic Kingdom was tailor-made for families and EPCOT Center allowed adults to travel the world and see new ideas all within one cozy destination. The ideal target for the park would, obviously, be teenagers and college-aged adults. The parks of Walt Disney World had it thrills, but nothing too extreme. To crank Disney-MGM Studios’ dial up to 11, or should I say 13, it would take something with a bit more speed. Enter The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.Originally, the story did not tie to The Twilight Zone. There had been plans in the works for a walk through haunted hotel, ramping that idea up would be the inclusion of a storyline involving a silent film director who had been driven from his career and life by the invention of films with sound. The director still haunted the hotel, and its guests, and would ultimately cut the cables of the hotel’s elevator, plummeting the guests thirteen stories down. The elevator portion of the attraction would utilize ride technology that already existed, thus minimizing expense and bringing a new level of excitement to the park.

Unfortunately, trying to entice teenagers with a concept they knew little or nothing about, silent films, would work against this concept. Instead, Imagineers harnessed the fifth dimension property, The Twilight Zone, which had become popular again in syndication. They also reinvented the ride system, allowing for a free moving elevator ride vehicle. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror would live up to its lofty expectations by creating not only the tallest attraction at Walt Disney World (until Expedition Everest trumped it by six inches), but one of the most meticulously detailed. Rod Serling would appear in both voice and in film, though sometimes through the use of a voice impersonator. The lavish Hollywood Tower Hotel, the setting for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, would include period furnishings, some found and some recreated by the original companies, 19th century bronze sculptures by Moreau, and a litany of The Twilight Zone references scattered throughout the lobby, library, boiler room, and basement.The story even included a way to preview the attraction to potential,… err… victims. By having the elevator towers vanish during the original lightning strike in 1939, large holes were left in the side of the Hollywood Tower Hotel’s superstructure. These portals would allow guests on Sunset Boulevard to see the adventure awaiting them.

The nightmare created by the imaginations of The Twilight Zone and Imagineers has been opening doors to the fifth dimension since 1994, with nary a silent film director in sight, but plenty of thrill-seeking teenagers.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Love the Tower of Terror and think it's the best attraction at WDW. Great article!