By Jocelyn Buhlman
October 31, 1939: The date of the fateful night when five passengers from glamorous Hollywood took their one-way trip into the Twilight Zone. July 22, 1994: The date the Hollywood Tower Hotel reopened its doors for us at Disney Hollywood Studios—and reopened the mystery behind the hotel. And now? July 22, 2019 marks 25 years since we first made that thrilling drop on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™, and we’ve been hooked ever since. We’ve been celebrating milestone Disney anniversaries all year, but this anniversary is by far the most mysterious—and deserves a deeper look into the past of the beloved attraction.
This, as you may recognize, is a list of nine facts about The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. We dive into the secrets of the famed Hollywood Tower Hotel and you might even take our own trip into… The Twilight Zone! Read on, if you dare:
1. Now Entering the Binge-Watching Zone
To accurately create our journey into the Twilight Zone, Disney Imagineers screened each of the 156 episodes of the classic series at least twice! Many episodes were screened three or four times and studied in regard to props, guest stars, settings, and music. To help craft that iconic preshow video, Imagineers observed Rod Serling’s opening and closing comments separately at least 10 times each to determine the most representative quotes and characteristic phrases used by Serling in his role as host of the show.
2. Unlocking the Door into the Fifth Dimension
During their tireless marathon of The Twilight Zone episodes, one thing stood out to the team—every week, Rod Serling told viewers that, with the key of imagination, one unlocks the door to another dimension–to the Fifth Dimension. The creative team behind the attraction decided it was time to go there! While Rod Serling could show us the fifth dimension on the television series, only this attraction could take us there.
3. Influential Episodes
While The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is not inspired by one specific episode from the series, certain episodes did have a major impact on the attraction’s plot. For example, the episode “Little Girl Lost” inspired Imagineers to include the Fifth Dimension in the attraction—and maybe some more Easter eggs, if you listen closely in the Boiler Room. You can also physically watch part of a Twilight Zone episode during Rod Serling’s introduction of the attraction. The original footage of Serling was taken from the episode “It’s a Good Life,” but has now been transformed into the introduction for a new episode—one where you are the main character.
4. This is a “Lost” Twilight Zone Episode Where YOU Are the Star
If you’re trying to remember an episode involving lightning striking a hotel, don’t worry—there wasn’t one! The goal wasn’t to recreate a famous episode, but to make a brand-new experience for guests at Disney Hollywood Studios. Now, we have the chance to be stars in a “lost” episode of The Twilight Zone, where we get to experience the story for ourselves.
5. Giving Props to Classic Episodes
What’s a classic Disney attraction without Easter eggs? Sharp-eyed visitors should pay attention in the hotel’s Library—especially if you’re a Twilight Zone fan. While the hotel is full of intriguing pieces—apparently collected by its globetrotting owner—some of the artifacts look strangely familiar, from a small metal spaceman suit and a nickel fortune-telling machine to a pair of cracked reading glasses and a cookbook ominously titled “To Serve Man.”
6. What Kind of Party, Indeed…
Hollywood’s most famous hotel naturally features its brightest star. Mickey Mouse makes cameo appearances, his most famous being the Mickey Mouse doll held by the child star in imagery throughout the attraction. The Library already has a wealth of Twilight Zone Easter eggs as well, but Disney fans should search for sheet music for the song that asks the age-old question, “What! No Mickey Mouse? (What Kind of Party is This?)”
7. Classic Californian Architecture
Disney’s Hollywood Studios is inspired by the “Hollywood that never was—and always will be,” but The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror takes particular inspiration from certain key landmarks that lend an air of authenticity to the once-glittering hotel in the heart of Tinseltown. Taking visual cues from the revival styles that swept California in the early 20th century, The Hollywood Tower Hotel echoes famous buildings such as the Mission Inn and the Biltmore Hotel. Emotionally, it recalls the legend and lore of the historic Chateau Marmont. Its landscaping—now abandoned and overgrown, but once an extravagant masterpiece—was inspired by the chaparral-covered hills of L.A.’s Griffith Park and Elysian Park.
8. Disney’s Hollywood
Besides references to classic The Twilight Zone episodes, there’s another special shout-out to a certain famous American. “Four Pages of Hilarious Star Caricatures by Walt Disney” is featured in the Photoplay magazine on the Concierge Desk.
9. Terror-ific Towers all Over the World
Traveling to a Disney park in France or Tokyo? Make sure to “drop in” on the unique version of Tower of Terror that each park features. Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris features a similar adventure to that of Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but over in Tokyo, you can stop by the Hightower Hotel for a very different story. Tokyo DisneySea features a unique spin on the Tower of Terror attraction, where you can investigate Harrison Hightower III’s mysterious disappearance thanks to a mysterious idol. Will you follow his fate? Whichever version of the experience is your favorite, one thing’s for sure—you’re going down for a great time!