Disney Theme Park Fright Ride ‘Tower Of Terror’ Getting Movie Treatment


The exterior of the Tower of Terror ride in 2013 California Adventure – Orlando Adapted from a photo by Alfred A. Si

The entertainment web site DEADLINE reports that Disney is now looking to hire a screenwriter to give feature treatment to Tower Of Terror, long one of the most popular rides in its theme parks. Jim Whitaker is producing this with Big Fish screenwriter, John August.

The premise: Five people in a posh hotel take an elevator and disappear after it is hit by lightning.


“The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror–Hotel Lobby” by Athanasius28 – Own work. Licensed under CC BY 3.0 via Commons

The theme park ride combines footage and narration by what sounds like the late Rod Serling doing a Twilight Zone episode, with a jaw-dropping elevator car that falls precipitously, and climbs back up.

Throughout the entire queue area in most parks, typical 1930s jazz music can be heard, hauntingly echoing through a cracked, serpentine pathway which leads to the hotel. The outdoor queue winds through the overgrown gardens of the hotel, past signs pointing to the stables, bowling green, tennis courts and swimming pools. The queue meanders to the west of the hotel entrance, past disheveled and crumbling statuary and a vine-covered pavilion. Eventually it leads to the lobby from the left. Inside the doors, the Hollywood Tower Hotel appears frozen in time, everything in it draped in decades’ worth of dust and decay. There is a yellowed copy of the Los Angeles Examiner dated October 31, 1939, a table set with tea and stale pastries, several suitcases abandoned near the front desk, a long-extinguished fireplace, an unfinished game of Mahjong at a table accompanied by a few rancid cocktails, a concierge desk with a hat and cane left behind, and a cobwebbed owl sculpture surrounded by a circle of dead flowers acting as the centerpiece of the lobby. In the California and Paris versions, the game of Mahjong was replaced with an unfinished game of cards.


“The Hollywood Tower Hotel” by Alfred A. Si – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons

Behind the front desk are the elevators; the sliding doors of one are partially detached from their grooves. A sign in front of the elevator still reads “Out of Order.” Everything in the hotel has apparently been preserved ever since it closed that fateful night all those years ago. Guests are informed that their rooms are not quite ready; in the meantime, guests are ushered into the hotel library. The library is home to not only books, but also the hotel’s collection of antiques and exotic curiosities, an old television set, and various pieces of Twilight Zone memorabilia scattered about the room. Through the window, guests may observe a fierce thunderstorm raging outside.

With a bolt of lightning the power suddenly goes out, save for the television which crackles into life, apparently of its own accord, with the opening sequence from Season 4 and Season 5 of The Twilight Zone plays, followed by a supposedly “lost” episode hosted by Rod Serling (which is actually a modified re-themed introduction taken from the show’s third season’s eighth episode “It’s a Good Life.”) With the benefit of Disney’s use of numerous Twilight Zone audio samples, Serling fills in some of the blanks regarding the closure of the Hollywood Tower Hotel back in 1939. The episode shows the hotel on that night all those years ago. A ferocious thunderstorm has enveloped the building and grounds. The episode then cuts to the lobby, where singer Carolyn Crosson, her boyfriend Gilbert London, child actress Sally Shine (who is modeled after child actress Shirley Temple) and her nanny Emeline Partridge accompanied by a hotel bellhop Dewey Todd board the elevator. None of the names of the characters are mentioned or referenced in the pre-show.

The elevator ascends normally at first, but then, the lightning bolt strikes the hotel, causing an entire wing and the guests to vanish, and causing the elevator to drop rapidly and crash, sending all five people into the Twilight Zone. The lightning strike explains the missing front wing with burn marks across the face of the hotel, allowing those outside the hotels to periodically see the elevators ascending and dropping. Taking the episode back to the present, Serling comments that the storm outside is similar to the one that sent the fateful five into the Fifth Dimension. He also explains that the only elevator in the hotel still in working condition is the maintenance service elevator located in the basement at the boiler room. He invites the guests, “if they dare”, to board the elevator and discover the secret of the Hollywood Tower Hotel and make each of them a star of The Twilight Zone. The television then turns off and is followed by a brief moment of darkness. With that, a back exit from the library opens. The guests exit into and move through the boiler room, past quietly humming boilers, furnaces and engines, at the end of which they are directed by a “bellhop” to a row to stand on, a marker, awaiting the service elevator’s arrival.

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