The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is one of the most thrilling and eerie attractions throughout the entire Walt Disney World Resort and thrills thousands of Guests each day on Sunset Boulevard in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. While many Guests love to experience the attraction during each visit to the Park, they might be missing out on an incredible amount of details crafted by Disney Imagineering that are intricately worked into the theme to create an immersive and unforgettable story.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror first opened on July 22, 1994, after several years of construction. The building itself is an impressive sight, soaring to 199 feet to avoid the blinking navigational beacon that is federally required at the 200-foot mark. Thanks to its popularity, thewas recreated in 2004 in — before being reimagined as Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! in 2017 — in 2006, and the Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris in 2007.
The architectural style of the attraction was inspired by various locations constructed in California in the 1920s and 1930s, including the Château Marmont in Hollywood, Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, and Mission Inn in Riverside. The color scheme was purposely chosen by Imagineers to blend in with the Morocco Pavilion in EPCOT’s World Showcase from a distance. Guests who stand near The Odyssey building in EPCOT can spot the tower looming ominously behind the skyline of Morocco.
While moving down Sunset Boulevard and approaching The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, the sense that something is wrong immediately strikes Guests as they can hear the distant sound of screams and notice a large burn mark on the front of the building. They later will learn the mark was the result of a fateful lightning strike.
Before beginning up the slight slope to the main entrance into the queue, Guests pass by the old FastPass distribution area, which is themed to feel like the gardener’s shed for the hotel. The area is in disrepair, and the natural destruction of the building and grounds becomes more apparent as Guests approach the front gates.
An opulent sign next to the entrance informs Guests that the building was home to The Hollywood Tower Hotel, however, those who stare long enough will see an eerie transformation as green lettering appears to spell out “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.”
Guests then proceed to move through the gardens of The Hollywood Tower Hotel, where overgrown vegetation, eerie music, and misty fog surrounds them and transports them back to another era. It becomes more and more apparent that the building was abandoned as cracks in the foundation, dried fountains, and disrepair appear all around.
Before moving into the lobby, Guests can spot a cornerstone that shares that the hotel was originally constructed in 1917. The lobby itself is where some of the story begins to come together and feels like a moment stuck in time. Guests clearly left the hotel abruptly many years ago, leaving behind cups of tea, half-played games of mahjong, and personal belongings.
While looking around the lobby, there are countless details that help to add to the level of immersion and theming, beginning with the lampshades which were created using material from vintage flapper dresses of the era and furniture that was constructed by consulting catalogs from the correct time period.
Behind the front desk is a plaque bestowing the 13 Diamond Award on the Hollywood Tower Hotel, which hints that something eerie is going on, considering the real award only goes to five diamonds. A nearby copy of Photoplay magazine features a fun nod to Disney history with a blurb about “Four Pages of Hilarious Star Caricatures by Walt Disney” inside.
Since The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is obviously inspired by The Twilight Zone television series, which ran from 1959 through 1964, it’s no surprise that there are tons of references to popular episodes found throughout the attraction. who pause and take a to look around can spot a nod to the episode “Time Enough At Last” can be found with a pair of broken glasses left on a table in the lobby.
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The library is where Guests finally begin to piece together some of the story behind the Hollywood Tower Hotel, and there are also plenty of amazing details to check out, including the Mystic Seer prop from the episode “Nick of Time.” Guests can also spot sheet music titled “What! No Mickey Mouse?” by Irving Caesar and “The Wedding Party of Mickey Mouse” by the Biltmore Theater Chapter of the Mickey Mouse Club.
As the lights ominously go out and a clap of thunder booms, Guests begin to watch a preshow video that emulates the famous introduction that Rod Serling would deliver at the beginning of each episode of The Twilight Zone. Since Serling died in 1975, Imagineers had to get creative and use clips from the episode “A Good Life” with cutaways and added dialogue by a voice actor.
The preshow video was directed by Joe Dante, who also directed the 1983 Twilight Zone – The Movie and shares with Guests the eerie events that happened on Halloween night, October 31, 1939. That stormy night, Carolyn Crosson, Gilbert London, Sally Shine, Emmeline Partridge, and Dewey Todd boarded the ill-fated elevator which was suddenly struck by lightning, forever trapping them inside The Twilight Zone.
Guests are then invited to experience their own adventure in which they are the stars, and soon find themselves strapped into a maintenance service elevator. While boarding, Guests can spot an operation permit inside the elevator that seems a little off. The permit is dated October 31, 1939 (the ill-fated Halloween night) and is signed by Cadwallader, who was the devil himself in the episode “Escape Clause.” The number of the permit is also listed as 10259 which is a clever reference to October 2, 1959, the date on which the first episode of The Twilight Zone aired.
After surviving their trip to The Twilight Zone, Guests can spot several more great details in the post-show areas that continue the theming. Just before disembarking the elevator, Guests often take notice of a very creepy ventriloquist doll, which was from the episode “Caesar & Me.”
Near the photo viewing area is a sign reading “picture if you will…” which was a phrase often used by Serling in his episode introductions. This is a great example of a subtle nod to detail that many Guests might never notice!
The Hollywood Tower Hotel was also home to the famous Tip Top Club where live music and swinging parties were found, as well as the Sunset Room restaurant. The shuttered up door leading to the restaurant as well as the menu from October 31, 1939 (the ill-fated night) can be found just before entering Tower Hotel Gifts.
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The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is not only a thrilling and eerie attraction in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, but a completely immersive experience from start to finish thanks to the incredible level of detail created by Disney Imagineering. Be sure to check out these details and many more on any visit to the popular attraction, and a fun way to enjoy the at home is by checking out the 1997 movie starring and as Buzzy Crocker and Anna Petterson.