Saturday, April 30, 2011

Fear Every Drop: Part 1

For some odd reason, lately I have been wanting to go to Disney World. Now, those of you who have gone probably don't consider that odd. After all, it's a wonderful amusement park with great rides. What I find odd is that I wanna go so badly that it's invaded my dreams. And one ride in particular invaded my dreams fully last night. A spooky attraction that is now considered a classic. It's an adventure with ghosts, scares, and an ultra cool narrator. Nope, not the Haunted Mansion. It's The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror.

The Tower of Terror is somewhat of an enigma to me. Whereas the Haunted Mansion was Disney's brilliant attempt at a haunted house dark ride, the Tower of Terror is an attempt at bringing a creepy TV show to life. But, when I dreamt about it last night, I asked myself “Why? Why would Imagineers design an E-ticket about a horrific show?” Well, imagine my surprise when I found out through research that we have a legend of parody to thank for it. That's right, freaky folks, the Tower of Terror wouldn't be there without Mel Brooks.

The story goes that Disney wanted to bring Mel over to the then-newly developed MGM studios, so they waved the idea of having his own theme park ride in his face. Thoroughly hooked, Mel started brainstorming. Originally, the idea was to have Castle Young Frankenstein, a ride that would have been about one of Brooks' best movies. While the comedy director was trying to think of a cohesive attraction, a separate group was developing their own project: a hotel with a murder mystery attached. It would have been a sort of scavenger hunt where guests follow clues to solve a mystery. And there would have been multiple mysteries to solve. Somehow, Mel and the other group decided to merge their ideas. The ride was now called Hollywood Horror Hotel, and it would also have a few comedic elements.

As the Imagineers kept tossing around possibilities, Brooks started working on his next movie, which became Life Stinks. When he left, a member of the design crew thought that it would be interesting to take an elevator off the ride tracks, have it travel through the hotel a little, and crash somewhere else. Thus, the basic idea for the Tower of Terror was born. Now all they needed to do was attach some movie or TV show to the idea to give it a theme. After some deliberation, it was agreed to make it the Twilight Zone, simply because the rights were available. Of course, the ride would lose the comedy aspect Mel wanted to give it originally. Instead, it was refocused into an eerie and freaky atmosphere. And we call this ride the Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror.

Now you know why we have the Tower of Terror. Frankly, I'm disappointed. Don't get me wrong, I love the end result. But Castle Frankenstein sounds like an incredibly awesome idea for a ride. Seriously, Young Frankenstein is my second favorite Brooks film (nothing will beat Spaceballs). A ride based on the movie... I would have been in line at least 5 times the first day.

Anyway, that's quite a story for the development of a ride that's as iconic today as any other at the Disney parks. But there's still a lot more to talk about. However, I don't wanna bore you all with a long look at a great attraction. So, I have just decided that I am going to make this a series on the side. There's simply too much interesting trivia to contain in one blog. Instead, join me on the next floor of this haunted hotel, which holds untold secrets and hidden references. Until then, I hope you've enjoyed your stay so far at the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Please follow the bell hop into the elevator on your left. And hold on for your life...


  1. As far as the "Tower of Terror" is concerned, the Florida version is superior to the version on the west coasr. It helps that the Florida version is against a Hillside, so it just seems more like a real place. The Detail is somewhat better as well.
    They actually made a film based on the attraction, staring Steve Guttenberg and a young Kristin Dunst. They filmed the exterior of the hotel at the Florida attraction, and the film was (to me anyway) more entertaining then the Eddie Murphy Haunted Mansion film. Hopefully the upcomming "Haunted Mansion 2: This Time it won't suck" by Del Torro will come across as superior to both.
    There is a Hong Kong Tower, where "The Twighlight Zone" aspect has been dropped. Both of the US Towers are called "The Hollywood Tower". There is an actual "Hollywood Tower Hotel" on Franklin Ave. in Los Angeles. Hollywood Star George Raft occupied the Penthouse of the actual "Hollywood Tower Hotel" in Hollywood.

  2. I'm just tickled at how well the ride in Orlando exudes the Twilight Zone vibe when there was never an episode about any such story on the show. Disney came up with the plot, the setting, and the characters all by themselves, then got the ghost of Rod Serling to pull it all together. Genius.

  3. Don't you worry, Otto, I'll get to the movie eventually. And the ride in Hong Kong as well.

    And, yeah, Rabbs, I love it too. I'm gonna spend a whole article talking about the general atmosphere of the place.