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30 Hidden Secrets on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Back in the early 1990s, Disney-MGM Studios was facing criticism from the press and some visitors. The park had debuted in 1989 to huge crowds, but only offered a handful of attractions. This was by design - Disney CEO Michael Eisner had deliberately opted to make it a "half-day park", keeping the cost low but still encouraging Walt Disney World guests to stay for an extra day. By 1991, rival Universal Studios Florida was firing on all cylinders after its disastrous debut a year earlier. Attendance at the park would eventually surpass that at Disney-MGM Studios, and Disney put into place rapid expansion plans. This included the addition of a Muppets-themed area and several smaller attractions. The vast majority of Disney's budget, however, would be spent on a thrill ride to match those over at Universal's park. The result was the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, an attraction that is still considered by many today to be Disney's best ever. The Imagineers took a simple concept - a drop tower - and turned it into a complex dark ride with some of the most detailed and convincing theming ever seen. 20 years later, first-time guests still sometimes mistake its facade for that of a real hotel. Riders step straight into an episode of The Twilight Zone. After passing through the lobby of the enormous Hollywood Tower Hotel, they are informed via a pre-show video that the hotel was struck by lightning decades ago, sending some of its occupants spiralling into the Twilight Zone. Guests are about to take that same journey, via a very unusual service elevator. There are dozens of little details scattered throughout the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. Next time you ride, keep your eyes peeled for these 30 hidden secrets!

30. A large-scale building

Take a look at the hotel from the outside, to appreciate its scale. Some 1,500 tons of steel were used to construct it, along with 145,800 cubic feet of concrete. The roof is lined by 27,000 tiles.

29. Inspiration

Mission Inn

The Mission Inn.

One of the main inspirations for the exterior appearance of the Hollywood Tower Hotel was The Mission Inn in Riverside, California.

28. A luxurious interior

On the inside, sections of the lobby were inspired by the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.

27. A real hotel?

Tower of Terror close-up

From the front of the hotel, you can see a window with a light in it. This is just a dummy room to add to the impression that this is (or was) a real, working hotel. In his autobiography, former Disney CEO Michael Eisner reveals that he suggested that the Hollywood Tower Hotel be an actualhotel, as well as hosting the Tower of Terror. This proved to be impractical.

26. A Moroccan tower

Image: sanctumsolitute, Flickr (license)

The Tower of Terror is a very tall structure, and the back of it is visible when looking at the Morocco Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase. Decorations have been added to ensure that it blends in when viewed from Hollywood Studios' sister park.

25. Just tall enough

The Hollywood Tower Hotel stands at 199 feet tall. If it were just one foot taller, the Federal Aviation Authority would require it to have a flashing red light on the top.

24. Period hits

We'll Meet Again Listen out for a host of 1930s-era songs such as We'll Meet Againby Very Lynn drifting out over the garden walls outside the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

23. The opening date

The sign at the attraction's entrance indicates that the Hollywood Tower Hotel opened in 1917. The ride itself opened in 1994.

22. Too many diamonds

On the wall next to the concierge's desk in the lobby, you can see a plaque that awards the Hollywood Tower Hotel 13 diamonds from AAA. In reality, the AAA system tops out at 5 diamonds.

21. The lamp

There are several "Hidden Mickeys" to spot as you navigate the Hollywood Tower of Hotel. The lamp in the concierge desk is an antique, but has a familiar 3-circle pattern on it.

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There are 33 comments.

Number 12 is incorrect. The book "To Serve Man" is from the episode of the same name. The Mystic Seeer object on top of the book case with the bobbing head is from "Nick of Time"

Corrected - thanks!

The ride once broke down while we were on it. A large stepstool on wheels was carted over, to allow us all to get out of the car, and then we boarded the real maintenance elevator back down to the boarding floor again. This was the day the magic died.

Rides break.That's reality. Just because it's Disney doesn't mean they are beyond human nature and defy all odds of machines needing repairs.

I never said rides don't break from time to time, and I never blamed Disney. I was merely referring to my personal experience in the real maintenance elevator as reported in the article.

The boiler in California's Tower of Terror looks like a "giant face" as my boys like to say.

My favorite time on the ride was when we went inside clear as anything when the doors opened before we dropped there was a lightening storm outside

That would be so creepy!!

My favorite time on the ride was when we went inside clear as anything when the doors opened before we dropped there was a lightening storm outside

i love this article cause i am not getting in that ride

Anyone notice Vera Lynn's name is misspelled in the paragraph below the poster

It cracks me up how negative people can be. Relax it is a theme park.

Number 8. There is actually 2 elevators, the one pictured is actually for the castmembers. I think it goes to their break room and the control room for the ride. The one for disabled guests is behind a door directly behind that. Between the 2 exits from each shaft.

A most uncommon article to be to be sure, coming to you directly from....The Twilight Zone.

It was incredible to hear Rod Serling speak again! Thanks!

It was incredible to hear Rod Serling speak again! Thanks!

Number 8 - the elevator pictured is the "high rise" elevator used by the cast to get to the break room on the second level. It is between the 2 drop towers and goes as high as level 9 for ride evacuation and access reasons. On the back of the building is the "low rise" elevator that is used when guests want to bypass the ride. It goes between "Bravo" lift and "Charlie" lift to the 5th level of the building.

The glasses are located in the library not the lobby as stated. Also the boiler item is not an official hidden Mickey. The only official one is on the wall at the split in the queue, as a strain.

The glasses are located in the lobby, on the concierge desk to be exact. They are located between the hat and the stack of books and can actually be seen in pictures 21 and 22.

Thanks for this article! I love reading things like this that clue you in on some of the "hidden" details and the history behind it all. I am going to check out the rest of your site!

What I've never understood is pretty fundamental. Would there have ever been a TV in a hotel in 1939? TVs were not in general use until the late 40s at the earliest....

Number 8 - that elevator is used for castmember to go to the break room 0r short cut to bathrooms as well as shirt leading hallways to other areas in the building .

Number 3- Dont do the Penny trick! More of a safety issue. The ride is going up and down at fast speed. Everyone's screaming and your penny is flying around . Could hit someone in the eye or someone could choke on it.

Current bellhop HS

In January I met a family who had ridden the ride earlier that day. Apparently dad didn't secure his bookbag, so when the ride dropped his bookbag hovered.

Same thing happened to my husband and I. I had my bad on the floor and I was just holding on to the string. When the drop came I just saw my bag hovering. It was pretty awesome since it was my first time on the ride lol

I've actually gone back downstairs in the true service elevator when our ride car broke down at the top.

I love this ride is my favorite!!!

The real elevator is also for bypass, not just for disabled guests. I have taken it myself as I cannot ride the ride. But I wanted to see the preshow. You just tell a cast member and you will be escorted to the actual elevator that will take you down to the gift shop to wait for the rest of your party.

we had an Event at the Tower of Terror, ( dinner out on the balcony) and a tour of the Hotel, behind the ropes ,,,,it was fantastic.

Mark Silverman actually voiced over the entire Rod Serling monologue. This was done for tonal continuity.

On one of our 100+ rides over the many years some nasty teen kids decided to through pennies out the windows. Disney stopped the ride and turned all the lights on. Everyone who already started on the ride got to go through the whole ride with the lights on. There were so many secrets. Then when we got off they allowed everyone to go again with the lights off.

No mention of the secret ghosts in the drop shaft?! Consider yourself lucky if you see them (I've seen the ghosts in each drop shaft, took about 20 tries in each). They are only visible (lit up from behind) on certain drop sequences. Sometimes you can catch a glimpse of them if you ride during the day time and the lighting leaking into the drop shaft is just right. I knew they were coming, but I have never screamed so loud in my life!

What about the pickle jar that accidentally got glued down?

Little Girl Lost. Nobody commented about the chalk marks at the top of the stairs on left of the cat walk. If you listen you can hear Tina and her dog barking. Only problem with show was 4th dimension was at head of the bed. How did the little girl roll off bed where her head was. Chalk marks have to be about 5ft off the floor.


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