Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Disney's theme park rides are renowned for being some of the most expensive ever built. For example, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios cost a massive $150 million back in 1994. The mighty Radiator Springs Racers at Disney California Adventure was built at the eye-watering price of more than $200 million. The Imagineers spare no expense when it comes to theming. But sometimes, there's no need to shell out vast sums on an elaborate special effect - simple, proven techniques will do the trick. Some of the most memorable effects in famous Disney rides could easily be recreated in the comfort of your own home with items you could buy from a local store. Let's take a look at 5 examples of surprisingly low-tech special effects in Disney attractions...

5. "Fireflies" in Pirates of the Caribbean (Disneyland and Tokyo Disneyland)


Image: Missy Martinez, Flickr (license)

The experience: At the start of the Pirates of the Caribbean ride, guests watch tiny, colorful fireflies flitting around. How it works: The effect is incredibly simple to achieve. The fireflies are small lights attached to thin black wires. Although they appear to "blink", they actually don't. Instead, the tiny lights are glued to black pieces of cardboard. These "flutter" due to air being blown from small fans below the flies. The blinking is therefore caused by the cardboard blocking the light from view. You can even build the fireflies yourself, should you so fancy.

4. The marble busts in the Haunted Mansion (Disneyland)


The experience: In the library (of the Disneyland version) of the Haunted Mansion, marble busts of the world's most famous ghost writers watch the Doom Buggies drift by. The statues appear to turn their heads to track the riders' motion. How it works: Imagine, for a moment, what would happen if you smashed your face into a slab of clay. You'd end up with a reverse impression of your own face. That's exactly how the busts work - they'd look very different if they weren't lit as they are - in fact, they recede into the wall. The dim lighting creates an optical illusion that the busts are turning their heads, when in reality they are completely stationary. This simple effect was successfully patented by Disney.



The busts in the Disneyland Haunted Mansion do not 'watch as riders in Doom Buggies go by'.... they watch guests who walk past them along the red-carpeted interior que, which is BEFORE guests board the conveyance vehicles. ;)

In reply to by Deb K (not verified)

Keep on writing, great job!

It's not the dim lighting that makes the marble busts work, is the fact that they are lit from below. Since our brains expect light to come from above, we interpret the scene to be a popped out face lit from above instead of a pushed in face lit from below.

The figures in the Tower of Terror aren't animatronics...is it Pepper's Ghost from a video image?

The Magic Kingdom has the marble busts in the library of the Haunted Mansion too! I was just there yesterday haha :)

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