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Behind the Ride: 6 Mind-Bending Tricks Employed by Disney's Tower of Terror

3. Autonomous vehicles

The experience: After rising up from the basement level, guests’ elevators leave the lift shaft and pass through the Fifth Dimension, before entering another lift shaft (this part of the experience is exclusive to the original ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and does not feature in the versions at Disney California Adventure, Walt Disney Studios and Tokyo DisneySea).

The trick: The Tower of Terror actually employs more than one type of vehicle in order to enable riders to leave the elevator shaft and pass through the Fifth Dimension. Guests sit in Autonomous Guided Vehicles (AGVs), which rise up to the corridor scene in a Vertical Vehicle Conveyance (VVC). When they reach the Fifth Dimension corridor, the AGVs come into their own.

Rather than riding on a track, the AGVs are guided by wires under the floor. When they reach the far end of the corridor, they lock into another vertical motion cab, which handles the actual drop sequence.

The AGVs are powered by onboard batteries, which are charged while riders are unloading. At any one time, up to eight of these vehicles could be circulating around the Tower of Terror's ride system.

2. Two into one

The experience: From the outside of the Tower of Terror, there appear to be two drop shafts.

The trick: There really are two drop shafts on the original Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. However, there are actually four elevators that lift the AGVs up to the Fifth Dimension scene - two of these merge into a single corridor scene. This enables the ride to have an increased capacity.

1. Faster than freefall

The experience: Guests plummet towards the ground below after the lift malfunctions.

The trick: When you plummet downwards on the Tower of Terror, you are not, in fact, freefalling. The AGV vehicles lock onto platforms in the drop shafts. These are connected by cables to two enormous motors, which are 12 feet tall, 35 feet long and weigh a massive 132,000 pounds. These are used to move the platform up and down at rapid speeds - faster, in fact, than the speed that would be achieved through gravity alone. You'll hit a top speed of 39 miles per hour.

Want to test this out? Place a penny in the palm of your hand. When you drop downwards, it will float a few inches above your hand, because it is falling merely at the speed of gravity.

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There are 3 comments.

Thanks for the insights! Love learning how Disney tricks our minds into thinking what they want us to think. Makes the ride that much more impressive to us.

I do not think Disney influences what they want you to think. I think your mind influences of what you expect (or not)thus-mind over matter. The key is to stimulate your thought process through fear, and then embracing it as an accomplishment, thus it's a test of courage, not to the body , but to the mind and things are perceived.

I got to experience the "penny trick" when I rode this as a kid...but not on purpose!! When we dropped, my glasses started hovering themselves off of my face! I caught them before they got too far and held onto them as best I could while also screaming my head off. It made for one of the best ride photos I've ever taken: my family having a great time, me looking petrified, mouth a big screaming O, both hands gripping the sides of my head, trying to hold my glasses onto my face for dear life! We bought it immediately. I think my dad still has it!

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