The Day the Tower Opened: Part II


It’s always exciting to do a soft opening of a Walt Disney World attraction. such was the case back in 1994 when my family and I were among the first to experience the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

When we left off in Part 1 we were sitting in the elevator. My son, daughter and I were about to experience the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Let’s get back to my trip report and see what my observations were as we sat down, buckled up, and wondered what would happen next.

Back we go…back to 1994…..back…back…

(Cue the dream sequence fog)

I checked my watch. It took but 20 minutes to get to this point. I couldn’t help but notice how many cast members were staffing this attraction. They were all over the place. Just before we got on a small boy (barely made the 42″ requirement) asked about the drop. “What drop?” asked the CAST MEMBER, “We have good elevators here at the Hollywood Hotel.” Good job.

The cast member tells us there is to be no photography of any kind. This is for the safety of everyone in the elevator. She then SLAMS THE GATE. This was done for effect. Holly started praying. Just before the cast member closes the doors she says, “See you at the bottom.”

The doors close and we hear Rod Serling’s voice and the elevator shoots….that’s right SHOOTS UP about 20 feet. The door opens and we are looking out into a hotel hallway. It’s about 80 feet long. There are tables, mirrors, doors, paintings, plants, intersecting hallways, and a window at the far end. I don’t recall what good old Rod was saying but as he said it the five poor souls who were in that elevator that fateful night walked into the hallway and beckoned for us to follow them. They were ghostly apparitions.

As they beckoned us they, and the hallway, began to fade…no it’s not fading it’s changing. Woa! Now I’m looking into deep space, a star field. How the heck did they…wait”¦the window is still there…it’s on”¦wait”¦it’s floating towards us…CRASH!!!!! It falls and the doors slam shut. Too cool.

We shoot up another 50 feet and Rod says something about the Twilight Zone. The doors open. The elevator moves forward on a track of some sort and we pass by images of TV’s Twilight Zone. I won’t go into the details because I’m still not sure what I saw.

Blue…I remember the color blue. Think of the opening of The Twilight Zone Television show and you can get an idea of what you’ll see. As we move forward through “The Zone” I’m thinking, “Hey that’s a screen coming up. We’re gonna hit it…HEY WE”RE GONNA…” A big white line or lightning bolt or laser light or something like that comes down in front of us, crackles and splits this wall. This part of the attraction is kinda fuzzy to me, but it blows you away.

Okay we are at the end of the track now wha………THE DOORS SLAM SHUT! I’m thinking, “Some day I just gotta get my will in order.” We SHOOT UP ANOTHER 50 feet and hear Rod mumble something…we hear one word loud and clear…..TERROR! The doors open up and we are under the O in the word Hollywood. The O is sparking and we can see just beyond the soundstages towards Catastrophe Canyon. “Oh my god,” yelps Holly. We drop a foot. I had forgotten about that….for the photo. I think, “Oh-Oh!”

Then it happened.

Let me make it clear to everyone in here that I worked on this part of the trip report for hours trying as best I can to accurately describe what happened. The elevator TOOK OFF. It didn’t fall. It didn’t drop. Don’t let anyone tell you it’s a free-fall. Someone stepped on the gas and we were PULLED DOWN at a tremendous force.

Have you ever watched a cartoon where a character runs off a cliff and suddenly realizes he’s not on solid ground? The bottom part of his body drops but his neck and shoulders stay up for a second…then they follow the rest of his body. That’s what it felt like. The only part of the body (I thought) that feels distressed is the chest and above. I thought I was going to split in two. I actually felt that my head and shoulders were going to remain up there…or my innards were going to escape through my mouth.

But! But! But! But….before you get turned off from what I’ve just said listen to this. This PULL happens so fast that you cannot even complete a single thought. Just as you START to feel the uneasiness I just described…IT’S OVER! I mean ZIP! IT’S OVER! Be aware that even though the lower half of your body appears to have gone through the ride without any ill effects it ain’t so. Your knees and legs will shake as you get up and leave the elevator. Your body is in shock for a minute after the ride.

My body was pretty upset because I didn’t tell it what was going to happen. My brain was still puzzled by the special effects. My chest was trying to fall back into place, and my legs were warning me to keep moving or they were going on strike. Let me make this interesting observation.

Thank goodness the drop is in darkness. I would think that if we could see outside as we dropped we’d be in serious trouble at the bottom. I know there are coaster people out there who are saying, “C’mon Mike! It sounds like a coaster!” Nope. Coasters are always moving. This vehicle TOOK OFF FROM A STANDING POSITION. I wish I had looked up as we plummeted.

So what happened next? That’s called Part III: The Ride Aftermath!

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