The Hollywood Studios (WDW, Florida) version of the Tower of Terror is the only version of the ride that contains the “5th Dimension” scene. Essentially a hallway of stars and mirrors, the 5th Dimension is a horizontal connection between one of the four “lift shafts” at the back of the Tower building and one of the two “drop shafts” at the front.
Learning how the 5th Dimension scene works will spoil some of the mystery so proceed with caution!
The 5th Dimension Experience
After the ghosts in the corridor scene, Florida riders are treated to a unique experience known as the 5th Dimension. The elevator lifts the passenger car and the doors open to reveal a dark star-field. Suddenly, the passenger car drifts forward. Bizarre sights and sounds pop up around the car – a door to nowhere, the apparitions from the hallway, an eyeball reflecting the passengers themselves. The stars fade away and are replaced by glowing outlines on a set of elevator doors, which open wide and swallow the approaching passengers.
Everything goes dark as Rod Serling’s voice intones, “You are about to discover what lies beyond the fifth dimension. Beyond the deepest, darkest corner of the imagination… in the Tower of Terror.” Faster-than-gravity thrills ensue!
Now let’s take a look behind the scenes at how this all works.
The Passenger Car
The transitions from “lift shaft” elevator to “drop shaft” elevator are so well hidden, most guests don’t realize that the passenger car is not the elevator itself. The passenger car is in fact a separate vehicle, often termed an “autonomous guided vehicle” or AGV. The AGV moves independently of the elevator cars.
Look behind you!
It’s not always possible, but if you’re seated in a particular position (for example, if you’re seated on the left side of an elevator car that just emerged from a right-side shaft) you can look backwards through the wire wall of your car and catch a glimpse of the other 5th dimension entrance – or possibly another AGV full of ride passengers. It’s rare, but whenever I’m seated on the side of the car I try to look back and see if anyone’s over there.
Self Steering Car
The car that takes you through the 5th Dimension is self-steering. You’re not on a track! The car rides on its own wheels, steered by its own computer, following a buried wire underneath the floor.
The system is highly sensitive – any abnormalities in the 5th Dimension’s floor, such as a dropped object, will cause any approaching AGVs to come to a stop. (Because this system is so prone to delay-causing troubles, the 5th Dimension scene was not included in later versions of the Tower. It also takes up a lot of horizontal space, which was at a premium in other parks.)
This 3-minute clip from “Modern Marvels” demonstrates the entire process.
Coincidentally, the 5th Dimension is on the building’s 5th floor.
Passengers load into the AGV, which is already sitting inside of a larger elevator car (A, B, C, or D, depending on which loading dock was used). The elevator lifts the AGV first to the “ghosts in the hallway” scene, and then lifts the AGV again, this time to the fifth floor. The passenger car moves forward and out of the elevator, traveling on its own through the mirrored hallway scene. At the end of the 5th Dimension, a set of doors open and the passenger car moves forward into one of the two front (E, F) elevators.
In other words, the 5th Dimension is just an elaborate way of transferring the passenger car from one elevator to another.
5th Dimension Hallway Design
The Tower actually has two separate 5th Dimension hallways. They’re basically identical as far as passengers can tell. Each one is Y-shaped and each accepts passenger cars from two of the four lift shafts (so A and B share one 5th Dimension while C and D share another). Each 5th Dimension hallway feeds cars into the final “drop elevators” located at the front of the Tower structure.
5th Dimension props and effects
There’s a ton of visual eye candy in the 5th Dimension – you could ride a dozen times before you’ve really seen it all! There’s flashing lightning, a startling breaking window, a door, an eyeball that sometimes shows a photo of your car, and a seemingly never-ending field of stars.
While these illusions are convincing, they’re very simply made – just plastic cutouts with an image shining on them from a projector. The twinkling stars are fiber optic lights. Mirrors and reflective surfaces add to the otherworldly experience.
Catch a glimpse of your vehicle
If you’re seated in an advantageous position (a front row seat, far right or far left depending which fork you’re entering from tends to be best), you can sometimes see the red lights on the underside of your vehicle reflected in the mirrors of the 5th Dimension. To Disney’s credit, their designers did a great job of making it hard to see anything you aren’t “supposed to” in the 5th Dimension.
Exit signs and doors
One of the easiest “secrets” to spot in the 5th Dimension are the exit doors. Look around, especially to the sides, and you can spot ’em. I find them comforting, personally!
Passengers who have had to disembark the ride at this point due to technical problems have described the floor as rather flimsy-feeling. Near the entrance to the 5th Dimension hallway, a door to “backstage” areas of the attraction is hidden in the darkness.