When Disney’s Imagineers created a “new” episode of the Twilight Zone for fans to step into, they knew they’d have to nail the show’s trademark onscreen introduction by Rod Serling, the creator and on-screen host of the classic sci-fi show. But Serling died in 1975 – nearly 20 years before Disney began work on the attraction. How could Serling appear in the video and Tower narration?
The answer is a mix of video editing and the voice talents of Mark Silverman – read on to learn more!
Tower of Terror Pre-Show Video
To fans of the original show who knew of Serling’s passing, Serling’s appearance the pre-show video about a haunted hotel from the golden age of Hollywood may have been a bit of a surprise. His narration also punctuates various points in the ride experience itself, talking about things that were never a part of any pre-existing episode.
The Disney California Adventure version of the video is identical to the original, save for the shots of the Tower itself.
Video credit: Talk Disney Videos
Mixing Old and New
Watch the video closely – Rod Serling is only on screen for a small portion of the pre-show video. While on screen he says “This, as you may recognize, is a m-“. A cut occurs at the “m” and the narration continues “maintenance service elevator still in operation, waiting for you.”
This footage of Serling came from the Twilight Zone episode “It’s a Good Life”. In the original episode Serling says, “Tonight’s story on the Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This, as you may recognize, is a map of the United States.” Hulu has the video here: http://www.imdb.com/video/hulu/vi903653145
The video cuts away as he says “maintenance” – but if you compare the Tower’s pre-show video (YouTube link) to the original “It’s a Good Life” episode (imdb Hulu link), there are subtle differences in Serling’s voice. It stands to reason that Mark Silverman took over for this entire scene, even though the script remains the same.
Getting the video to look as if Serling is standing in front of the elevator was done with video compositing, which was already common in Hollywood and TV productions in 1993. Care was obviously taken to match the quality of Rod Serling’s footage to the background he was added over, along with matching perspective and lightning.
Finding an Impersonator
Disney auditioned hundreds of people for the role of Serling’s off-camera narration. Mark Silverman, already an established voice actor, was chosen for the role after winning approval by none other than Rod Serling’s widow. Silverman reprised the role again a decade later to record a few new lines (including the new “Wave goodbye…” sequence) for the Disney California Adventure version of the ride.
Growing up, Mark Silverman was a huge fan of the Twilight Zone – and Disneyland. To help prepare for the role, Silverman practiced narrating mundane things in Serling’s signature Twilight Zone style.
I began to narrate everything like it was a Twilight Zone episode. If I was at a red light and a businessman walked across the street, I would say as Rod Serling “His name is Harry Diddlebert, he’s 47 years old. Mr. Diddlebert is on his way to a business meeting. He doesn’t know it yet, but that business meeting will lead him down a direct path, to the Twilight Zone.” I would just do that to anyone I saw.
The excerpt above is from a wonderful WDWMagic.com interview with Mark Silverman, where he answers questions about his career and his Tower of Terror role. It’s a very interesting “behind the scenes” look at a bit of Disney magic!
Catch up on the Twilight Zone with a free week of CBS All Access – stream hundreds of episodes of The Twilight Zone, plus hundreds of other CBS shows. (affiliate link)