How the 5th Dimension Scene Works – Tower of Terror (Florida)

5th_dimension_diagramThe 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.

5thdworklights_flash_photo

This photo from (now defunct) MouseTimes.com shows the 5th Dimension scene fairly well illuminated, likely with the help of a camera flash.

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.

Tower-of-Terror-Wire-Sensor

A peek at the underside of the Tower of Terror’s “autonomous guided vehicle”, ie: the car you ride in as you move forward through the 5th Dimension.

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.

Ride Diagram

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.

tower of terror how the 5th dimension scene works diagram

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.

Comments

  1. Some of the information here is incorrect. More ride vehicles are not added during busy times – each side can run 4 AGVs, and 95% of the time all 4 are cycling. It is also impossible to see any other AGVs in the 5th dimension, as the ride system will only allow one vehicle to be in that scene at a time. However, you may occasionally see the AGV after yours returning from the drop shaft at the unload scene if there is a backup at the unload doors.

    • Thanks for the insights, Darren! I’ll correct the site.

      I’ve definitely seen another AGV full of passengers behind me at the entrance to the 5th dimension. One time I saw it, the car had been delivered to the 5th dimension and pulled forward (out of its elevator), but so had the car I was riding in. The car I was riding in got to go first, and the other car waited as we passed. Another time, they were still in their elevator and much harder to see, but I was on the left and able to look “back” a bit and see them. (I had to know to look back, this wasn’t something passengers are normally supposed to be looking at.)

      It certainly wasn’t easy to see the other car – I had a decent view from the side I was sitting on and could only see them until we turned. The last time I rode and saw this happen was late 2013. On the other hand, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen another AGV returning from the drop shaft in the unload area. Seems we always turn too quickly.

      Clearly, I need to keep riding so I can see as much weird Tower stuff as I can. 🙂

      Thanks for coming by, I really appreciate your help in keeping things accurate around here. A lot of it is guesswork on my part, accumulated over years of riding the Tower and looking out the side of my own car and reports from other fans like you. 🙂

      • However having 2 cars in the 5th dimension at once would ruin the whole experience. You would hear the sound and see the lighting effects before you go in it. Also this would be a problem as cars would be waiting for the drop shaft elevator to return. Most likely my guess is that the ride wasn’t synced correctly. Technically due to viewing purpose and health and safety seeing 2 cars in the 5th dimension should be impossible.

      • While I’m not doubting what you saw, I do find it highly unlikely and it was only a single occurrence if it did happen. The reason is that the ride system inhibits the vehicle at load from being dispatched until the vehicle prior is halfway through the fifth dimension scene, thus preventing the kind of backup you are referring to. Additionally, the vehicle will pause at the corridor scene (after the doors close) for a few seconds to wait for the vehicle in front of it to clear, should it be delayed for any reason (the lift was late returning, for example). At no time will two vehicles, in normal operating conditions, be on fifth dimension at the same time.

        One thing to notice: If you look at load you’ll see a small panel to the right side of the doors (or left, depending which lift you’re on) that has a single green light. This light is usually off until the vehicle is nearly fully loaded, then it becomes solid and ultimately starts to flash. The reason is that the operator is unable to dispatch the vehicle, as mentioned above, until the vehicle prior has cleared halfway through the fifth dimension. This light mirrors the flashing light on the operator console, indicating the vehicle may be sent. These allows the bellhop, if they are still in the vehicle, to see if the vehicle is to be sent yet. It is the goal of your bellhop to dispatch the car while the light is still solid. When it begins to flash, they are late starting the ride. The safety system physically prevents a vehicle from being dispatched prior and in no way can two vehicles be dispatched at once (which is what would have had to happen for your description to occur).

  2. Thanks so much for ALL this information…..love it, so intriguing, I’ve ALWAYS wanted to know how it worked. I think it actually enhances each experience!

  3. Louie cruz says:

    Hi, I found this facts interesting.

    I remember when I visited the one in Florida, it was night time and we were walking on the path towards the fantastic show that I got a glimps of the towers left side, then I noticed the one of its window nearly on the top, shows a silhouette of man or a woman. I don’t think it’s possible to see it at daytime nor at night unless your that far. One of the cast even said “yep she’s always there at night”

    I find it interesting because
    1.I know imagineers don’t create something without a story behind it.
    2. It makes you imagine that there’s actualy a beautiful suite inside the tower ( or is there?)

    Have you notice it. And do you have info about it

  4. Anyone else notice how similar the names of the shafts are to the names of the raptors in Jurassic world?
    Shafts: delta, Charlie, bravo, foxtrot, alpha, echo
    Raptors: blue (the alpha), Charlie, delta, and echo

    Let me know if there is a reason for this strange coincidence?

  5. towerofterrorgeek123 says:

    wow, ever wondered if this is how they developed the self driving car? i maen, think about. a self driving elevator car that knows when to drive is basically a self driving car. so you better thank the florida tower for that

  6. A…a creeepy girl? (I’m the same person as the comment above) hmm…. it makes you wonder….. could it be, a hotel was built there before the ride? Do you see the passengers ghosts… for real?
    See it agian!