How’d They Do It? Rod Serling’s Tower of Terror Appearance

Tower of Terror Rod Serling intro video

“This as you may recognize is a maintenance service elevator…” Photo credit: Designing Disney

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

Tower of Terror Rod Serling map of the United States

Rod Serling in “It’s a Good Life”. The footage of Serling was re-used in the Tower of Terror’s intro video.

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.

Mark Silverman Tower of Terror Rod Serling impersonator

Mark Silverman’s impersonation of Rod Serling won him the role of the Tower of Terror’s ominous-sounding narrator

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)

Comments

  1. mark silverman says:

    Nice article, Always nice to see so many people interested in Tower of Terror, however you were not correct about how the pre-show was done. It was put together so well with such wonderful Disney Magic, that we have so many people fooled I suppose!!!!

    • Hah! My goodness, I never expected to attract the attention of a celebrity!

      Clearly, I have more research to do! One is always learning more about the Tower’s many mysteries. 🙂

  2. mark silverman says:

    I find it kind of funny and it’s nice that the pre show really baffled so many!! Is this YOUR site? Are you a big Tower of Terror fan? It all looks great, I must say.

  3. mark silverman says:

    Now that I read this page again, I think you were right! Sorry for the cunfusion. Very nice page.

    • I sneaked in the correction. 🙂 Thank you so much for visiting my humble site – I love your work on the ride! My husband and I can recite all your lines – we are huge Tower dorks. Thank you (and Disney) for making it so awesome!!

      • mark silverman says:

        That’s so funny!! I thought you might have made a correction but I wasn’t sure. I thought maybe I just read it wrong at first. I am going to Orlando in Feb for Tower of Terror’s 20th anniversary! It’s been there 20 years!! Oh and thanks for the very nice compliment!!