Winter Terrorland: Tower of Terror Snow!

Sure, the Tower’s been struck by lightning, but has it ever been snowed on?

Yup!  While snow is almost unheard of in sunny Florida and California, the Paris and Tokyo parks occasionally offer a wintry version of Disney.  The Tower of Terror may be a haunted Hollywood icon, but it isn’t immune to the occasional blizzard.

The Disney And More blog shares a stunning collection of photos from the Paris park after a January snowfall.  The Tower of Terror covered in snow is such an unusual sight!

Paris Tower of Terror snow

The Paris Tower of Terror seems extra haunting under a layer of snow! Photo credit: Disney And More

Over in Tokyo DisneySea, the old New York style Tower of Terror is stunning with a layer of snow gracing its turn-of-the-century architectural details.

Sarah at A Jubilation! visited Tokyo DisneySea in January – along with 7 centimeters of snow. Read her wonderful recounting of the experience here.

Tokyo DisneySea Tower of Terror snow

Photo credit: A Jubilation!

It seems that Disney does not automatically shut its parks down on account of snow, although it may close down early.

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:

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 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)

Tower of Terror FastPass

All four Tower of Terror attractions offer FastPass, Disney’s popular “virtual queuing” system that allows guests to grab a pass and skip the long standby line by returning at a later time.  The old ticket-based Fast Pass system is being phased out at the time of this writing (2013) in favor of Disney’s new all-digital FastPass+ system.

The FastPass tickets look something like this, depending on which park you get ’em at:


Disney souvenirs only a die-hard fan could love: Tower of Terror FastPasses printed on my birthday!

Wait, what is FastPass?

The FastPass system was introduced in 1999 to help reduce line waits.  The FastPass system is free to all park visitors! 

Guests  insert their park ticket into an attraction’s FASTPASS machine to receive a pass granting access to the (usually much shorter) “FASTPASS line” during a 1-hour window later that same day. AllEars has the full scoop on Disney’s FastPass system.

Tower of Terror Fast Pass return window

Disney’s not kidding about that one-hour window anymore: late arrivals are no longer accepted into the FastPass line.

FastPass Strategies

Grab a FastPass for the most popular ride(s) early!

Despite its age (20 years in Florida, 10 years in California, and a bit younger elsewhere) the Tower is still a massively popular ride. Tower of Terror FastPasses run out by mid-day even on off-peak weekdays!  But standby lines are shortest in the morning, so if you want to get in a lot of Tower, get to the park early.  Grab your FastPass for an even more popular headliner (in DCA that’d likely be Cars Land, and in Hollywood Studios that would be Toy Story Midway Mania and/or Rockin’ Roller Coaster) and hop onto the Tower a few times before it fills up.

Use FastPass for repeat rides

Even if the standby line is short, consider grabbing a FastPass anyway – the line might be long by the time you’ve exited the ride, and your FastPass guarantees you’ll get to go again as soon as you’re in the time window.  Sometimes the opportunity for a new FastPass ticket will begin within 5 minutes of just having received a ticket!

DCA Tower of Terror FastPass

A collection of Tower of Terror FastPasses from DCA

Tower of Terror FASTPASS Locations

All four Towers of Terror offer FastPass.  The tickets are dispensed from covered kiosks located near the Tower itself.

Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror Fast Pass

FastPass Location: On the pathway leading to the Tower of Terror’s entrance gates


Photo credit: Jack Spence

Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror FastPass machine

The Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror FastPass dispenser is remarkably plain compared to the others. Photo credit: Disney Every Day

Disney California Adventure (DCA) Tower of Terror Fast Pass

FastPass Distribution: Directly across from the Tower’s entrance gates


Guests line up to grab Tower of Terror FastPasses in DCA. Photo credit: Mint Crocodile

Tokyo DisneySea Tower of Terror Fast Pass

A note for those curious about Tokyo DisneySea – FastPass is apparently a little more competitive in Japan.

FastPass Distribution:  To the right of the Tower’s entrance


Tokyo DisneySea Tower of Terror FastPass dispenser machine

Tokyo DisneySea’s ornate Tower of Terror FastPass dispenser. Photo credit: Meandering Mouse

Disneyland Paris Tower of Terror Fast Pass

FastPass Distribution: To the right of the Tower’s entrance


DLRP Tower of Terror FastPasses have run out for the day. Photo credit: Incredible Coasters

Paris Tower of Terror FastPass dispenser

Tower of Terror (Paris) FastPass dispenser. Photo credit: House of Secrets

What About FastPass+?

Disney is in the process of replacing the existing Fast Pass system with the new Fast Pass+ system.  The new system lets guests use computer kiosks to choose FastPass attractions and, to an extent, times (the computer chooses the times for you but you get a couple choices to pick from).  Unfortunately, as of my most recent visit to WDW in December 2013, guests are limited to just three FastPasses total per day.  And there’s no loading up all your FastPasses for one attraction to ride repeatedly.  And, sadly, there’s no more little tickets to hold onto – just a snapshot of your times taken with your camera or phone, assuming you brought it with you into the park.

There’s no hiding it – as a big FastPass ticket user, I am bummed about this change. But Disney is continuing to experiment with the system, so there’s hope that it will improve and maybe some of the aspects of the old ticket system will come back.

Either way, Disney is quickly gearing up to make MyMagic+ and FastPass+ the wave of the future, so enjoy the old FastPasses while you can!

Tower of Terror Construction Hollywood Studios Florida

Contrary to what the attraction’s story might want you to believe, the Tower of Terror was not built in 1917. 🙂  Disney’s construction crew cleared the site and broke ground in 1992. Discovery of a sinkhole necessitated a slight relocation of the build site. Construction continued until the ride and Sunset Boulevard opened together on July 22nd, 1994. (Source: Wikipedia article)

Tower of Terror Construction Hollywood Studios Florida billboard advertising

Early 90s Tower of Terror billboard advertising the upcoming attraction. Photo credit: Jack Spence

Exterior Construction

This aerial shot of the Tower of Terror’s construction is the earliest one I’ve fond.  It gives a good sense of the scale of the building – look at those tiny trucks!  The gardens are just a pile of dirt, and the building itself is little more than a steel skeleton.  This photo is particularly noteworthy because it offers a rare glimpse into the area between the back lift shafts and the front drop shafts.

aerial photo of Tower of Terror construction in Hollywood Studios Florida

Photo credit: Vintage Disney parks

This next photo is somewhat of a rarity among Florida Tower of Terror construction photos because it’s crystal clear!

This photo, depicting the building’s left side (which is the side guests enter and exit) was taken shortly after the previous photo – you can tell by the completed rooftops in the back and the addition of the “front building” at the building’s front.

Tower of Terror construction Hollywood Studios florida

Scaffolding surrounds the Tower during its construction in 1993/1994. Photo credit: Disney Parks Blog

This photo of the Tower’s construction depicts some roofing details on the structure’s front, details that appear to be missing from the previous shot.  Few other differences are noticeable, suggesting this photo was taken around the same time as the previous one.

Tower of Terror MGM original construction

The lightning-scarred facade becomes recognizable in this construction photo.


Interior Construction

Taken just months before the attraction opened to the public in July, this May ’94 photo shows the hotel’s lobby midway through its own construction.  The walls have been painted and textured, and the light fixtures added, but the floor tiles have yet to be grouted and none of the iconic dusty decor has shown up yet.

Tower of Terror construction hollywood studios Florida

The Tower’s hotel lobby under construction – May 1994. Photo credit: Disney Parks Blog

Cranking up the Thrills

Disney legend has it that a ride designer rode an early version of the Tower and said, “If my tie doesn’t fly up in my face, it’s not good enough”. A descent at normal “freefall” speed wasn’t thrilling enough, so the ride’s design eventually came to feature a “faster than gravity” pull. That’s right – you aren’t freefalling in the Tower, you’re being pulled down (at about 30 mph).


Opening Day

The Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror officially opened on July 22nd, 1994 featuring one gigantic drop. Reception was overwhelmingly positive, and the ride became an instant favorite for thrill-seekers and Disney fans. Over the following 20 years, the ride was reprogrammed a few times to add more drops, rumbles, and an element of randomization to differentiate repeat rides.

Disney soon started work on a second Tower of Terror…

Tower of Terror Pins


Disney California Adventure cast member pin with the letters “TOT” erroneously imprinted on the back. This pin line was discontinued and “TOT” was replaced with “HTH”, which presumably was to make the folks in the legal and licensing department happy.

If you’ve been to a Disney park in the last 15 or so years you’ve seen these artsy little bits of metal pinned to Cast Members and guests alike.  At $7-$12+ a pop, pin trading isn’t a hobby for the weak of wallet, but it can be fun to hunt down favorites and complete collections.  And before you get any hopes of collecting them all, just know that Disney has created over 90,000 unique pin designs.

For an excellent introduction to Disney pin trading, visit Peanut Blossom’s Disney Pin Trading 101.

Many collectors like to focus their collection around a particular theme.  My primary collection’s theme is the Tower of Terror (of course!), and I focus my collection on pins that only depict the Tower itself.  This helps keep the hunt exciting and the costs sorta-reasonable. 😉 

There are well over a hundred Tower of Terror related pins – way too many to list here.  Disney’s been pumping out pins for the Tower of Terror pretty much forever, and there’s more added all the time. The very nicely organized PinPics’s Tower of Terror pin gallery is a great place to browse Disney’s vast pin catalog.

Where to Find Tower of Terror Pins

My pins are from the parks and eBay, but for more advanced traders there’s a few more options:

  • Search for Tower of Terror pins on eBay is great for all pin collectors. Check back often and you might see some rare ones pop up.
  • PinPics is the web’s biggest site for the serious collectors
  • The Disney Parks – Pin racks can be found throughout the 11 parks – check ’em all, the stock varies by location, park, and season.  Tower of Terror pins are found all over the parks, not just at the Tower’s own gift shop.
  • Cast Members oftentimes have pins that cannot be bought directly but must be traded for – check their lanyards and ask politely to see their pins, and you might find a Tower of Terror pin that isn’t available in the gift shops.
  • Disney’s online store – Buy ’em directly from the source.  (Alas, no Tower of Terror pins are on the Disney store site last I looked.)

Tower of Terror Pin Designs

Tower of Terror pin designs usually take the form of iconic Disney characters on the attraction and/or dressed as bellhops, the Tower by itself, and hotel props such as hotel room keys and “Do Not Disturb” signs.

DCA Tower of Terror pin grand opening 2004

This blue and purple DCA Tower of Terror pin is one of my favorites.

In my experience, it’s been easier to find pins depicting the California-style Tower of Terror.  (And yet if you press a penny in the California Tower of Terror, the impressed design is that of the Florida Tower!)

DCA Tower of Terror pin Disneyland 2004

The top half of this Tower pin changes as you tilt the pin left and right, revealing a lightning bolt at some angles.

Tower of Terror Games

Can’t get enough Tower?  Try some of these official and fan-made Tower of Terror games!

Clue – The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Theme Park Edition

“Clue” gets a Twilight Zone makeover in this special edition of this classic board game. When the power goes out in Hollywood Tower Hotel, you’re the only one who can discover who’s missing, where and with what!

This game was still sold in the parks as of 2013, but if you’d rather not try to squeeze it into your luggage the best place to buy it is the online Disney Store.

Disney Clue Tower of Terror game

Tower of Terror DCA Promotional PC Game

This adventure-style PC title promoted the new Tower of Terror attraction at Disney’s California Adventure.  As the player advances through the game, the player accrues rewards that could be redeemed at the park.

According to the YouTube summary, the project was led by Roger Holzberg (creative director), Terry Dobson (creative producer), Ed Haro (art director) and Allison Mills (web graphic designer), Humberto Kam (project manager).

Tower of Terror Simulation

This cute Flash-based browser game created by and hosted by lets you operate the Tower of Terror from the comfort of your own chair.  I like this game because it’s no-fail, you can just sit back and have fun with it without fear of losing or falling behind.

The interface is a little tricky at first, so here’s a walkthrough to get you started:

  1. Click Open/Close frontgate button in the upper right.  This will bring guests into the waiting queue.
  2. Click the “Maintenance” tab and turn on the second TV room – you’re gonna want this sooner than later. Go back to “Main Control” once you’ve got both TV rooms operational.
  3. Under “TV Room 1”, click “Empty Queue” to bring guests into the TV room.
  4. Once they’re inside, press “Start TV”.
  5. When the show’s over, use “Empty Room” to advance guests to the boiler room.
  6. After you’ve got guests waiting for the elevator, go to the “Elevator 1” section of the control panel and click “Doors” to open the doors and “Board Elevator” to pop all the guests into the ride car.
  7. (By now you probably have lots more guests piling up at the TV rooms – use “Empty Queue” for TV Room 1 and TV Room 2 to keep the line moving.)
  8. “Start Elevator” to get to the part you’ve been waiting for – the big drops!

Vintage Tower of Terror Promotional Videos

These 90s-era Tower of Terror promotional videos are pretty cheesy.  Sit back and enjoy!

I think my favorite “curiosity” about these videos is the way they often portray the guests as standing during the drop sequence.  Disney does a good job of hiding the fact that you’ll be sitting – in fact, I still remember being surprised by having to sit down and buckle up when I first rode as a 10 year old.

Regis Philbin’s 1993 Tower of Terror Preview

Christmas 1993 – the Tower wouldn’t open for another 7 months, but Disney’s marketing machine was already drumming up interest in the new attraction.

Gilbert Gottfried’s Tower Tour

90’s comedian Gilbert Gottfried takes us on a tour of the Tower.  It helps to imagine him as Jafar’s parrot as you watch this video.

Tower of Terror On Ride Photo Souvenir Frames

If you’ve ever bought one of those pricey on-ride photo souvenirs you might recall the paper frame your photo came in.  Somewhat clumsy to put together and all too easy to pop the photo out of, these keepsakes often featured some wonderful artwork unique to the frame design.  Scans and photos of these souvenir photo frames are rather difficult to come by now that everything’s going digital. This gallery of the Tower of Terror on ride photo souvenir frames seeks to preserve the frames and their artwork.


Guests who purchased the on ride photo in the Tower’s early years got this souvenir photo frame.  These are wonderfully detailed artworks from before the Photoshop era; they look like they might’ve been painted in soft pastel and maybe some colored pencil.  (I wish I knew who the artist was.)

These two 1990s photo frames are from my personal collection, both from the Florida tower.

Tower of Terror On Ride Photo Souvenir Frames 1994 photo frame

I first rode the Tower in 1994 and this is the artwork used on the front of the souvenir photo frame. Click to enlarge.

When I returned to the parks in 1999 the artwork on the cover of the photo frame had shifted hues, perhaps in relation to the addition of ride reprogramming that added a second drop.  The photo inside is headlined “Twice the Fright” to accompany the change. It’s the exact same artwork, just palette shifted.  The palette shift was probably done digitally.

Tower of Terror on ride photo souvenir frame 1999

Disney gave the frame’s cover art a hue shift for the 1999 version of the on ride photo souvenir frame.  This change likely accompanied the addition of a second drop to the ride’s show profile.

Inside the Frame:

My 1994 frame and my 1999 frame are identical except for one peculiar detail: the second frame (from ’99) lacks the phrase “Tower of Terror” in the little yellow box over the photograph. Everything else is the same. I can only guess at why “Tower of Terror” had to be removed – perhaps it’s a colloquial abbreviation that wasn’t actually approved by the legal department, much like the pins that were discontinued because they used “TOT” on the back instead of “HTH”.

Tower of Terror On Ride Photo Souvenir Frames inside paper photo frame booklet

Back in the day, the process of purchasing an on-ride photo also netted you one of these “Do Not Disturb” cards with your picture’s number written on the back.

Tower of Terror on ride photo picture number card

Tower of Terror picture number quantity card

2000’s & 2010’s

I got nuthin’.

This gallery is incomplete! Do you have a Tower of Terror on ride photo frame from yesteryear? If you’d like to share it here, tell me in the comments!

Tower of Terror Backstage Photos

tot_backside_tallThe Tower of Terror’s backside is a rare sight for most park guests, as Disney likes to keep the “magic” under wraps and only let people go “backstage” as a part of special events and tours.

Recognizing the size of the attraction, Disney seems to deliberately place Tower of Terrors at the very edge of a park’s property so that expansion beyond or behind it is unlikely if not outright impossible.  Even in spacious Lake Buena Vista, Florida, Disney hid the backside of the tower behind a wall of trees.

Enjoy these backstage photos – a rare glimpse into some “behind the scenes” magic (where “magic” means highways, back doors, and even a small BBQ chillin’ backstage) 

Hollywood Studios

Getting a clear view of the Tower’s backside in Hollywood Studio requires a bit of creativity.  The first photo in this ower of Terror backstage photos gallery was taken by Jack Spence while standing on a balcony at the Dolphin resort.

Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror backstage back side by Jspence

This back side view of the Tower of Terror in Hollywood Studios reveals the “unfinished” looking backside of small pointy roof structure normally seen in front of the tower.  Photo credit: Jack Spence at

Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror backstage photo

View of the Tower of Terror’s left and back side, likely from within Hollywood Studios or its parking lot. Photo credit: Phantom Troublemaker at Needless Things


Backside of the Florida Tower of Terror as seen at the intersection of Lake Buena Vista Drive and Cypress (cast member road).

The Tower (circled in the map below) stands with its back to Buena Vista Drive and, just beyond it, the Swan & Dolphin Resort.

Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror backstage map aerial

The Tower is circled – look to the north and northeast for opportunities to see it from the back.

Disney California Adventure

The rather forbidding-looking backside of the DCA Tower of Terror is open to guests only during special events such as marathon races.

DCA Tower of Terror backstage area

Don’t miss the little BBQ hiding backstage. Photo credit:

DCA Tower of Terror backstage area

The DCA Tower of Terror backs up Disney Way and S. Harbor Blvd.  Its backside can also be viewed from the I-5 highway to the east.  Photo credit: Google Maps

Tokyo DisneySea

The Tokyo DisneySea Tower of Terror backs up to the Disney Resort Line and a multi-lane park entrance road.


A ground-level view of the Tokyo DisneySea Tower of Terror’s backside.


Tokyo DisneySea Tower of Terror backstage area is much smaller than the other Towers’ and pressed right up against a few park roads. Photo credit: Google Maps

Disneyland, Paris


The Tower of Terror’s backside in Paris. Photo credit:

Tower of Terror Mysteries

This is a compendium of things even I don’t (or didn’t) know about the Tower of Terror plus input from readers who know the secrets!

DCA Tower of Terror mystery doors – SOLVED!

These doors near the top of the Tower caught my eye, but I never knew what they were for until Tower Secrets reader Bruno told me they’re for accessing the engine and computer rooms. The doors are very well hidden, but there’s 8 of them on each side (two pairs for each of the floors with the big “park reveal” doors you look out of while on the elevator itself).


Photo credit:

DCA Tower of Terror mystery doors on sides

More mystery doors on the left side of the tower. Photo credit: Disney Parks Blog

How do they keep the birds off?

I’ve never seen a bird’s nest or even bird poop on the tower – heck, I can’t even think of a time when I saw a bird land on the Tower.  I’ve seen birds sit around on plenty of other Disney attractions, though.  Why no birds on the Tower?

Tower of Terror furniture

Where did the Tower of Terror furniture come from?  I bet it’s not as old as they say.  Anyone know the source?


What’s in the wings? – SOLVED!

I always wondered if there was anything inside the extruded rooms that flank the top of the Tower. Turns out, they’re empty. A Tower Secrets reader wrote to tell me that they’re just for decoration, and the computer room is maybe the size of a living room – definitely not large enough to fill the top floor of the tower alone. However, the control and monitor rooms are quite larger and fill more of the space.


Do you know the answer to any of these Tower of Terror mysteries? Want to contribute your own? Tell us in the comments!