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)

Has Lightning Ever Really Struck the Tower of Terror?


The fictional story behind the Tower’s fateful lighting strike isn’t entirely fantasy.  Thanks to one lucky YouTube videographer, the spectacular sight of lightning striking one of the Tower of Terror’s lightning rods is seen below:

Legend has it that lightning struck the Tower of Terror during its construction. Is the lightning legend believable? I’d say so!

Lightning Rods: The Modern Cure for Towers of Terror

has lightning ever really struck the tower of terror

Zap!! Photo credit: TheStuartcarrol

The lightning strike video demonstrates one of the Tower of Terror’s many safety features: lightning rods! According to the Tower’s story premise, lightning struck the elevator towers in 1939, ripping them from the face of the structure and sending the elevator passengers into The Twilight Zone. Nowadays, however, we’re not too fond of having buildings turned into Towers of Terror so we equip them with lightning rods. All modern buildings (also many roller coasters and other tall structures) over a certain height are constructed with lightning rods.

It’s a simple design with profound capabilities. Fun fact about lightning rods: they don’t actually attract lightning, they just provide a convenient “path of least resistance” for the electrical current to travel along on its way to the ground.  In other words, lightning rods provide lightning with an appealing target to strike (instead of, say, our favorite Disney attraction).

The rod is made of highly conductive metal which is attached to a thick length of copper wire running all the way to the ground, which connects to an underground grid.  The grid serves to dissipate the lightning safely underground, away from people and buildings. The strike will occur whether or not a rod is present: a rod is just a way of mitigating and directing the force.

Read more on How Lightning Rods Work

Tower of Terror Mistakes & Bloopers

No one’s perfect, not even our dear Tower of Terror. 🙂

Video Tower vs. Real Tower

The Tower you see in the pre-show video is not the Tower you see in the park. 🙂   Here’s a few fun differences to look for each time you watch the pre-show:

Sign Location

Look closely at the “Hollywood Tower Hotel” sign during the library pre-show. The sign is positioned above – way above – the soon-to-be-destroyed elevator shafts.  On the physical building, the sign letters are much lower and overlap the destroyed elevator shafts.

tower of terror mistakes and bloopers

tower of terror mistakes and bloopers

tower of terror mistakes and bloopers

The sign placemnt was corrected in the California and Paris versions of the ride.  The Tokyo DisneySea version does not include a hotel name sign.

Building Details

Look closely at the side of the Tower’s tallest structure.  Down the side are three columns of windows in the video, but there are just two columns on the real tower.

The video shows a large pointy-roofed building in front of the tower, but that building is absent in the real version.


Photo credits: YouTube video by macattack5545