Tuesday, October 26, 2010

31 Days of Halloween - Day 26: Vintage Troublemaker - The Tower of Terror!

Today I am going to talk about one of my favorite theme park rides of all time: the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at the Disney MGM Studio Theme Park in Orlando. That is one long moniker.
Walt Disney World is my favorite place on this planet. If I had the option to pick anywhere to go on vacation, Disney would be it. It's clean, it's fun and it is the one place I have ever been where you really get true separation from the real world. If there is one thing you should be able to figure out about a guy who writes from a masked persona, it's that he probably wants to escape from reality a good bit. That is the true magic of Disney World. Everything there is self-contained and you can live in that place the whole time you are there without ever seeing a bank, a Wal-Mart or an urban outdoorsman. Fucking Utopia, I tell you. I'll probably do a whole special feature on the Disney parks at some point, but today is reserved for… TERROR!
The missus and I have been to Walt Disney World a couple of times since we have been together. We even got engaged there the last time (at the top of Spaceship Earth), so obviously we have a fondness for the place. Once Lil' Troublemaker is around three or so, we'll be going back. One ride he won't be going on, however, is the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Mrs. Troublemaker and I agree that this ride must be experienced as many times as possible during your stay in Disney. We went on it no less than ten times on our last trip, and each one was just as awesome as the last. I would easily rate this attraction as one of the great accomplishments of the twentieth century.
What makes the Tower of Terror so cool? First of all, the exterior looms over the whole park, visible from the entryway and practically daring you to approach. It is a perfect idealization of an old-style Hollywood hotel (appropriately called the Hollywood Towers Hotel) that appears huge but harmless from a distance. As you get walk up, the creepiness becomes more apparent – there are cracks in the walls, overgrown shrubberies in the gardens surrounding the path to the entrance and just a general ominous atmosphere the closer you get.
Once you enter, the lobby is just as faithfully created as the outside. Cobwebs and dust cover everything and all of the items inside are from yesteryear. Generic, forties-style music is playing softly in the background. There is an amazing amount of detail to take in as you wait for your turn in the library, so the time passes quickly.
Once in the library, everybody is herded into the center of the room to witness the telling of the terrible fate that befell guests in the Hollywood Towers Hotel many years ago. The story unfolds via a mini Twilight Zone episode hosted by "Rod Serling". Now that you've been educated on what you should be scared of, the opposite doors open and you make your way into the basement to wait for your elevator ride into… The Twilight Zone.
The basement is another marvel of Disney Imagineering. Everything looks and feels so real, and the creepy atmosphere is enhanced by sound effects and lighting. The lines move fairly well, so you don't have time to get bored. Before you know it, you are at the elevator doors.
And this is where I stop. I don't want to spoil this ride for anybody. The first time I rode it, I had no idea what it was and that was one of the biggest thrills of my life. Strapping into that elevator full of strangers and heading into the unknown was an experience I wouldn't want to rob anybody of. Just know that the ride isn't what you think it's going to be after the first few seconds.
Once you are done screaming, the elevator deposits you beneath the towers where you can – just like most Disney rides – find a capture of your elevator with your screaming face on it to purchase. After that, you (naturally) head into a gift shop full of Tower-related merchandise, ranging from Hollywood Tower robes and ashtrays to Twilight Zone box sets. Oh yeah, if you want more of the story behind the fictional Hollywood Towers Hotel, you can check out the movie Tower of Terror starring Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst (!). It's not a bad family flick at all. And yes, Disney was making movies based on their rides long before Pirates.

Until next time, stay creepy

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