The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

Sunset Blvd, Disney's Hollywood Studios
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Description

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a highly-themed thrill ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios, featuring a journey through an abandoned hotel from the 1930s, culminating in a series of elevator shaft drops. 

Details

FASTPASS: Yes
Height/Age Requirement: At least 40" tall

  • Opening Date: July 22, 1994
  • Height: 199 feet (tallest WDW attraction)
  • Construction: 1,500 tons of steel; 145,800 cubic feet of concrete; 27,000 roof tiles
  • Ride Vehicles: Elevators themed to 1917 caged service elevators (guests drop 13 stories)
  • Capacity: 22 guests per elevator
  • Speed: Proprietary (Disney's fastest thrill ride, until Test Track)
  • Show Length: 5 minutes
  • Hotel The Hollywood Tower Hotel -- lobby is modelled after the style of the Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel, built in the 1920s. Props were all purchased in the Los Angeles area and include antiques, French bronzes, personal items of Hollywood celebrities, and Renaissance pieces.
  • Story Line: On the night of October 31, 1939, a freakish thunder-and-lightning storm descended on the Hollywood hills while the elite of the film community found sanctuary in the Hollywood Tower Hotel's elegant lobby. Among those checking in that night were a handsome young couple accompanied by an older, over-worked bellman; and a child actress in blond curls and frilly dress with her stern governess. They were all last seen heading for the elevator. They stepped in, the doors closed, and seconds later the elevator, its passengers, and several sections of the upper stories of the hotel vanished.
  • Height requirement: At least 40 inches tall.
Tower of Terror drop profile timeline:
"The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" - July 22, 1994
"The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: Twice the Fright" - Mid 1996
"The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: Fear Every Drop!" - March 1 1999
"The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: Never the Same Fear Twice" - December 31 2002

Queue area music list

"Alabamy Home" By Gotham Stompers
"Another World" By Johnny Hodges
"Can't Get Started" By Benny Berigan
"Dear Old Southland" By Noble Sissle
"Deep Purple" By Turner Layton
"Delta Mood" By Cootie Williams
"Inside" By Fats Waller
"Jeep's Blues" By Johnny Hodges
"Jitterbug" By Johnny Hodges
"Jungle Drums" By Sidney Bechet
"Mood Indigo" By Duke Ellington
"Pyramid" By Johnny Hodges
"Remember" By Red Norvo
"Sleepy Time Gal" By Glenn Miller
"There's a House" By Henry Allen
"There's No Two" By Frankie Newton
"Uptown Blues" By Jimmy Lunceford
"We'll Meet Again" By Vera Lynn
"When the Sun Sets" By Nobles Singers
"Wishing" By Vera Lynn


Interviews
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror's voice of Rod Serling... Mark Silverman

With it's story intertwined with the legendary Twilight Zone TV Series, the Tower of Terror broke new ground for theme park attractions in the level of detail, theming and atmosphere.

Since it opened in 1994, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has been consistently one of the most popular and well known theme park attractions in the world. It's success comes from the thrill, the story, and for theme park attraction fans, the sheer level of detail and attention that Walt Disney Imagineering poured into the project.

A key part of the detail is the inclusion of Rod Serling throughout the attraction. Rod died in 1975, leaving Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) with the challenge of how to still have Rod Serling play a part in the Tower of Terror, for scenes where no previous material was available. Fortunately for WDI, there were some great Imagineers and voice artists around, who had the skill and talent to bring Rod Serling into the forefront of the attraction. As part of that team, Mark Silverman was chosen to perform the Rod Serling voice work, and as anyone who has ridden the attraction will know, the results were outstanding. The Tower of Terror pre-show is some of WDI's finest work, and is certainly amongst one of the most memorable in Disney history.

I had the pleasure of interviewing Mark in October 2006, and got to ask him about his experiences being involved in the production of the attraction.

Steve Frearson: When did you first realize you had the talent for voice work, and how did you develop it into being a professional voice actor/"soundalike performer"?
Mark Silverman: I did a lot of voices and impressions when I was a kid. I imitated my teachers. By age twelve, I did a really good impression of Don Adams as Maxwell Smart. I loved "Get Smart" and I wanted to sound like him. I wanted to have an apartment like his on the show. I walked around wearing a shoe phone and a suit like his. What can I say, I was an odd kid. It is still one of my best impressions.

When I turned twenty two I got a job working for KROQ in Los Angeles. I did voices and impressions on the morning show. One morning I did a really good prank call on heavyweight champion Mike Tyson. He was fighting that night and I called up his hotel room as Sylvester Stallone and wished him luck. I do a very good Stallone impression and the call was very funny. Also around that time Larry King had Jackie Stallone on his show on CNN. Y'know, Stallone's mom. I called into the show and fooled Larry and Stallone's own mom with my Stallone impression. Howard Stern heard about it and he had Jackie Stallone on his show and they "planted" me on the phone, and she fell for it again!

I really had a knack for sounding like other people and I then got an agent.

I started getting hired to "re-voice" celebrities. The official name for this process is called "Looping" or "Dubbing." Universal Studios hired me to "re-voice" Al Pacino for the television broadcast of "Carlito's Way." I had to say the lines just like Al and then change one of the words for a more TV appropriate word. Al usually goes into the dubbing stage and does it himself, they couldn't get him back this time, so I filled in for him. I did a lot of that kind of work before Tower of Terror.

SF: How did you first get to be involved in the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror project? How was the selection process done, and what did you do for the casting session?

MS: I got a call from a friend of mine named Sam Kwasman. He told me his voice over agent was looking for a "Rod Serling" voice for a Disney project. Sam incidentally was at one time the voice of Donald Duck for Disney. He was not in the vocal range of Rod, so he suggested that I go down and audition. I did the audition for a woman, I think it was her first day on the job and it wasn't at Disney. I read the Serling speech into a tape recorder and the agent liked it and I went home. A few weeks later I got a call from this woman telling me that the people at Disney really liked my Serling voice and that there would be another audition coming up. This time it would be at Walt Disney Imagineering! I kept the actual phone message.

Now let me say one thing. I was a huge Disney fan and Twilight Zone fan before this all happened. When I was a teenager I would bring a little tape recorder into Disneyland and I would record the various rides and attractions! I became somewhat obsessed with Pirates of the Caribbean. I had boxes and boxes of cassette tapes of the ride. Also I had tapes I made from Haunted Mansion. I would study these tapes and practice the different voices. I even had tapes of the safety spiel from the Matterhorn. I would walk around saying "Remain seated please!" and in Spanish! I was so fascinated by it all, I used to call Imagineering, it was actually called "WED Enterprises" at that time. I would call and talk to the Imagineers and ask millions of questions about Pirates of the Caribbean. They were so nice and they would answer all of them! I am telling you all this so you can understand how much getting this job meant to me.

I started really practicing my Serling voice. I had a book with all of Rod Serling's Twilight Zone narration's. I would read two a day all the way through the night. I would read it with a cigarette, not a real one, but a bubble gum one. I would stop practicing at midnight, to watch Twilight Zone on channel five. I would see what the episode was, and I would look it up in the book and actually read it with Rod! I cared that much.

I went into Imagineering and I could not believe I was actually inside! I was escorted down the halls and there was so much to see on the walls, drawings of Lincoln, sketches from Pirates and Small World. Models were everywhere of upcoming rides. It was thrilling. I did the audition and they really loved it. A few weeks later I got a call and was told it was between me and one other guy. I started practicing even harder. When the final audition came, I walked down that hall and sort of felt like Rocky Balboa walking to the ring to fight Apollo Creed. Well, they told me that day, that I had gotten it. I was told that Carol Serling had even chosen me. An amazing honor!

SF: Had you worked on other Rod Serling projects prior to working on the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror?

MS: When I was working at KROQ I did a really weird prank call to Telly Savalas. He was in the Twilight Zone episode with that scary doll, "Talky Tina". In the show, the doll calls Telly on the phone. I thought it would be funny to actually call Telly, like "Talky Tina", and wake him up. I did it, and it's pretty funny. Telly was funny, and we played Twilight Zone music in the background. I did the voice of the doll and I narrated it as Rod Serling. I was surprised how good my Serling voice was and I never even really did that voice as a kid. I sort of sound like that anyway.

SF: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror opened in July 1994, when did your involvement with the project begin?

MS: I believe I started on the project somewhere around February of '93.

SF: What preparations did you make to be ready for your role in the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror?

MS: We covered much of this in a previous question, but I will give you one more thing I did that is sort of interesting. 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.

SF: The Rod Serling that we see and hear in the attraction is a combination of Rod himself (taken from existing footage), and your newly recorded voice work. Can you explain to us how this was made possible, and some of the challenges that it introduced?

MS: You want to know how the pre-show was done. I really do not want to say how exactly we did that, because it is so mysterious and all. The clip is taken from the episode "It's a Good Life." One thing I will say, so many of these sites talk about how Rod Serling's cigarette was "digitally" removed by the Imagineers. WRONG!! Rod Serling smoked a lot, but not this time! There never was any removal of a cigarette. Even some tour books in the stores say that! The whole pre-show is put together so well and I am very proud of how it all came together. You see Rod and you hear me and it all kind of works out.

I just want to clear something up. I am sure some of you have read over the years about somebody who does interviews and claims to portray Rod Serling in The Tower of Terror attractions. Let me clear this up for anyone that might be confused.

In '93 Disney wanted to use a "lookalike" for Rod Serling in the pre-show and for the closing speech after the drops. This man was filmed "mouthing" my Serling dialogue. Disney instead used an actual clip of the real Rod Serling from the episode "It's a Good Life". That is the clip you see in the pre-show. NO footage of the "lookalike" performance has EVER appeared in ANY "TOWER OF TERROR" attraction. What ever was shot that day was not used.

SF: Where was the recording done, and how long did the production take to complete? Can you tell us about your experiences on the recording?

MS: All of my Serling narration was recorded at Walt Disney Imagineering in Glendale California. It only took about three hours. The recording went VERY smoothly. At lunch I mainly remember having very good and smooth mashed potatoes. It's funny how certain things stick in our heads, well that was one of them. While I was eating my lunch I saw several Imagineers eating. Guys I used to call when I was a KID! It was all kind of amazing! There was also a casting woman named Gabrielle Reynolds who I remember being VERY nice. She knew what a big deal it all was to me, and she really helped me.
Michael Sprout who wrote the script was wonderful too. He really knew his Serling stuff.
I didn't work with Cory Sewelson until I did the DCA version. He produced the project and he could not have been nicer.

SF: The Tower brought a new level of thrill, theming and storytelling to the Disney parks. What did you think when you first experienced it?

MS: I was invited to Orlando for the grand opening in September of '94. I hadn't been to Disneyworld since I went with my dad in 1980. I really don't know if I can explain how excited I was to ride. It was also my first chance to see EPCOT so needless to say, this was very exciting for me. The night of the grand opening all the press were there and some of the Imagineers I worked with were there. I was like a silly kid asking them a million questions and they kept saying, "Mark, relax". There was a red carpet and all sorts of food. I had champagne and a Cobb salad. I love those. There was a stage show about the Tower of Terror with all sorts of show girls!! Then I finally got to meet Carol Serling and she told me I did a great job. I'll always remember that. Finally they had a count down and sparks shot off of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. It was such an awesome sight. We all got in line and I was really overwhelmed. I had my trusty little tape recorder in my hand. I couldn't believe I was going to be recording my "own voice." When I got into the lobby with the huge crowd of press people and Disney people I was in total disbelief. The lobby was so fantastic and creepy. It was a very emotional experience for me. I know it sounds weird and I don't want to get all spiritual about it, but I really felt Walt and Rod's presence in the room.

I had thoughts of being in Disneyland with my parents and all that kind of thing and it became quite the moving experience for me. When we got into the library and the pre-show started, I just was so happy it came out so great. We got into the boiler room and finally on the elevator and the ride starts and I hear my voice saying "You are the passengers on a most uncommon elevator" and it was the most surreal moment of my life. I have to be honest it was just like I was dreaming or like I was actually in a Twilight Zone episode.

When the elevator started moving forward in the 5th Dimension I just did not expect that at all and I was just dumbfounded. I felt like all my years of loving Twilight Zone and loving Disneyland all sort of came down to this moment. After the ride I was just sort of speechless.

SF: Since the original Twilight Zone Tower of Terror opened, the attraction has since opened in Disney's California Adventure, and is currently under construction at the Walt Disney Studios in the Disneyland Resort Paris. Did you record new dialogue for these new versions? What was it like re-uniting with the crew for a second recording session?

MS: I saw the Imagineers again when I recorded new Serling dialogue for the DCA version. It was very much like when I went in to do the first one. I didn't get any mashed potatoes this time!

SF: This is a tricky one to answer, but which is your favorite, the Florida or California version?

MS: I like both of them. They are like my own kids. One kid moves forward, one moves up and down. I am very proud of both of them. I look forward to the drop profile becoming randomized just like the Florida version.

SF: How does it feel to be forever immortalized portraying Rod Serling's voice in the Disney parks, and having millions of guests from around the World each year hear your performance?

MS: It is an amazing honor to be immortalized as you say! So many different people go on. From Hilary Duff to Mike Tyson to ex President Jimmy Carter. It is a good feeling to think about how many people hear me. What I like best is that they really love the whole ride and everything about it.

SF: Before we finish, I've got to ask, which is your favorite Twilight Zone TV episode?
MS: That is a VERY hard question. It very well might be "Stop Over in a Quiet Town." That's the one where the couple wake up and they have no idea where they are. They find out they are in a little kids dollhouse on another planet. That might be my favorite. I also love "It's a Good Life" with the weird kid. Also one that nobody ever mentions, I love the one called "Shadowplay." It's the one with Dennis Weaver and he keeps having the same dream every night that he's going to the electric chair. There are too many. I go with the people in the dollhouse!

SF - I would like to say a big thank you to Mark Silverman for his time, and for giving us a fascinating insight into the making of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
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