In honor of the final months of Disneyland’s “Tower of Terror,” which closes on January 2, 2017, let’s take a look at what the “Tower of Terror” almost was.
In 1989, the Imagineers were meeting with Mel Brooks. Yes, Disney’s designers were meeting with the man who brought us “Blazing Saddles” and “The Producers.”
While Mel Brooks and Disney might seem like a strange mix, Michael Eisner sure didn’t think so. He called Brooks to the meeting in the hopes that he could also convince him to begin producing his films at the new Disney-MGM Studios. Brooks and his son, Max, were huge fans of Disneyland, so Eisner wanted to use that bring him over to working with Disney. Disney-MGM Studios in Walt Disney World was a fairly new concept and Brooks’s ride would be getting in on the ground floor of the new park.
After six trips to Imagineering and many phone calls, Brooks was ready to start his attraction. At the time, the goal was to be funny and scary, which is what led the Imagineers to create “Castle Young Frankenstein.” The funny/scary vibe fit well with one of Brooks’s most popular movies, about a young man returning home and finishing his grandfather’s work for the Frankenstein name. The attraction would be in the castle, with the queue winding through the streets of Bavaria.
That idea didn’t quite stick so the attraction became “Mel Brooks’s Hollywood Horror Hotel.” It was going to be a walk-on attraction where guests were invited to the set of Mel Brooks’s new movie, filmed at a genuine haunted house, and they would interact with the actors who weren’t really actors, like Dracula and Frankenstein.
The attraction became an art-deco Los Angeles hotel, with ivy and broken windows and a queue leading to a part of the hotel that was marked condemned. The Kirk brothers, Steve and Tim, had an additional idea that the building would actually be multiple buildings. Via different forms of transportation, guests would be brought into many of Brooks’s different movies. It was a way for the Imagineers to try to keep part of Castle Young Frankenstein, the idea that Brooks really wanted.
In the end, Brooks was not appeased by any of the ideas and left to film the movie “Life Stinks” instead of making his ride. For the record, Disney-MGM Studios (now Disney’s Hollywood Studios) still honors Brooks. Near the center of the park, by Min and Bill’s Dockside Diner, there are a bunch of fake shipping crates, with movie addresses on them, like one going to Rick’s Cafe from “Casablanca.” Another one is addressed to Max Bialystock, from Brooks’s “The Producers.”
Before Brooks left, though, he did have one idea, for an elevator. This elevator would move off it’s track, going through the hallways, and even crash out of the side of the building. And, thus, the “Tower of Terror” was born.
With the “Tower” in mind, the Imagineers went back and decided to create the ride with the feel of a show that they had all wanted to recreate before: “The Twilight Zone.” They acquired rights and began to study 156 episodes of the show for their new ride. In fact, they pulled from many of the episodes to design their ride, whether people know it or not.
Although there is no actual episode about the a Tower of Terror or a Hollywood Tower Hotel, Rod Sterling’s introduction was pulled from the episode “It’s a Good Life,” although the voice you hear is actually voice actor, Mark Silverman. The scene in the ride that takes place in the Fifth Dimension is inspired by the episode, “Little Girl Lost.” And in the elevators themselves, there’s an inspection certificate, signed by a Mr. Cadwallader. In the episode “Escape Clause,” Mr. Cadwallader is revealed to be the devil.
At this point, it seems pretty safe to say that the comedic idea had been thoroughly replaced with horror. Are you a fan of the frightening “Tower of Terror,” or would you have much rather seen a Mel Brooks theme? Let me know in the comments!