The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Turns 25: How It Redefined What a “Disney Ride” Could Be

/Film | 7/22/2019 | Josh Spiegel
The phrase “Disney ride”, like the phrase “Disney movie”, has a specific connotation. When you hear those words, you might think of something like Peter Pan’s Flight or Snow White’s Scary Adventures: a ride in which you sit in a vehicle that drives you around a condensed version of a handful of scenes from the film in question, typically with a mild surprise at one point during the experience. Or you might think of a boat ride like Pirates of the Caribbean or the Jungle Cruise, where Audio-Animatronic characters are mixed with corny jokes for a distinctive, delightfully old-fashioned experience.

Whatever kind of attraction you think of, for a long time, the phrase “Disney ride” was stridently antithetical to the notion of entering a land of both shadow and substance, of things and ideas. A land like…the Twilight Zone.

Today - Anniversary - Disney - Twilight - Zone

Today marks the 25th anniversary of one of the great modern Disney rides: the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. At heart, the Tower of Terror is an extreme version of a carnival-style drop ride that lifts you up 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 or more feet in the air before letting you fall nearly to the ground. You can find variations of this at your local midway; for a time, there was a more straightforward version of a drop ride, called the Maliboomer, at Disney California Adventure in the Disneyland Resort). But what makes Tower of Terror so special, and so enduring at the remaining theme parks where you can experience it, is the balance of the old-fashioned drop ride with such an odd and unique piece of intellectual property.

The Twilight Zone, the anthology science-fiction TV series that originally aired in the 1960s, is not a Disney property. It wasn’t back in the early 1990s and, even now that Disney’s become monolithic, it’s...
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