I recently had the incredible opportunity to participate in a behind the scenes tour of the Hollywood Hills Hotel, better known as The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at the Walt Disney World Resort.
I met my tour group before the park opened to Guests Tuesday morning. We walked around the backstage areas, learned about the generators, but the absolute highlight of the tour, and what I will happily talk about for an obscene amount of time, was our time in the lobby and library of the abandoned hotel.
Spider webs hang from the ceiling in billowy clusters. Did you know they replace these cobwebs every 6-8 months? They are made using the strings of hot glue that they dry at a high speed. They don’t add any dust to the webs, and instead they rely heavily on the settling of natural dust to give them their eerie look. Initially, when cobwebs are put up, they are stiff and over time they begin to loosen up and flow a bit.
If you ever wondered if the bell on the lobby desk works, it totally does. I rang the heck out of that thing.
These three rooms—the lobby and the two libraries—are one of the most expensive cues Disney has ever put together. Many of the objects in the room are antiques which emphasize the time period this hotel would have been in. When boarding the attraction, Guests are only in the lobby for a short period of time, and because of that they miss some of the most amazing details Imagineers put into this place.
Tea cups have old tea stains settled along the bottom, jackets, gloves and purses are left in a hurry, a Mahjong game is set up as if the players left mid hand. The details allow a scene to be set; you can picture where everyone was when the incident occurred as they hurriedly left.
Take for instance this quaint little scene. A couple sat here enjoying some food and a little champagne. There’s lipstick on the woman’s glass and neatly folded napkin, food stains on the plates, the champagne bottle even has the cork popped and is chilling in a champagne stand. These chairs are actually Portuguese Renaissance chairs purchased from an estate sale. To emphasize the value of these chairs, there are similar sets in the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Every single piece of paper you see sitting idly by on a counter or table has writing on it. The concierge desk has reservation and tour plans for a visiting traveler jotted down casually. On the wall behind the desk is an AAA Five Diamond award.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror doesn’t have a whole lot of hidden Mickeys, but they do have an awful lot of hidden references to old episodes of The Twilight Zone. In the library on the left-hand side along the wall immediately to the right of the entrance there lies a book written in an alien language with a note card sitting on top that says “To Serve Man,” a nod to the iconic Twilight Zone episode of the same name.