twilight zone tower of terror movie

Disney is developing a movie based on the popular theme park ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. The accelerated drop tower dark ride, which appears in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, Disney California Adventure, Tokyo DisneySea in Japan, and Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris, seems like an obvious movie property. Find out what producers and writers are involved in the new Tower of Terror movie adaptation after the jump.

Deadline reports that screenwriter John August wrote a treatment for the story, and Disney is now looking to hire a writer to expand that into a feature-length screenplay. August is a great writer and has a long history with Disney through his many collaborations with Tim Burton. His credits include Go (one of my favorite films), Titan A.E., Charlie’s Angels, Big Fish, Corpse Bride, The Nines, and Frankenweenie.

The feature film adaptation is being produced by Jim Whitaker, who apparently helped pitch the idea to Disney with August. Whitaker started his career in Hollywood as an assistant on the craft services on the 1988 film Hairspray and has worked his way up the ladder as a producer on films such as Nutty Professor 2, 8 Mile, Friday Night Lights, American Gangster, and recently with Disney, The Odd Life of Timothy Green and the upcoming adaptation of Pete’s Dragon.

The first version of the ride opened in Florida on July 22nd, 1994. The theme park attraction is a loose adaptation of Rod Serling‘s CBS television anthology series The Twilight Zone, featuring the signature show introduction and opening. The ride takes place inside the fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel in Hollywood, California.

Riders board a vehicle themed as a hotel elevator which provides a fun drop. The story in the ride involves a group of people who in the 1930s mysteriously disappeared from a hotel elevator due to supposed supernatural forces, leading to the hotel’s closure.

The queue for the ride features a specially created sequence from a “lost” episode of The Twilight Zone which explains the backstory. Here’s a detailed description from Wikipedia:

The episode shows the hotel on that night all those years ago. A ferocious thunderstorm has enveloped the building and grounds. The episode then cuts to the lobby, where singer Carolyn Crosson, her boyfriend Gilbert London, child actress Sally Shine (who is modeled after child actress Shirley Temple) and her nanny Emeline Partridge accompanied by a hotel bellhop Dewey Todd board the elevator. None of the names of the characters are mentioned or referenced in the pre-show. The elevator ascends normally at first, but then, the lightning bolt strikes the hotel, causing an entire wing and the guests to vanish, and causing the elevator to drop rapidly and crash, sending all five people into the Twilight Zone. The lightning strike explains the missing front wing with burn marks across the face of the hotel, allowing those outside the hotels to periodically see the elevators ascending and dropping. Taking the episode back to the present, Serling comments that the storm outside is similar to the one that sent the fateful five into the Fifth Dimension. He also explains that the only elevator in the hotel still in working condition is the maintenance service elevator located in the basement at the boiler room. He invites the guests, “if they dare”, to board the elevator and discover the secret of the Hollywood Tower Hotel and make each of them a star of The Twilight Zone.

And here is a vintage making of special that was released around the making of the original ride:

The Twilight Zone apparently won’t be part of the movie adaptation of the ride, as Warner Bros. is still developing the property as a standalone movie produced by Appian Way with Joseph Kosinski. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes director Matt Reeves was originally attached to that project, which went through a bunch of screenplays in its journey. Last we heard the project was to follow  “a test pilot who winds up breaking the speed of light; when he puts down his craft, he discovers that he’s landed a bit late for supper — 96 years late.” But that was before Kosinski got involved in the project, and the story may have been thrown out.

This wouldn’t be the first time Disney made a Twilight of Terror movie. It was one of the very first theme park rides to be turned into a film, specifically a made-for-television movie in 1997 starring Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst. The film followed “a once-respected reporter (played by Guttenberg) who has fallen on hard times and is now working for a sleazy tabloid.” Here’s how Rotten Tomatoes describes it:

He happens upon a story that he hopes might put him back in the good graces of better newspapers; in 1939, five people disappeared in an accident aboard the elevator of a luxury hotel. It’s believed that their ghosts haunt the old building, and an old woman claims to have the key to their secrets. The cast also includes Kirsten Dunst and Nia Peeples.

The movie was directed by D.J. MacHale, who wrote ABC after-school specials and produced and directed Are You Afraid of the Dark?. Tower of Terror has a 54% rating on the movie critic review compilation website Rotten Tomatoes. You can watch the trailer for that film above.

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