Opening on July 22, 1994, the ride system of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios employs specialized technology developed specifically for Disney, particularly the ability to move the vehicle in and out of the vertical motion shaft. The elevator cabs are self-propelled automated ride vehicles which lock into separate vertical motion cabs. The cabs can move into and out of elevators horizontally, move through the "Fifth Dimension" scene, and on to the drop shaft. After the elevator cab has completed its profile, it propels itself to the unload dock and then back to the show shaft. The Floridian ride system runs on a unique loop system, although this is not as efficient as the newer "franchise" version used in California, Paris, and Tokyo.
In this version of the attraction, Rod Serling greets passengers the moment the elevator doors close, saying, "You are the passengers on a most uncommon elevator about to ascend into your very own episode of The Twilight Zone." The elevator rises for a few seconds before coming to its first stop.
The doors open to reveal a long, dimly-lit hotel corridor with a single window at the opposite end. A violent thunderstorm is raging and lightning flashes outside the window. Ghostly images of the five doomed guests from 1939 appear for a moment, then vanish in a burst of electricity. The guests disappear in a burst of lightning. The corridor then fades away, but the window remains and morphs into a creepier black-and-white version and shatters in the now star-filled hallway, like in the opening segment of each episode.
The elevator doors close and the car continues its ascent. Serling's voice continues on, saying "One stormy night long ago, five people stepped through the door of an elevator and into a nightmare. That door is opening once again, and this time, it's opening for you." The elevator stops once more. The doors open to what at first looks like a maintenance room, but slowly morphs into an endless field of stars. The elevator car emerges horizontally from the lift shaft and enters a section of the ride called The Fifth Dimension, which is a bizarre collection of sights and sounds and starfields, once again in the style of the television show's opening sequence. A rendition of The Twilight Zone opening sequence plays throughout. The scene ends as the elevator reaches another star field which splits and opens much like elevator doors. The elevator enters another vertical shaft. Serling's voice is heard again, saying, "You are about to discover what lies beyond the fifth dimension, beyond the deepest, darkest corner of the imagination, in the Tower of Terror."
On the last word of Serling's narration, the elevator starts its drop sequence. Rather than a simple gravity-powered drop, however, the elevator is pulled downwards, causing most riders to rise off their seats, held down only by a seat-belt. At least once during the drop sequence, wide elevator doors in front of the riders will open to reveal a view of the park from a height of about 170 feet. The back of the "Hollywood Tower Hotel" sign partially obstructs the view.
In the years since the attraction's initial opening, a randomized pattern of drops and lifts have been added, where the ride vehicle will drop or rise various distances at different intervals. Other effects were also added, including new projection images of the breaking window, wind effects, lightning flashes, and ominous blacklit figures of the five ghostly original riders. These changes were made so that each trip on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a slightly different experience. The ride was reprogrammed most recently in its fourth conversion. The result of the reprogramming is that the ride system allows for any number of randomized drops and lifts. When guests enter the drop shaft, a computer randomly chooses one of four drop profiles, one of which is a modified version of the ride's third incarnation. Regardless of the number of randomized drops and lifts, each drop sequence always features one "faux drop" meant to startle the riders, and one complete drop through the entire tower. Since each trip results in a unique drop sequence, Florida's slogan for the ride is "Never the Same Great Fear Twice!"
After a series of these drops have been made, the elevator returns to the basement of the decrepit Hollywood Tower Hotel. A movie plays, showing elements from the season four opening sequence, along with the 1939 elevator passengers and Rod Serling, falling into the "vortex" seen in the season three opening sequence. Rod Serling's voice states, "A warm welcome back to those of you who made it, and a friendly word of warning; something you won't find in any guidebook. The next time you check into a deserted hotel on the dark side of Hollywood, make sure you know just what kind of vacancy you're filling. Or you may find yourself a permanent resident of... The Twilight Zone." Guests then exit the elevator, leaving the hotel through the gift shop.
And finally, onto the pins! The first couple featured are ‘original’ logo pins for the attraction, as you can see, they feature the theme of the attraction, which is the tall ominous Hotel Building, and the crashing elevator.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror was such an important milestone for the Disney theme parks, it was featured in many ‘history’ series, like the Dave Smith Collection and the 35 Magical Years Series, as well as the Original Piece of Disney History Series.
There are a few pins that have more elements from the attraction, and more than just the elevator or the building, the feature items in the attraction that are references to the Twilight Zone series.
Like the Haunted Mansion in Magic Kingdom, The Tower of Terror has been featured in many Friday the 13th Collections throughout the past couple of years, here are just two of the many themed pins.
Finally, we have two 15th Anniversary pins for the Disney’s Hollywood Studios version, though the one on the left’s tower looks like Disney California Adventure.