The Making Of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™
For Disneyland Paris

MARNE-LA-VALLÉE, France – The classic storyline for Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™ is based on its sister attractions in other Disney parks, but there are elements that are distinctly European in the newest experience at Disneyland Paris.

From fantastic décor to a bi-lingual (French and English) introduction, the elegant, imposing Hollywood Tower Hotel, site of the unusual "episode" of The Twilight Zone®, is a definite nod to its European surroundings.

"The over-arching theme is the paranormal and mystical legends, which have been part of European culture since the Dark Ages," said Theron Skees, show producer for Walt Disney Imagineering. "And the abandoned hotel is very grand, very exclusive with expansive space for antiquities from all over the world."

The stylish, beautifully detailed structure creates an immediate, haunted, otherwordly impression, appropriate to its Twilight Zone® theme. Skees and his team searched France, the United Kingdom, Holland and other European countries for thousands of authentic props. Sculptures, oil paintings and hand-forged ornamental metal and vintage clothing for shop windows, for instance, all were found in Paris. Nearly 4,000 used books for the libraries (there are two) came from French bookstores.

The lobby features an extensive array of period pros and furniture that creates an era of Hollywood splendor. Magazines and newspapers from the 1930s are casually placed just where the guests left them. At the front desk, a set of luggage remains where a guest was about to register. On a table, a deck of cards, a cribbage board, two cups of tea... all carefully placed to indicate that the people in the lobby left in a hurry without a thought of taking anything with them – and never came back.

"We worked with companies that design for chateaus and famous locations throughout Europe, and the level of craftsmanship is extraordinary," said Skees. "Ornamental metal, custom-made tables, elegant draperies, upholstery, carpet – all the fabrics are fantastic," he continued.

And Europe was easy for sourcing handmade objects from the South Pacific, Africa and Asia, said Skees. Since the Walt Disney Imagineering storyline for the attractions tells that the hotel owners were avid collectors of antiquities, no collectible was out of bounds.

Props from the United States also are part of the mix. The hotel's Pueblo Deco style, popular when the hotel was built in the 1920s, borrows elements from Southwestern Native American art such as radial sunbursts, arrowhead shapes and simplified thunderbird motifs. "We thought it would be exotic for Europeans to see collectibles that are distinctly American, so guests will spot drums, arrows and tomahawks on the library shelves," said Skees.

In Holland, Skees' team found a collector of Americana whose extensive stash included everything from embossed road signs and parking meters to movie and travel posters from the 1950s and old-fashioned mannequins with sculpted hair.

The hotel's boiler room is especially rich in prop and set details that suggest an actual working facility, from the time clock to the maintenance man's desk filled with photos and personal effects. Oil cans, calendars and postcards from the 1930s and 1940s, and glasses, pipes, cigarette cases, ashtrays and old issues of magazines re-create a bygone era. "There is nothing to distract the guests from the theme" said Skees.

The Walt Disney Studios park is designed like a movie set, and Hollywood Boulevard is an idealized version of Hollywood in the 1950s.

"The Hollywood Tower Hotel has been in the 'neighborhood' since the 1930s," said Skees. "The attraction tells of a specific place and time, and a specific incident, and that makes the experience much more tangible."

And one thing is certain, said Skees – every time guests return, they will see things they did not see before.