〉The Twilight Zone-inspired ride is set to make a scare on the big screen
Whoever said that lightning never strikes twice hasn’t met with the execs at Walt Disney Pictures, who are once again apt to turn one of their iconic theme park rides into a feature. This time it’s TOWER OF TERROR, inspired by the famed Twilight Zone: Tower of Terror attraction that has been scaring guests and ghouls since 1994.
Rumors swirled about Disney’s intent to adapt in 2009, yet nothing concrete solidified. Now, sources confirm that the project is actively moving forward with a new take and veteran producer Jim Whitaker leading the charge, producing via his Whitaker Entertainment, while Sam Dickerman oversees for Disney. The take comes from frequent Tim Burton-collaborator John August, who’s worked with Burton on Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Dark Shadows, and most recently, the animated Frankenweenie.
Though August isn’t scripting, his outline will serve as the basis for the feature. Plot details are kept hush, but I’m hearing that the new take is very much in the vein of Burton’s style, presenting a more fun than scary family adventure a la The Goonies or ET, though retaining the inherent spookiness of the premise and injecting Burton-esque creepiness. The subject matter is very much in August’s wheelhouse, as the Frankenstein scribe is currently penning CBS Films’ Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, based on the popular children’s book series.
Measuring 199 feet tall, Tower of Terror is one of the tallest attractions in Walt Disney World, plunging adventurer’s down a thirteen story drop. Set in the fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel, passengers are greeted by Twilight Zone host/creator Rod Serling, who recounts the tragic and mysterious demise of five hotel guests in 1939 – singer Carolyn Crosson, her boyfriend Gilbert London, child actress Sally Shine, Sally’s nanny Emeline Partridge, and hotel bellhop Dewey Todd. In the narrative, lightning strikes the hotel elevator, causing the five inhabitants to teleport to the fifth dimension, aka The Twilight Zone. In all four incarnations of the ride the story differs, but always revolves around disappearing guests and supernatural elements.
The story was previously adapted into a mostly forgotten TV movie in 1997, starring Steve Guttenberg and a young Kirsten Dunst. Also titled Tower of Terror, the film generally ignored the Twilight Zone theme, but kept the core narrative. The D.J. MacHale-directed adaptation was primarily shot at the actual attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios and holds the honor of being the first film based on a Disney ride.
Ever since the gargantuan hit that was Pirates of The Caribbean, Disney has sought to bring many of its famed attractions to the big screen. Despite lackluster follow-ups The Country Bears, The Haunted Mansion (set for its own remake), and Tomorrowland, the studio is still moving forward with adaptations of Magic Kingdom, It’s a Small World After All and Jungle Cruise. However, with its creepy premise, Tower of Terror is in better company with scary Disney flicks of the past, such as Return from Witch Mountain, The Watcher in the Woods, and Something Wicked This Way Comes.
Whitaker Ent. has a first-look deal with Disney, most recently delivering the studio’s fantasy/drama The Odd Life of Timothy Green, which starred Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, and Dianne Wiest. Together, they’ll next release the Chris Pine shipwreck drama The Finest Hours and the Pete’s Dragon remake, which stars Bryce Dallas Howard, Robert Redford, and Michael C Hall.
August is repped by UTA.
“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.“
Clark Allen | Associate Editor