Visitors can access the official website of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror through several different addresses, such as www.towerofterror.co.uk, www.tower-of-terror.co.uk, www.tourdelaterreur.fr or www.tour-de-la-terreur.fr, which all redirect through to the site’s actual location — www.disneytowerofterror.com.
The website opens with an aged, 1939 newspaper front page as the language select screen. Versions are already available for France, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands and Spain, quite an array compared to past website launches. Named the “Tribune of Terror”, the newspaper’s clever strapline reads “However scary the story, we never let it drop”.
Choose your country and the text on the newspaper immediately changes to the relevant language, with a headline reading “5 People mysteriously vanish from the Hollywood Tower”. Either side, you can see more analysis such as “A new theory on the mystery” along with a story about the premiere of The Wizard of Oz, also in 1939.
The newspaper then morphs into a modern-day 2008 edition, with “The Hollywood Tower Hotel re-opens for business” as its headline. In the masthead, spot an advertisement for “Hotel management school” and a picture of the first Tower of Terror, at Walt Disney World, with the words “Introduction to free fall”. Other headlines on the front page continue their coverage — “Relatives of those who vanished are reunited”, “Retrospective: exhibition of furniture and objects”, “Interview with Burt Umble [spot the pun?], the new owner”.
The animation doesn’t give you too long to read these headlines, however. The page zooms into the lead image — a bleak view of the hotel through twisted gates, taking you through the overgrown gardens and through the entrance doors as lightning cracks overhead. Inside the Lobby, the camera rests on the homepage of the entire site, with the first appearance by our friendly bellhop:
The website is introduced by the bellhop, with various items around the lobby now leading to different floors. Leave the page to run, however, and you’ll see several more clever special effects. Lightning hitting the mirror, the chalkboard turning into a view from the dropping elevator cars, or maybe a ghostly bellhop…
He’s not the only translucent habitant within the website. A little later, you’ll see a happy couple remarkably similar to that in the attraction’s actual pre-show video, shot more than 14 years ago. The elevator doors in the distance glow green as shrieks and screams echo through the halls from a falling elevator. Finally, the child movie star and her mother — also from the pre-show video — appear to check-in. The girl even still has hold of her doll!
Let’s hop into the elevator and ride to our first location. As you travel, scenes blur past the screen. Look closely and you might even spot a few false teeth lost in the Twilight Zone!
The second floor is home to the Library (since the website doesn’t follow the “real” layout of the hotel exactly), where a very polished preview video clip appears on screen via the old-fashioned television.
Click ‘Switch Off’, and you see the full library, lit by elegant Tiffany lamps, with the bellhop picking a book up from the floor.
Despite this area being described as “Discover the Tower of Terror”, there isn’t a great deal of information given, or much of an introduction of what actually happens during the ride. Instead, you’re offered just a few pages from the bellhop’s book to build your own thoughts about the Tower. It even features two pieces of real Walt Disney Imagineering concept art, which we’ve featured in the past.
Up on the third floor, a scene from the attraction’s boiler room is used to promote some Jaw-dropping offers.
The offers pop up with a background of the Tower and Le Château de la Belle au Bois Dormant. The font/typeface used throughout the website is particularly well tied with the theme.
The fourth floor is home to the Terror Movie Theatre, one of the website’s most important features. Here, you’ll see MTV presenter Ricky Haywood-Williams in the UK version and famous M6 presenter Virginie Efira for the French version. Following the presenter’s introduction, a movie reel is projected on the screen continuing their explanation of this unique competition, allowing the public to dream up their own commercial for the attraction. (Look out for more on this soon!)
The bellhop won’t take us any higher at the moment, so we take a sudden drop into the Basement, where the second key feature of the website is located. In a boarding hall similar to that in the real attraction, a door opens to invite us to step aboard and experience what’s known as “The Tower of Terror Effect”. What’s that? It’s different for everyone, apparently. It’s whatever happens to you when you take that gravity-defying plunge and momentarily slip into the Twilight Zone.
For the website at least, though, it’s just a fun picture manipulation game, introduced with a special logo across the elevator doors…
When the doors open onto the darkness of the elevator shaft, you’re invited to upload a photo of yourself… or at least someone you’re familiar with. Let’s choose this one…
Position the photo and pick your chosen manipulation effect. Enter a headline and some text, and your friend will soon receive, via email, a customised Tribune of Terror with your frightening “Tower of Terror Efffect” photograph splashed across the front page…
Using the latest Flash technology, not to mention a great deal of care and attention toward the attraction’s theme and story, the website builds once more on the successes of past mini-sites such as Space Mountain: Mountain 2 and the 15th Anniversary, put together by the same external firm.
With their ideas such as video characters interacting with environments now perfected, here is the most impressive website for a Disney attraction anywhere in the world.
But, as you’ll no doubt notice, the online Tower of Terror world is far from complete yet. A noticeboard in the lobby advertises a Guided Tour with such future thrills as a Games Room, Makeover Room and Presidential Suite. Originally advertised for 25th February, the launch date has now changed to 3rd March 2008. With equally beautiful, brand new “sets” and locations built especially for the website, these new areas will add a whole new dimension to The Hollywood Tower Hotel, it’s history and legend.