Disney to Try Again on Tower of Terror Movie

June 23, 2021, 3:26 PM · It looks like Disney is giving it another go on bringing its Tower of Terror theme park franchise to movie theaters.

Collider is reporting that Disney has a deal with Academy Award nominee and Black Widow star Scarlett Johansson to produce and star in a film based on its Tower of Terror rides. Toy Story 4 director Josh Cooley reportedly is writing the script.

Disney previously brought Tower of Terror to the screen as a TV movie episode of The Wonderful World of Disney in 1997, starring Kirsten Dunst and Steve Guttenberg. The IP is a bit tricky for Disney, as the Orlando and Paris versions of the ride are themed to the old CBS television series, The Twilight Zone. The Tokyo version has an original story rooted in Disney's Society of Explorers and Adventurers franchise, while the Disney California Adventure installation has been rethemed to Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy.

Creating a successful original story for Tower of Terror not only would allow Disney to extend another of its theme park properties into a multi-channel franchise, it could clear the way for Disney to drop The Twilight Zone license in Orlando and Paris while minimizing fan pushback. Disney's clear strategy is to use its theme parks, films, television networks and streaming services to support one another through the cultivation of Disney-owned franchises. If Disney can drop a licensed franchise in favor its own, the company will do that at every opportunity.

But The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror remains one of the most beloved attractions at the Walt Disney World Resort, making any change there inherently risky for Disney. Despite the critical acclaim and strong guest survey response to Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout at Disney California Adventure, many Disneyland fans remain mad at Disney for dropping The Twilight Zone theming there.

As a two-time Oscar nominee and a Tony Award winner, Johansson delivers critical acclaim along with her proven box office record as one of Disney's Avengers. That gives her the star power that might help carry a Tower of Terror project to the level where even the most devoted Disney World fans might welcome her to replace Rod Serling on Disney's Hollywood Studio's iconic thrill ride.

Of course, many Disney theme park-inspired projects make it to stories in the trade press only to fail to make it to the screen. Jungle Cruise is debuting in theaters and on Disney Plus Premier Access next month, but past projects, including Big Thunder Mountain and even Tower of Terror, have stalled in development. So we'll have to wait to see if Johansson's Tower of Terror makes it to theaters.

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Replies (14)

June 23, 2021 at 5:08 PM

Sorry, but the Guardians re-theme vastly improved the ride for my family. ToT had a vague storyline, at best; the new ride tells a fun story, has the same visceral thrills, and also rocks.

What will the movie be about? An old hotel where some people got turned into lightning so the elevator's on the fritz? PASS

June 23, 2021 at 5:57 PM

A woman, going through a divorce and raising her son during a war, checks into a dilapidated hotel, only to be forced to undergo humiliating training as an assassin. Unbroken, she escapes from her tormentors, only to end up falling multiple times down an elevator shaft... after which she meets her new friend Bill Murray in the hotel bar.

Sound about right?

June 23, 2021 at 6:53 PM

I think if you take away the Twilight Zone theming, but keep the same storyline as Tokyo DisneySea with a haunted hotel, the complaints would be minimal. It might hurt a little, but there are a multitude of worse alternatives that could happen.

June 23, 2021 at 7:48 PM

@robert hahahaha!! I guarantee that's better than what they'll give us.

June 23, 2021 at 9:42 PM

Spoiler: The first hour of the movie will be Scarlett Johansson waiting in line to get on the ride.

June 23, 2021 at 10:48 PM

Hahaha funny stuff Robert. But you forgot to add giant spiders! ScarJo once upon a time came out in the cinematic masterpiece, Eight Legged Freaks starring David Arquette where she had to fight off giant spiders in a desert town.

June 23, 2021 at 11:12 PM

@robert:

We could cross-pollinate our “Book of William Henry Harrison” project with seedlings from this IP. Perhaps the elevator shaft is also a time portal, and ScarJo ends up having to team up with WHH as they form an elite historical assassins guild? It’s needs some sanding here and there, but i think the money tree is starting to bloom!

June 24, 2021 at 4:04 AM

I think @james trexen has the right idea.

That way you expand the universe you are creating with Jungle Cruise and give you a way to ditch the Twilight Zone theme without changing too much in the ride.

I love Twilight Zone, always have since i was a kid, and the ride is awesome, one of my all time favs, but I would still be happy with the tokyo style taking over from twilight zone

June 24, 2021 at 7:20 AM

Fingers crossed for this to be the next entry (after Jungle Cruise) in the SEA Cinematic Universe. Thunder Mountain and Mystic Manor follow and then the big team up movie...SEA: The Adventurer's Club.

June 24, 2021 at 11:33 AM

If it is anything like American Horror Story: Hotel we are in for a strange Disney movie lol.

June 24, 2021 at 11:48 AM

I do like the story that the Imagineers were pitching the TOT to Tokyo Disney guys, talking on the Twlight Zone story...only to learn the show was never a big deal in Japan so most would have no idea of the connection. That led to creating a new story for it.

June 24, 2021 at 12:40 PM

I'm kind of torn on this concept. It's clear that a Tower of Terror movie from Disney would not be tied to the Twilight Zone, but that IP is so perfectly entwined with the original version of the attraction. TDS's version of the attraction uses a solid origin story based on Disney-owned IP that could serve as a solid basis for a movie franchise. However, if such a franchise were to be successful, you know that the Twilight Zone theming on DHS's version of the attraction would be toast.

Disney has already proved they can reskin a ToT to elevate it well beyond the original Twilight Zone theming, but that was done on a version of the attraction without a 5th Dimension room and with an uber-popular and well-known IP lending a hand. I was skeptical that Disney could improve DCA's ToT even considering the popularity Guardians, but they pulled it off. However, could Disney pull the trick again on the original, and most-beloved, version of the attraction based with an internal, less-widely known/recognized IP - SEA? IDK, but I'll remain skeptical, just as I was when Disney announced they were making a Pirates of the Caribbean movie.

June 24, 2021 at 1:19 PM

I'm probably going to be crucified for this, but I've never found the "Tower of Terror's" storyline to be all that terrific. Mind you, I love the Twilight Zone and I love the atmosphere and everything else about the attraction.

However, you hear the story from start to finish in 30 seconds in the Library room. These people were in an elevator, it got struck by lightning, and they were zapped into another dimension. That's it.

The rest of the attraction is a fantastic move through that dimension but there's no actual development. Nothing happens. The people aren't rescued. Nothing changes. We don't accomplish anything.

I think this was an issue that hampered the TV movie--in order to tell a story, didn't they have to rescue the people? Honestly, I don't remember it all that much.

As an attraction, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is such a great experience that it doesn't necessarily need a deep story. However, you could argue that since the Disneyland version now makes the guests heroes as they help "save" the Guardians, it's likely to be more memorable.

So all that said, if ScarJo can create a compelling enough IP that we become more involved with the Tower, more power to her and it and us. If the movie fails, we can keep the Twilight Zone there I suppose.

June 24, 2021 at 1:42 PM

"However, you hear the story from start to finish in 30 seconds in the Library room. These people were in an elevator, it got struck by lightning, and they were zapped into another dimension. That's it.

The rest of the attraction is a fantastic move through that dimension but there's no actual development. Nothing happens. The people aren't rescued. Nothing changes. We don't accomplish anything."

That's not what I get when I ride ToT. The story sets up a mysterious hotel where a group of guests disappeared while riding an elevator. You board that same elevator on your visit and see those same guests calling to you in the first scene. Then you're elevator travels through the 5th Dimension before eventually getting struck by lightning, putting you in the same conditions experience by the missing guests. Each voyage is unique, presenting a different sequence of effects, and motions, but your elevator car always manages to escape the Twilight Zone. However, those missing guests are still there to cross your path the next time you venture through the 5th Dimension.

It's actually a brilliant setup and story for a ride that's typically <2 minutes in duration. With such a short ride time, you don't need a huge story, and trying to lather on a bunch of extra plot elements would take away from the simplicity of the premise. GotG:MB takes the out of control elevator ride in a different direction by overlaying the premise of a prison break with scenes of the escape playing out on screens while the elevator car goes up and down.

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