The Music of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror: enter a new dimension of sound …

We continue our journey through the music of Disneyland Paris attractions with today’s famous “Tour de la Terreur”, the emblematic Walt Disney Studios Park attraction.

Music at The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror combines in a particularly original way with period music, film music and atmospheric sounds following the three main chapters of this story.

Echoes from the Past

In the gardens and lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, time has stood still since that fateful night of October 31, 1939, when a mysterious lightning bolt struck the facade and swiftly pushed passengers from one of the elevators to an uncertain destiny. The various objects present in the hall are still in the places they occupied at the time, hastily abandoned by their owners. As for the music, it still resounds, like an echo of the past, as if it had never stopped.

To create this soundtrack, Imagineers gathered jazzy pieces and popular tunes as heard at that time in Hollywood’s sumptuous hotels. Each musical piece was chosen for its style and its haunting power.

One of them, “We’ll Meet Again,” is a 1939 song originally performed by Vera Lynn. In this recording, she is accompanied by a “Novachord,” the ancestor of the synthesizer, with supernatural sounds that can also be heard during the appearance of the Blue Fairy in Pinocchio (1940). In the disquieting setting of this hotel, the words that were originally intended to be romantic (“I don’t know where / I don’t know when / But I know that we will meet again”) resonate in a disturbing way, as if to warn us that ghosts are present.

Another haunting piece, “Mood Indigo” by Duke Ellington, is a 1930’s song with unusual orchestration. Most of the time in a jazz orchestra, the instruments have a well-defined role: The trumpet plays the main theme, the clarinet provides the high tones, and the trombone, the bass. In this piece, it is the opposite: The trombone plays in treble clef and the clarinet in the bass, which gives the piece a very special sound, as if the musicians had gone through the other side of the mirror. The one that we discover a little later, perhaps in the Tower’s lobby….

Serial Music

Our visit continues to the library, where the hotel’s “precious guests” discover a “lost episode” from the mythical series, The Twilight Zone, recognizable by its iconic music. French composer Marius Constant (1925-2004) was commissioned to make the music in the late 1950s by CBS. The piece came to be from the combination of two independent pieces, “Étrange No. 3” and “Milieu No.2.” These pieces originally had no purpose other than to enrich the channel’s sound library, and it was Music Director Lud Gluskin who had the idea of combining them to create the credits for the second season of the series.

The music for this episode is the work of composer Richard Bellis, well known to Disney Parks (Indiana Jones Adventure, Star Tours, Moteurs… Action! Stunt Show Spectacular) and winner of an Emmy Award for his Ça! (1990) score. He began with the show’s original instrumentation – two electric guitars, two trumpets, two trombones, bongos, and a small section of woodwinds and strings – that he re-recorded for the occasion. Inspired by the modern style of Jerry Goldsmith (Mulan, 1998), one of the composers of the series, he then wrote the rest of the music for the episode.

Free Fall

In the first version of the attraction, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – A Jump into the Fourth Dimension (2007), the ascent was accompanied by a mix of synthesizer and live instruments, composed with a very contemporary air to evoke speed and mechanics. Then, for the various floors, there was a mix of sound effects and music written in the spirit of the scores by Bernard Herrmann, Alfred Hitchcock’s habitual composer.

For the 2019 version of the attraction, Imagineers added new illusions as well as new visuals and sound sequences to create not one but three different experiences, each more terrifying than the last. Musically, the approach is even more radical, as Thomas Zielinski of Phantom Manor Legends explains: “The new musical ambiance of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – A New Dimension of Thrills, has a heavier atmosphere than the previous one to better convey the darker – and sometimes crazier – tone of the new scenarios. Fear, just like a good musical ambiance, can transcend the boundaries of language, and I think this new version of the attraction has shown us that perfectly.”

From Halloween 1939 to the present day, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror invites us on an incredible musical journey through time and space, a journey to the very heart of the Fourth Dimension!

Disney and me, it's a long love story. I fell into it as a child and never got out. From movies to theme parks, through the history of the Walt Disney Company, to comic books, everything fascinates me.