Facing an Uncertain Future at the Tower of Terror

Lessons From the Tower of Terror Are Just a Part of the Insights From My New Book, Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz

This week is the 25th Silver Anniversary of Disney’s Hollywood Studios. In tribute to this remarkable park, we’re capturing some of the amazing details many guests never see. This one comes from The Hollywood Tower Hotel Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. When you enter the boiler room, follow the longest stretch of corridor. Just before boarding an elevator, look down toward your left. It is a dumping ground of abandoned industrial parts, coated with dust in the dim light. But a card stands within the clutter, and it offers the following promise:

Is it a sign of things to come at the Tower of Terror? Photo by J. Jeff Kober.
Is it a sign of things to come at the Tower of Terror? Photo by J. Jeff Kober.

The quote reads: “It’s easy enough to be pleasant, when life hums along like a song. But the man worth while is the man who can smile when everything goes dead wrong.”

Of course the quotation is a perfect hint of things to come as you board the elevator at the Tower of Terror. But it also offers some sage advice to anyone trying to muddle through the “ups and downs” of life.

The story of the Hollywood Tower is set to an eventful date on October 31, 1939, when lightening struck the hotel. But the real fate of Hollywood and the rest of the country came on October 29, 1929, almost ten years earlier to the day. Known as Black Tuesday, stock prices collapsed and more than 16 million shares were traded on the New York Stock Exchange on a single day. Billions of dollars were lost, and in the months and years to come a Great Depression ensued. By 1933, nearly half of America’s banks had gone under, and nearly 30% of America was unemployed.

Roy Disney spoke of that time and his own fears:

“When the banks were closed in 1933, of course I was frantic–what are we gonna do for money? So I was stewing and worrying and Walt was impatient with me. He said, ‘Quit worrying about it. People aren’t going to stop living just because the banks are closed. What the hell, we’ll make potatoes the medium of exchange. We’ll pay everybody in potatoes.'”

Perhaps it is no coincidence that when you step away from the Tower of Terror, you face the Carthay Circle theater. What happened between that date and when Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs premiered in 1937 is a story of a “man who can smile when everything goes dead wrong.” It’s a message of working through your fears, of being persistent in your vision, and in facing an uncertain future.

If you enjoy this kind of message, one that not only informs you about the details of this amazing park, but enlightens you with messages about how to face life itself, you will definitely want to pick up a copy of Disney’s Hollywood Studios: From Show Biz to Your Biz, published by Theme Park Press. It’s packed with over 40 examples taken from the park’s experience. And it shares the “rest of the story” that happened during those difficult years prior to the release of Snow White. Celebrate not just the park’s anniversary, but your own life with this unique book!

J. Jeff Kober

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