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 fans of the iconic Disney attraction – The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – as they converge on Midsummer Scream Halloween Festival at the Long Beach Convention Center this July.
Kicking off this year’s world-class presentations in the Terrace Theater at 12 noon on Saturday, July 29, is a must-see panel discussion titled, “Beyond the 5th Dimension: Creating The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror”.
Hosted by Midsummer Scream Creative Director Rick West, this thrilling panel discussion will feature Cory Sewelson, who served as the Production Designer/Art Director for the Florida version of Tower, and the Producer/Creative Director for California and Paris’ versions of the attraction; Michael Sprout, who was the Show Writer on each Tower project, including Tokyo’s, which does not carry The Twilight Zone theme; and Mark Silverman, the amazing voice actor who brought the persona of Rod Serling to life for the Florida, California, and Paris attractions.
“Midsummer Scream attracts a huge number of theme park and themed entertainment fans,” says David Markland, the convention’s Executive Director. “They come from far and near to learn what their favorite attractions are doing for Halloween; since they’re there en masse, we deliver theme park-specific content throughout the weekend, keeping that segment of the community engaged with exciting presentations they can’t find anywhere else.”
“The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is one of the greatest attractions ever designed,” adds Rick West, who is also the Founder/Editor of Theme Park Adventure. “When the original opened in 1994, no one had ever seen anything like it; it was, and remains remarkable in every way – from its aesthetics to storyline and ride experience. It came to California in 2004, and despite some down-sizing of the experience, it quickly became the anchor attraction for Disney California Adventure. Southern California fans immediately fell in love with it. The attraction’s popularity spread to Paris, where it opened in 2007. A version of Tower without the Twilight Zone theme also exists in Japan at Tokyo DisneySea. The attraction really has become a global sensation with fans literally in every corner of the world. It’s a natural fit for Midsummer Scream and our audience. I have no doubt that the house will be packed for this special presentation that features some of the great talents that were key in Tower’s design process and evolution. As a huge fan myself, I cannot wait to witness this!”
Beyond the 5th Dimension: Creating The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is the first major presentation of Midsummer Scream, taking place at the Terrace Theater, which is part of the Long Beach Convention Center complex. The state-of-the-art theater can hold more than 3,000 guests.
MEET THE PLAYERS
Cory Sewelson – Cory was the Production Designer/Art Director for the original Tower of Terror in Florida. As both an employee and later a consultant, Cory spent over 30 years at Walt Disney Imagineering performing various roles as Art Director, Producer, Designer, and Creative Director. His projects involved many attractions, along with food, merchandise, and entertainment venues. At one time or another, Cory has worked on every Disney park worldwide. Starting out as a Model Designer/Production Designer on the Living Seas Pavilion at EPCOT Center, he was later the Creative Director/Producer for the Hollywood area of Disney California Adventure, and for the Paris parks expansion projects during 2005-2008. But, for him, the one stand-out project is The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, as he performed either Art Director or Producer roles on three of the four locations.
Michael Sprout – As the Show Writer, Michael breathed life into the Tower of Terror with his words on a blank page. He worked with the creative team to create the lore – and now-famous dialogue associated with the haunting attraction. He joined WED Enterprises, later Walt Disney Imagineering, in 1981 as a Show Programmer working with Audio-Animatronics figures for Tokyo Disneyland and EPCOT. He made the transition to Show Design in 1983 as a writer and programmer for the Country Bear Christmas Special for both Disneyland and the Walt Disney World Resort’s Magic Kingdom. Since that time, he was involved in the concept, development, script writing, and installation of attractions for Walt Disney Studio Park in Paris (Toon Studio, Crush’s Coaster, Cars Quatre Roues Rallye), The Disney-MGM Studios (SuperStar Television; The Great Movie Ride; The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror) Tokyo DisneySea (StormRider, The Magic Lamp Theater, Tower of Terror), and Disney’s California Adventure Park (Mission Tortilla, Boudin Bakery, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror). Just prior to his retirement, in 2015, he contributed to the Fantasyland expansion for the Magic Kingdom, Shanghai Disneyland Fantasyland, and the Jungle Cruise enhancement for Tokyo Disneyland.
Mark Silverman – When riders “wave goodbye to the real world” and “check into a deserted hotel on the dark side of Hollywood”, it’s Mark’s impeccable Rod Serling narration that guides them into the Twilight Zone. Mark grew up in Southern California, and soon became obsessed with Disneyland and its many voices. He would bring a small tape recorder into the park to record the rides, and practice all the narration from his favorite attractions at home. Mark became a versatile voice actor, and got hired by KROQ radio in the ’80s doing celebrity impressions on its morning show. Soon after that, Mark started getting hired to re-voice celebrities that could not make it to their recording sessions. In 1993, Mark was hired by Universal Studios to re-voice 80 lines of dialog for Al Pacino for the network premiere of Carlito’s Way. The following year, Mark was hired by Walt Disney Imagineering to narrate The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror for Walt Disney World. Out of hundreds of people Mark got the job and the approval of Carole Serling, Rod Serling’s widow. Mark has done many more voice acting jobs for Disney, including voicing Friend Owl for many Bambi DVDs and toys. When Disney dubbed Miyazaki’s Howl’s Moving Castle into English, Mark was cast as the voice of the King. The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film.
Rick West – A lifelong theme park fan, Rick created Theme Park Adventure in 1994, originally as a print publication, and then the Internet’s first themed entertainment fan site. In the late ’80s, Rick worked at Disneyland on such attractions as Pirates of the Caribbean, The Haunted Mansion, and Country Bear Jamboree. From the park, Rick transferred to Walt Disney Television Animation where he worked as a Production Assistant on TaleSpin. In the ’90s, Rick worked for a short time in operations at Knott’s Berry Farm, first during its annual Halloween Haunt event, and then full-time as a ride operator in Fiesta Village. Later in the decade, he moved to San Francisco, where he became Visitor Services Manager for Aquarium of the Bay on Pier 39. Before returning to Southern California, Rick lived for several years in Las Vegas, where he worked for MGM Resorts International at Excalibur in a supervisory role at its Players Club on the casino floor. Through Rick’s extensive networking with TPA, he crossed over and became part of the themed entertainment industry as a Show Writer during this past decade, working for companies such as Thinkwell, BRC Imagination Arts, The Hettema Group, and Wyatt Design Group. Currently, he works at Rethink Leisure & Entertainment as their in-house Show Writer on a wide range of projects. Rick is the Creative Director of Midsummer Scream.
“The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror presentation at Midsummer Scream is going to be something very special,” added West. “Especially for Southern California fans, who are very passionate about the conversion of Tower into the new Guardians of the Galaxy ride. It’s a hot button issue here, for sure, and will be discussed during the presentation. In the end, I can’t think of a better forum or way for hard core Tower of Terror fans to come together here in SoCal to bid Tower as we knew it here for 12 years farewell, with some of the key people who helped create it.”
Tickets for Midsummer Scream are on sale now. Click here for ticketing options and sales.
Midsummer Scream will be held July 29-30, 2017 at the Long Beach Convention Center.
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Midsummer Scream is a large-scale summer festival celebrating the spirit of Halloween, haunts and horror, drawing thousands of guests to Southern California for a weekend of thrills and chills. Featuring a massive show floor of vendors and exhibitors, haunted attractions and experiences, live entertainment and world-class panel presentations, Midsummer Scream is the West Coast’s premier Halloween/horror event, offering something for fans of all ages. More information can be found at MidsummerScream.org.