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The Science Behind the Magic: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

The Disney Imagination Campus team
by The Disney Imagination Campus team

Let's take a look at how the science of motion within physics creates the thrilling drops within The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney’s Hollywood Studios?

Today we are going to focus on two concepts: Newton’s Laws of Motion and gravity and how they help create the free-fall effects experienced in this exhilarating attraction. We invite you, if you dare, to step aboard and explore the science behind…The Twilight Zone.  

Newton's Laws of Motion

What is it? Sir Isaac Newton recorded the three laws of motion:

1.  An object in motion will stay in motion (in one direction) unless acted upon by an outside force. An object at rest will stay at rest unless acted upon by an outside force.
2.  The force of an object is equal to the mass of that object times its acceleration.
3.  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

How do we use it? Newton's Laws of Motion explains why the "service elevator" will stay in motion unless it is acted upon by an outside force – in this case, a lift and drop mechanism that creates the “up and down” movement in the drop shafts. Understanding the laws of motion also explains why you might feel weightless when you feel the first major dropping sensation – be ready to smile for the camera!

Where do we use it? When riding the attraction, you might feel heavier than usual when the “service elevator” accelerates upward and lighter than usual when the “service elevator” accelerates downward. The forces you are feeling when you accelerate upward are called G-force, or gravitational force. The laws of motion also act through the mechanism that creates the different drop sequences you might experience, so you never know what to expect, which is what makes it so fun!

Gravity

What is it? Gravity is what prevents us from floating into space and keeps us grounded. 

How do we use it? We use gravity to create some exciting effects on our attractions. Did you know that the “service elevators” ridden by Guests move faster than the speed of gravity? This creates an exciting, weightless sensation – especially when the “service elevator” drops from the top floor to the bottom!

Where do we use it? In this thrilling attraction, passengers are propelled up and pulled down, unexpectedly. Gravity is the force that brings us back to our seats. 

So, next time you ride The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, be sure to keep an eye out for these science concepts in action!

Ready to learn more? Check out the Physics of Disney Parks workshop at Walt Disney World® Resort or the Disneyland® Resort for a discovery behind the magic at some of our most popular attractions for a real-world application of motion physics, gravity, and much more. 

Connect with us to stay up to date on all things Disney Imagination Campus and be sure to check out all of our workshops and performance opportunites where we make our parks your classroom.

The Twilight Zone® is a registered trademark of CBS, Inc., and is used with permission pursuant to a license from CBS, Inc.
©Disney/CBS, Inc.

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