When the Disney-MGM Studios opened it's doors, people flocked to the new park. They loved the rides, the attractions, the shows - the only problem
was there wasn't enough of them. Michael Eisner sent his Imagineers away to design a bunch of new rides (a commandment that resulted in such projects as Roger Rabbit's Hollywood, the Muppet Studios and Mickey's Movieland), and one of the products they came back with was an attraction called Mel's Hotel.
Desiring a thrill ride (a component the studio park lacked at opening), the Imagineers decided that the horror genre of films would provide good source material. There was only one problem, Disney didn't do horror movies. Any attempts they had made into the genre had invariably failed. Hoping to compete with Universal's library of classic horror monsters, Disney looked into acquiring the rights to any modern day horror character they could name - Jason from Friday the 13th, Leatherface from the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Freddy from The Nightmare on Elm Street, the zombies from Night of the Living Dead. They even considered a show based on a short story by Stephen King. But none of their efforts succeeded.
Maybe it was a good thing. Michael Eisner, who cancelled a number of gangster-based projects because he viewed the era as too violent probably wouldn't have allowed R-rated movies into a Disney park. Instead, the Imagineers decided to rethink their project - without a real movie to base it on, why not create their own fictional movie. And to make it more Disney, why not introduce some comedy into it?
This combination of horror and comedy immediately led the Imagineers to the work of Mel Brooks, the acclaimed director of Young Frankenstein and many other zany comedies. Serendipitously, Disney was at the time working with Mel Brooks (he appeared as a performer in Mickey's Big Break - playing the director, Mel DeMille, that first hired the mouse), and Michael Eisner himself had a good relationship with him. Imagineering contacted him on
collaborating on an attraction, a prospect Mel jumped at.
Looming over Sunset Boulevard in the same place that the Tower of Terror currently stands, the idea they Imagineers came up with was for 'Hotel Mel'. Weaving through the
queue line, the guests would be told on overhead monitors that they were walking onto a 'hot set' - the location of a brand new horror film set inside a
dilapidated hotel directed by Mel Brooks himself. However, rumours were circulating amongst the crew that this hotel was actually haunted - but that couldn't stop Mr Brooks!
The guests would be auditioning for a role in Mel's new film, and would board studio golf carts. Mel would inform the guests these are 'special Disney Golf Carts. They're magical. These carts don't need drivers. They just follow some tape on the floor. Or bread crumbs. Or ... look, I don't know exactly how they work. I'm a director. Not an Imagineer. But -- trust me -- they work, okay? These carts will take you right where you need to go. Which is where I am. Here on the set. So climb aboard already, okay?'
Unfortunately, this is where the Imagineers got unsure. They didn't know whether to populate the ride with real monsters, or just actors performing in the movie. Either way, the ride was going to be
humorous, and the team came up with a number of cute gags;
- Driving through the kitchen, the guests would come across a coven of witches preparing a feast over a bubbling cauldron. A huge purple tentacle would be reaching out of one cauldron, holding a
ladle to stir a smaller cauldron nearby.
- In the lobby, guests would find out the hotel's bellman was the hunchback Quasimodo.
- Swerving into the men's room, Dracula would be attempting to shave at the sink, only to keep cutting himself because he can't see his reflection. Next to him, the wolfman would be combing his face. And next to him, the Invisible Man would be admiring himself, commenting 'Don't I look stunning tonight?'
- Underneath one of the bathroom stalls, a pair of Frankenstein feet would be seen beneath the cubicle door, next to a pair of Egyptian Mummy feet. The Frankenstein monster, in search of toilet paper, would be mistakenly reaching for the Mummy's bandage wrappings.
The conclusion of the ride would include an animatronic recreation of Mel Brooks himself on a crane-mounted camera, instructing the guests to scream as part of their audition. Why they needed to scream, though, the Imagineers couldn't quite figure out.