The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
|The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror|
The original and first Tower of Terror, in Walt Disney World's Hollywood Studios
|Attraction type||Drop tower|
|Manufacturer||Otis Elevator Company|
|Designer||Walt Disney Imagineering|
|Theme||The Twilight Zone|
|Vehicle type||Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV)/Elevator|
|Height restriction||40 in (102 cm)|
|Hosted by||Rod Serling (voice of Mark Silverman in English versions)|
Disney's Fastpass available
Must transfer from wheelchair
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, commonly known as Tower of Terror, is an accelerated drop tower dark ride located at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney California Adventure, Tokyo DisneySea and Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris. Exempting the Tokyo version, all the attractions are based upon Rod Serling's CBS television anthology series, The Twilight Zone, and take place in the fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel, in Hollywood, California. The Tokyo version, which features an original storyline not derived from The Twilight Zone, takes place in the fictional Hotel Hightower. Nevertheless, all four versions place riders in a vehicle themed as a seemingly ordinary hotel elevator, and present riders with a fictional back story in which people mysteriously disappeared from a hotel elevator under the influence of some supernatural element many years prior.
The original version of the attraction opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios (at Walt Disney World in Florida) in July 1994, and was the basis of the 1997 made-for-television movie Tower of Terror where several scenes were shot at the actual attraction. A decade later, Disney began plans to add similar versions of the attraction at their newest parks at the Disneyland Resort in California, Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan, and Disneyland Resort Paris; in California and Paris, Disney sought to use the popular attraction to boost attendance at the respective resorts' struggling new theme parks. The California and Tokyo versions of Tower of Terror opened in 2004 and 2006, respectively, while financial problems delayed the opening of the Paris version until 2008.
The Tower of Terror buildings are among the tallest found at their respective Disney resorts. At 199 feet (60.7 m), the Florida version is the second tallest attraction building at the Walt Disney World Resort, shorter only than Expedition Everest's 199.5 feet (60.8 m). At the Disneyland Resort, the 183-foot (55.8 m) structure is the tallest attraction at the resort, as well as one of the tallest buildings in Anaheim. At Disneyland Paris it is the second tallest attraction.
- 1 Queue and pre-show
- 2 Timeline
- 3 Disney's Hollywood Studios version
- 4 Disney California Adventure version
- 5 Tokyo DisneySea version
- 6 Walt Disney Studios Park version
- 7 Twilight Zone references and design information
- 8 Soundtrack
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 External links
Queue and pre-show
In the American and European versions of the attraction, guests enter the Hollywood Tower Hotel through the front gate. Throughout the entire queue area in most parks, typical 1930s jazz music can be heard, hauntingly echoing through a cracked, serpentine pathway which leads to the hotel. The outdoor queue winds through the overgrown gardens of the hotel, past signs pointing to the stables, bowling green, tennis courts and swimming pools. The queue meanders to the west of the hotel entrance, past disheveled and crumbling statuary and a vine-covered pavilion. Eventually it leads to the lobby from the left. Inside the doors, the Hollywood Tower Hotel appears frozen in time, everything in it draped in decades' worth of dust and decay. There is a yellowed copy of the Los Angeles Examiner dated October 31, 1939, a table set with tea and stale pastries, several suitcases abandoned near the front desk, a long-extinguished fireplace, an unfinished game of Mahjong at a table accompanied by a few rancid cocktails, a concierge desk with a hat and cane left behind, and a cobwebbed owl sculpture surrounded by a circle of dead flowers acting as the centerpiece of the lobby. In the California and Paris versions, the game of Mahjong was replaced with an unfinished game of cards.
Behind the front desk are the elevators; the sliding doors of one are partially detached from their grooves. A sign in front of the elevator still reads "Out of Order." Everything in the hotel has apparently been preserved ever since it closed that fateful night all those years ago. Guests are informed that their rooms are not quite ready; in the meantime, guests are ushered into the hotel library. The library is home to not only books, but also the hotel's collection of antiques and exotic curiosities, an old television set, and various pieces of Twilight Zone memorabilia scattered about the room. Through the window, guests may observe a fierce thunderstorm raging outside.
With a bolt of lightning the power suddenly goes out, save for the television which crackles into life, apparently of its own accord, with the opening sequence from Season 4 and Season 5 of The Twilight Zone plays, followed by a supposedly "lost" episode hosted by Rod Serling (which is actually a modified re-themed introduction taken from the show's third season's eighth episode "It's a Good Life.") With the benefit of Disney's use of numerous Twilight Zone audio samples, Serling fills in some of the blanks regarding the closure of the Hollywood Tower Hotel back in 1939. The episode shows the hotel on that night all those years ago. A ferocious thunderstorm has enveloped the building and grounds. The episode then cuts to the lobby, where singer Carolyn Crosson, her boyfriend Gilbert London, child actress Sally Shine (who is modeled after child actress Shirley Temple) and her nanny Emeline Partridge accompanied by a hotel bellhop Dewey Todd board the elevator. None of the names of the characters are mentioned or referenced in the pre-show.
The elevator ascends normally at first, but then, the lightning bolt strikes the hotel, causing an entire wing and the guests to vanish, and causing the elevator to drop rapidly and crash, sending all five people into the Twilight Zone. The lightning strike explains the missing front wing with burn marks across the face of the hotel, allowing those outside the hotels to periodically see the elevators ascending and dropping. Taking the episode back to the present, Serling comments that the storm outside is similar to the one that sent the fateful five into the Fifth Dimension. He also explains that the only elevator in the hotel still in working condition is the maintenance service elevator located in the basement at the boiler room. He invites the guests, "if they dare", to board the elevator and discover the secret of the Hollywood Tower Hotel and make each of them a star of The Twilight Zone. The television then turns off and is followed by a brief moment of darkness. With that, a back exit from the library opens. The guests exit into and move through the boiler room, past quietly humming boilers, furnaces and engines, at the end of which they are directed by a "bellhop" to a row to stand on, a marker, awaiting the service elevator's arrival.
- Late 1980s: The idea for a drop tower ride is conceived for Disney's Hollywood Studios.
- Early 1990s: Plans for a haunted hotel ride with Mel Brooks narrating was planned, but never happened. It was later that a new ride system in theme with The Twilight Zone was decided.
- 1992: Site clearing, prep, and construction begin.
- July 4, 1994: Original ride opening but did not happen.
- July 22, 1994: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror officially opens at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
- 2002: Plans to open Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure are announced. Construction also begins that year.
- May 5, 2004: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror officially opens at Disney California Adventure.
- 2005: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is announced to open at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris.
- Early 2006: Construction begins on the ride in Paris.
- 2006: The Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure starts receiving seasonal enhancements during Halloween.
- September 22, 2006: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror officially opens at Tokyo DisneySea.
- December 22, 2007: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror officially opens at Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris.
- Early 2010: Disney announces that Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios would receive new effects to the ride as part of Summer Nightastic.
- June 6, 2010: New effects officially debut.
- August 14, 2010: New effects are removed.
- August 13, 2014: An on ride camera is placed on the ride at Disney's Hollywood Studios recording video of riders so they could purchase a video of their ride.
Disney's Hollywood Studios version
Florida's version of the ride is the original version of the ride, and opened July 22, 1994. The distinctive architectural features on and around the attraction's roof were designed so that the rear facade, which is visible from Epcot, would blend seamlessly with the skyline of the Morocco Pavilion in World Showcase. The ride's slogan is "Never the Same Fear Twice!" This is as each drop pattern is auto-selected, by a computer, before the ride begins.
It reaches a top speed of 30.7 miles per hour (49.406 kilometres per hour).
In the late 1980s, a Phase 2 plan for Disneyland Paris (originally known as Euro Disney) was a Freefall type ride that was to be named Geyser Mountain. It would have been part roller coaster, part freefall ride that shot guests up a vertical drop shaft. The plan was scrapped, but was picked up by Disney's Hollywood Studios (then Disney-MGM Studios) as part of a massive expansion to the park. Several attractions were proposed including "Dick Tracy's Crimestoppers", which would be later made into Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland. Still needing a big "E-ticket" ride, the idea of a drop shaft ride came back and was chosen.
The idea of a haunted hotel would seem like the best fit for Sunset Boulevard, but no real concept was reached. Several proposed ideas included a Vincent Price ghost tour, a Mel Brooks narrated ride, and a real hotel, and a whodunit murder mystery, but none were made. However, the "mystery" part was picked up and seemed to work. A 1930s Hollywood hotel with a "The Twilight Zone" theme was decided, but a new ride system had to be built. This would allow both more capacity inside the ride and allow the drop to be last. Otis Elevator Company and Eaton-Kenway both helped create both the vertical ride system and ride vehicle that could drive itself horizontally, respectively.
Site clearing and prep began early 1992. A sinkhole led to the site's being moved slightly. After construction ended, the ride was set to open on July 4, 1994. However, both Sunset Blvd. and the Tower of Terror opened on July 22, 1994.
The ride system of The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios employs specialized technology developed specifically for Disney, particularly the ability to move the vehicle in and out of the vertical motion shaft. The elevator cabs are self-propelled automated ride vehicles, also known as automated guided vehicles, which lock into separate vertical motion cabs. The cabs can move into and out of elevators horizontally, move through the "Fifth Dimension" scene, and on to the drop shaft.
In order to achieve the weightless effect the Imagineers desired, cables attached to the bottom of the elevator car pull it down at a speed slightly faster than what a free-fall in gravity would provide. Two enormous motors are located at the top of the tower. The motors are 12 feet (3.7 m) tall, 35 feet (11 m) long, and weigh 132,000 pounds (60,000 kg). They are able to accelerate 10 short tons (9.1 t) at 15 times the speed of normal elevators. They generate torque equal to that of 275 Corvette engines and reach top speeds in 1.5 seconds.
After the elevator cab has completed the ride, it propels itself to the unload dock and then back to the show shaft. The Floridian ride runs on a unique loop system different from the versions used in California, Paris, and Tokyo.
In this version of the attraction, Rod Serling's voice greets passengers the moment the elevator doors close, saying:
- You are the passengers on a most uncommon elevator about to ascend into your very own episode of The Twilight Zone.
The elevator rises for a few seconds before coming to its first stop. The doors open to reveal a long, dimly lit hotel corridor, with overgrown plants and doors to guest rooms running the length, accompanied by morning newspapers and room service trays. A single window is at the opposite end of the corridor. A violent thunderstorm is raging and lightning flashes outside the window. The five missing passengers from 1939 appear for several moments, turning to face the elevator and beckoning the guests to join them. Then they disappear in a burst of electricity. The corridor fades away, but the window remains until it appears to be floating in a dark field of stars. The window morphs into the window from Season 5 opening and breaks, as in the opening sequence of the television series.
Fifth Dimension scene
The elevator doors close and the car continues its ascent. Serling's narration goes on, saying:
- 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 you.
The elevator stops once more. The doors open to what at first looks like a maintenance room, but slowly transforms into a field of stars. The elevator car emerges horizontally from the lift shaft and enters a section of the ride called The Fifth Dimension, which is a bizarre collection of sights and sounds and starfields, again in the style of the television show's opening sequence. A rendition of The Twilight Zone opening sequence plays throughout. The scene ends as the elevator reaches another star field which splits and opens much like elevator doors. The elevator enters another vertical shaft, this one pitch black. Serling's voice is heard again, saying:
- You are about to discover what lies beyond the fifth dimension, beyond the deepest, darkest corner of the imagination, in the Tower of Terror.
On the last word of Serling's narration, the elevator starts its drop sequence. Rather than a simple gravity-powered drop, however, the elevator is pulled downwards, causing most riders to rise off their seats, held down only by a seat belt. At least once during the drop sequence, wide elevator doors in front of the riders open to reveal a view of the park from a height of 139 ft (42 m), the approximate height of a 13-story building. The back of the "Hollywood Tower Hotel" sign partially obstructs the view (it is on the back of this sign that the on-ride camera is located, which records the riders for purchase of a video and/or photograph later).
Randomized patterns of drops and lifts have been added, where the ride vehicle will drop or rise various distances at different intervals. Other effects were also added, including new projection images of the breaking window, wind effects, lightning flashes, and ominous bluelit figures of the five ghostly original riders. These changes were made so that each trip on The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is a slightly different experience. The ride was reprogrammed most recently in its fourth conversion. The result of the reprogramming is that the ride system allows for any number of randomized drops and lifts. When guests enter the drop shaft, a computer randomly chooses one of four drop profiles, one of which is a modified version of the ride's third incarnation. Regardless of the number of randomized drops and lifts, each drop sequence always features one "faux drop" meant to startle the riders, and one complete drop through the entire tower.
After a series of these drops have been made, the elevator returns to the basement of the decrepit Hollywood Tower Hotel, past a curious array of abandoned items. A short clip plays, showing elements from the season five opening sequence, along with the 1939 elevator passengers and Rod Serling, falling into the "vortex" seen in the season three opening sequence. Rod Serling's voice says:
- A warm welcome back to those of you who made it, and a friendly word of warning, something you won't find in any guidebook. The next time you check into a deserted hotel on the dark side of Hollywood, make sure you know just what kind of vacancy you're filling. Or you may find yourself a permanent resident... of the Twilight Zone.
Guests then exit the elevator, leaving the hotel through the gift shop.
Ride exit and shop
On leaving the elevator, guests are led through a hotel corridor towards what would appear to be the old "Lost & Found" desk of the Hollywood Tower Hotel; however, it is now where photos taken on the ride may be purchased. After this desk, guests pass a cracked fountain to the left and on the right can be seen the Hollywood Tower Hotel's supposed dining room, previously called The Sunset Room (either a potential pun on its location on Sunset Boulevard or a reference to the actual time of twilight). The menu, placed outside the closed double-doors, is still dated October 31, 1939. Guests then enter the shop, which is still kept in the theme of the hotel, with cracked walls and dim lights. From here guests may purchase Twilight Zone gifts and Hollywood Tower Hotel-themed souvenirs, including hotel bathrobes and slippers.
On August 13, 2014, the ride's on-ride camera began recording video of riders, so that riders could purchase a picture of their ride or a video. The video includes pre-recorded parts as well as the riders at the top, using the previous on-ride camera, as well as a new on-ride camera being placed at the end of the Fifth Dimension scene. This was the first ride at Walt Disney World to offer on-ride videos. On September 18, 2014, the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train ride at the Magic Kingdom began offering on-ride videos and pictures as well, making these the only two rides at Walt Disney World to offer videos and pictures.
Summer Nightastic update
Disney announced on their Parks and Resorts blog that the Tower of Terror would receive "new lighting effects and a new addition" as part of a summer entertainment package called "Summer Nightastic!". The Fifth Dimension scene is mostly covered by black tarps with fiber optic stars, and Serling's voice is removed from just before the drop profile. Replacing it is music played in the drop shaft, along with a projected picture of the riders just before they enter the drop shaft. Similar to the California Adventure and Walt Disney Studios Park versions of the ride, the riders disappear to show an empty elevator. A new drop profile was also created for "Summer Nightastic!", and replaces the other drop profiles on all rides. The profile mainly consisted of utilising the entire tower for the drop sequences, as compared to the numerous faux and shortened drops in the randomised version. The changes were implemented on June 5, 2010, but were officially introduced the day after. All changes were temporary, and lasted until August 14.
Disney California Adventure version
While retaining the concept and theme of the original attraction in Florida, the version at Disney California Adventure Park does have some differences.
In order to conserve space and money, Imagineers redesigned the entire ride system for the West Coast incarnation of the attraction and made some general changes to the show scenes. The attraction features three elevator shafts. Each shaft, in theory, is its own separate ride with its own separate operating system. Doing this made it easier to repair individual areas of the attraction without causing the entire attraction to go down.
Each shaft has two vehicles and two loading levels. It is designed so that the lower vehicle can be in profile while the upper vehicle is loading, making the attraction much more efficient. Since each vehicle loads and unloads from the same point, it also saves space. Since this system works so much more efficiently, it is the system used in both the Paris and Tokyo versions of the ride as well.
When the show cycle starts, the vehicle pushes backwards away from the elevator door while a starfield appears around it and a purple spiral appears on the doors. The voice of Rod Serling says, "You are the passengers of a most uncommon elevator, about to take the strangest journey of your lives. Your destination...unknown, but this much is clear--a reservation has been made in your name for an extended stay." A door closes, placing riders in darkness as the elevator rises. The first stop for the elevator is a hallway with a large mirror. Rod Serling tells the riders to "wave goodbye to the real world." As they do, lightning strikes and electricity begins to arc around the mirror and the reflection of the riders is replaced by a ghostly silhouette of themselves. The passengers' reflection then disappears as Serling says, "For you have just entered...The Twilight Zone!" This is actually a thermal-mirror, which shuts off to reveal the dummy vehicle behind it. The elevator door closes as it moves to the next show scene.
As the door reopens, it reveals a corridor of the hotel, with an elevator door located on the far end of it. Here, Serling says, "What happened here to dim the lights of Hollywood's brightest showplace is about to unfold once again," which is followed by an appearance of the ghosts of the five passengers. Electricity courses through the hallway after their disappearance as Serling says, "One stormy night long ago, five people stepped through the door of an elevator and into a nightmare." The hallway slowly fades away into a starfield with the lost passengers standing in the now-open elevator that was at the end of the hallway. Serling then says, "That door is opening once again, but this time, it's opening for you." The haunted elevator then drops.
A second later, the guests' elevator begins its drop sequence: a drop from the show scene to the first floor, then a rise to the "13th" floor. After flashing strobe lights and the photo opportunity, the elevator has a short drop, followed by a longer one, then a rise that goes 2/3 of the way up to the top and an immediate fall down to "B3." The lights flicker as the elevator goes all the way back up to the top. It is then that the top floor doors open and guests are treated to a sky-high overview of both Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
It pauses there for a moment and falls into place between the load levels (so that both load levels give the same ride) and a door opens again and guests see an elevator door. The vehicle begins moving toward the door. The Twilight Zone theme begins to play again as Rod Serling says, "The next time you check into a deserted hotel on the dark side of Hollywood, be sure you know just what kind of vacancy you're filling or you may find yourself a permanent resident...of The Twilight Zone."
The door opens and the guests disembark from the ride vehicle, making their way to the Tower Hotel Gifts shop.
While similar in concept and theme to the original attraction in Florida, the versions of this attraction at Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney Studios Park at the Disneyland Paris Resort do have some major differences. These versions of the ride opened in 2004 and 2008, respectively, 10 and 14 years after the opening of the original Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios. Therefore, several advances in technology have given them the ability to move much more quickly and nimbly than Florida's.
New ride operation system
In order to conserve space and money, Imagineers redesigned the entire ride system for the attraction at Disney California Adventure and made some general changes to the show scenes. The attraction features three elevator shafts. Each shaft, in theory, is its own separate ride with its own separate operating system. This makes it easier to repair individual areas of the attraction without causing the entire attraction to go down. Each shaft has two vehicles and two load levels. It is designed so that the lower vehicle can be in its ride profile while the upper vehicle is loading, giving the attraction the ability to move its line much faster. Since each vehicle loads and unloads from the same point, it ended up saving space. Due to the smaller budget and fewer breakdowns, Disney decided to use this ride system again for Walt Disney Studios Park's version of the ride and for Tokyo DisneySea's Hotel Hightower (Tokyo's version of the Tower of Terror).
Instead of the autonomous vehicle found in the original incarnation, the scaled down version uses only a single shaft for each car. As the elevator doors close, the lights of the service elevator flicker out. The redesigned, multilevel boarding ride system for the Californian version of the tower requires that one elevator loads while another is in the drop shaft progressing through the ride cycle. As such, the first movement guests experience is horizontal, as the elevator itself is pulled back from the doors as Rod Serling's voice is heard.
- You are the passengers on a most uncommon elevator...
With a flash of lightning, the walls of the basement disappear altogether, leaving only a starfield around the service doors with a rotating purple spiral.
- ...about to take the strangest journey of your lives. Your destination? Unknown. But this much is clear: a reservation has been made in your name for an extended stay.
The elevator rises quickly to the fifth floor. Because the dark ride portion of California's tower takes place in the drop shaft, the physical vertical vehicle conveyance system can move much more quickly and nimbly than Florida's (in which the first tower functions only as a dark ride and is not built for the quick movements that the drop portion requires). As such, visitors feel a moment of weightlessness as the elevator quickly ascends and then stops on the fifth floor.
When the doors open, an ornate, wood-framed mirror stands in a brightly lit hallway of the hotel and riders see their reflection in its glass. Serling then says:
- Wave goodbye to the real world.
Suddenly, lightning strikes the hotel and the lights of both the hallway and elevator flicker out. A ghostly wind blows through a window and the reflection of riders in the elevator becomes distorted. With another blast, the elevator rumbles and shakes and with a final blast of lightning the electrified reflection disappears, leaving only the image of the empty elevator in the mirror as the doors close.
- For you have just entered the Twilight Zone.
The elevator descends and opens to reveal the "hallway" scene with an image of another elevator at the other end of the hallway, unlike Florida's version which shows a window.
- What happened here to dim the lights of Hollywood's brightest showplace is about to unfold once again.
The five missing guests appear in the hallway, crackling with electricity and beckon riders to follow them. They disappear, and the walls of the hotel become a starfield, leaving just the other elevator. Serling says:
- One stormy night long ago, five people stepped through the door of an elevator and into a nightmare.
The other elevator doors open to reveal the lost passengers inside as both elevators appear to float through space.
- That door is opening once again, but this time it's opening for you.
The distant guests fall, then the distant elevator, followed immediately by the ride elevator. California's version does not have a randomized drop sequence. The ride experience is identical in every drop shaft, regardless of which floor passengers board on. Two small drops occur in pitch-black darkness, followed by a rise to the top of the tower as in-cabin lights flicker. The doors then open out to reveal the view from the top floor before the ride drops briefly, pauses, and drops the remainder of the shaft. The elevator then rises and immediately drops without stopping in complete darkness. The elevator then rises to the top of the tower, shudders, and falls to the bottom of the shaft to the area in between the two loading floors (to assure each ride is identical) before the elevator returns to its load level and is horizontally pushed back into place at the boiler room service doors.
As the elevator is pushed back into place, Serling delivers his final narration:
- The next time you check into a deserted hotel on the dark side of Hollywood, make sure you know just what kind of vacancy you're filling. Or you may find yourself a permanent resident... of the Twilight Zone.'
After which, the service doors open and guests exit the hotel through the basement and the gift shop.
Seasonal enhancements during Halloween
Starting in 2006, during Disney's annual Halloween Time, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's California Adventure received special sound and lighting effects for the exterior, and themed Halloween decor for the surrounding area and in the lobby. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is the starting point of Disney's "Happiest Haunts on Earth" tour. In 2008 the Halloween decor was not put up, but lights projected spinning spider webs on the exterior of the hotel. Since the introduction of Buena Vista Street, the special Halloween decor and lighting effects have no longer been used.
Tokyo DisneySea version
The Tower of Terror at Tokyo DisneySea has no connection or tie-in whatsoever with The Twilight Zone, as the Oriental Land Company would have to pay licensing fees to both Disney and CBS for the attraction and a second, separate instance to CBS for royalty rights to The Twilight Zone. Instead, the attraction is themed as the fictional Hotel Hightower. The ride's facade is an example of Moorish Revival architecture, and the Tower is located in the American Waterfront area of the park, close to the S.S. Columbia cruise liner. The ride system for this version is similar to that of the Disney's California Adventure and Walt Disney Studios Paris versions.
The story of this Tower is more complex than its American and European counterparts. The story follows the adventures of the hotel's famous builder and owner, Harrison Hightower III, who completed many expeditions around the world and has collected thousands of priceless artifacts. Most of these artifacts were stolen for personal gain and stored in his hotel. After one such expedition to Africa, he brings home an idol by the name of Shiriki Utundu.
Hightower claims that the natives were very angry to have their beloved god taken, and threatened that the idol would curse him. On New Year's Eve, 1899, Hightower holds a press conference about his expedition to Africa, followed by a huge party. Hightower boasts about how he acquired the idol and denies claims of it being cursed. Just when he leaves the party, he even mocks the idol, using its head to put out his cigar. Around midnight, he enters the elevator to retire to his private apartments in the hotel penthouse. As the elevator nears the top, the idol comes to life.
The idol's immense rage and power causes the elevator to plummet and crash on the ground floor. When the doors were pried open, only Hightower's hat and the idol were recovered. The hotel was abruptly closed and condemned for more than a decade, rumored by locals to be haunted. In 1912, following pressure to demolish the hotel, a New York restoration company reopened it because of its historical significance. The company now offers paid tours of the building. It is on these "tours" that guests embark when they enter the hotel.
Line and preshow
The line starts outside the Hotel Hightower, where guests can see the windows are almost completely shattered, and winds through the gardens filled with many statues from many different countries. Signs are posted all over the front advertising the tour. Guests then enter the lobby, a very elaborate and well-decorated room filled with lush furniture and beautiful art. Across each arch near the ceiling is a mural of Hightower on one of his adventures. If one looks closely, they will notice that he is actually escaping the native people in some way with a valuable artifact or item in his possession. At the end of the lobby are the elevator doors, left open in its destroyed state with only a single plank of wood holding it together. The broken cable is visible inside. Guests are then ushered into a room filled with many pictures of Hightower, his expeditions, and his hotel.
Guests enter one of two rooms, either his office or the library, and in each room a large stained glass window depicts a confident Hightower with Shiriki Utundu sitting on a pedestal nearby. A tour guide talks about Hightower a little, then winds up an old gramophone that plays a recording of Hightower's last interview. At this point, the lights dim. The stained glass window changes to show a now frightened Hightower holding the idol before showing him entering the elevator on that fateful night. It then shows the outside of the hotel as the elevator ascends. Suddenly, all the lights in the hotel turn off, and there is a big blast of green lightning. In an instant, the blast drops, shattering the bottom of the glass upon impact. At this point, Shiriki Utundu comes to life, looks around, laughs mischievously at the guests, and then it vanishes into a star-field, and a coal-colored fog covered the window, which remains the same when the fog is lifted. Guests are then ushered into an enormous storage room where Hightower kept his treasures. There are multiple loading rooms on the second floor, each themed to a different type of item. One has swords, another has tapestries, the third has stone tablets and other valuable artifacts.
The mechanics of the Tower are physically identical to the Californian and Parisian towers, with dual loading floors, a horizontal "push" away from the doors and into the drop tower, a "hallway" scene, and a mirror scene, but with thematic changes. The order of both mirror and hallway scenes is reversed compared to the American and European counterparts.
The lights of the elevator turn off as Hightower's voice explains the significance of the idol. The elevator is pulled backwards, away from the still-visible service elevator doors as the walls of the basement disappear and turn into a star-field. The glowing green eyes of the idol appear in the darkness as the elevator enters the drop shaft. The elevator begins its ascent, first stopping at the hallway scene.
The elevator doors open to reveal a dusty hallway, the idol sitting on a table halfway down. The ghost Hightower, glowing blue, appears beside it and reaches out to touch it. At once, the idol zaps him with a bolt of green electricity, blasting him backwards into an open elevator at the opposite end of the hall, where he drops down the shaft as the halls fade away into a star field. The idol turns toward the guests' elevator and laughs before the doors close.
The elevator ascends another level. The doors open, revealing a large, ornate mirror. Hightower tells the guest to wave goodbye to the real world. As they do, the lighting of the hotel is replaced with an eerie green glow as a glowing effect turns the reflections of the guests ghostly, similar to the DCA and DLRP Towers, however it should be known that the lightning strike is absent. The ghostly reflection of the riders disappears and leaves the idol alone in the empty elevator. The idol laughs menacingly at the riders, and suddenly shoots forward at them. The elevator vibrates and shakes and begins the drop sequence. The sequence is identical to the US version except the first two drops are missing (the ascent comes first) and the final drop takes place from the bottom set of doors rather than the top of the shaft.
At the end of the drop sequence, the elevator returns to the loading level, where the idol's green eyes glare from a star-field. Both elements disappear and are again replaced by the service doors through which guests entered.
Walt Disney Studios Park version
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disneyland Paris' Walt Disney Studios Park is based on the same designs as the version at Disney California Adventure Park. However, these designs were originally imagineered for the Paris park at the same time as Tokyo DisneySea's tower, and planned to open just two years after the opening of the park itself.
When financial troubles again hit Disney's Parisian resort, the attraction had to be put on hold. In the meantime, it was constructed at Disney's California Adventure as an additional crowd-puller.
The attraction was finally greenlit in 2005 and was under construction right in the center of the park, behind the La Terrasse seating area, in early 2006. Upon completion, it was joined by a new themed development producing an outdoor Hollywood Boulevard of faux movie sets. Unlike its American cousins, the Paris Tower was constructed using concrete rather than steel due to French construction guidelines and standards, at a total cost exceeding €180 million.
The Paris and California versions were originally believed to become identical versions upon completion, but some differences remain, notably the height of the building, the location of some rooms backstage as well as other differences due to construction and work regulations being stricter in France.
The name of the attraction in French is La Tour de la Terreur - Un Saut dans la Quatrième Dimension (The Tower of Terror - A Jump into the Fourth Dimension).
The default language for the pre-show library video and the ride is French, but can be changed to English by the Cast Member upon request. The library video is the same as the American version, but is dubbed in French and subtitled in English.
Twilight Zone references and design information
In an effort to be true to the spirit of The Twilight Zone, Disney Imagineers reportedly watched every episode of the original television show at least twice. The attraction buildings are littered with references to Twilight Zone episodes, including:
- In the hotel Lobby at California Adventure, there is a door with 22 in brass numbering. This is a reference to the episode "Twenty Two".
- In the lobby of the hotel, at California Adventure and Walt Disney Studios (Paris), on a couch sits a dusty old doll. Some say the doll is supposed to be Talky Tina from the Twilight Zone episode "Living Doll," but others say is Sally Shine, the little girl in the pre-show and ride experience, from the 1997 movie Tower of Terror. Others think the doll is simply a Shirley Temple doll.
- Following the Twilight Zone television opening sequence, Rod Serling's opening lines in the introduction video during the queue are as follows:
"Tonight's story on The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This as you may recognize is a..."
In the original episode, "It's a Good Life," Rod Serling says "...is a map of the United States." In the Tower of Terror opening lines, he says "...is a maintenance service elevator, still in operation, waiting for you..." Mark Silverman provided the entire voice impersonation of Serling for this particular dialogue sequence for both the Walt Disney World and California Adventure versions of the ride.
- At all rides besides Tokyo's, the preshow includes the little girl holding a Mickey Mouse plush toy, along with her still holding it on the hallway scene. At California Adventure's there is a picture behind the counter in the gift shop, that is said to be of Walt Disney at a Tip Top Club party holding a Mickey Mouse plush toy as well.
- Outside the libraries at California Adventure, in the glass case adjacent to the doors there is a gold thimble accompanied by a card that reads, "Looking for a gift for Mother? Find it in our Gift Shop!" This is a reference to the Twilight Zone episode "The After Hours."
- In the library, the Mystic Seer machine from the episode "Nick of Time" can be seen sitting on the high shelf.
- In the Florida library, there is the book titled To Serve Man from the episode of the same name.
- At California Adventure, envelopes with the names Rod Serling and Victoria West can be found in both libraries, near the sliding wall, a reference to the episode "A World of His Own." In Library 1, it sticks out of the top of the green books. In Library 2, it sits in front of the books. The green books contain titles of selected Twilight Zone episodes. Other books in the libraries are in various languages from around the world, including German and Danish.
- The trumpet from "A Passage for Trumpet" can be seen in the display while exiting the libraries.
- The queue at both the California Adventure and the Paris venues features a reference to the Twilight Zone episode "Little Girl Lost." Chalk marks on the walls are in the same style that they were in the episode when trying to find where the portal to find the girl was. This can be found in the upper level of the boiler room next to the attraction warning signage at each of the 2 venues. Periodically the girl's voice can be heard calling out for help from the wall and from the radios around the boiler room.
- The elevator has a plaque that says the last time the elevator was checked. Its number is 10259, which is a nod to the date October 2, 1959, the date The Twilight Zone first aired. The plaque also states the elevator was checked by Mr. Cadwallader, the sinister deal maker from the episode "Escape Clause."
- After guests are loaded on the elevator, the needle indicating which floor the elevator is on moves past the 12th floor. This is a reference to the 9th floor in the episode "The After Hours."
- As the ride comes to a stop in Florida, the slot machine from the Twilight Zone episode "The Fever" can be seen.
- Upon exiting the Disneyland Paris venue, the display cases on the ground floor contain advertisements for, among other things, a "Housemaid Wanted" (a reference to the Twilight Zone episode "I Sing The Body Electric") and for "A Pair of Reading Glasses Wanted" ("Time Enough At Last.") There are some 20 advertisements of this nature at the exit of the Paris venue.
- As the ride comes to a stop the flying saucer from the Twilight Zone episode "The Invaders" is hanging from the ceiling. The eponymous characters of that same episode can be found on display in the libraries at the Florida, California and Paris attraction.
- Both of the elevator exit areas of the Florida ride contain a display featuring, among other things, the ventriloquist dummy "Caesar" from the Twilight Zone episode "Caesar and Me."
- There is a display case in the photo gallery of the Tower of Terror attraction at Disney's California Adventure that contains two items relating to the "A Thing about Machines" episode. One is a typewriter (with the GET OUT OF HERE FINCHLEY message); the card next to it reads "Almost Writes By Itself." There is also an electric razor; its card reads "Has A Long Cord - Can Follow You Everywhere." There is also a toy telephone from the episode "Long Distance Call" with a card saying "Perfect for the children's room and those late night calls from Grandma."
- "Picture If You Will...", a phrase Rod Serling used in more than one Twilight Zone episode, appears in the gift shop where guests can buy their on-ride photo.
- While exiting the Disney California Adventure ride, there is a display window for "Willoughby Travel," a nod to the episode "A Stop at Willoughby."
- In the photo gallery of the Tower of Terror attraction at Disney's California Adventure, there is a poster advertising "Anthony Fremont's Orchestra." Anthony Fremont is the young boy with god-like powers from the episode "It's a Good Life."
Following the ride's success, Disney produced a 1997 film based on the attraction, starring Steven Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst. Many shots were filmed at the Orlando theme park, while some of them were shot on Burbank movie sets.
In the queue for the Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios, music from the 1930s is played.
The ride's theme was conducted by Richard Bellis, and can be found on several theme park albums:
- Disneyland/Walt Disney World Music Vacation (as part of a medley)
- Walt Disney World Resort: The Official Album (1999 CD)
- Walt Disney World Resort: Official Album (2000 CD)
- Official Album: Walt Disney World Resort Celebrating 100 Years of Magic (2001 CD)
- The Official Album of the Disneyland Resort (2005 CD)
- The Walt Disney World Official Soundtrack (2013 CD)
The Tokyo Disney Sea version of the attraction is scored by Joel McNeely, who has released the overture on his site.
- Disney's Hollywood Studios attraction and entertainment history
- Tower of Terror, a 1997 television movie based on the ride.
- Incidents at Walt Disney World Resort (Info on 2005 incident)
- List of amusement rides based on television franchises
- "Operating Guideline for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's California Adventure"
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- "Tokyo Disney Tower of Terror Secrets". TowerofTerror.org. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
- "Disneyland Paris To Build New Rides For Both Parks". Ultimate Rollercoaster. Retrieved 3 May 2013.
- Tallest Buildings in Orange County
- Glassburn, Kelly. "MyMagic+: Video Captures Your Twilight Zone Tower of Terror Drop at Walt Disney World Resort". disneyparks.disney.go.com. Disney Parks. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- Glassburn, Kelly. "Photos, Videos Capture Your Seven Dwarfs Mine Train Ride at Walt Disney World Resort". disneyparks.disney.go.com. Disney Parks. Retrieved 7 February 2015.
- Wallace, Sandi. "Disney PhotoPass Service Simplifies Access to Walt Disney World Photos, Videos". disneyparks.com. Disney Parks. Retrieved 2 November 2014.
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