The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
|The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror|
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios
|Disney's Hollywood Studios|
|Opening date||July 22, 1994|
|Disney California Adventure|
|Opening date||May 5, 2004|
|Closing date||January 3, 2017|
|Replaced by||Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!|
|Name||Tower of Terror (Japanese: タワー・オブ・テラー, Hepburn: Tawā Obu terā)|
|Opening date||September 22, 2006|
|Walt Disney Studios Park|
|Name||The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - A New Dimension of Chills|
|Opening date||December 22, 2007|
|Attraction type||Drop tower dark ride|
|Manufacturer||Otis Elevator Company|
|Designer||Walt Disney Imagineering|
|Theme||The Twilight Zone (except Tokyo)|
|Music|| • Richard Bellis|
• "The Twilight Zone Theme" by Marius Constant
• Joel McNeely (Tokyo)
|Height||199 ft (61 m)|
|Drop||130 ft (40 m)|
|Vehicle type||Automated Guided Vehicle (AGV)/Elevator|
6 (California, Tokyo, Paris)
|Riders per vehicle||21|
|Riders per row||7|
|Height restriction||40 in (102 cm)|
|Drop speed||39 miles per hour (63 km/h)|
|Ride host||Rod Serling (voiced by Mark Silverman in English versions)|
Must transfer from wheelchair
Closed captioning available
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, also known as Tower of Terror, is an accelerated drop tower dark ride located at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Tokyo DisneySea, Walt Disney Studios Park, and formerly located at Disney California Adventure. The attraction is inspired by Rod Serling's anthology television series, The Twilight Zone, and takes place in the fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel in Hollywood, California. The Tokyo version, which features an original storyline not related to The Twilight Zone, takes place in the fictional Hotel Hightower. All three versions place riders in a seemingly ordinary hotel elevator, and present the riders with a fictional backstory in which people have mysteriously disappeared from the elevator under the influence of some supernatural element many years previously.
The original version of the attraction opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios, then named Disney-MGM Studios, at Walt Disney World in July 1994. A decade later, Disney began plans to add similar versions of the attraction to their newest parks at the Disneyland Resort in California, Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan, and Disneyland 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 2007. The California version closed in January 2017.
The Tower of Terror buildings are among the tallest structures found at their respective Disney resorts. At 199 feet (60.7 m), the Florida version is the second tallest attraction at the Walt Disney World Resort, with only Expedition Everest being taller by 0.5 feet (0.2 m). At the Disneyland Resort, the 199-foot (60.7 m) structure (which now houses Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!) is the tallest building at the resort, as well as one of the tallest buildings in Anaheim. At Disneyland Paris, it is the second tallest attraction.
In the late 1980s, a second phase of development was being designed for Disneyland Paris (then known as Euro Disney). Included was a free-fall type ride in Frontierland that was to be named Geyser Mountain. It would have been part roller coaster, part free-fall ride that shot guests up a vertical 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 their U.S. park. Several attractions had already been proposed, including "Dick Tracy's Crimestoppers", which would be later made into Indiana Jones Adventure at Disneyland. Still needing a major "E-ticket" attraction, the idea of a drop-shaft ride came up and was chosen. There had been several proposed ideas for haunted attractions, including a ride based on Stephen King's novels, a Vincent Price ghost tour, a Mel Brooks-narrated ride, a real hotel, and a whodunit murder mystery, but none progressed into development.
Walt Disney Imagineering eventually took inspiration from Rod Serling's anthology stories featured in The Twilight Zone, as a foundation for their original story. Imagineers mused that the attraction would be able to take guests into the Fifth Dimension that Serling always described as unlocking in every episode of the series. With the project in firm development, Disney licensed the rights to use The Twilight Zone intellectual property from CBS Inc. The Imagineering team settled on a 1930s-era Hollywood hotel with a Twilight Zone theme, but a new ride system had to be built, which would allow both more capacity inside the ride and make the drop fast. Otis Elevator Company created the vertical ride system, and Eaton-Kenway a ride vehicle that could drive itself horizontally. Joe Dante directed the ride's preshow film.
Disney felt Rod Serling needed to be part of the attraction, although he had died almost two decades earlier. In order to include Serling in the attraction, Disney opted to hold auditions to cast his voice, with Carol Serling, Rod's wife, serving as a consultant for the casting. After many auditions, Mark Silverman was chosen by Rod's wife to provide her husband's voice. The archival footage of Serling used in the preshow was taken from the episode, "It's a Good Life". Silverman would later reprise this voice role for additional lines for the Disney California Adventure attraction. He also reprised the voice of Serling for the first season finale of the 2019 revival of The Twilight Zone.
Site-clearing and prep began early 1992. A sinkhole led to the site being moved slightly. The tower's interior and exterior design took inspiration from existing Southern California landmarks, including the Biltmore Hotel and Mission Inn. The distinctive Spanish Colonial Revival architectural features on and around the attraction's roof were designed so that the rear facade, which is visible from Epcot, would blend with the skyline of the Morocco Pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase Lagoon. After construction ended, the ride was initially set to open on July 4, 1994, however, the Tower of Terror opened on July 22, 1994, along with the Sunset Boulevard section of Disney-MGM Studios.
The ride system employs specialized technology developed by Walt Disney Imagineering, particularly the ability to move the vehicle in and out of the vertical motion shaft. The elevator cabs are self-propelled 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. The Florida ride runs on a unique loop system, with two identical ride systems built within the Tower. There are four shafts in the back section of the building containing the dark-ride portion of the attraction. After the corridor scene, the four shafts merge into two, with identical "Fifth Dimension" scenes, and then a cab enters the single drop shaft. After the drop sequence, the elevators unload in the building's basement, then return to one of the show shafts to re-load the next guests.
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 would provide. Two enormous motors are located at the top of the tower, measuring 12 feet (3.7 m) tall, 35 feet (11 m) long, and weighing 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 275 times the torque of a Corvette engine, reaching top speed in 1.5 second. The ride's slogan, "Never the Same Fear Twice!", refers to the drop pattern being randomly selected by a computer before the ride begins. The drop reaches a top speed of 39 miles per hour (63 km/h).
The design of the 199 ft (60.7 m) tall Tower of Terror was founded on advanced dynamic analysis to model the effects of moving parts on the structural and non-structural elements. Since the facility was intended to provide new and non-repeatable sensations to visitors, a very wide variety of elevator drops and sequences of downward and upward motions, spanning anywhere from 1 floor to 13 floors, were modeled. Each elevator drop mode was analyzed as a time history - in other words accelerations that change in time - applied to the entire structural system. The objective was to push the motion beyond a free fall and provide the thrill to riders while ensuring structural integrity and safety. In addition to the self-weight of the structure, when motors weighing 270 kilo-pounds (123 metric tons) move, the force they exert on the structure is amplified by an order of magnitude. The applied accelerations were tested in the model over a range of 1.0 g (32.2 feet/s/s or 9.81 m/s/s) to 2.5 g (80.5 feet/s/s or 24.5 m/s/s). In addition to strength requirements, the design applied very stringent deflection criteria. In the case of the tower, floors have to support cabs while in horizontal motion in and out of the elevators with minimal deflections to avoid blurry projection screens.
Queue and preshow
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In the American and European versions of the attraction, guests make their way to the Hollywood Tower Hotel through the front gate. Guests then walk along a cracked, curved pathway that leads to the hotel. The pathway goes past overgrown gardens, signs pointing to the stables, a bowling green, tennis courts, swimming pools, and a vine-covered pavilion. In most parks, 1930s jazz music plays in the queue area.
Entering through the hotel's front doors, guests encounter an interior designed to give the impression that the Hollywood Tower Hotel has been left untouched since the night of its closure. The lobby is covered in dust and draped with cobwebs, and throughout there are other signs of the hotel's abrupt closure. Past the front desk, the main elevators are in a dilapidated state, and a sign reads "Out of Order". Guests are informed by bellhops that their rooms are not ready yet, and they are then ushered into the hotel library, which houses the hotel's collection of books, antiques, an old television set, and various pieces of Twilight Zone memorabilia scattered about the room. Through the library window, guests can observe a severe thunderstorm raging outside.
With a crash of thunder and lightning, the power suddenly goes out, except for the television set which crackles into life and plays the opening sequence from the fourth and fifth seasons of The Twilight Zone, hosted by Rod Serling.
- "You unlock this door with the key of imagination. Beyond it is another dimension. A dimension of sound, a dimension of sight, a dimension of mind. You're moving into a land of both shadow and substance, of things and imagination. You've just crossed over to... The Twilight Zone."
The episode goes on to depict the events of a stormy night in 1939.
- "Hollywood, 1939. Amid the glitz and the glitter of a bustling movie town at the height of its golden age, the Hollywood Tower Hotel was a star in its own right, a beacon for the show business elite. Now, something is about to happen that will change all that."
As the video plays, a lightning bolt strikes the tower and causes five people—a celebrity couple, a rising child star, her nanny, and a hotel bellhop—to vanish from the elevator, along with an entire wing of the building. The scene then cuts to the out of order elevator, and digitally-altered footage of Rod Serling from "It's a Good Life".
- "The time is now, on an evening very much like the one we have just witnessed. Tonight's story of The Twilight Zone is somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. This as you may recognize is a maintenance service elevator, still in operation, waiting for you. We invite you if you dare to step aboard because in tonight's episode, you are the star, and this elevator travels directly to...the Twilight Zone."
The television then turns off and the guests are directed through to the boiler room, where they await the maintenance service elevator's arrival.
Ride beginning and the corridor scene
As the doors close inside the elevator, the lights dim and the elevator starts going up. Rod Serling's voice greets passengers 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, with morning newspapers and room-service trays outside, along its length. There is a single window 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 the Season 5 opening sequence, and breaks.
Because of space limitations in the dark ride shafts, the corridor scenes are stacked on top of one another between the shafts, with the outside shafts having them on a higher floor than the inside shafts.
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 collection of sights and sounds and star fields, again in the style of the television show's opening sequence. A rendition of The Twilight Zone theme 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 by their 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 157 ft (48 m); however, the drop is only 130 ft (40 m), the height of a 13-story building. The elevator drops at a top speed of 39 miles per hour (63 km/h). In the Hollywood Studios version, the back of the "Hollywood Tower Hotel" sign partially obstructs the view (the on-ride camera is located here, recording the ride for video or a photograph to be purchased later).
In celebration of the attraction's tenth anniversary in 2004, randomized patterns of drops and lifts were added, where the ride vehicle will drop or rise various distances at different intervals. Other added effects include projected images of the breaking window, wind effects, lightning flashes, and ominous blue-lit 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 system was reprogrammed in 2003 to allow for a combination of four sequences consisting 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 from 1999, a "triple drop." Back in 1994, the ride only featured a single rise-and-fall sequence. Two years later, the ride was given a double drop sequence, making it "twice the fright." 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 at the top speed of 39 miles per hour (63 km/h).
After a series of these drops have been made, the elevator backs up into the basement of the decrepit Hollywood Tower Hotel, past a curious array of abandoned items including many Twilight Zone Easter eggs. A short clip plays, showing elements from the Season 5 opening sequence, along with the 1939 elevator passengers and Rod Serling falling into the "vortex" seen in the Season 3 opening sequence. 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."
The ride elevator then rotates 90 degrees and parks itself at a set of exit doors in the building's actual basement. Guests exit the elevator here, leaving the hotel through the gift shop. After this, the ride elevator travels empty back to the dark ride shaft so it can return to the loading area.
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 hotel; however, it is now where photos taken on the ride may be purchased. Beyond this desk, guests pass a cracked fountain to the left and on the right can be seen the Hollywood Tower Hotel's dining room, previously called The Sunset Room. The menu, placed outside the closed double-doors, is dated October 31, 1939. Guests then enter the gift shop, Tower Merchandise. The shop, in keeping with the theme of the hotel, has cracked walls and is dimly lit. There, guests may purchase Twilight Zone merchandise and Hollywood Tower Hotel-themed souvenirs, including hotel bathrobes and slippers.
On August 13, 2014, the ride's on-ride camera began recording video, so that riders could purchase a photograph or video of their ride. 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.
In February 2010, Disney announced 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 was mostly covered by black tarps with fiber-optic stars, and Serling's voice was 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 and Paris versions of the ride, the riders disappear, leaving an empty elevator. A new drop profile was created for "Summer Nightastic!", and replaced the other drop profiles on all rides. After the music played, three sudden, distorted bell rings were heard, which began the drop profile. The profile mainly consisted of utilizing the entire tower for the drop sequences, as compared to the numerous faux and shortened drops in the randomized 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, 2010.
Disney California Adventure and Walt Disney Studios Park versions
While similar in concept and theme to the original attraction in Florida, the version of Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure, which opened in 2004 and closed in 2017, and its identical clone at Walt Disney Studios Park which opened in 2007, feature some significant differences. The exterior of these rides use architectural features reminiscent of Pueblo Deco styles found throughout Southern California during the Golden Age of Hollywood.
The designs for this version were originally designed for the Paris park. However, when California Adventure was in need of an additional crowd-puller, the Paris version's plans were used for its version. When financial troubles hit Disney's Parisian resort, the attraction had to be put on hold.
The Paris version of the ride was finally green-lit in 2005 and was under construction in the center of the park, behind the La Terrasse seating area, by early 2006. Upon completion, it was joined by a new Hollywood Boulevard lined by 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 version opened in 2007.
The Paris and California versions were originally intended to be almost identical upon completion, but there are differences, notably the height of the building and the location of some rooms backstage, as well as other differences due to different construction and work regulations in France.
In Paris, 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.
These versions have a slightly different queue areas. The boiler room scene in the queue area has two floors, instead of the one floor in the original Florida version. The two floors allow for one elevator in one shaft to have guests on ride, while the other elevator of the same shaft was loading guests. There are three elevator shafts, with two elevators per shaft, for a total of six ride vehicles operating.[vague]
New ride operation system
Imagineers redesigned the ride system for the attraction in California and Paris and made some changes to the show scenes. The attraction features three elevator shafts. Each shaft was 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 the capacity to accommodate two vehicles operating from two load levels, each vehicle loading and unloading at the same point. The ride was designed so that one vehicle can be in its ride profile while the other is at its loading level, giving each ride shaft the ability to accommodate more riders. Disney used this ride system again for Tokyo DisneySea's Hotel Hightower.
California (2004–2017) and Paris (2007–2019)
Instead of the autonomous vehicle found in the original incarnation, the new ride system limits the elevator car to a single shaft. As the elevator doors close, the lights of the service elevator flicker out. The redesigned, multiple-cars-per-shaft, multilevel-boarding ride system requires that one elevator load while another be 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 star field 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 5th floor. Because the dark-ride portion of the ride takes place in the drop shaft, the physical vertical vehicle conveyance system moves 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 5th floor, where the doors open on an ornate, wood-framed mirror in a brightly lit corridor of the hotel and riders see their reflection in its glass. Serling's voice then says:
- "Wave goodbye to the real world."
Suddenly, lightning strikes the hotel and the lights of both the corridor 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 "corridor" scene with an image of another elevator at the other end of the corridor (where Florida's version shows a window). Serling delivers his next narration:
- "What happened here to dim the lights of Hollywood's brightest showplace is about to unfold once again."
The five missing guests from 1939 appear in the corridor, crackling with electricity and beckoning riders to join them. Then they disappear in a bolt of electricity, and the walls in the corridor become a star field, leaving just the other elevator, as 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 by the ride elevator. This version of the ride does not have a randomized drop sequence, so 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 car drops briefly, pauses, and drops along the remainder of the shaft. The elevator then raises almost to the top, and immediately drops without stopping, in complete darkness. The elevator then ascends all the way 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), with the elevator being finally returned to its load level and horizontally pushed back into place at the boiler room service doors. The height of the ride is 130 feet (40 m) and the elevator drop 124 feet (38 m) in total.
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.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - A New Dimension of Chills (Paris, 2019–present)
On September 10, 2019, it was announced that the Paris version would be "reimagined" to The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror - A New Dimension of Chills. The ride will be enhanced with new ride profiles, drop sequences, effects, and storylines that expand upon the original one. According to Imagineer Tom Fitzgerald, the reimagining introduced three new Twilight Zone storylines, each starring the little girl who disappeared in the hotel's elevator from the original story:
- The Malevolent Machine - The elevator has become a sentient being and is intent on torturing guests as it rises and falls through the tower.
- The Shaft Creatures - Demonic creatures who prey on human sound have infested the elevator shaft and are looking for new victims. The little girl warns guests to stay quiet to avoid being caught by these creatures. Interestingly, the Shiriki Utundu's evil laughter (from the Tokyo DisneySea version) is used to represent the creatures.
- The Fifth Dimension - A portal to the Fifth Dimension has been opened and a sinister specter is eyeing the guests as its new victims.
The reimagined attraction opened on September 28, 2019, in time for Disneyland Paris' Halloween celebrations.
Closure of the California version
On July 23, 2016, at San Diego Comic-Con, Disney announced that the California version would be replaced by an attraction based on Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy film series, titled Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!, which opened in May 2017 and utilizes the same structure and ride system. This is the first American Disney attraction to be based on the Marvel Cinematic Universe (Marvel Entertainment having been wholly acquired by Disney in 2009).
The Tower of Terror's final day of operation was January 2, 2017; the ride then closed January 3. In preparation for the closure, Disney began a "farewell" promotion of the ride on September 9, 2016, which featured a "Late Check Out" option to experience the drop portion of the ride in total darkness. On the night of September 19 and early morning of September 20, the "Hollywood Tower Hotel" sign was removed to prepare for the new attraction.
Tokyo DisneySea version
The attraction at Tokyo DisneySea is known simply as Tower of Terror and omits any connection or tie-in whatsoever with The Twilight Zone, as the television series is not well known in Japan. Instead, the attraction is themed as the fictional Hotel Hightower. The ride tower, its facade an example of Moorish Revival architecture, is located in the American Waterfront area of the park, close to the S.S. Columbia ocean liner. The ride system for this version is similar to that of the Disney California Adventure and Walt Disney Studios Park versions.
The story line of the attraction is more complex than that of its American and European counterparts. The scenario involves the adventures of the hotel's famous builder and owner, Harrison Hightower III (modeled after Imagineering executive Joe Rohde), who went on many expeditions throughout the world and 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 brought home an idol with the name of Shiriki Utundu.
Hightower claimed that the natives were angry to have their beloved god taken, and that they threatened that the idol would curse him. On New Year's Eve, 1899, Hightower held a press conference about his expedition to Africa, followed by a huge party. Hightower boasted about how he acquired the idol and denied claims of it being cursed. Just as he left the party, he mocked the idol, using its head to put out his cigar. Around midnight, he entered the elevator to retire to his private apartments in the hotel penthouse. As the elevator neared the top, the idol came to life.
The idol's immense rage and power caused 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.
Queue and preshow
The queue area winds through gardens filled with statues from many different countries up to the Hotel Hightower, where guests can see that the windows are almost completely shattered. Signs are posted all over the hotel front advertising the tour. Guests then enter the lobby, an elaborate and well-decorated room filled with plush furniture and beautiful art. On each ceiling arch is painted a mural of Hightower on one of his adventures, showing him escaping native people with a valuable artifact or item in his possession. At the end of the lobby is the elevator in its destroyed state, its doors left open with only a single plank of wood holding them together, a broken cable 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 that are Hightower's office. 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, then winds up an old gramophone that plays a recording of Hightower's last interview. At this point, the lights dim. Suddenly, the stained glass window changes to show a frightened Hightower holding the idol and then 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 go out, and there is a flash of green lightning, shattering the bottom of the window. At this point, Shiriki Utundu comes to life, looks around, laughs mischievously at the guests, and then vanishes into a star-field. A gray fog covers the window, which remains the same when the fog lifts. 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 DisneySea tower are identical to those of the Californian and Parisian towers, with dual loading floors, horizontal push-back from the doors and into the drop tower, a "corridor" scene, and a mirror scene, but with thematic changes. The order of the mirror and "corridor" scenes is reversed compared to the American and European counterparts.
As the ride begins, a flash of electricity appears on the top of the elevator doors. The lights flicker, then go out. Hightower explains what happened to him, then the elevator is pulled backwards. The glowing green eyes of the idol appear in the darkness as the elevator enters the drop shaft. The elevator begins its ascent, stopping at the first scene.
The elevator doors open to reveal the private apartments of Harrison Hightower, the idol sitting on a table in the center. Hightower's ghost, glowing blue, appears beside it and reaches out to touch it. The idol zaps him with a bolt of green electricity, blasting him backwards past open elevator doors at the opposite end of the apartments, where Hightower falls down the shaft. The private apartments fade away, replaced by a star field. The idol turns toward the guests' elevator and laughs before the doors close.
The elevator ascends to another level. The doors open, revealing a large, ornate mirror. Hightower tells the guests to wave and say "good bye" to themselves. As they do, the lighting of the hotel is replaced with an eerie green glow, which makes the reflections of the guests ghostlike, an effect similar to the California and Paris rides, but absent the lightning strike. 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, then 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 its loading level, where the idol's green eyes glare one last time in the dark and then disappear, replaced by the service doors through which guests entered.
The Twilight Zone references in the attraction
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.
Disney's Hollywood Studios
- The Mystic Seer machine from the episode "Nick of Time" can be seen sitting on the high shelf in the libraries, nearby the television.
- The book titled "To Serve Man", from the episode of the same name, is seen in both libraries.
- Chalk marks can be seen on one of walls of the waiting area that leads from the elevator unload, a reference to the episode "Little Girl Lost". In Walt Disney Studios, this can be found in the upper level of the boiler room next to the attraction warning signage; a similar version was present in Disney's California Adventure.
- The slot machine from the episode "The Fever" is seen in one of the unload areas.
- The ventriloquist dummy "Caesar" from the episode "Caesar and Me" is present in both unload areas.
- From the episode "The Invaders", the eponymous characters are found on display in both libraries; they are also present in Walt Disney Studios Park.
- An envelope with the name of Rod Serling on it can be found in one of the libraries as well as another envelope with the name of Victoria West in the other library, a reference to the episode "A World of His Own".
- A poster advertising "Anthony Fremont's Orchestra" is displayed next to the concierge desk in the lobby; Anthony Fremont was the young boy with god-like powers from the episode "It's a Good Life" who hated music. This poster was displayed in the photo gallery at Disney California Adventure.
- In the concierge's desk, a Photoplay magazine issue is seen open to an article titled "Four Pages of Hilarious Star Caricatures by Walt Disney".
- Although not a reference to The Twilight Zone, there is a felt letter board with the hotel's directory for amenities, located between the inoperable elevators in the lobby, with missing letters that have fallen to the bottom of the board to spell "U R DOOMED".[b]
- The attraction was featured in the Disney Channel 1994 Halloween edition of Walt Disney World Inside Out, hosted by Scott Herriott, where guest star Gilbert Gottfried set out to experience Tower of Terror himself.
Disney California Adventure
- A door with the number 22 in brass numbering was present in the hotel lobby as a reference to the episode "Twenty Two".
- A Shirley Temple doll sat on the hotel lobby, similar to the one at Walt Disney Studios.
- Outside the library 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 episode "The After Hours".
- An envelope with the name of Rod Serling on it was found in one of the libraries as well as another envelope with the name of Victoria West in the other library, a reference to the episode "A World of His Own".
- Similar to the queue of the Disneyland Paris version, chalk marks on the walls in the same style as those in the episode "Little Girl Lost" were present in the upper level of the boiler room next to the attraction warning signage. Periodically the girl's voice can be heard calling out for help from the wall and from the radios around the boiler room.
- There was a display case in the photo gallery that contained two items relating to the episode "A Thing about Machines". One was a typewriter with a message that read: "GET OUT OF HERE FINCHLEY" and a card next to it that read "Almost Writes By Itself". There was also an electric razor; its card read "Has A Long Cord - Can Follow You Everywhere". There was also a toy telephone from the episode "Long Distance Call" with a card reading "Perfect for the children's room and those late night calls from Grandma".
- Whilst exiting, there was a display window for "Willoughby Travel", a nod to the episode "A Stop at Willoughby".
- A poster advertising "Anthony Fremont's Orchestra" was displayed in the photo gallery; Anthony Fremont was the young boy with god-like powers from the episode "It's a Good Life". This poster is displayed next to the concierge desk in the lobby at Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Walt Disney Studios Park
- A dusty old doll sits on a couch in the hotel lobby, believed to be Talky Tina from the episode "Living Doll", the little girl in the attraction's pre-show and experience or Sally Shine from the 1997 movie Tower of Terror.
- The queue of the Disneyland Paris version features a reference to the Twilight Zone episode "Little Girl Lost". Chalk marks on the walls are in the same style as those in the episode, when people were trying to find the portal to the girl. This can be found in the upper level of the boiler room next to the attraction warning signage. Periodically the girl's voice can be heard calling out for help from the wall and from the radios around the boiler room. In Disney's Hollywood Studios, this can be seen on one of walls of the waiting area that leads from the elevator unload.
- Upon exiting, the display cases on the ground floor contain advertisements for, among other things, a "Housemaid Wanted" (a reference to the episode "I Sing The Body Electric") and for "A Pair of Reading Glasses Wanted" ("Time Enough At Last").
- From the episode "The Invaders", the eponymous characters are found on display in both libraries; they are also present in Disney's Hollywood Studios.
Florida, California and Paris
- The pre-show includes a little girl holding a hidden Mickey in the form of a Mickey Mouse plush toy; this one appears again in the corridor scene. A hidden Mickey can also be found in each corner of the library's carpet pattern. A third hidden Mickey exists in one of the libraries in the form of a sheet music titled: "What! No Mickey Mouse? (What Kind of Party is This?)".
- The trumpet from "A Passage for Trumpet" can be seen in one of the libraries.
- The elevator has an inspection certification, signed by Mr. Cadwallader, the sinister deal-maker from the episode "Escape Clause". The last inspection date of the elevator is October 31, 1939, the very same night lightning struck the Hollywood Tower Hotel. Its certification number is 10259, a nod to October 2, 1959, the date The Twilight Zone first aired.
- The flying saucer from the episode "The Invaders" is present hanging from the ceiling in both unload areas.
- "Picture If You Will...", a phrase Rod Serling often used in various Twilight Zone episodes, appears in the area where guests purchase their on-ride photo; in Disney's Hollywood Studios, this phrase appears in the area where guests scan their park ticket or MagicBand for their on-ride photo and video.
- In promotional television commercials for the attraction, an elevator's floor indicator outside the doors can be seen with its needle pointing past the 12th floor to the 13th, a reference to the 9th floor in the episode "The After Hours".
Jazz music from the 1930s is played throughout the queueing area for the Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios, as well as in the lobby and library.
- 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)
- Disneyland Resort: Official Album (2013 CD)
- Walt Disney World: Official Album (2013 CD)
- Walt Disney Records: The Legacy Collection–Disneyland (2015 CD)
The Tokyo DisneySea version of the attraction is scored by Joel McNeely, who has released the overture on his site.
Television film adaptation
Following the attraction's success, Walt Disney Television produced the TV film Tower of Terror, starring Steven Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst. Based on the attraction and not The Twilight Zone itself, it is Disney's first film based on one of its theme park attractions and the only one made for television. Many scenes were filmed at Disney's Hollywood Studios, when it was still named Disney-MGM Studios, while other scenes were filmed in Disney's Burbank studios.
- The Florida version has a total of ten vehicles, eight in operation and two for backup.
- Originally, the letters at the bottom of the board spelled out "EVIL TOWER". After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Disney Imagineers opted to remove those letters. The board still remains unchanged, with missing letters that would spell "EVIL TOWER".
- Tower of Terror, a 1997 television movie based on the attraction.
- Incidents at Walt Disney World
- List of amusement rides based on television franchises
- Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout!
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The Twilight Zone® is a registered trademark of CBS, Inc. and is used with permission pursuant to a license from CBS, Inc.
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The Shanghai Tower’s elevator goes even faster than the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a Disney haunted-elevator amusement-park ride that hurls thrill-seekers at 39 mph.
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- Disney's Hollywood Studios - The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Tokyo DisneySea - Tower of Terror
- Walt Disney Studios Park - The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
- Disney's California Adventure - The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at the Wayback Machine (archive index)
- The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney A to Z