The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is an accelerated drop ride featured at Disney Parks in Florida, California, Paris and Tokyo. All but the Tokyo version are based upon the television show The Twilight Zone, and take place in the fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel. The Tokyo version, which features an original story line not derived from The Twilight Zone, due to the tv show being not very popular in Japan, takes place in the fictional Hotel High-tower. The three Twilight Zone-based versions and the unique Tokyo version all place riders in a vehicle themed to an old hotel service 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 earlier. The original version of the attraction opened at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in July 1994, and was the basis of the 1997 made-for-television movie Tower of Terror. Several years later, Disney began plans to add similar versions of the attraction at their newest parks at the Disneyland Resort, California Adventure. The California version of Tower of Terror opened in 2004. The Tower of Terror building is the tallest building at the Disneyland Resort in California and one of the tallest buildings in the city of Anaheim at 183 ft tall. Guests enter the Hollywood Tower Hotel through the front gate. Throughout the entire queue area, typical 1930s jazz music can be heard, hauntingly echoing through the 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 left of the hotel entrance, past crumbling statues and a vine-covered pavilion.
Eventually it leads to the lobby. Inside the doors, the Hollywood Tower Hotel appears frozen in time, everything in it draped in 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 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. Behind the front desk is the elevator with a sign in front of the elevator that still reads “Out of Order.” Everything in the hotel has apparently been preserved and left undisturbed ever since it closed. 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 thunderstorm raging outside. With a bolt of lightning the power goes out, except for the television which crackles into life, apparently of its own accord. The opening sequence of The Twilight Zone plays, followed by a supposedly “lost” episode. The episode shows the hotel on the night of October 31st, 1939. A ferocious thunderstorm has enveloped the building and grounds. The episode then cuts to the lobby, where four guests accompanied by a hotel bellhop board the elevator. The elevator ascends normally at first, but then lightning strikes. With electricity coursing through them all, the elevator passengers mysteriously vanish. The now exposed elevator car plummets, falling into the unknown depths of the Fifth Dimension. Bringing the episode back to the present, a narrator comments about this particular evening’s weather, a storm eerily similar to the one on the night the five people disappeared. He also refers to the one elevator in the hotel still in working condition: the maintenance service elevator located in the basement boiler room. He invites the guests, if they dare, to board the elevator and discover the secret of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. The television then shuts 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 placed upon a row to stand on a marker of their choice, awaiting the service elevator’s arrival.
Riders board the elevator and as the elevator doors close, the lights of the service elevator flicker out. the first movement guests experience is horizontal, as the elevator itself is pulled back from the service doors and into the shaft. This effect is meant to be unsettling, as guests become immediately aware that their “elevator” is capable of performing movements that are unexpected of a traditional elevator. The narrator’s voice is heard as the elevator is pulled back from the doors, saying “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. The narrator continues with “You are 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 very fast. As such, visitors feel a moment of weightlessness as the elevator quickly ascends and then stops on the fifth floor. When the doors part, an ornate, wood-framed mirror stands in a brightly lit hallway of the hotel and riders see their reflection in its glass. The narrator 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 the electrified reflection disappears, leaving only the image of the empty elevator in the mirror as the doors close. The narrator then climatically states “For you have just entered the Twilight Zone.” The elevator descends quickly and opens to reveal the “hallway” scene with an image of an elevator in the distant corner. After a short pause, the narrator states “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 star-field. The narrator says, “One stormy night long ago, five people stepped through the door of an elevator and into a nightmare.” The 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.” states the narrator. The distant elevator falls, followed immediately by the ride elevator. 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 before the elevator returns to its load level and is horizontally pushed back into place at the boiler room service doors, repeating the intro to the Twilight Zone TV show as the elevator approaches the elevator doors. This ride is quite possibly our favorite ride at Disney’s California Adventure, with the perfect combination of theme and thrill. Line or no line, this is a can’t miss attraction for first timers, or park veterans.