Tower of Terror Archives

February 6, 2010

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror -- Part Three

In Part One and Two of this blog series, I discussed in detail the Tower of Terror (TOT) attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios. In Part Three, I'm going to give you an overview of the other three TOT's around the world. Let's start with the second tower to be built.

Disney's California Adventure

Disney's California Adventure (DCA) did not open to the rave reviews Disney had hoped for. Beginning operation on February 8, 2001, it struggled for an audience. Guests continually compared it to Disneyland next store -- and there was no comparison. Something needed to be done. DCA needed more "E" attractions.

Since DCA has a "land" known as Hollywood Pictures Backlot, similar in concept to Hollywood and Sunset Boulevards at Disney's Hollywood Studios, the Imagineers looked to Florida to see what could be copied and brought to Anaheim. It didn't take too much thought to realize that the highly successful TOT would be a natural at the California park. However, there wasn't as much land in California as there is in Florida and the bean-counters wanted to spend less building the second tower. To accomplish this, the attraction would need to be redesigned significantly.

Hollywood PIctures Backlot

In Florida, guests board the elevators in four loading zones. Each elevator has its own ascent shaft and looks into its own, separate "hallway" sequence. Once the elevators reach the Fifth Dimension Room, two vehicles merge and share a single track and move toward one of the two drop shafts. Once the elevator finishes its ride and unloads its passengers, it completes the circuit and returns to the loading dock.

This configuration required a significant amount of land, something that was at a premium in California. Also, if one of the shafts was out of service, the ride's capacity was cut in half. In addition, the Fifth Dimension Room was prone to breakdowns. It was decided that a fresh look and redesign of the attraction could possibly remedy some of these problems and bring construction costs down.

First, the Imagineers eliminated the Fifth Dimension Room. Without this section of the ride, the elevators would not need to make a complete "circle" for each cycle. This would significantly reduce the footprint of the building. Now, loading and unloading would take place at the same location. However, to increase capacity, each shaft would load from one of two floors in the boiler room. As car "A" was loading on the ground floor, car "B", which had loaded from the second floor, was experiencing the ride. But since two cars cannot occupy the same shaft at the same time, the elevators travel horizontally between the shaft and loading platforms. And finally, a third drop-shaft was added to increase capacity. Now, if a problem occurs, only one third of the attraction is out of service while repairs are being made.

DCA Tower of Terror

DCA Tower of Terror

DCA Tower of Terror

It is interesting to note how similar, yet different the attractions are from one another. Take for instance the lobby. At a first glance, the DCA version looks just like the reception area in Florida, but upon closer inspection, you can see a number of subtle differences.

DCA Tower of Terro Lobby

The Imagineers felt bad about eliminating the popular Fifth Dimension Room. To make up for this, they added a new effect. Now the elevator makes a second stop on its journey to the top of the hotel. At this floor, the elevator doors open and you see a reflection of the car's inhabitants in a mirror hanging on the wall. Rod Serling tells us to "wave goodbye to the real world." A moment later, lightning strikes and electricity arcs around the mirror and everyone's face morphs into a ghostly green and eventually fades into nothingness. In the end, the mirror's reflection reveals only empty seats in your elevator.

Another change involved the hallway scene. In Florida, we see a window at the end of the hallway that eventually floats and breaks before us. But in California, we see an open elevator at the end of the hall. When you arrive at this floor, the narration says, "What happened here to dim the lights of Hollywood's brightest showplace is about to unfold once again." Then we see the doomed five appear then disappear, in the same manner as in Florida. But in California, they reappear in the open elevator at the end of the hall, which eventually drops out of sight, taking its passengers with it. A moment later, the elevator you are riding in also drops before making its numerous ascents and descents.

Tower of Terror opened at Disney's California Adventure on May 5, 2004. It is 183 feet tall, making it shorter than the Florida tower which is 199 feet in height. However, the California version extends 40 feet underground. Unofficial sources put the construction cost at $90M, $50M less than its cousin in Florida.

Tower of Terror is one of DCA's more popular attractions. And like all of its cousins around the world, the view from the top is fantastic. From here you can see the Disneyland Hotel, Disney's California Adventure, Downtown Disney, and much of Disneyland.

Walt Disney Studios Paris

Like Disney's California Adventure, The Walt Disney Studios in Paris was also suffering "theme park envy" when compared to Disneyland Paris next door. And once again, TOT came to the rescue. But unlike Florida and California, the Paris park did not have a comparable Hollywood street. One would have to be created to surround the tower.

Walt Disney Studios Hollywood Section

The Paris version of the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is an extremely close copy of its cousin at Disney's California Adventure. Both were designed in the "Pueblo Deco" style of architecture which is the blending of Art Deco and Native American art from the Southwest U.S. In addition, it uses the same loading system as California and has no Fifth Dimension Room, but features the mirror effect.

Paris' TOT is also the only tower to present Rod Serling's introduction in a language other than English. As the library fills, the bellboy can change from the original English recording to a French narration. Serling's voice in the French version was dubbed by a vocal artist whose voice resembled the original dubbing of the "La Quatrième Dimension" when the Twilight Zone TV show was shown in France. Both recordings feature subtitles in the opposite language.

The attraction opened on December 22, 2007. Here are a few pictures of it taken by my friend TDLFAN. Compare these to the pictures of the Disney's California Adventure tower and you can see they are practically twins.

Paris Tower of Terror

Paris Tower of Terror

Paris Tower of Terror

Paris Tower of Terror Lobby

This picture is from a Paris ad campaign.

Paris TOT Ad Campaign

Tokyo DisneySea

One of the "lands" at Tokyo DisneySea is called the American Waterfront. This section of the park is divided into three areas, New York City, New York Harbor, and Cape Cod. The time? Just after the turn of the 20th century.

One of the most recent additions to Tokyo DisneySea and the New York City section is the Tower of Terror. However, this tower varies in several ways from its cousins in the other Disney parks. In Paris and California, the exterior of the buildings have a Southwestern motif while in Florida the building has a Moroccan flavor. The Tower in Tokyo is built of red brick and has a gothic feel. To me, the Tokyo tower is the most elaborate and beautiful of the four.

Tokyo DisneySea TOT

Tokyo DisneySea TOT

Another change to the Tokyo attraction was necessitated because the Japanese are not familiar with the Twilight Zone television series. To remedy this, the Imagineers came up with a completely new storyline. Since the tours of the hotel are presented in Japanese, English speaking guests are given a handout explaining the storyline. The following five paragraphs are a direct quote from that handout.

"Welcome to the 'Tower of Terror' tour, presented by The New York City Preservation Society. On New Year's Eve in 1899, explorer, antiquities collector and multi-millionaire Harrison Hightower III held a press conference in the luxurious Hotel Hightower to announce his latest find - a statue called 'Shiriki Utundu' which he had acquired in a remote region of Africa.

Shiriki Utundu

That very night, the hotel's main elevator crashed to the ground with Hightower and the idol inside! Shiriki Utundu was recovered from the shattered elevator, but of Harrison Hightower III there was no sign. He had vanished. After his disappearance, Hotel Hightower was closed. People began calling it the 'Tower of Terror.'

Rumor has it that Shiriki Utundu is a cursed statue, and that it may have something to do with the disappearance of Mr. Hightower.

As you tour this magnificent building and view Harrison Hightower's collection of rare art from across the globe, you will also hear about the mystery of his disappearance.

The tour climaxes with a ride on the service elevator up to the top floor to see Mr. Hightower's penthouse. Please enjoy the ride."

Tour Sign in Queue

Unlike the other three towers, the queue for the Tokyo version actually christcrosses its way through the lobby.

TOT DisneySea Lobby

In the pre-show room, we see a stained-glass likeness of Harrison Hightower and a statue of Shiriki Utundu sitting on a pedestal. As the story unfolds Mr. Hightower's image changes from an arrogant robber-baron to a very fearful man. Then the lights dim and Shiriki Utundu disappears from sight. The effects are excellent and sets the stage for the terror to come.

Stained-Glass Window

From here we enter the storerooms that house Mr. Hightower's vast collection of art that he's commandeered from around the world. Eventually, we're taken to an elevator for our journey to the penthouse. An interesting note, the elevators in Tokyo's tower have shoulder harnesses as well as lap restraints. Shiriki Utundu continues to play a major roll during your rise and fall and appears over and over again.

TOT Storeroom

The exterior of the building also adds a bit of excitement to the show. Before each elevator drops, a flash of green light erupts from Mr. Hightower's penthouse and then the light travels to the window of the next elevator to fall.

Photographs of Harrison Hightower can be seen throughout the attraction. A keen eye will notice that Mr. Hightower bears a striking resemblance to Joe Rohde, designer of the Animal Kingdom.

Harrison Hightower

TOT opened at Tokyo DisneySea on September 4, 2006. I can't say that the Tokyo version of this attraction is better than the other Towers around the world. But with the storyline being so different, it does add a new excitement level. The Tokyo attraction does not have the 4th dimension room like the one in Florida. Instead, the elevator makes a second stop on its way to the top as do the Towers in California and Paris.

This completes my blog series about the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. I think the Imagineers outdid themselves when dreaming up this magnificent attraction. No matter how many times I ride, I keep discovering new details.

February 5, 2010

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror -- Part Two

Yesterday, I gave you a brief history of the Tower of Terror and walked you through the attraction up through the Lobby. Today we'll finish the tour.

From the hotel lobby we proceed to one of the two libraries. It's here that we're told that our rooms are not quite ready and to please enjoy the amenities until summoned. Then, with a crash of lightning, the room goes dark and the television set comes alive. For the next minute and a half, the fateful story of the hotel's demise is presented.

Rod Serling recounts the tale of the Hollywood Tower Hotel and how on Halloween night, October 31, 1939, a stylish young couple and a child actress with her stern governess, check into the hotel. An overworked bellman escorts them to an elevator and the doors close. On their ascent, lightning strikes the hotel and the building's two wings disappear, along with the inhabitants of the elevator.



The clip of Rod Serling was also taken from the episode titled "It's a Good Life." However, the voice used is that of Mark Silverman. Mr. Serling's widow made the final selection after the Imagineers narrowed down the field following hundreds of auditions.

Watch the television show carefully and you can see a Mickey Mouse plush toy in the young girl's hand right before she gets onto the elevator.

Rod Serling

A number of other details can be found in the libraries. The broken pair of glasses is from the episode titled "Time Enough at Last" starring Burgess Meredith as Henry Bemis. He is a bookworm and the sole survivor of a nuclear war who drops and breaks his only pair of glasses.

Glasses from Time Enough at Last

The trumpet is from "Passage for Trumpet" starring Jack Klugman as Joey Crown, a down and out musician. While contemplating suicide, he is saved by another trumpet player, Gabriel. Beneath the trumpet is sheet music titled "What! No Mickey Mouse? What Kind Of Party Is This?" The song was written in 1932.

Trumpet from Passage for Trumpet

On the shelf above the books is a small spaceman. This creature was from "The Invaders" starring Agnes Moorhead who is terrorized by what turns out to be a space mission from earth.

Spaceman from The Invaders

Also on the overhead shelf is a fortune telling machine that tormented William Shatner in an episode titled "Nick of Time." All of these items are accurate reproductions of the actual props used in the television show.

Fortune Telling Machine from Nick of Time

When "Tonight's Episode" concludes in the Library, a hidden panel slides open and you proceed to the Boiler Room and the Service Elevators.

This Way to the Service Elevators

Pay attention to the noises in the Boiler Room. You can hear a number of sounds appropriate to your surroundings such as motors running and pipes banging. The first two brick structures you encounter when entering this room are the hotel's furnaces. One is still in service. If you look closely, you'll find several carloads of coal waiting to be stoked. Boiler tanks and electrical equipment can also be found down here.

Basement Walkway


Coal Bin

Water Tank

Eventually you reach the Service Elevators. Between each set of elevators is a caged area. In this area is the electrical motor that lifts and lowers the cars (not really). Pay attention and you can hear the motor start and stop as the cars rise and lower. And occasionally you can see sparks within the machine. Also, if you watch the "floor indicator," you can tell when the elevator is arriving.

Service Elevator

Elevator Motor

Floor Indicator

I know there are a few of you who have absolutely no desire to ever ride on TOT. And that's totally understandable. But I would strongly suggest you accompany your friends and family to this point. The queue and preshow are an attraction in their own right and worth seeing. If you've made it this far, just tell the bell hop you don't wish to be taken to your room at the moment and you'll be allowed to bypass the elevator and meet your companions later.

Now it's time to board the 1917 caged service elevator for a quick trip to your room. If you look to the side of the car, outside the cage, you can see a "Permit to Operate" certificate dated October 31, 1939. The certificate was signed by Inspector Cadwallader. This is in reference to the Twilight Zone episode "Escape Clause" where Walter Bedeker (played by David Wayne) makes a deal with the devil -- a gentleman who calls himself Mr. Cadwallader (played by Thomas Gomez). In addition, the certificate also displays "STATE ID NUMBER 10259." This is a nod to the date The Twilight Zone premiered on CBS, October 25, 1959

Elevator Car

Permit to Operate Sign

After everyone has been secured in their seat, the elevator doors close and you're whisked up several stories. When the doors reopen, you're looking into one of the hotel's hallways. Shortly thereafter, the family that disappeared on that fateful night long ago, reappears for an instant, before lightning strikes once again and they vanish forever. The effect is wonderful and eerie. I'm not going to give away the secret here, but if you're curious as to how this trick is accomplished, look up "Pepper's Ghost" on the internet. Wikipedia has a good description and discusses several Disney attractions.

Hotel Hallway and Guests

The doors close once again and your elevator car continues its ascent. When the doors open this time, the elevator moves horizontally into the Fifth Dimension. This room was inspired in part by the "Little Girl Lost" episode of The Twilight Zone. In this show, the daughter of a young couple rolls under her bed and through the wall into another dimension.

In order to accomplish the elevator's forward motion, the cars needed to be motorized and on wheels. These "Autonomous Guided Vehicles" are powered by onboard electric motors and batteries. Improving on techniques developed for Epcot's Universe of Energy, the vehicles use fast charging batteries that can be recharged while in use.

One of the props in the Fifth Dimension Room is a giant eyeball that opens to reveal a passing elevator car. At one time, a picture of the actual car you were riding in was displayed and you could see yourself. But sadly, this effect was eliminated a number of years ago due to obscene gestures some guests made while having their picture taken.

At the end of the Fifth Dimension Room a star field gathers and suddenly, doors open to reveal an inky blackness. Your elevator proceeds into this abyss, then stops. For a moment, nothing happens"then your elevator goes wild. The drop sequence that you experience is selected by a computer and each ride is unique and random. You never know if your journey will start with a ride to the top or a drop to the bottom. Here are a couple of pictures taken from the top.

View from the Top

View from the Top

To accomplish a faster-than-gravity fall, the elevator car you are riding in actually enters a secondary elevator car located in the drop-shaft and locks into place. This secondary car has cables attached to both the top and bottom of the elevator, allowing a motor to pull you down faster than a natural freefall would generate. The motors used on these elevators are significantly more powerful than those used in modern skyscrapers.

Eventually, the elevator comes to a rest in the basement. If you look to the side of the car before it turns, other Twilight Zone props can be seen. The slot machine from the episode "The Fever" and the ventriloquist dummy from the show titled "Caesar and Me" are both in view. You will also notice a large "B" painted on the inside of the elevator doors, signifying "Basement." As the doors open, the "B" splits in half creating the number 13.

Basement 13

After exiting the elevator, you walk down a long hallway to find a hotel storage room. I've read that various other Twilight Zone props can be found on these shelves, but I couldn't identify any and the cast members I spoke with were unaware of them.

Hotel Store Room

It's at this storage facility that you can order a picture of yourself taken while riding on the elevator. Also notice the chalkboard that reads, "Picture If You Will"" a quote often used by Rod Serling on The Twilight Zone television show.

Picture if you Will Sign

Around the corner is a large desk where your photo can be purchased and picked up.

Photo Pick-up Desk

Just beyond this desk are three sets of doors labeled Sunset, Beverly, and Fountain Rooms. I mentioned these earlier when talking about the hotel Directory. In reality, these lead to backstage areas. But in the realm of the Hollywood Tower Hotel these are banquet rooms.

Sunset Banquet Room

If you check the menu next to the Sunset Room, you can see that a gala dinner was taking place here on October 31, 1939. As you can see, the guests were in for a sumptuous feast. Here's what was on the menu that night:


Hors D'oeurve
Grape Fruit Maraschino
Sweet Gherkins à la Moutarde
Bismark Herrings

Glear Turtle with Sherry
Potage Ecossaise
Cold Consommé

Grilled Bluefish
Dover Sole
Whitefish Matheson

Mignon of Beef
Rack of Lamb Johnson
Tournedos Nicoise

Mutton Chops
Spring Chicken
Calf's Liver and Bacon
Deviled Quail on Toast

Fresh Green Peas
Cauliflower au Gratin
New Carrots

Autumn Salad
Belgian Endive
Polonaise Beaumont

Peach Shortcake
Apple Pie and Cream
Gateau Chocolate au Rodman

Tea and coffee, Liqueurs, Cigars, Cigarettes

I want to thank my friend Kev for pointing out that some of the menu items contain the names of writers of the Twilight Zone TV show such as Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, and George Clayton Johnson.

All good hotels have a gift shop and the Hollywood Tower Hotel is no exception. Here you can find HTH logo merchandise that is only available in this shop. Also, a number of books and pamphlets about The Twilight Zone television show are for sale.

Hotel Shop

Hotel Shop

Logo Merchandise

Outside the shop are three windows displaying elegant merchandise once for sale at the hotel. Pumpkins make up part of the window dressing in honor of Halloween. Also, a sign in the window mentions the upcoming Halloween Extravaganza, presumably being held in the Sunset Room.

Shop Window

Shop Window Sign

While researching this piece, I read of other attraction details, but I have chosen not to mention them for various reasons. But rest assured, there are more hidden treasures scattered around this outstanding attraction.

Restrictions: Guests must be at least 40" tall; cannot suffer from any neck, back, or heart problems; cannot suffer from motion sickness or claustrophobia; wheelchair guests must be able to walk in unassisted and possess full upper-body control; pregnant women may not ride.

Finally, I would like to answer a question I get time and time again: "Where are all the people?"

1. Whenever I do a photo-shoot, I arrive at opening (9am). This gives me roughly an hour to take unobstructed photos.

2. For this blog, I know that everyone rushes down Sunset Boulevard for Rock 'N' Roller Coaster and Tower of Terror first thing in the morning. All I had to do was wait ten minutes for the morning onslaught to be absorbed by these two people-eaters. Then I had the street, queue, and much of the attraction to myself.

3. I made multiple trips to Disney's Hollywood Studios in order to take my pictures.

4. I'm very patient. I will wait, and wait, and wait for people to move out of my way before I snap a shot.

5. And finally, I'm very good with the computer and can remove a lot of unwanted objects from my pictures.

Because I waited patiently for everyone else to rush ahead of me, I got to ride in an elevator all by myself. Cool.

All by Myself in the Elevator

I have created a five-minute video of the Tower of Terror. I have tried to capture as much of the attraction as possible and hope that I can provide you with everything but the thrill of the drop. Enjoy!

Check back tomorrow when I present an overview of the Towers in California, Paris, and Tokyo.

February 4, 2010

Twilight Zone Tower of Terror -- Part One

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is my favorite attraction at Disney's Hollywood Studios. In my opinion, it is one of Disney's crowning gems and an absolute "must see" on every visit. I'd be surprised if any other attraction has more details packed into it as Tower of Terror. I've been on this ride dozens of times and I'm still discovering new facts. What is to follow is a brief history of how this great "hotel" came into being and then a description of the experience.

When the Disney/MGM Studios was being planned and built, the intent was that it would function as a working studio and produce movies and television shows. At the same time, Disney would offer guests a half-day experience where they could learn about the film industry while being entertained. However, things did not work out as planned. For a number of reasons, this venue was never able to take off as a real production center. And since guests were paying the same ticket price to enter the Studios as they were for the Magic Kingdom and Epcot, they wanted more than a half-day experience. The park needed to be retooled and expanded.

Sunset Boulevard was the first major addition to come to the Studios. And with it came four attractions. In July, 1994, the "Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage" show was relocated from the Backlot Theater to a new 1,500-seat Theater of the Stars. At the same time, the "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror" opened at the end of Sunset Blvd. On October 15, 1998 "Fantasmic" opened at the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater. And finally, "Rock 'n' Roller Coaster" debuted on July 29, 1999.

Theater of the Stars

Tower of Terror

Hollywood Hills Amphitheater

Rock 'n' Roller Coaster

An interesting note: The Sunset Ranch Market, which features Catalina Eddie's and Rosie's All American Café, was built to be a place-holder for a future attraction. If you'll notice, the structures are all small and simple and could easily be removed.

Sunset Ranch Market

The Imagineers knew they needed a major ride at the end of the boulevard. To employ a word that Walt often used, they needed a "weenie" to draw the guests past the shops and down the street. This would require an attraction that was not only a show stopper, but visually appealing.

During the planning stages for Sunset Blvd, a number of attractions were considered. One, to be called "Crime Stoppers," was to be based on the Disney movie "Dick Tracy." But the film did not meet the financial and critical expectations Disney had hoped for. In addition, Michael Eisner didn't like the violent nature of the attraction so the idea was scrapped.

The Imagineers often say that no good idea ever goes unused. Keeping this in mind, one can't help but wonder if part of the American Waterfront at Tokyo DisneySea was based on Crime Stoppers. Take a look at the concept drawing for this discarded attraction, then look at the very similar street at DisneySea. Hmmm.

Crime Stoppers Concept Art

American Waterfront Tokyo DisneySea

Another early idea called for a scary, yet humorous attraction based on Mel Brooks' "Young Frankenstein" that would be housed in an elaborate castle. Mr. Brooks even sat in on some of the early brainstorming sessions. As possibilities continued to be explored, the "Young Frankenstein" idea morphed into a haunted hotel concept. Soon after, the attraction took on a more serious tone and Mr. Brooks left the project.

Tower of Terror Concept Art

Tower of Terror Concept Art

A different idea centered around the popularity of murder mysteries in the 1930's, the same era as Sunset Blvd. In this scenario, the guests would be given a series of clues in order to solve a murder mystery. But management frowned on the idea of a ride based on homicide and nixed the idea. Another concept involved a mishap at a Hollywood wrap party. But once again, murder wasn't the story they wanted to tell at a Disney park. Eventually the Imagineers came up with the idea of movie stars being trapped in an out-of-control elevator. And in this case, the people just "disappeared" in a supernatural way, not at the hand of man.

The Imagineers believed that linking the attraction with a recognizable movie or television show would help guests grasp the storyline more quickly and a number of properties were explored. Eventually, The Twilight Zone was selected and the Imagineers viewed all 156 episodes at least twice to make sure they captured the essence of the show in both the design of the structure and the story they would tell. However, the story they created was unique and never was part of the series.

The design of the hotel needed to be appropriate to the era and blend in with the rest of Sunset Boulevard. The Imagineers decided on architecture that was inspired by the revival styles that were popular in California during the early 20th century. The hotel is modeled after such landmarks as the Mission Inn in Riverside, the Château Marmont in Hollywood, and the Biltmore Hotel located in Downtown Los Angeles. Its fictional construction date is 1917 which can be seen on a plaque while standing in line.

Construction Date 1917

But the building not only needed to blend with its immediate surroundings, it also needed to blend in with World Showcase in Epcot. You see, when crossing the bridge that leads from the Disney Traders Shop to Mexico, the hotel is clearly visible behind the Morocco pavilion. So the Tower was given a slightly Moorish feel and painted a color that was not completely accurate for its era just so it would blend into the background when viewed from Epcot.

Morocco Pavilion

The Imagineers made one mistake when designing the exterior of the building. The "Hollywood Tower Hotel" sign was placed too low on the structure. In fact, the sign would have been underneath the two wings that were destroyed when hit by lightning. If you pay attention during the Library preshow, you can clearly see the sign is located above the destroyed wings, which would have been the correct placement. This mistake was corrected in the California and Paris versions of the ride. At Tokyo DisneySea the storyline is completely different and there are no wings. In fact, the hotel's name does not appear on the building as it does on its three cousins..

Tower of Terror Incorrect Sign Placement

Here are some basic construction facts about the Tower. The structure required 1,500 tons of steel, 145,800 cubic feet of concrete, and 27,000 roof tiles. The building is 199 feet tall as FAA requirements require that all structures 200 feet or more have a flashing red light on top. The Imagineers felt that this beacon would be distracting and opted to come in under this limit. A model of the Tower, used in the planning stages of the ride, can be seen in the "One Man's Dream" attraction on nearby Mickey Avenue.

Tower of Terror Construction Model

During construction, a billboard was strategically placed near the park's entrance, advertising the upcoming attraction. The three construction photos were taken by our own Deb Wills.

Tower of Terror Construction Billboard

Tower of Terror Construction Photo

Tower of Terror Construction Photo

Tower of Terror Construction Photo

The Tower of Terror (TOT) opened on July 22, 1994. It beckons guests from the parking lot and tram operators point it out as you make your way to the main gate. Later, when you turn onto Sunset Boulevard, you see it sitting majestically at the end of the street. And if that's not enough, a era-appropriate billboard can be found on the Boulevard advertising this great hotel.

Parking Lot View

Sunset Blvd. view of Tower

Tower of Terror Billboard

The stone sentries at the entrance to the attraction are close replicas of the gates found at the entrance of Hollywood's Beachwood Drive. In our case, they mark the beginning of the Sunset Hills Estates.

Stone Entrance

Stone Entrance

Sunset Hills Estates Plaque

The stone structure on the right houses restrooms and behind the one on the left, the FastPass dispensers can be found. If you look beyond the dispensers, you'll find a shed and gardening equipment once used by the hotel's landscapers.

FastPass Machines

Gardener's Shack and Tools

Perched on a hill is a sign displaying the wait time for standby riders. Although numbers less than 13 are often used, this superstitious numeral is frequently present. When it is, you know that the line is very short if not nonexistent. The TOT and the Haunted Mansion at the Magic Kingdom are the only two attractions to ever use this number. The nearby landscaping is reminiscent of Griffith and Elysian Parks found in the city of Los Angeles.

Standby Rider Time Estimate

Pay attention to the hotel's stone marquee. It eerily changes, helping set the mood for your journey into the Twilight Zone.

Tower Marquee

Next, you pass beneath an elaborate entryway where you're greeted by one of the hotel's staff. Make sure to notice the "Keep Out" sign posted on the left gate.

Hotel Entrance Gate

Keep Out Sign

Once past the gate look immediately to your right. A most unusual sundial can be found here. At one time, it was used as a wait-time indicator, but no more. Although difficult to make out in my picture, the words say, "YOUR NEXT STOP THE TWILIGHT ZONE 5 MINUTES FROM THIS POINT."


From the gate, you wander through some of the long-neglected hotel grounds. More details abound such as a cracked wall from overgrown tree roots and signs marking the way to various recreational facilities. In the background, screams can be heard as you approach the building.

Hotel Pathway

Recreational Sign

Broken Wall and Tree Roots

As you continue your walk, you come to an arbor and a long-dry fountain. Notice the vines that have encased some of the pillars over the years. And the bottom of the fountain has accumulated numerous cracks as time has passed. At one time, the fountain had a water-ring visible on the tiles, but for some reason, this has been removed. To the left of the arbor are statues of two lovely ladies.

Arbor and Vines

Dry Fountain


As you approach the arbor, music can be heard in the background. If you listen closely, you'll notice it has a far-away, echoey quality. This was done intentionally to invoke a ghost-like feel of a bygone era. The songs played are as follows:

"Alabamy Home" By Gotham Stompers
"Another World" By Johnny Hodges
"Can't Get Started" By Benny Berigan
"Dear Old Southland" By Noble Sissle
"Deep Purple" By Turner Layton
"Delta Mood" By Cootie Williams
"Inside" By Fats Waller
"Jeep's Blues" By Johnny Hodges
"Jitterbug" By Johnny Hodges
"Jungle Drums" By Sidney Bechet
"Mood Indigo" By Duke Ellington
"Pyramid" By Johnny Hodges
"Remember" By Red Norvo
"Sleepy Time Gal" By Glenn Miller
"There's a House" By Henry Allen
"There's No Two" By Frankie Newton
"Uptown Blues" By Jimmy Lunceford
"We'll Meet Again" By Vera Lynn
"When the Sun Sets" By Nobles Singers
"Wishing" By Vera Lynn

At last you come to the main entrance of the hotel and step inside. It's here that the details become too numerous to count.

Hotel Entrance

To the left side of the lobby is a small table. On it we see a game a mahjong was in progress on that fateful Halloween night when disaster struck. The tiles are accurately placed so that guests who know the game will see that it is a faithful recreation. Alongside the table is a tea cart, which would be appropriate in any fine hotel of the era.

Mahjong Game

Tea Service

Further along the same wall is another table. Here, a young couple was celebrating their engagement with a glass of champagne when lightning struck the hotel. Lipstick can be seen on one of the glasses and a diamond ring can be found on a white glove sitting on the table.

Engagement Table

To the left side of the entrance is the concierge desk. Like everything else in the hotel, it has been left untouched since October 31, 1939. On the wall next to the desk is a plaque honoring the hotel with AAA's prestigious 13-diamond award. In reality, 5 diamonds is the maximum.

Concierge Desk

AAA Award

Beside the concierge desk is a poster advertising the Tip Top Club located on the top floor of the hotel. The orchestra leader is Anthony Fremont. If you remember your Twilight Zone episodes, you might recollect a show titled "It's a Good Life." In this story, a young boy, named Anthony Fremont, could make people disappear into the cornfield.

Tip Top Club Poster

The main lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel is stunning. Some of the chairs were secured from the exclusive Jonathan Club, a well-known Los Angeles landmark built in the 1920's. Other leather chairs are authentic Renaissance antiques. And a set of luggage near the front desk is made from genuine alligator skin, a popular fashion of the time. This same set of luggage can be seen later in the library TV presentation as the bellman carries them onto the doomed elevator.

Hotel Lobby


Be sure to check out the ceiling and light fixtures. They are truly amazing works of art.


Light Fixture

A number of French and American bronze pieces are scattered around the hotel lobby. Some are recreations and others are real, crafted by the famous 19th century artist Moreau, whose work graced many of the best hotels of the era.

Bronze Bust

Located between the two guest elevators is the hotel's directory. Listed here are various facilities and their location. For example, the Tip Top Club, mentioned earlier, can be found on the TOP OF THE TOWER. Also mentioned are the Sunset, Beverly, and Fountain Rooms, which can be found on the LOWER LEVEL. I'll discuss these three rooms in more detail later.

At one time, the missing letters that had fallen from the directory spelled "EVIL TOWER U R DOOMED" at the bottom of the case. However, the letters were removed some time ago. Although I have never been given a reason for the disappearance, I suspect it was out of deference for the Twin Towers after the 9/11 tragedy.

Hotel Directory

Take a look at the two elevators to either side of the Directory. There are "Out of Order" signs in front of them and their doors have fallen off their tracks.

Out of Order Elevator

That's it for Part One. Check back tomorrow for Part Two and more interesting facts about The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

September 30, 2008

Tower of Terror

What's wrong with this picture?

Tower of Terror Disney's Hollywood Studios

Come on. Look closely. You can figure it out.

No? Then take a closer look - specifically, the Tower of Terror. What's wrong with it?

Tower of Terror Disney's Hollywood Studios

The Imagineers do an excellent job when detailing a restaurant, shop, or attraction. They never miss a trick. But this one slipped past them.

Take a look at this billboard located on Sunset Blvd. advertising the hotel and see if you can figure out the mistake.

Tower of Terror Billboard at Disney's Hollywood Studios

Where's the "Hollywood Tower Hotel" sign? If you look VERY closely, you can see it perched ABOVE the hotel wings. The same is true in the preshow movie narrated by Rod Serling. But in reality, the sign is much lower on the building.

When you look at the actual building, the sign would have been destroyed along with the wings when the lightning struck. Not only that, the sign is placed almost against the building. If the wings were still intact, the sign would be buried within them.

Tower of Terror Disney's Hollywood Studios

I don't know at what point Disney realized their mistake, but they did correct it on the Tower of Terrors in California and Paris (identical buildings). On these structures the "Hollywood Tower Hotel" sign is placed above the wings.

Tower of Terror

At Tokyo DisneySea the storyline is completely different and there are no wings. In fact, the hotel's name does not appear on the building as it does on its three cousins.

Tokyo DisneySea Tower of Terror

But let's not beat up on the Imagineers too much. They took great care when designing Disney World's Tower of Terror so it would fit into Epcot.

What does he mean, fit into Epcot?

When approaching the bridge that leads to Mexico in World Showcase, look across the lagoon toward Morocco. In the background, the Tower of Terror is plainly seen beside the minaret. It blends in quite nicely, thus not destroying the Moroccan theming (unlike the Swan and Dolphin behind Canada and the UK).

View of Tower of Terror from Epcot

Disney World's Tower was given a Moorish feel and painted a color that was not completely accurate to 1930's Hollywood just so it would blend into the background when viewed from Epcot.

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