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Ride / The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror

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"You are the passengers on a most uncommon elevator about to ascend into your very own episode of The Twilight Zone. 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."

Ever dreaded being in a falling elevator? Well, Imagineers at Walt Disney World developed a way to simulate that very experience and twist it into a horror story. Submitted for your approval, The Twilight Zone Tower of Tower; a popular simulated freefall drop tower thrill ride at Disney Theme Parks based on the classic anthology series, The Twilight Zone. Opened in 1994 at Disney's Hollywood Studios (formerly Disney-MGM Studios until 2008), it was an instant hit among parkgoers and remained a Disney park icon since. Twilight Zone creator, Rod Serling (voiced by Mark Silverman) hosts the attraction taking you on a bizarre, horrifying tour of the 5th Dimension.

In 1939, the Hollywood Tower Hotel was the premier getaway for showbiz A-List. The legend goes that on the stormy Halloween night of that year, five people: a celebrity couple, a little girl with her nanny, and a bellman, were all aboard one of the main elevators when the building was struck by lightning, making entire wings of the hotel vanish and their elevator plummet into oblivion. The hotel has been closed and left abandoned since that horrible accident. Decades later, the hotel is now a haunted, broken-down relic of Hollywood's Golden Age looming over Tinseltown at the end of Sunset Boulevard. Those willing to enter its doors, however, will immediately discover the seemingly desolate lodging is strangely open for business inviting you to stay using the still-operating maintenance service elevators. Once onboard, guests experience what happened that horrific night years ago as they traverse past the confines of reality and into their very own special episode of The Twilight Zone.

The ride has the distinction of being the first theme park attraction popular enough to get a film adaptation in an inverse of movie-based rides. Filmed partially on location, the 1997 TV film Tower of Terror, starred Steve Guttenberg and Kirsten Dunst. In 2021, it was announced that Scarlett Johansson will produce and star in a new film adaptation of the ride. Josh Cooley, director of Toy Story 4 and writer of Inside Out is working on the screenplay.

A Trope Codifier of Hell Hotel and Evil Elevator, there are currently three incarnations of the attraction at Disney parks throughout the world.

  • Disney's Hollywood Studios (Walt Disney World, Florida, United States) and Walt Disney Studios Park (Disneyland Paris, Marne-la-Vallée, France) are the Twilight Zone versions of the ride. The original at WDW (pictured) is the most relatively popular iteration featuring the "5th Dimension Scene" where your elevator travels horizontally across to one of the drop shafts on the other side. A streamlined version of the original made to save money and space opened at Disney California Adventure (Disneyland Resort, California, United States) in 2004 and Paris in 2007, with a Pueblo Deco exterior unlike Florida's pseudo-gothic architecture. Disneyland's Tower was later re-themed into Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! in 2017 note  and Disney Studio's Tower was updated with A New Dimension of Chills, where the little girl that was killed with the cast now haunts alongside the Tower and three elevator plots.
  • Opened in 2006, the Tokyo DisneySea (Tokyo Disney Resort, Urayasu, Japan) version has an entirely new, In Name Only storyline completely devoid of Twilight Zone references and is just titled Tower of Terror. Set at Hotel Hightower in New York, guests learn of the disastrous accident that befell the hotel on New Year's Eve, 1899. The hotel's owner, Harrison Hightower III, had stolen a sacred African idol which in turn killed him aboard one of the elevators, forever cursing the hotel along with any who enter.

Not to be confused with the Hollywood Tower Apartments, a landmark L.A. apartment complex.

You are about to discover what lies beyond the fifth dimension; beyond the deepest, darkest corner of the the Tower of Tropes:

  • 13 Is Unlucky: All over the place, see Missing Floor.
    • The clock in the lobby has stopped at the time 8:05. The official backstory says that the lightning struck the hotel at this time. Eight plus five equals thirteen.
    • Also inverted. If the wait time on the MyDisney app is 13 minutes, that means guests can effectively walk on to the ride.
    • A plaque boasting a 13-diamond rank from AAA can be found in the lobby. Keep in mind, the highest rank that AAA normally awards is five.
    • When the ride is over, your elevator stops at an exit labeled "B"; when the doors part, the B becomes a 13.
  • Abandoned Area: The hotel and grounds have been deserted since that fateful night in 1939 with no one ever tending to the place. At least no one living.
  • Affably Evil: Implied with the hotel's staff (cast members dressed as 1930's bellhops) who seem quite eager to get guests to their "rooms", and the girl in A New Dimension of Chills, where it either depends on this or not on which elevator you pick.
  • Alien Geometries: Since the Hollywood Tower Hotel is in The Twilight Zone of all places, there's bound to be some irregularities and paradoxes in the layout that just make no sense.
    • The giant neon sign in Florida is oddly situated in front of the elevator doors, where the top hotel corridors are supposed to be. This was possibly meant to give riders, who would be facing the back of the sign when the elevators doors open, a bit of Surreal Horror.
    • The orientation pre-show in the Florida version shows the elevator that carried the 5 people fell in front of the hotel sign. However, the shaft that contained said elevator is in the lobby located beside the building.
    • The Paris version has its lobby elevator vaguely match with the ones in the pre-show, but the hallway scene just before the drop sequence, has the main elevators doors across the hall directly facing your ride elevator when it should be facing perpendicular as the doors in the lobby do.
    • The Mirror Scene in the Parisian version (and the defunct California version) suggests there's at least one floor of the hotel dedicated to having just a large mirror flanked by two windows on each side, that's it. No rooms, no hallway, literally just a mirror and windows.
      Rod Serling: Wave goodbye to the real world.
      • The same goes for the mirror in Tokyo DisneySea's Tower of Terror, as it's somewhat modeled off the Parisian version (absent the first two drops, and a shorter final drops).
    • The placement of windows along the hotel facade for all versions, specifically where the drop shafts are located, suggest that they lead to other places of the building (rooms, hallways, etc.) when really there could only be enough space for the ride elevators.
    • You enter the library on what can be assumed to be the "first floor", and then make your way to the boiler room. When you approach the elevator, the indicator shows that you are now at the basement. note 
  • All There in the Manual: Tokyo's Tower of Terror had a very extensive online marketing campaign collectively known as "TOT1899" that served to tell the attraction's backstory in a variety of different formats ranging from a short film, a manga, a radio drama podcast, and a core website featuring diaries from characters and a short point and click adventure game. However, only the short film and main website received an English translation and most of the material has fallen into obscurity after the campaign ended and the site was closed.
  • Alliterative Name: Harrison Hightower III, and with him, Hotel Hightower.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Defied in the U.S. versions. Per United States FAA regulations, buildings that are 200 feet tall or greater must have red beacons at the top so that airplane pilots can avoid crashing into them, so the Tower is built to be only 199 feet tall to avoid having a modern fixture slapped onto what's meant to look like an abandoned early-20th-century hotel.
    • In the "lost and found" of the Florida attraction, there is a stack of Popular Mechanics which are actually from 1940.
  • Another Dimension: The Twilight Zone a.k.a. "The 5th Dimension", where those 5 people had supposedly disappeared to... and where you'll soon be joining them.
  • Artifact of Doom: The idol Shiriki Utundu from the Japanese incarnation. Didn't work out so well for the last guy who messed with it.
  • Artificial Gravity: While testing drop rides, Imagineers came to the conclusion that gravity was too slow. The ride vehicle has a cable underneath it which can pull downwards, allowing elevators to fall faster than gravity would accelerate them.
  • Covers Always Lie: The brochure art for the original attraction featured the elevator car actually falling out of the hotel. Also applies to the years-old promo billboard for the Tower on World Drive in Walt Disney World, complete with moving elevator car.
  • Creator Cameo: Disney imagineer Joe Rohde, who led the development of Animal Kingdom, plays Harrison Hightower III in the Tokyo version of the ride.
  • Creepy Basement:
    • The Hollywood Tower's boiler room where the service lift ride vehicles are located. Full of cobwebs, rusty pipes, busted or barely functioning equipment; it really makes an unsettling atmosphere.
    • The DisneySea version would be less creepy (it's filled with gigantic Egyptian statues among other bits of Hightower's plunder) if it weren't for Shiriki Utundu's glowing eyes appearing and disappearing all over the place.
  • Darker and Edgier: Notably for a Disney attraction.
  • Doomy Dooms of Doom: The hotel's directory in the lobby had some of its letters falling to the bottom of the glass casing spelling "EVIL TOWER U R DOOMED". They have since been removed, but fans have actually made online petitions to bring them back. Recently, the Hollywood Studios version now has them read "TAKE THE STAIRS".
  • Dramatic Thunder: Even if you entered the building at high noon on a cloudless day.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • Florida has a much different ride infrastructure from the later versions of the ride.
      • In Florida, there are two ride systems within the Tower. On both, you board in one of two shafts inside a smaller tower behind the drop tower. In this shaft, you encounter the hallway scenenote , then you rise again, and you enter the Fifth Dimension scene. Here, the ride vehicles move horizontally out of the dark ride shaft and merge into a single trackless guideway,note  which takes you through the Fifth Dimension and into the drop shaft. After the randomized drop sequence, you back out of the drop shaft into an unload area at actual ground level, and the cab rotates 90 degrees so you can unload. Then the empty cab goes back to the dark ride shaft it originated in, and goes back to the load area. There are four ride vehicles working each side of the building, for a total of eight at any given time.
      • As a cost-cutting measure, the later versions use an "abridged" system that is much shorter in length and less complicated to maintain. There are three shafts, and each shaft is its own separate ride. This was a design decision to make it easier for crews to repair individual areas of the attraction without shutting down the whole ride. Each shaft carries two ride vehicles, operating from one of two load levels, always loading and unloading at the same point. As a result, the boiler room has two floors instead of one. In normal operations, one vehicle in each shaft is doing its trip through the ride while the other is discharging and loading new guests. Thus, instead of the autonomous vehicles of Florida, there's only a single shaft. Because the dark-ride portion takes place in the drop shaft, the physical vertical vehicle conveyance system moves more quickly and nimbly than Florida's (in Florida, the first tower functions only as a dark ride and is not built for the quick movements that the drop portion requires). In place of the Fifth Dimension scene, the later versions have the "Wave goodbye to the real world" scene where you see yourself in a mirror. These later versions also don't have the randomized drop sequence of Florida's version. In the later versions' hallway scene, there's another elevator at the opposite end of the hallway, whereas Florida has a window there.
    • Florida's design is different from later versions. Florida's Hollywood Tower Hotel uses a Neo-Mediterranean design that was popular in the 1920s (around the time the hotel was supposedly built). This was also partially necessary due to Hollywood Studios' proximity to Epcot, as someone standing in the Mexico pavilion looking straight across the World Showcase Lagoon towards the Morocco pavilion can see the backside of the Tower of Terror poking up in the distance behind Morocco, with the architecture blending seamlessly enough that you wouldn't know you were looking at the Tower of Terror unless you had a sharp eye. The hotel in later versions of the ride was designed with a Pueblo deco style that was popular in Los Angeles in the late 1920s.
    • Florida's version only had one big drop in the drop shaft for the first two years. In May 1996, this was increased to two drops. Rumbling effects and faster acceleration were implemented in 1999. And in January 2003, the current randomized drop sequence pattern was implemented, wherein riders get five to eight drops of varying length depending on which pattern is chosen by the ride computers. 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).
  • Everyone Is Related: Harrison Hightower III, from Japan's Tower of Terror, is allegedly a relative of George Hightower, one of the many murdered husbands of Constance Hatchaway from The Haunted Mansion.
  • Evil Colonialist: Harrison Hightower III was an immensely wealthy and arrogant 'explorer' who took whatever treasures he wanted from every corner of the globe, often exploiting the natives' generosity, resorting to grave-robbing, and leaving while being Chased by Angry Natives. He preferred to treat his historical artifacts as wealth, showing them off in his hotel rather than releasing them to museums like the rest of the Society of Adventurers and Explorers did. His plundering was so bad that not only was he controversial during his lifetime, but he's even responsible for the backstory of another ride in DisneySea! He trashed the temple that would house the Raging Spirits ride looking for treasure, then stole the head of its deity's statue, angering the temple spirits forever.
  • Evil Elevator: The Tower didn't get its name from nothing.
    • Implied to be a Hellevator on one ride profile in A New Dimension of Chills, the girl warns you to 'not scream', lest the demons possessing that one take you to oblivion.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: Especially at night.
    • Subverted with the Hollywood Studios version during the 50th Anniversary "Beacon of Magic" show, which uses projection mapping to restore the tower to its 'prime'. The tower is illuminated in bright colors, and guests are shown dancing and laughing in the windows. Similar projections are used during the holiday season, transforming the tower into a cozy wintertime village, a massive gingerbread house, and a 'Hollywood Toy Hotel' built from blocks and Lincoln Logs.
  • Expy: If the Made-for-TV Movie is anything to go by, the little girl in the preride video is one of Shirley Temple.
  • Forced Perspective: The hallway scene in the Florida version uses this to make it seem longer than it actually is.
  • Foreign Remake: Tower of Terror at Tokyo DisneySea has a completely different setup from the American and French versions as Japanese audiences are not very familiar with The Twilight Zone. That and the company that runs the park allegedly didn't want to pay royalties to Disney AND CBS (later Paramount Global).
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: As you watch the pre-show in the Florida and Parisian versions, Rod Serling will eventually say "The time is now..." and lightning strikes within the TV screen the same time it does outside. And as Rod name drops the show's title, it isn't only heard from the TV speaker but in the entire room you are in.
  • Freeze-Frame Bonus: At the Walt Disney World version, one of the famed "Hidden Mickeys" takes the form of a 1930s Mickey Mouse plush that the little girl is holding as she boards the elevator in the preshow.
  • Genius Loci: Implied. With all the bizarre events happening inside the hotel, the place itself is suggested to be "alive" in some way.
    • There's an odd case of this with the New Dimension of Chills. Three elevators have 'plots' of their own: the first is malevolent and sentient on its own, demons possessing the second, and the third is from the fifth dimension. If the girl hums the Twilight Zone theme in the first, the room will flash red with a loud sound, startling her as if severely scolding her. She doesn't get this response from the others. Despite the girl haunting around the tower and elevators, she's not behind the entire thing, just a child that wants to play with or warn the visitors. Yet the tower itself at large is still debatable.
  • A God Am I: The DisneySea version's gift shop exit is set in the pool/bath, where Hightower commissioned one last mural as a Hindu god surrounded by servants and beautiful women.
  • The Golden Age of Hollywood: The hotel used to be a resort for the Hollywood elite of this era. Since it closed on the very night of the accident, everything inside has been left untouched and "frozen" in this time period.
  • Hell Hotel: And not exactly subtle about it either.
  • Ironic Nursery Tune: In the orientation video and other parts of the ride, you'll faintly hear the little girl who disappeared in 1939 singing "It's Raining, It's Pouring".
  • It's All About Me: Hotel Hightower's lobby is filled with "heroic" portraits of Harrison's adventures and how far he (and his butler) went to acquire the hotel's artwork, namely through shameless plundering.
  • It Kind of Looks Like a Face: The boiler room in the California tower had a three-oven boiler making a face.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: The backstory for the Japanese tower has its Villain Protagonist, Harrison Hightower III, stealing the idol, Shiriki Utundu, from its sacred resting place in an African region. He learns in the hardest way imaginable that he can't just take any pretty, exotic item as the idol kills him, curses his soul, and the hotel indefinitely.
    • It also reveals that Hightower was a corrupt member of the Society of Explorers and Adventurers and obtained many of his ill-gotten artifacts through illegal means with the idol being the one artifact that was ultimately his downfall. Despite being warned numerous times of the idol's curse, he laughs it off anyway and at one point even puts out his cigar on it. After the New Year's Eve party in 1899, the statue started its reign of terror and took Hightower and the hotel with it.
  • Lightning Can Do Anything: Such as cause whole sections of a building to just disappear without a trace.
  • Long Runner:
    • The original attraction in Florida has been in operation since 1994 while the other incarnations opened between 2004 and 2007. Subverted with the California version which only lasted 13 years before being converted into Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout.
    • T.J. Wollard is a Disney cast member who was on the opening team for the Florida attraction. His creepy grin caused him to be featured in a number of ads and he was even featured in the documentary series Behind the Magic. As of 2023, he is the last member of the opening team to still be working at Tower of Terror.
  • Missing Floor: Your service elevator rapidly rises and plummets 13 stories up and down the tower…only there is no 13th floor.note  In the boiler room loading area, the needle indicating which level the elevator is on moves past the 12th floor referencing the missing floor in the season 1 episode "The After Hours".
  • The Movie: Tower of Terror (1997) with a new movie is supposedly in the works.note invoked
  • Mythology Gag: Has its own page
  • Narcissist: Hightower. And a rather malignant one to boot.
  • Never Trust a Trailer:
    • Promos for the ride often exaggerate its horror by showing riders plummeting aboard an elevator that doesn't have seats or restraints. This of course isn't how the actual ride is for obvious reasons.
    • Many ads also depict the hotel staff as rather ghoulish looking and zombie-esque, but guests will then see that isn't in the park's makeup budget.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different:
    • The "5 permanent guests" are seemingly bound to the hotel as they were the night of the accident for all eternity appearing and disappearing in a TV static effect.
    • Fans have also interpreted the hotel's cast members to be "ghosts" as well whether from 1939 or any unfortunate soul who didn't make it out of the hotel.
  • Recycled Soundtrack: Tokyo's Tower of Terror uses music from Psycho and Vertigo in the outdoor queue area.
  • Signs of Disrepair:
    • The hotel's neon sign has one or two of its letters left crooked, burnt out, and flickering when lit, from the lightning strike.
    • The directory in the lobby had several missing letters, which on the bottom of it spells "EVIL TOWER U R DOOMED". They now read "TAKE THE STAIRS".
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: One of the songs that plays during the courtyard queue is Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again."
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Shiriki Utundu from Tower of Terror at Tokyo DisneySea is one for The Twilight Zone, due to the fact that the show isn't as well known in Japan.
  • Title Drop: The Florida attraction has part of its Rod Serling narration actually feature the ride name, right before the drop sequence begins:
    "You are about to discover what lies beyond the 5th Dimension, beyond the deepest, darkest corner of the imagination—in the Tower of Terror."
  • Too Dumb to Live: Funny enough, you. The ride's premise has you visiting an old, abandoned hotel that, right from the get-go, you clearly know something is very wrong with the place. Yet you still willingly "check in" whilst being given not-so subtle clues left and right that the hotel is not only haunted but is possibly out to get you as well. Ultimately subverted, of course.
  • Trapped in TV Land: You enter a haunted hotel only to wind up traveling into another dimension as part of an episode of The Twilight Zone.
  • Updated Re-release:
    • The ride in Florida has gone through 4 revamps of its system with the current one introducing randomized drop sequences.
    • The Paris version was updated in 2019 to "A New Dimension of Chills", giving each of the three ride shafts its own unique storyline featuring the little girl who was killed along with the other riders from 1939.
  • The Voice: You'll hear Rod Serling narrate as you make your way through the "5th Dimension", but you never actually see him apart from the orientation video.

"A warm welcome back to those of you who made it and a friendly word of warning, something you won't find in any guide book; 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."

Alternative Title(s): Tower Of Terror