May 2004 – January 2017
Hollywood Land – When entering from Buena Vista Street, guests followed the main path past the Hyperion Theater. They saw the Tower of Terror at the end of the street, looming over the rest of California Adventure.
Based on the television series The Twilight Zone, the Tower of Terror was a science-fiction thrill ride that shot guests up and down an abandoned elevator shaft, stopping only at the 13th floor to show guests just how far they had to fall. The Hollywood Tower Hotel was a 1930’s hotel for the elite of Hollywood. But on Halloween 1939, a mysterious accident in the elevator shaft closed the hotel, sitting abandoned in Hollywood Land ever since. Park visitors that dared enter the old Hotel had the chance to live out a Twilight Zone episode for themselves!
When the original Tower of Terror in Florida’s Hollywood Studios in 1994, it was an instant hit. Guests flocked to the Tower in unprecedented numbers, and Disneyland wanted to create its own version to entertain California guests. However, the Tower didn’t quite fit in any of the existing lands in Disneyland until the opening of California Adventure in 2001. Imagineers finally found a home for the infamous hotel, and the attraction opened at the Disneyland Resort in 2004.
Upon their arrival at the Hollywood Tower Hotel, guests took a stroll through the “carefully unmaintained” garden patio and cobweb-stricken lobby. The mysterious bellhops escorted groups into the library, where a strike of lightning killed the lights and illuminated an old television. A “lost” episode of The Twilight Zone played, informing guests of the terrible accident that closed the hotel long ago. From there, a bellhop quickly ushered the terror-stricken guests into the boiler room, helping them into the elevators before they had a chance to escape.
Inside the elevator shaft, guests saw a haunted hallway on the 13th floor full of deceased guests. Before the ghosts had the chance to tell their story, the elevator flew to the top of the tower. A window opened, a light flashed, and then the blinds slammed shut as the shaft closed in darkness. A series of high-speed, pitch-black drops thrilled and terrified riders, before the hotel finally regained control of the elevator and reopened the shaft doors for safe offloading.
The Tower of Terror had perhaps the most controversial closure in the history of the Disneyland Resort. Despite its massive popularity and regularly long lines, Disney announced in late 2016 that the attraction would be “re-themed” to bring in a new franchise into the park: Guardians of the Galaxy. This incited enormous outrage, so much so that executives were booed at the official announcement. Disney proceeded with the change anyway, and angered guests a second time when the building was covered in scaffolding while still in operation. The Tower closed its gates for good in January 2017, and its replacement, Guardians of the Galaxy BREAKOUT, officially began interior construction shortly thereafter.
My original rating: The Tower of Terror is the ride at the Disneyland Resort that I love to hate. It is without question the absolute scariest experience you can have in the park, and I confess that I can only get myself on it every third or fourth visit. That being said, when I do muster the courage to ride, I never ever regret it. The Tower of Terror gives you adrenaline and shaky knees like no other ride can. But the best part of this ride is the art of the scaring itself, which is virtually complete before the ride even starts. There’s a certain evil genius to this ride, and it completely messes with your head before you ever climb into the elevator shaft. The creepy cast members, ominous hotel lobby, and haunted library have you shaking in your boots so badly you don’t really have time to think before you’re shooting down from the 13th floor! I would encourage anyone on the fence to try this ride, at least once. It scared my mom so badly she has sworn it off forever, but she is still glad she experienced it. If you’re braver than me, it will definitely be the best part of your visit to California Adventure. (★★★★★)
The Tower of Terror was not a free-fall ride. The ride used a complex hydraulics system that actually pulled riders down, faster than gravity.
Though it reached 10 stories tall, ToT riders drop 13 stories…three of them were underground!
ToT had several different ride versions. Each featured approximately five drops, with two full drops from the top of the building. But the rides were selected at random, so each ride in the shaft was a new experience!
Rod Serling, the man behind the original Twilight Zone series, provided the voice in the “lost” episode that aired in the library before each ride.
ToT inspired a 1997 TV film, and was the first of several Disneyland attractions to become movies.
The bellhop cast members had the most expensive costumes of anyone in the park, at a total of over $1,000 per outfit.
At 183 feet, the Tower of Terror was not only the tallest building in the resort, but the tallest building in the city of Anaheim.