Hollywood, 1939… amid the glitz and the glitter of a bustling young movie 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.
Disneyland Resort, 2004… the then-relatively-new Disney’s California Adventure theme park (these days known as Disney California Adventure) opens its latest attraction: The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, a smaller-scale copy of the groundbreaking E-ticket ride from Walt Disney World’s Disney-MGM Studios (now called Disney’s Hollywood Studios), and Laughing Place was there to capture the “glitz and glitter” of the grand opening ceremony.
Watch LP Archives – The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror grand opening ceremony at Disney California Adventure:
In the video above, we flash back to May of 2004, when Laughing Place founders Rebekah and Doobie Moseley were present at The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror’s grand opening ceremony to capture the eerie magic that brought the now-departed attraction to thrilling life at Disney California Adventure. Disney’s then-CEO Michael Eisner was on hand– just a year and change removed from his eventual separation from the company– to introduce the west coast resort to its own version of this iconic attraction.
Preceding Eisner’s declaration to invited guests, a swing band took the stage in the Hollywood Pictures Backlot area (currently known as Hollywood Land in present-day DCA) to perform energetic tunes both period-appropriate and anachronistic, eventually segueing into the classic musical theme from The Twilight Zone. Then a giant balloon lifted into the air with series creator and host Rod Serling’s face projected on its side: “In just a moment you will enter a strange province that knows neither north nor south. A place we call The Twilight Zone. A Hollywood Tower Hotel bellhop greets guests with the following speech:
“Good evening, and welcome to a grand celebration of a true Hollywood landmark. I’m your bell captain, and I’m here to assist you this evening as you check in to the legendary Hollywood Tower Hotel. You’re all in for a screaming good time. That’s because you’re about to experience the crème de la crème of creepy– er, I mean dreamy– Hollywood hotels. During its heyday, this was the spot where Hollywood’s social elite gathered. But we’ve added a few new amenities, such as the view from our thirteenth floor. Ah, the memories… they last a lifetime– even if your view doesn’t. Now I know you’re all very eager to get inside, for tonight is very special. But it appears your rooms aren’t quite ready yet, so I rang the front desk and asked for some help.”
With that, the CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Michael Eisner, came out to further enhance the evening with his statement: “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is the biggest addition to Disney’s California Adventure since it first opened in early 2001. Inspired by The Twilight Zone television series of the 50s and 60s created by Rod Serling, this attraction with [add] a hair-raising dimension to our guest experience. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is filled with innovative technology and special effects, making it one of the most advanced multi-sensory attractions anywhere in the world, and an E-ticket destination right here at Disney’s California Adventure.”
“As you all know, next year marks the 50th anniversary of the Happiest Place On Earth, and in keeping with Walt Disney’s vision, this is another example of how we are continuing to design new attractions, create new technology, and seek new ways in which to dazzle our guests as never before.” At that point, Eisner and the bell captain brought out Rod Serling’s wife Carol Serling, who gave a brief speech of her own: “Rod Serling had a marvelous, wondrous imagination, as those who know The Twilight Zone can attest to. But I must say, so do the Disney Imagineers. They have made a magical and thrilling attraction right here in Southern California. Thank you, Mr. Eisner, for bringing the Tower of Terror here. Rod would surely be delighted to know that The Twilight Zone lives on in the hearts of so many fans, and he would be thrilled to know that his beloved fifth dimension has been brought to life in such an exciting way.”
Finally, the familiar pre-show video from The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror played on a screen, followed by a spooky projection show on the Hollywood Tower Hotel building behind the stage, capped off by some fun pyrotechnic effects. And with that, the attraction was officially open for more than twelve years, before being shuttered and replaced by Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! And while some fans still haven’t forgiven Disney for that particular change, it’s nice to know that The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror still exists in Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Walt Disney World and in the Walt Disney Studios theme park at Disneyland Paris.
Mike serves as Laughing Place’s lead Southern California reporter, Editorial Director for Star Wars content, and host of the weekly “Who’s the Bossk?” Star Wars podcast. He’s been fascinated by Disney theme parks and storytelling in general since a very young age and resides in Burbank, California with his beloved wife and cats.