Welcome to Extinct Attractions. My name is Cole, and I’ll be your host on today’s journey deep into … the Twilight Zone (da da da).
Last Thursday, we got the news that all of us were anxiously awaiting, the official opening dates for Star Wars Galaxy’s Edge in both Disneyland and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, with those dates being May 31st and August 29th respectively. I’m more excited for the version at Disney’s Hollywood Studios, primarily because I will be able to visit it first and hopefully they have worked out some of the kinks, since it’s opening nearly three months after Disneyland and you can learn a lot in that time. Plus, Galaxy’s Edge’s opening means that there will finally be more to do in Hollywood Studios, meaning the line for The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, one of my favorite attractions, will decrease.
The Twilight Zone was a CBS television show from the late 1950s and early 1960s that has managed to transcend time and still remains a highly popular show to this day. In fact, the show is even being revived today with Jordan Peele taking the place of Rod Serling as the narrator and producer of the show. With the popularity of the show so consistent, Disney decided to create an attraction that would send guests directly to The Twilight Zone.
The attraction first opened in Disney-MGM Studios in 1994 and quickly helped the park get on the map as a premiere destination. As the first E-Ticket thrill ride in the park, it helped establish the Studios as a destination where older guests could go and find larger thrills than simply Space Mountain or Body Wars. The strategy played out immediately for the park as the Tower of Terror immediately became one of the most popular attractions that Disney ever created.
In fact, the attraction was so popular than it led to a television movie in 1997 that gave audiences an entire backstory to the attraction on top of the preshow itself. This film shot a few scenes at the Tower of Terror itself, but the rest of the movie was shot on soundstages in California, which brings us to today’s featured version of the Tower of Terror.
When the Tower of Terror opened in Disney California Adventure on May 5, 2004, it completely transformed the park. At this point in time, California Adventure was struggling to stay afloat, and the park was trying to resurrect its poor image and become a destination. The Tower of Terror was the first high profile addition to the park and sparked the upgrades that have happened over the yeas, culminating in Marvel Land coming sometime in 2020.
At 199 feet tall, the Tower of Terror soared over the rest park and quickly became a can’t miss icon. Some people were actually frustrated by its visibility, but there aren’t too many options when you are limited by space and the attraction needs to drop people quite a ways.
One of the fascinating things about the preshow for the Tower of Terror is that it brought the television show to life. Rod Serling narrates the preshow, with true movie magic being used to bring him to life. Combining video footage of Serling that they come across with the vocals of a voice actor created a lifelike depiction of the esteemed narrator and showed that even death wouldn’t stop people in The Twilight Zone.
Throughout the preshow, you learn that this hotel is haunted, but you are here to take a maintenance service elevator and explore the hotel, because you are rebellious like that. However, there is a chance that you’ll be sent directly to the Twilight Zone.
I always loved the Tower of Terror. Even though I have never really watched The Twilight Zone, I was still a huge fan of the attraction because it was so unique. There is something really fun about being thrown around and feeling weightless that makes the experience unlike anything else at the parks.
However, if you are a fan of the Hollywood Studios version of the attraction, one big difference that you may notice is that the California version didn’t send guests through the Fifth Dimension. Instead, guests stayed in the same elevator shaft for the entire experience, which still allowed for that unique sensation of being pulled down faster than gravity would normally let you fall. Also, this change in system allowed for one car of riders to be loaded while the other was in the shaft, meaning you could have six operating vehicles at one time as opposed to just three in Florida. This extra capacity was a really nice way to keep the attraction’s wait time down, but it was definitely to miss out on the Fifth Dimension after going on Walt Disney World’s version.
California Adventure’s attraction was so successful that Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris decided to basically duplicate the California version, even including the facade and ride systems. To be fair, this version of the attraction was originally slated to go into Paris, but then money problems and California Adventure’s desperate need of an E-Ticket attraction gave the Disneyland Resort the chance to debut it instead
With all of this success, it was a shock when Disney announced that California Adventure’s Tower of Terror would be closing after being a staple of the park for less than thirteen years, closing on January 3, 2017. In its place, we got Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! Tower of Terror fans were mortified, and rumors immediately started popping up everywhere that other Towers around the world would be changed to Guardians as well, but at this point, that possibility is seeming less and less likely.
I have to admit that I do enjoy Mission: BREAKOUT! more than California Adventure’s version of the Tower of Terror because it is a lot more fun to ride, and the Guardians are some of my favorite Marvel characters. Plus, you could still visit Disneyland Paris to ride a duplicate version of the attraction, Tokyo to experience a completely unique Tower, or Walt Disney World to visit the original (and best) version.
Well, that brings today’s journey to a close, so here’s a look at what is coming next week.
- This show was a part of three Universal parks around the world.
- This show shared a name was a Will Smith film, but was not related.
- This show featured cowboys.
Thanks for reading and have a magical day!
Cole Geryak is a college Disney fan making his way through the world. He has ridden every single ride in Disneyland in one day, all while wearing a shirt and tie. Imagination is his middle name, and his heart truly lies in the parks.