The History of & Changes to The Tower of Terror | Disney’s California Adventure

This video idea was suggested by Cheeky
Charles, Captain Fez Riley Bankovic, SuperSnuggleFluff and SparkleCeCe. If you have any suggestions for future videos, please feel free to leave them in the comment section. The Tower of Terror’s story begins back in 1989 at Disney’s MGM-Studios better known today as
Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The park was brand new, just a few attractions and only one ride but lot’s of potential. not too long after it opened Disney began to toy with the idea of adding a
few more attractions and even eventual expansion expansion over the course of the next
few months some new attractions did pop up in the parks giving it a better sense
of variety as well as adding some more in-park options for its guests. Now that
those attractions were completed Disney was looking into how they could expand
MGM studios and eventually they settled on making a new land. Much like the other
sections of the parks are based off real locations in California the newest
addition would be a recreation of Sunset Boulevard. the themed land would up with
a bunch of different shops and restaurants and at the end; a brand-new
attraction. The only issue was that Imagineers weren’t exactly sure what that
attraction would be luckily enough Disney’s newest CEO, Michael Eisner, already had a
pretty good idea. He knew that he wanted a horror
attraction somewhere within the park this is really part of a more grand
scheme of his to get older crowds interested in the parks again it’s also
why attractions like “Star Tours” and “The Indiana Jones Stunt Show” were created in
the first place. Plus if ever was a Disney park to put a horror attraction
in MGM Studios was the one. Not only was it already meant to appeal to an older
audience but also celebrated classic movies and there were more than a few in
the horror genre they could choose from once it was decided that the new
attraction would indeed be a ride and not a show ideas began to be pitched out
as to what movie the ride should be based on there were a number of
different IP’s that were all considered most of which were shot down almost
immediately but there was a ride that did get pretty far in the development
stage. That ride being “Hotel Mel” A horror-based dark ride narrated by Mel Brooks. Now, you might be asking yourself “why Mel Brooks” and maybe some of you movie laymen out there might be asking yourself Who is Mel Brooks?
Well, Brooks directing quite a few successful comedies throughout the late
60’s and 70’s, one of us was popular films was the 1974 classic “Young Frankenstein”.
Originally a ride based on this film was one of the first concepts pitched out
for the new expansion area and was what Imagineers thought they would end up
making. But, not too long after Brooks officially signed on to help them
develop it they realized it wouldn’t have worked due to spacing
limitations This is what kind of led them to realizing that the Sunset Boulevard expansion would instead be a better choice. So now
instead of basing the ride off “Young Frankenstein” it’d now be a completely
different attraction, but one that was still hosted by Mel Brooks since he was
already working with the Imagineers. The dark ride concept would have taken
riders through an abandoned hotel in it’s early stages it was described as a more
comedic version of the Haunted Mansion but not too long after they began to
develop it Imagineers hit a bump. In short, they just couldn’t forget a way to
make the attraction story to work. They weren’t sure if the ride should put riders into a specific movie like they would have been on Star Tours or if should give them kind of a “behind the scenes” look at the moviemaking process like on the backlot tour. Because of this, the dark ride concept was ultimately thrown out the only element that was really retained was the abandoned Hotel aspect.
Imaginers figured that facade would’ve worked well in the park no matter what
the attraction inside of it was. A few ideas were tossed around and eventually
they’d landed on the idea for an elevator-themed drop ride. This idea
mainly stuck because it allowed them to keep the old Hotel facade while
simultaneously bringing a new type of thrill attraction to the Disney parks.
Now, drop rides in and of themselves were not a new concept, the first one ended up
eight years prior at Six Flags Magic Mountain and since then, clones of
the same ride had popped up another theme parks around the country. Originally
Disney planned to model their drop ride after the original, only changing the
theming surrounding the attraction and not further developing the ride system
but, once again due to spacing limitations the Imagineers decided to
develop a completely new ride system in the process Disney created the AGV’s, short
for “autonomous guided vehicles” which could now move without the need of a
track, instead only having to follow a magnetic strip embedded in the ground.
Once the new ride system was finally finished construction was ready to begin
on the tower but, Imagineers still felt that the attraction needed a movie tie-in.
After all, just about every other attraction in MGM-Studios at the time
had one. Not too long after that Disney acquired the rights to NBC’s “The
Twilight Zone”, if you’re unfamiliar with the series let me be the first to tell
you that it’s great, hosted by Rod Serling the show was equal parts horror,
mystery, and fantasy. All with a general eeriness that made it very interesting. The
show itself only ran from 1959 to 1964 but, its status as an iconic piece of American television had only grown in the last 25 years making it the perfect fit
for a theme park dedicated to celebrating classic movies. Imagineers
now focused on creating a storyline for the attraction and put some of the
finishing touches on a few of its smaller theming details. The Twilight
Zone Tower of Terror began its construction in 1992 and wrapped up about two years later in July of 1994. Later that month, the all-new
Sunset Boulevard open and with it: The Tower of Terror. At a final cost of about
one hundred and fifty million dollars, the tower was Disney’s most expensive
attraction to date, only rivaled today by “Radiator Springs Racers” and “Test Track”.
Almost immediately the new attraction was a hit. It’s story, atmosphere, and
thrill element all combined to make what was, at the time, considered to be the
very best that Imagineers could offer. Even though it’s reaching 25 years of
operation it’s still considered to be one of the best attractions that Disney
has ever created. However that’s not to say the tower hasn’t seen any changes,
while it’s remained untouched in terms of its theming the ride system has had a few
different variations. When it first opened, the tower only dropped once. Top
to bottom, one big drop. The next change came two years after that in May
of 1996 when the elevator was modified to now drop twice per ride. In March of
1999 they added a few new features like more rumbling, faster acceleration,
and a heightened sense of weightlessness when falling but, the actual drop still
only happen twice. The last change came in early 2003 when the randomized drop
sequence was added now riders could get anywhere from five
to eight different drops in the tower per ride. This is also the same ride
system still in operation today. Now, while the Florida towers story might
end there for now, the next part of our story takes us back over to Anaheim.
Towards the end of 90’s Imagineers were wrapping up on their newest project, a
brand new park across the street from Disneyland by the name of “Disney’s
California Adventure”, needless to say people in California are very excited
for a new Disney park. There had been rumors of one coming to that property
for years now with a few different planned projects that all ultimately ended up
canceled. Disney was well-aware that the new park would be amassing tons of visitors. Not only that but it also had the possibility of being so popular that it
would steal guests from Disneyland. To combat this, Disney began to develop a new ride for Frontierland at the original park that would open a year two after the DCA
did to thin out the massive crowds that the DCA was expecting to have. Using the
towers technology they would bring back a scrapped concept called “Geyser
Mountain”. In essence, it would be just like the tower but with all new theming. Instead
of taking guests from the basement of an abandoned hotel up to the top via an
elevator, it would instead take them from the bottom of a mine up to the peak of a
mountain. Try to imagine the theming of “Big Thunder Mountain Railroad” coupled
with the Tower of Terror’s ride system. that was basically the idea. However when
Disney’s California Adventure did open in 2001 it was not what Disney
executives were expecting whatsoever. In short, the park was horrific, and so were it’s attendance numbers. In its first year the park only saw five million visitors. Less than half of what Disneyland saw that same year. Even worse, of those who actually did visit the park more than 80%
reported they were unsatisfied with their visit. It became very apparent that
it wasn’t Disneyland that needed to help a new attraction would bring and that the
California Adventure did instead. With Disney being short on not only time but
also money they opted not to develop a new attraction for the park and instead
just bring over the already very popular Tower of Terror, and that’s what they did.
Some small changes were made in terms of the ride system out of necessity but,
we’ll get to that in a minute. The California’s Tower of Terror started
construction around 2001 and wrapped up in 2003, the attraction officially opened
on May 5th of 2004. Alright, now that we’ve got both towers open and operating let’s
take a look at some of the differences between the two. The first and most
noticeable change between them is in the architecture. The Florida version pulls
most of its design elements from the same neo-Mediterranean style that was
very popular in the early 1920’s, around the same time the hotel would’ve been
built within the attraction’s storyline. Another key reason the original tower
needed to be design like this was due to MGM-Studios’ proximity to Epcot. You see,
when you’re standing in Epcot’s Mexico pavilion if you look across the seven seas
Lagoon and Morocco you can actually see the back side of the Tower of Terror.
However most guests would never even notice this due to the fact that two
architectural styles blend together so well. The DCA tower would also be somewhat
different in that, it wasn’t designed after an old Hollywood style hotel but
instead, a more Los Angeles style hotel. the design use on the DCA version was
Pueblo deco, style a lot more buildings were made in towards the end of the 1920’s. Both designs on both towers were ultimately made to help them fit in
better with their respective parks the queues are somewhat different as well, the
Florida version has you go through a winding, overgrown walkway up to the
entrance of the hotel before entering the lobby. On more crowded days the
extended queue see some use but normally the lobby is where the line begins. The
lobby for both Towers is near identical and so is the rest of the hotel’s
interior. The only exception would be in the boiler room. While it is visually the same the Florida version is only one story
whereas its California counterpart has two. The main reason for this change is
because of the new ride system so let’s talk about the differences there. In the
Florida version you strap in and the doors close, you then go up, move around the 5th
dimension scene, and into the drop shaft after that you drop a few times and
unload. In the California version, you strap in, the doors close, and the
elevator moves backwards into the drop shaft it then goes up, drops a few times and you unload. The unloading process between the two is different as well, in
the Florida version the boarding and exiting happened in two different
locations while in California, you enter and exit in the same place. Another
difference is that instead of the fifth dimension scene the DCA tower has the
wave goodbye scene where riders can see themselves in a mirror before they go
further up the tower. Lastly, the DCA version doesn’t have the
same randomized drop sequence that the studio’s version has so, every single
ride-through is exactly the same. All these changes happened either due to spacing
limitations or capacity but the general story and atmosphere of the attraction
remain untouched during the transfer from the east coast over to the west
coast. After it opened the DCA Tower of Terror amassed it’s own following of Disney fans much like the original Tower of Terror did, the new attraction quickly
became a staple of the park. In the following years the ride operated with
no major changes whatsoever but let’s fast forward to 2014,
because Marvel was about to release a movie that’ll have an impact on not only
the film industry, but also the Disney theme parks as well. Marvel released “Guardians of the Galaxy” on August 1st of 2014. The film was an instant hit with
audiences and grossed over 700 million dollars worldwide, making it the highest
grossing superhero film of 2014 and one of the biggest movies for that whole year.
It was no surprise that almost immediately a sequel was announced but,
one thing that did come as a surprise was that a ride based on the franchise
would be coming to Disney’s California Adventure. Even more surprising is that it
would be replacing that parks Tower of Terror. Disney officially announced
“Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout” on August 23rd of 2016 and
gave us an idea of what to expect in terms of the ride mechanics as well as
the new story. Joe Rohde: “This all leads to the same kind of like, insanely fun rocketing up and down ride experience that we have today but the framing, and the setting,
and the pacing, and the timing, all completely altered to feed this really
very funny, very exciting, very irreverent story.” Almost immediately following the
announcement severe backlash began to hit from Tower of Terror fans, taking to almost every form of social media to voice their disapproval. Some even
going so far as to start petitions or boycott the park. Needless to say, this decision
made a lot of people unhappy. The towers final day of operation was on January
2nd of 2017 and was closed the next day. two weeks later, the Hollywood Tower Hotel sign was taken down and relocated. After that the building began to be
redeemed, over the course of a next four months the exterior facade began to
change from the Hollywood tower into the collector’s fortress. While the exterior
was on full display throughout the reconstruction, the interior was still
pretty much a mystery as the most information we had seen were just a few
pieces of concept art. On April 25th however, some media groups got an
exclusive look inside the nearly completed attraction. A few queue photos emerged as well as more info on the music that the attraction would use. Songs like free
ride, give up the funk, born to be wild and burning love, would all be utilized in
the rides new randomize drop sequence. Joe Rohde: “Music plays a big role in Guardians of
the Galaxy, as it does here, so as the chaos unfolds, as we zoom up and down,
we’re doing this to the tune of of course, great rock and roll.” But other than that information, the general public still knew very little about the actual
attraction. In the days leading up to its grand opening, more media and press
groups got early access to the ride. This time being able to take photos and videos, giving us their first actual look at the queue and ride. And now that we have that
information, we can finally look at what all was changed. First off, the most
noteworthy change would be the towers facade which is almost completely been
redone. It still retains its original form but just looks very different.
The next change is in the new queue and we’ll start with what used to be the
hotel’s lobby, just about every piece of furniture and decor that the lobby had has
since been removed to open up the room completely and give it more space for
the new queue. The old furniture has all been replaced with the collector’s
display cases. Towards the back of the room the fireplace and the Hollywood
Tower Hotel logo have both been removed in their place is now a screen that plays
one of the queue videos which gives a little backstory as to who the collector
is, what this building is for, and why you’re here. Plus, it even has all the
original actors reprising their roles like Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Bautista,
and Benicio del Toro. It’s even got a Stan Lee cameo. Stan Lee: “Hey, do you guys validate?” Once you’ve made it through all that,
you’re ushered into what was previously the library. Now retrofitted to be the
collector’s office. Much like the lobby all of the bookshelves and theming elements
that were in here have all been replaced. The library used to serve as the preshow
room, giving the backstory of the Hollywood Tower Hotel and giving us some
context as to why it’s abandoned. The new office holds a similar purpose, as it too
plays a preshow. From the library, you head into it used to be the boiler room.
Not too much has actually changed in here besides the lighting and some small
visual changes to give it a more sci-fi kind of feel. From there you load into
the elevator, or as it’s called now, the gantry lift and begin your ride. The
biggest change that the ride system saw was the integration of the randomized
drop sequence, not only is the drop portion randomized but the ride storyline can change as well. Once you’re strapped in and the doors closed you
still move backwards like you would in the Tower of Terror but instead of a Rod
Serling narration in pitch-black darkness you instead see an outline of
rocket above your lift, next we’re taken up to blow the generator, from there we
rise and fall of seeing different screens of the guardians fighting their
way out of the fortress. All scenes are randomized and can vary from ride to
ride. From what I can tell the wave goodbye scene as well as the hallway
scene we’re both made into spaces for the new screens to go. Now, I’m not 100% sure about that one, though. I do have a sneaking suspicion
that generator scene is actually a real set. If it is, it’s likely what was previously
the hallway scene, if I’m wrong I’ll be sure to make a note of it either in the
description or in a pinned comment so, keep an eye out. Besides all those
changes the ride is the same as it used to be. There are a few smaller changes
like the gift shop which has since been loaded with Guardians of the Galaxy
merchandise and completely themed but besides all that, the attraction is the
same. The loss of DCA’s Tower of Terror is definitely a big one. not only for fans of the attraction but also for those who respect what that attraction
did for the one struggling Disney park. There’s definitely a case to be made that
it was the tower that started to turn that park around and finally bring some
guests over to it, and to see Disney have no real regard or respect for that fact
did not sit right with some people. Ultimately I do understand why they
think a more family-friendly ride would be more appealing to the average guest
but, regardless what Mission Breakout has to offer I don’t think it’ll be able to
bring with The Tower of Terror brought in terms of thrill, suspense, and
atmosphere. And while some may argue that the DCA tower is a less-interesting
clone of the original, I still maintain that it was one of the best attractions that
the Disney California Adventure has ever seen. Alright and finally, right about there… …That’s a palm tree ( ͡~ ͜ʖ ͡°)

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