Friday, October 30, 2009

Ride Review - Tower of Terror

It's almost Halloween! So what better ride to post than the one that has Halloween as a major part of its storyline?

Intro: The Tower of Terror opened in the new “Sunset Boulevard” section of the Disney Studios in 1994. Its opening revitalized a park that was lacking in attractions and excitement and has lead to the Studios being the thrill center of Walt Disney World.

Queue: In through the courtyard of the Hollywood Tower Hotel, which has fallen into considerable disrepair and then through the once ornate lobby. The lobby appears to have been frozen in the time of the early days of Hollywood, now its beauty is covered in cobwebs and dust. The attention to detail is magnificent as you make your way past registration and into a small room of the hotel which has many bookshelves and some old style televisions on the wall.

Preshow: The book room houses the preshow. On those old televisions, when the room is darkened, plays the Twilight Zone theme song and then introduces the attraction. Rod Serling, himself, joins us (awesome!) to provide the introduction, much like he did for so many episodes of the television series. Hollywood in 1939 was in the midst of its Golden Age. The centerpiece was the Hollywood Tower Hotel where many of the stars would frequent. However, one night, all that would change; lightening struck the tower, causing a wing to disappear and five guests to plunge into the Twilight Zone. Tonight, a maintenance service elevator waits for you, if you dare to step aboard for a ride directly to the Twilight Zone. Great preshow movie, one of the best they have ever done. After the preshow, the line continues into the bowels of the building before you board your maintenance service elevator.

Ride: The doors are closed by an ominous, Haunted Mansion-esque bellman, and then you are lifted up one floor. That familiar Twilight Zone music plays and the doors open. Looking down a large corridor you spot those same elevator passengers from the movie and then the lights go out and various spots in the room begin to glow. Your elevator then moves OUT of the elevator shaft and down the hallway! Passing more ominous sights, similar to the opening of the television show, you make your way down the corridor to the end of the hall and another set of doors which open up. Rod Serling then lets you know that the doors are opening to the deepest, darkest corner of your imagination, in the Tower of Terror. Then it’s a DROP! UP! DOWN! At totally random intervals, sometimes three, sometimes thirteen drops. Some are larger, some smaller, some offering views of the park if you could look fast enough. When it is all said and done, you have experienced Disney Imagineering at its finest and after Rod Serling offers a final farewell, it’s over.

Postshow: No show, but it lets you off in a really neat gift shop with stuff you can only find at the end of the ride. I really want one of those Hollywood Tower Hotel bathrobes.

Trivia: Ever wonder why the building is painted the color that it is? It’s because it is actually visible when looking at the Morocco pavilion in Epcot from across the World Showcase lagoon and the imagineers wanted to make sure that the building blended in. Its attention to detail like this that makes me love Disney so much.

Thoughts: What a great ride. Depending on my general mood, this switches with Splash Mountain as my favorite ride at Walt Disney World. It’s not just because it has all of the great thrilling drops, really the ride is not about that. It’s all about telling a story and then building suspense upon it, before delivering the knockout punch with the drops to send you home happy and dying to ride again. This is everything an amusement park ride should be. Just awesome!

Overall Rating: *****


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