Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at DCA – A Reflection

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has shut its doors at Disney California Adventure.  The popular and terrifying attraction brought a large crowd to the park on January 2nd – the last day to ride.  Many were repeat visitors eager to drop in one last time.  Many have fond memories from riding the falling elevator.  I’m one of these that have had a great time on this attraction.

Tower of Terror opened in 2004.  Its predecessor, the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney’s Hollywood Studios, opened 10 years earlier.  This version of the Florida attraction had its own architecture and a bit of a different ride route to it.  Before its grand opening, Annual Passholders were able to ride it a few days earlier.

I remember going with a friend that had never ridden the version at Walt Disney World.  Though I forewarned him of the 13 story drop, he didn’t really know what to expect.  It caught him by such surprise that he laughed hysterically with all the ups and downs.

That seemed to be the reaction with many I’ve ridden with.  It’s such a fun but exhilarating journey that people can’t help but laugh.  Sure it has its terror, but it was fun at the same time.

The terror came with the mystery of the plot.  The Twilight Zone has always had a spin on seemingly ordinary things.  It wasn’t that this hotel was haunted.  It was that we could be sucked into the foreboding building like some guests long ago.  How do we escape?  Will we escape?  These questions made the attraction horrifically fun.

Mystery came with atmosphere and decor.  The hotel had the appearance of abandonment, and a sudden one at that.  Did people leave in a hurry or did something else happen?  The eery music did not help take out any creepiness.  It was ethereal, but enjoyable.

Among the decorations were a great deal of homages to classic Twilight Zone episodes.  It was always fun to find references to the show among random props in the television room.  But, there were strange props to behold at the exit and in the lobby.  It upped the creep factor quite a bit when you started to notice the ominous finds.

The boiler room had a great tribute to the fifth dimension.  On the second story of the line a part of the wall had three x’s with a circle connecting them.  Every so often you could hear a girl’s voice that seemed to speak from beyond the wall…asking for help.  It was a reference to an episode called Little Girl Lost in which a girl accidentally finds a passage to the fifth dimension and can’t get back to ours.

Gags came not in the waiting area, but from cast members.  They were able to become part of the story with hilarious safety spiels that carried jokes like “If you need anything feel free to scream.”  They played up being creepy bellhops and it made the ride that much better.  My favorite gag is a sign located on some pipes.  The sign reads “Danger Man In Boiler.”  A strange thing to say in any context.

Even though the ride lives on in other parks, and two out of three keep the Twilight Zone storyline, it still will be greatly missed at Disney California Adventure.  Though it was based on a television show, it had an original story that provided its own mythology.  There hasn’t been another attraction that has done it since Haunted Mansion.  The building was referenced in different spots in Hollywoodland and Buena Vista Street.  Five and Dime, the street performing jazz band even had a couple references to it that cued up songs.  It had a depth to it that provided deep connection to fans.

We’ll miss the ominous tower with screams of guests coming out of it.  We’ll miss the mysterious atmosphere that beckoned us and scared us at the same time.  We’ll miss Rod Serling and his invitation to the Twilight Zone.  We’ll miss every drop as we tried to discover what happened to the five elevator passengers.

So, with that, we let the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror retire to the fifth dimension….

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2 thoughts on “Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at DCA – A Reflection”

  1. There’s a difference between Disneyland never being done, as Walt said it would never be, and Disneyland eating its young. Tearing out a classic attraction theme entirely? Ripping out the entire north west corner of the park? Vandalizing forever the rivers of America course that Walt, himself, designed? I spent many years in love with Disneyland and then the past couple of years happened and I felt like Disneyland broke up with me. Because it just doesn’t feel like all the recent Imagineering changes at the resort respect the history of the place. And that’s really sad.

    1. What you you mean “vandalizing”? This is not the first time that something in Disneyland has gotten re-routed or changed considerably. What about when Tom Sawyer Island received major alterations in 1992 for Fantasmic? Or when the Jungle Cruise river got moved for Indiana Jones Adventure? (You forgot about those didn’t you?)

      The Tower of Terror in California opened in 2004. It is hardly a “classic.” It’s a shame to see it go, but I try to be open to new experiences.

      Walt Disney was not afraid to change or remove things in the park for the sake of expansion. Walt WANTED the park to change and evolve. Disneyland is not a museum that is meant to stay the exact same way forever.

      Disneyland is not a historical landmark.

      Disneyland opened in 1955. It is now 2017. Do you really expect that everything is supposed to stay the same and be untouched since 1955?

      Did you know that on opening day, Frontierland was the largest land? That is because in 1955, Westerns were very popular. Walt wanted the park to change to reflect public tastes and new advancements in technology.

      Have you ever stopped to think about all of the major changes that the park has received before your lifetime? I didn’t think so.

      For God’s sake, the Imagineers are not evil. The one thing we know for a fact is that Walt wanted the park to change and evolve, and as long as the imagineers keep that goal alive, they are respecting Walt’s wishes.

      You think of it as “vandalizing”? Get a grip. Did Walt ever say that the Rivers of America were off-limits to change? No.

      Change isn’t easy, but moving forward is what Walt would have wanted.

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