One of the most popular thrill rides in Disney World history is The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. It’s an incredibly intense drop tower attraction that is perfect for those who love experiencing an adrenaline rush but don’t necessarily like the feeling of riding a rollercoaster.
When you’re planning a Disney World vacation, it’s important to know as many details as possible about everything you want to do during your trip. If riding Tower of Terror is on your list, we’ve got you covered. Keep reading to learn 10 things you should know about Disney World’s Tower of Terror!
In this article:
Tower of Terror’s Theme Park Home
When looking at the different theming for each of the four parks in Disney World, it makes perfect sense that the Tower of Terror is located at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. The entire backstory of the attraction is based in Hollywood, with the building itself named The Hollywood Tower Hotel.
When Disney’s Hollywood Studios (at the time called Disney-MGM Studios) was only a few years old, Imagineers realized they still needed a major thrill ride to round out the design of the park. Because the theme park itself was based on the Golden Age of Hollywood, merging the idea of a 1930s Hollywood hotel with the concept of the drop shaft ride made perfect sense. The famous Tower of Terror has served as the main park icon for Disney’s Hollywood Studios since 2015.
Tower of Terror’s Location at the Park
If you’re visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios with the goal of riding the Tower of Terror, you’ll be able to find it all the way at the end of Sunset Boulevard. It’s located near the Theater of the Stars, currently home to Beauty and the Beast – Live on Stage, right in between Rock ’n’ Roller Coaster and the Hollywood Hills Amphitheater where Fantasmic! plays.
When you enter Disney’s Hollywood Studios, you’ll walk straight down Hollywood Boulevard until you run into the first crossroad. If you head to the right, you’ll be moving onto Sunset Boulevard, and once you’ve turned that corner, you’ll know exactly where to go. The massive Hollywood Tower Hotel will be in full view all the way at the end of the street. In the evening, it’s straightforward to locate, as the outside is illuminated with purple-blue light and the sign glows bright in the dark.
Tower of Terror’s Height
If you’ve driven around Walt Disney World or even been walking around the World Showcase at Epcot, you’ve likely seen the Tower of Terror looming in the distance—that’s because it’s one of the tallest attractions in any of the Disney World parks. The Tower of Terror building stands at a whopping 199 feet tall, and the drop shaft alone has a height of 130 feet or approximately 13 stories.
If you’re wondering why they didn’t just build up one more foot to make it an even 200 feet tall, it has to do with design. Any building in Florida that has a height of 200 feet or more is required to have an airplane beacon on the top, and that would ruin the look and theming of the attraction. The Imagineers got just about as close as they could to the limit without going over, so the Tower of Terror is able to stand tall and also keep its design integrity as a glamorous hotel from the 1930s.
Tower of Terror’s Speed
Even with all the new major attractions that have been built at Disney World over the last 30 years, the Tower of Terror still remains one of the most intense thrill rides in all four Disney World parks. At its fastest point, the Tower of Terror drops at a speed of 39 miles per hour.
The mechanical design of the Tower of Terror means that riders also shoot upward at a high speed. Rather than being an actual elevator, the ride vehicles are automated to move by themselves into and out of the drop shafts. Once they have entered, a cable system pulls the ride vehicles up and down, allowing them to move even faster than if they were free-falling. The engineering of the Tower of Terror makes an already thrilling attraction feel even more intense!
Tower of Terror’s Safety Restrictions
Because Tower of Terror is such an intense attraction, Disney has a height requirement that you need to meet to be able to ride it. To experience Tower of Terror, you must be at least 40 inches (102 cm) tall. The speed at which the ride vehicles drop is enough to lift people out of their seats a bit, and if you don’t meet the height requirement, there’s a chance that you could be seriously injured during the ride.
There are also several safety restrictions that you should be conscious of before riding Tower of Terror. Disney’s safety requirements state that anyone who has high blood pressure or heart problems shouldn’t ride because their condition could be aggravated by the force of the drop. Additionally, the ride tosses you around so much that back or neck problems could be made worse, you could experience motion sickness, and if you’re expecting, it could be harmful to your pregnancy as well.
Tower of Terror’s Age
Although Tower of Terror has been one of the major icons of Disney’s Hollywood Studios over the last few decades, it was not an opening day attraction. In fact, when the theme park opened as Disney-MGM Studios on May 1, 1989, the entirety of Sunset Boulevard did not exist. Over the first few years that it was open, the park quickly grew in popularity, and Disney began planning its first expansion, which would ultimately become Sunset Boulevard.
The idea of a free-fall-type ride was originally going to be used in the 1980s in Frontierland at Euro Disney (now known as Disneyland Paris), but the concept never came to fruition. Imagineers ultimately decided that since they needed a big attraction to add to the Disney-MGM Studios expansion, they would pull out that decade-old idea and take another look at it. Tower of Terror premiered on July 22, 1994, almost 30 years ago, and it is still one of the most popular and iconic attractions at Disney World today.
Tower of Terror’s Design
When creating the Tower of Terror attraction, Imagineers had several different factors to consider. One of the biggest was the fact that it was going to be the tallest building on Disney World property at the time, so it would be seen from many different areas and perspectives. Cohesive design is very important in the Disney theme parks, and the Imagineers wanted to ensure that if you were viewing the building from a differently themed park, it wouldn’t stick out like a sore thumb.
The most notable place Tower of Terror can be seen in plain view is the World Showcase at Epcot, or more specifically, behind the Morocco Pavilion. Although Morocco and 1930s Hollywood have very different design styles, Tower of Terror was built in a way that doesn’t compromise the ride’s theming but still makes sense when seeing it in the distance while in Epcot. The Spanish Colonial Revival architectural style and the paint color of the ride building are similar enough to the Morocco Pavilion’s look that the Tower of Terror is able to blend in.
Did you know that the Tower of Terror cost approximately $140 million to build? Learn more about this and Disney’s other pricey attractions in our top 10 list of the most expensive Disney rides ever built.
Tower of Terror’s Backstory
The story that you step into when you enter the Tower of Terror is one that plays off the 1950s and 60s anthology series The Twilight Zone. Although the Tower of Terror isn’t featured in a specific episode of the series, the attraction’s plot is inspired by many of the different strange happenings that take place throughout the show, and the main host of the original series, Rod Sterling, also serves as the host of the attraction.
The story goes that The Hollywood Tower Hotel is where the rich and famous stay while in Los Angeles. On a stormy night in 1939, an actor, a singer, a child star and her nanny, and a bellhop are all traveling in a guest elevator when the hotel is suddenly hit by a bolt of lightning. The five people are electrocuted and vanish into thin air, as does that elevator and the entire wing of the hotel. It’s a story of scientific anomaly and horror, one that riders of the Tower of Terror come to discover more about as they experience the attraction.
If you’re afraid of the dark or other spooky things, you might want to skip this one. You can read more about this and the other scary rides to avoid at the Disney theme parks in our list of the top 10 scariest Disney rides.
Tower of Terror’s Influence on the Disney Parks
While the original Tower of Terror premiered at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at Disney World, there are a few other iterations of the ride at other Disney theme parks around the world. The second version of the attraction to open was at Disney California Adventure in 2004, and although it was similar in theme to the Disney World ride, there were some differences in the design of the building and ride system.
The Tokyo DisneySea version opened in 2006, and it was quite different from both the Florida and California rides. Unlike the American attractions, the Tokyo version didn’t feature the tie-in to The Twilight Zone and instead had an entirely original backstory. The final iteration of the attraction opened in Walt Disney Studios Park at Disneyland Paris in 2007, and this one was the most similar to the California version.
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