The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, commonly known as Tower of Terror, is an accelerated drop tower dark ride located at Disney's Hollywood Studios, Disney's California Adventure, Tokyo DisneySea and Walt Disney Studios Park in Paris. Exempting the Tokyo version, all the attractions are based upon Rod Serling's CBS television anthology series, The Twilight Zone, and take place in the fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel in Hollywood, California. The Tokyo version, which features an original story line not derived from The Twilight Zone, takes place in the fictional Hotel tower. Nevertheless, all four versions place riders in a seemingly ordinary hotel elevator, and present riders with a fictional back story in which people mysteriously disappeared from a hotel elevator under the influence of some supernatural element many years previously.
The original version of the attraction opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios (at Walt Disney World in Florida) in July 1994, and was the basis of the 1997 made-for-television movie Tower of Terror; several scenes were shot at the attraction. A decade later, Disney began plans to add similar versions of the attraction to their newest parks at the Disneyland Resort in California, Tokyo Disney Resort in Japan, and Disneyland Resort Paris; in California and Paris, Disney sought to use the popular attraction to boost attendance at the respective resorts' struggling new theme parks. The California and Tokyo versions of Tower of Terror opened in 2004 and 2006, respectively, while financial problems delayed the opening of the Paris version until 2008.
The Tower of Terror buildings are among the tallest found at their respective Disney resorts. At 199 feet (60.7 m), the Florida version is the second tallest attraction building at the Walt Disney World Resort, shorter only than Expedition Everest's 199.5 feet (60.8 m). At the Disneyland Resort, the 183-foot (55.8 m) structure is the tallest attraction at the resort, as well as one of the tallest buildings in Anaheim. At Disneyland Paris it is the second tallest attraction.
In the American and European versions of the attraction, guests enter the Hollywood Tower Hotel through the front gate. Throughout the entire queue area in most parks typical 1930s jazz music can be heard. Passengers wander through a cracked, serpentine pathway which leads to the hotel. The outdoor queue winds through the overgrown gardens of the hotel, past signs pointing to the stables, bowling green, tennis courts and swimming pools. The path then meanders past the hotel entrance, crumbling statuary and a vine-covered pavilion.
Inside the doors of the Hollywood Tower Hotel everything is draped in dust and decay. There is a yellowed copy of the Los Angeles Examiner dated October 31, 1939, a table set with tea and stale pastries, several suitcases abandoned near the front desk, a long-extinguished fireplace, an unfinished game of Mahjong accompanied by a few cocktails, a concierge desk with a hat and cane left behind, and a cobwebbed owl sculpture surrounded by a circle of dead flowers. In the California and Paris versions, the game of Mahjong was replaced with an unfinished game of cards.
Behind the front desk are the elevators; the sliding doors of one are partially detached from their grooves. A sign in front of the elevator reads "Out of Order". The setting is composed to give the impression that the hotel has been left untouched since some mysterious past event. Guests are informed that their rooms are not quite ready and are then ushered into the hotel library, which is home to books and the hotel's collection of antiques and exotic curiosities, an old television set, and various pieces of Twilight Zone memorabilia scattered about the room. Through the window, guests may observe a severe thunderstorm raging outside.
With a bolt of lightning the power suddenly goes out, save for the television which crackles into life and the opening sequence from Season 4 and Season 5 of The Twilight Zone plays, followed by a supposedly "lost" episode hosted by Rod Serling (which is actually a modified re-themed introduction taken from the show's third season's eighth episode "It's a Good Life"). Through the use of numerous Twilight Zone audio samples, Serling seems to describe the closure of the Hollywood Tower Hotel back in 1939. The episode shows the hotel on that night, where a severe thunderstorm has enveloped the building and grounds. The episode then cuts to the lobby, where a singer, her boyfriend, a child, her nanny, and a hotel bellhop board the elevator.