Two sights dominate American Waterfront - the Tower of Terror ride and the S.S. Columbia. Southern Californians will recognize the S.S. Columbia - it's a dead ringer for the Queen Mary, which stands in Long Beach - the intended original home for DisneySea, as we explained in our first piece on the tour.
We'll get to the S.S. Columbia in a bit, but let's start today with Tower of Terror.
You'll notice that I didn't write "Twilight Zone Tower of Terror." That's because this version does not carry the Twilight Zone theme. Instead of being the Hollywood Tower Hotel, this Tower of Terror is the Hightower Hotel, a New York landmark built by one Harrison Hightower. (Subtle name, huh?)
Hightower, of course, is a Disney Imagineering creation - a fictional billionaire and adventurer who disappeared in his signature hotel one fateful night many years ago.
What happened to Harrison Hightower? That's the mystery we're set to discover in a tour of the hotel.
After queuing through the lobby, we're escorted into a small study at the side of the lobby, just as with the U.S. Towers of Terror. But instead of seeing Rod Serling on a TV set, an attendant plays an honest-to-goodness phonograph record for us. And if I darned nearly fainted from the shock of seeing someone place a needle on a spinning record again, just wait to hear what's coming in a moment.
It seems that something's suspect about the Shiriki Utundu idol that Hightower pilfered on one of his expeditions - the same idol we see on a perch above the phonograph. As the tale tells, the stained glass window we see above the desk where the photograph stands begins to change. The image of the Hightower Hotel turns dark, and the confident Hightower in front of it adopts a worried, perhaps even terrified, look.
Then an elevator car crashes from the Hightower Hotel in the window. The idol's eyes glow green. And then…
The most amazing visual effect I've ever seen in a Disney theme park happens. The idol simply… disappears. A real, three-dimensional idol that appeared to be standing on a perch just barely beyond our arms' reach just vanishes. From there, we could have exited the pre-show into Billy Bob's County Fair Bumper Cars, and I would still rate this one of the best attractions I've ever seen.
But we get to go on Tower of Terror now. Instead of entering an industrial sub-basement, we continue through a lavishly detailed collection of Hightower's antiques and artifacts as we await our elevator. Once we're aboard, though, the rest of the ride is essentially the California Adventure version of the ride, with the Harrison Hightower overlay instead of the tourist family from the Twilight Zone narrative.
We get a three-point lap and shoulder belt instead of the stateside lap belt, the rise to see the idol blow away the not-so-poor, but very unfortunate Mr. Hightower. We rise another level to see ourselves "glow away" in the mirror, just as at California Adventure. One final rise brings us to the top of the shaft, when the real fun begins.
An initial drop, then two half-shaft drops and finally two full-shaft drops complete the adventure, before we exit the elevators into the requisite gift shop. While I miss the fourth dimension and random drop sequences in Orlando, I'll take that disappearing idol over a CGI Rod Serling any day.
Just down the street from Tower of Terror stands the future home of "Toyville Trolley Park." But wait, aren't those Hamm and Rex up on those spires? Yep, this is the future home of Tokyo's version of Toy Story Midway Mania, opening next summer.
The rest of the land is an homage to New York City, with its own Columbus Circle,
Broadway theater (showing "Big Band Beat," which I must admit I skipped),
and public restrooms.
Wait a minute! I knew this was really a theme park! ;^)
Take the bridge past the S.S. Columbia, and you'll find the other half of American Waterfront, a Cape Cod-themed bay.
There are no attractions over here, save a Duffy meet-and-greet, but you will find the popular Cape Cod Cook-Off restaurant.
If you're not in the mood for burgers and fries, though, the best eats in American Waterfront can be found on board the S.S. Columbia. And that's where we are heading tomorrow.Tweet
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