That night’s story was somewhat unique and calls for a different kind of introduction. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror, as you may recognize, had a maintenance service elevator still in operation… but after that day, it moved into a land of both shadow and substance, to disappear from Disney California Adventure forever.
The shuttering of The Tower of Terror was commemorated with a special, “13th Hour” ticketed event. It began at 10pm on January 1st, and concluded at 1am on January 2nd—the attraction’s final day of operation. This event boasted the regular version of the ride (not the lights out, “Late Check-Out” version that had been running after sundown in the park after news of the attraction’s closure)—and as the announcement for the “posh event” encouraged, guests dressed the part of the “Golden Age” and donned their best fedoras, furs, and bellhop fashions.
In taking the tram from the Mickey and Friends parking structure to the park, it was quite easy to spot who was attending this event, as per Disney’s policy prohibiting adults to wear costumes, one doesn’t usually see guests in full costume shuttled to the gate. And after the trams dropped off their passengers, I noticed many guests were confused at only being directed to check in at the “esplanade.” As a writer, I will claim I knew exactly what this meant… without having to look it up. But for anyone who’s wondering, it’s the large, open space between the gates of Disneyland and DCA.
Once I found the check in tables on and received my credentials, I, as well as the other guests within earshot of me, were told by several cast members that there was no line to enter the event, and that the area around the Disneyland ticket counters were only a “holding area.” With this information, many guests who had arrived early left for Downtown Disney until the event started, only to return and find that a considerable—and quite formal—line had indeed formed. And, let’s just say several of these guests were none too restrained in voicing their displeasure at being provided misinformation.
Once inside Hollywood Land, as promised, there were several unique photo opportunities including a façade of The Hollywood Tower Hotel, a Hollywood premiere–style red carpet being covered by Cast Members in era reporter dress, and a chance to grab a pic with Chip and Dale in front of the Hollywood Tower Hotel/Tower of Terror sign. With the announcement of ToT’s closure, the park already added a photo opportunity by the sign in adding a luggage cart and bags for guests to pose with.
Drawing equally as much attention as the new snapshot spots was the event’s dessert buffets with soft-drinks (alcohol available for purchase), and entertainment from The Silver Lake Sisters—a female vocal group in the style of The Andrew Sisters, singing standards from the day. Most guests seemed to be impressed by the quality. At this point, I must confess I was a bit concerned at the sheer number of attendees and that the line for the ride would be approaching something near the one-hour mark. But to my surprise and delight, the food and photo ops, music and merchandise (upon entering the park, each guest was given was a voucher that entitled him or her to purchase only one of the exclusive, commemorative keepsakes that was for sale: a Hollywood Tower Hotel key paperweight for $34.99) drew a substantial number of guests. In fact, it appeared a good portion of the attendees were not concerned with dropping from the tarp-covered tower at all, and were more interested in the peripherals. The wait time for the ride was never longer than about twenty-five minutes, and it improved halfway through the night by Cast Members adding a separate line for guests who wanted to pause and take photos in front of the lobby before heading up to their rooms…
Despite the line snafu at the beginning of the night, the Cast Members were at the tip-top of their game. Those playing a Golden Age character did not break the entire evening. For example, when you handed your cell phone to one of the Reporters to take a picture for you, he or she pretended to not understand what a cell phone was or how the touch screen camera worked. Continuing that same level of commitment, all of the Bellhops were in grim character and significantly contributed to the experience by adding their personal dark twists—there was no perfunctory parroting of the script that night.
All and all, the evening was great fun and I feel well worth the $100 ticket price. In that night’s episode of Twilight Zone, I felt I was the star. Though some may say that the DCA version was never the best iteration of ride, I heard many guests throughout the night lament its leaving. The next time they wave goodbye to the real world and check into a deserted hotel on the dark side of Hollywood, it’ll be a bit farther away.
Read our review from the DCA Tower of Terror's opening, in 2004:Tweet
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