Published: February 14, 2015
That Hollywood Tower Hotel looms over California Adventure's Sunset Boulevard, as its predecessor does at Disney-MGM Studios in Walt Disney World. But while the Florida version bears a passing resemblance to the real Hollywood Tower, California Adventure's hotel evokes Pasadena's Castle Green, with a kick of art deco flavor.
From the lobby, bellhops beckon you into the library, crammed with authentic Twilight Zone TV props and a short video featuring the Tower's back story, narrated by a cleverly edited Serling himself. You are to enter the tower through a service elevator, and to experience for yourself the journey into the Fifth Dimension where the hotel's previous guests were lost. So it is through the back door into the boiler room, where the elevators await.
Here you will find another difference from the Florida original. The loading deck is split on two floors, and the elevators here travel in a single shaft. Florida's Tower of Terror takes riders up one shaft, where the elevator pauses for a few show scenes. Then the elevator follows a vanished family through the fifth dimension and into a second, drop shaft, where a blast of lightning sends riders into one of a randomly chosen sequence of drops and launches.
In California Adventure's version, your first movement is back, not up. The shaft melts into a star field as the elevator shoots upward to lobby level, where riders can gaze at themselves in a mirror, only to watch their images dissolve into apparitions. Go ahead, wave your arms and watch the ghost "you" wave back. Then it's swiftly up another level, where you meet up with that vanished family, beckoning you down the hall.
In Florida, your elevator would leave the shaft and follow. Here, you remain, watching them board an elevator which drops into space. As yours does immediately after. The drop surprised me, as it led immediately into this Tower of Terror's drop sequence.