The View from the Top of the Tower of Terror Photo Gallery

The doors open and you linger for a few seconds, letting you enjoy the view some 160-some feet above the park before plummeting down the drop shaft.  The view from the top of the Tower of Terror is a fleeting moment, but a few talented photographers have captured it beautifully.

Hollywood Studios (Florida)

The view from the top of the Tower of Terror Hollywood Studios drop shafts

Front of the Hollywood Tower Hotel with the “Echo” drop shaft doors open. Photo credit: Donten photography

The view from the top of the Tower of Terror behind HOLLYWOOD sign

The view from the “Echo” (building’s right side) drop shaft, looking out from behind the “HOLLY” letters. Photo credit:

The view from the top of the Tower of Terror behind TOWER sign

The view from the “Foxtrot” (building’s left side) drop shaft of the Tower of Terror looking out from behind the “TOWER” letters.  Photo credit: expressmonorail

The view from the top of the Tower of Terror

Unobstructed view from the “Echo” drop shaft. Photo credit: mytripsandraces

The view from the top of the Tower of Terror

Not sure which side of the tower this was taken on. Photo credit: Disneyana by Max

Disney California Adventure (California)


DCA Tower of Terror with all three drop shafts open.  Photo credit: cheets99

The view from the top of the Tower of Terror Disney California Adventure DCA

A nighttime view of Disney California Adventure. Photo credit: thebugger2000

Tokyo DisneySea (Tokyo)

The view from the top of the Tower of Terror Tokyo DisneySea

A view from the top of Tokyo DisneySea’s Tower of Terror. Photo credit: Cory Doctorow

The view from the top of the Tower of Terror Tokyo Disneysea

A lower elevation view from the same drop shaft at the Tokyo DisneySea Tower of Terror. Photo credit: Cory Doctorow

Walt Disney Studios (Paris)

The view from the top of the Tower of Terror Paris

A view of the Walt Disney Studios park in Paris, France. Photo credit: neovortex2k at

Do you have a great photo from the top of the Tower of Terror that you’d like to share?  Tell us about it by leaving a comment!

Tower Showdown: Tower of Terror Florida vs California

Tower-savvy fans already know there are four Towers worldwide, two of which are located in the US. Ten years separates their construction (Florida came first in 1994) and, unsurprisingly, the differences between the two have been controversial among fans. I have visited both – welcome to a little comparison I like to call Tower of Terror Florida vs. California!


Tower of Terror comparison: Florida vs. California

If you can only get to one or the other, don’t despair – the Tower is amazing no matter which one you ride.

The major differences between the two are the exterior appearance, the overall dimensions of the attraction (California’s is wider but smaller overall), cost to build (CA’s came in at many millions of dollars less), rider capacity (Florida’s is more prone to breakdown, California’s has three separate drop shafts), and unique show features such as the 5th Dimension (FL only) and the “Wave Goodbye” screen (CA and all other versions in the world).

Let’s dig into the differences between the Florida (HS) tower and the California (DCA) tower.


The Towers’ architectural differences are the first difference everyone notices.  The tall, spindly towers of the HS version were traded for a more squat-looking, flat-roofed design in DCA. Alas, like many fans, I disliked the new look at first, but I grew to appreciate its blocky style (especially once a layer of sentimentality was applied – this is the first Tower version that my husband and I rode together).

If I have any real complaint about the DCA Tower’s exterior, it’s that it just doesn’t look as old.  The perkier colors and the architectural style feel fresher than the downright haunted looking Florida version.

Both towers have the same tilted, half-burned out sign letters, but the arrangements differ. In DCA, the words “Hollywood” appear over “Tower” – in Florida, the two words fit all on one line.  This is a fairly unimportant difference, but putting the words all on one line might have highlighted the wider width of the DCA tower. Notice the CA tower has three drop shafts on its front, where the FL tower just has two.  The sign difference also serves to further distinguish the two tower designs from one another.

Edge: Hollywood Studios for its gloomy glare


Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror photo credit: spectropluto



The Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror entrance is on the building’s left side. Photo credit: AreteStock

The Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror has a palpable detachment from the park around it.  Guests enter the queue from an off-to-the-side entrance, and wind through an overgrown garden queue before entering the Hotel’s dilapidated library having (hopefully!) thoroughly forgotten the park they left behind.

disney california adventure entrance

The entrance to the DCA Tower of Terror is aligned with the front of the building.

The Disney California Adventure Tower of Terror welcomes guests right off the street.  The queue is much less tucked away from the rest of the park. Inside the building, the view from the DCA lobby entrance isn’t an outdoor garden like it is in Hollywood Studios, it’s just the rest of the park.  The experience of becoming “lost” along the way got… lost.

Edge: Hollywood Studios for its tucked away entrance

Lobby Design


Both the Hollywood Studios and Disney California Adventure towers have stunningly detailed lobbies accented by different architectural touches.

The HS lobby is painted in a more muted color palette, while the DCA lobby features brightly colored accents playing up its art deco style. The HS lobby feels older and dimmer, and its walls are more crumbly looking.

The CA Tower has a flat ceiling which is just a bit less awe-inspiring than the soaring arch ceiling of the FL tower.  As for details, there are plenty of small differences for guests to notice, but I think my favorite detail is the Burberry coat that only exists in DCA, draped like a scarf over the front lobby desk.  (Is the California tower cold? Aww.)


Burberry coat draped over the front desk in the California Tower of Terror’s lobby. Photo credit: DaViDpThOrNtOn

Edge: They’re so similar, but the Florida tower’s arched ceiling is just breathtaking in person

Pre-Show Library

The libraries are identical as far as these eyes can tell. Here is a particularly well-lit photo:

Boiler Room / Loading

Both boiler rooms are going for the dark, old, and dusty look.  Guests wait here to be loaded into returning elevator cars.

The Hollywood Studios boiler room takes dark, old, and dusty to the max. This boiler room is so creepy, sometimes I think it went a little too far for a Disney park attraction (which is, of course, exactly what I love about it).

The DCA boiler room is decorated the same, but I seems to have brighter and more colorful lights.  Reds, blues, greens, and yellows shine in spots on the ceiling.


Also: the DCA boiler room has a face. Photo source:

The DCA boiler room also has an usual new addition: a second floor! The left Library unloads guests to the top floor (guests take a flight of stairs up within the boiler room). Thanks to its larger size, the DCA boiler room also has more props and small scenes to look at (including a gigantic glowing creepy “face”).  The double decker loading might detract from the “basement boiler room” feel, but it greatly increases the attraction’s throughput.

Edge: The HS boiler room gets the theming spot-on, but DCA wins this one with shorter wait times.



Photo credit: AreteStock

The elevator always arrives empty no matter which version you’re visiting.  This is excellent design choice that I’m glad survived to DCA’s budget-oriented version of the ride. Watching as the previous guests stumble off the ride is one of my least favorite parts of the Disney theme park experience, and in TOT’s case, watching the previous riders exit would spoil the story.

But there is an interesting difference here:

  • In HS, riders step directly from their loading lines into the elevator.
  • In DCA, riders step through a hallway on their way into the elevator. Walking the width of the hallway does detract somewhat from the feeling of boarding an elevator.
Photo Credit: Top Thrill Dragster at

Photo Credit: Top Thrill Dragster at

The hallway seems weird at first, until you consider that it’s also the same hallway riders enter when exiting the ride (out of view of the next group). This is a huge efficiency gain over the HS design where the riders unload elsewhere and the car then rotates and drives itself into its loading position.

Edge: Hard choice. Hollywood Studios “feels” better, but I think I’d give DCA the advantage here: the hallway step-through is brief and the increased efficiency presumably allows more guests to enjoy the attraction more times.

Ride Experience

Spoiler alert!  If you want to be surprised when riding a Tower for the first time, skip this section!

Hollywood Studio Tower ride experience

(Skip ahead to 6:30 for the ride experience)

Riders are hoisted up the elevator shaft directly from their loading position.  The illusion of an elevator stays intact from the start, and the ride increases the tension slowly.  Doors open to treat guests to the hallway ghost scene, and then the elevator rises again.

Doors open and the elevator moves forward through through a mirror-filled dark starlit hallway known as the “5th Dimension”.  (It looks better in person than it does in the video.) At the end of the 5th Dimension, the elevator enters the final drop shaft and begins its thrilling drop sequence.

There are four different drop profiles, and the one your car gets is randomly chosen.

DCA Tower ride experience

(Skip ahead to 12:00 for the ride experience)

Shortly after boarding, the elevator is yanked backwards amid a visually stunning explosion of lightning and effects. The elevator illusion is lost, but the spectacular sight starts the ride off with a bang. The elevator enters the lift shaft and immediately rises to show one of two scenes first: the ghost hallway scene, or the wave goodbye scene, depending on which elevator shaft you’re in (the sequence is reversed in the other shaft).

Photo credit: thebugger2000

Photo credit: thebugger2000

The “wave goodbye” scene is present in all towers except the one in Florida, and it’s a nice addition.  Guests watch their reflection fade from a huge mirror, and the glow effect is fun to play with (wave your arms to smear it around!). The elevator then begins its drop sequence, a thrilling series of four long drops and pulls.  There are four different drop profiles, and the one your car gets is randomly chosen.

Edge: The drop sequence – the meat and potatoes, if you will – is spectacular in both versions.  The rest is just variations in seasoning.

If I had to pick a favorite, it’d be the Hollywood Studios version.  It’s not without flaws –  Florida’s 5th Dimension transition scene can feel a bit slower than the rest of the attraction and the transition into the drop shaft is bumpy, with little to distract from the sensation of the car aligning itself for the finale.  And I love how the California version of the Tower of Terror keeps the thrills coming, from that explosive start to the seamless transition into the final drop sequence. DCA’s “wave goodbye” screen is fun to play with and a wonder to watch.  But the Tower in Hollywood Studios offers a greater variety of drop sequences, has cool props in the elevator shaft itself and at the bottom while you turn around to unload, and looks more menacing from the outside.


In Hollywood Studios, the passenger car “lands” in a room full of Twilight Zone references and old memorabilia to feast your eyes on. The elevator rotates and drives itself to deliver the passengers to the unloading dock, where they disembark and stumble into the gift shop.

Photo credit: source unknown

Photo credit: source unknown

The DCA version unloads in the same place it loaded.  At the end of the drop sequence, the passenger car is pulled forward and out of the elevator car to dock at the exit door. There is no room full of Twilight Zone “memorabilia” in the DCA tower.  Riders enter the same hallway they passed through while boarding, turning right to exit towards the gift shop.

The walk to the gift shop feels much longer at DCA, and the hallway itself has a rather “backstage” feel to it – it’s just a blandly painted, mostly empty corridor.

Edge: Hollywood Studios for the spooky room full of Twilight Zone props and short and more decorated walk to the gift shop!


The Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror is just a bit more off-kilter than the DCA version.  It is content to let you linger and roam a bit, separate yourself from the busy park you left behind when you wandered off the beaten path. This tower is spookier and the suspense is almost overwhelming by the time the big drop arrives!

The DCA version gets right down to business from the minute you step off the street and through its gates. The compacted entrance queue, double-decker boiler room, step-through hallway and single-shaft design add efficiency and snappiness. This tower keeps the thrills coming fast – hold on tight!

Really, whichever one you think is best is up to you.  My favorite is the Hollywood Studios version, which wins at theming and suspenseful atmosphere (and heaps of nostalgia since this was the Tower I grew up with(; but I also love the DCA Tower of Terror for its fast-paced thrills and efficiency. 

Tower of Terror favorite ride Florida vs California love both

Has Lightning Ever Really Struck the Tower of Terror?


The fictional story behind the Tower’s fateful lighting strike isn’t entirely fantasy.  Thanks to one lucky YouTube videographer, the spectacular sight of lightning striking one of the Tower of Terror’s lightning rods is seen below:

Legend has it that lightning struck the Tower of Terror during its construction. Is the lightning legend believable? I’d say so!

Lightning Rods: The Modern Cure for Towers of Terror

has lightning ever really struck the tower of terror

Zap!! Photo credit: TheStuartcarrol

The lightning strike video demonstrates one of the Tower of Terror’s many safety features: lightning rods! According to the Tower’s story premise, lightning struck the elevator towers in 1939, ripping them from the face of the structure and sending the elevator passengers into The Twilight Zone. Nowadays, however, we’re not too fond of having buildings turned into Towers of Terror so we equip them with lightning rods. All modern buildings (also many roller coasters and other tall structures) over a certain height are constructed with lightning rods.

It’s a simple design with profound capabilities. Fun fact about lightning rods: they don’t actually attract lightning, they just provide a convenient “path of least resistance” for the electrical current to travel along on its way to the ground.  In other words, lightning rods provide lightning with an appealing target to strike (instead of, say, our favorite Disney attraction).

The rod is made of highly conductive metal which is attached to a thick length of copper wire running all the way to the ground, which connects to an underground grid.  The grid serves to dissipate the lightning safely underground, away from people and buildings. The strike will occur whether or not a rod is present: a rod is just a way of mitigating and directing the force.

Read more on How Lightning Rods Work

Tower of Terror Drop Profiles

tower of terror drop profiles vintage posterThe Tower of Terror is somewhat unique among thrill rides in that its drop sequence can be redesigned (more drops! longer holds! more rumbling!)  by the attraction’s managers.  The sequence of drops and rises is collectively referred to as a “drop profile”.

Introducing a new drop profile is a big deal, usually accompanied by new merchandise, updated on-ride photo frames, and marketing (and testing, of course, to make sure the new drop profile is actually an improved experience).

In its nearly 20 year history, the Tower of Terror has had five different drop profiles.

Hollywood Studios, Walt Disney World (Florida)

The original Tower of Terror has undergone the largest number of changes to its drop profile.



Drop Profile Description

Tower Tagline


July 22, 1994

The original ride profile featured just one big drop.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror™


May, 1996

The second ride profile featured two full drops.

“Twice the Fright”


March 1, 1999

This profile’s third drop added 30% more time in the elevator shaft, a rumbling shake, greater acceleration, and more weightless feeling than the previous profile.


“Fear Every Drop!”


January 1st, 2003

The fourth profile change is actually four new profiles.  Now, the Tower’s computer randomly selects a drop sequence from a set of four different presets.  All four sequences include at least one full drop from the top to the bottom of the elevator shaft. Depending on the elevator shaft or the drop profile you get, your elevator may stop at a scene along the way – lightning, a blue ghost, the original elevator guests

“Never the Same Fear Twice”


June 5, 2010 – August 14, 2010

Temporary drop profile change, drops were longer than the randomized version.  Tower4 was returned after August 2010.

“Summer Nighttastic!”

The current drop profile is often called “random”, but it’s important to understand that the computer is actually selecting randomly from a set of pre-defined (and tested and approved) drop profiles.  If you ride it a whole bunch of times in a row and pay close attention, you’ll realize that some of the drop sequences are the same.

In other words, the Tower isn’t deciding what to do with you as it goes. 🙂


Close-up of the Tower of Terror’s show control computer display from Disney-made inside look at the new Tower of Terror’s construction in Paris.

Disney California Adventure (California)

Construction on the DCA Tower of Terror completed about a year and a half after Tower4 drop profile was introduced at the Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror.  Tower4 and its “random drop profiles” experience was not imported to DCA (or Tokyo or Paris) (thanks for the tip, Renan!).  Instead, DCA has its own drop profile (that may or may not be shared with the Paris tower – can anyone out there confirm similarities?)


July 22, 2004

After the two scenery stops (ghosts in the hallway and the “wave goodbye” mirror), the elevator drops, then climbs the height of the elevator shaft all the way to the top set of doors which open to give riders a view of the park before dropping the length of the shaft, climbing up halfway, then dropping, then all the way back up to the top before dropping one last time.

Source video:

Some fans have expressed interest in bringing the random drop profile to DCA.  While some fans feel the random drop experience makes the Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror the best of the bunch, others think the one drop profile present in DCA, Tokyo, and Paris is more polished and offers more “airtime” than many of the Tower4 sequences offer.

Toyko and Paris Towers


July 22, 2004

After the two scenery stops (Hightower’s scene in the hallway and the “wave goodbye” mirror), the elevator drops, then climbs the height of the elevator shaft all the way to the top set of doors which open to give riders a view of the park before dropping to the lower set of doors, then all the way down to the bottom of the shaft.  The elevator climbs again, this time stopping at the bottom set of doors before dropping the length of the elevator shaft.

Source video:

This part of TowerSecrets is under construction! Do you know more about the Tokyo and Paris drop profiles? Let us know in the comments!

All About the Tower of Terror Motors

Behind all that free-falling mania are the Tower of Terror’s elevator motors, the unsung and unseen heroes of the attraction.  The Tower of Terror motors are unique, designed specifically for their use in the attraction.  They are much bigger, faster, and more powerful than ordinary high-speed elevator motors.

tower of terror motors tower of terror engine room

Low-res snapshot of the Tower of Terror’s engine room is from a Disney-made video that goes behind the scenes of the Tower of Terror in Paris.

Motor Design

Despite its peculiarities, the Tower of Terror is just a specialized version of the common traction elevator. A heavy duty steel cable creates a loop of cable attached both the top and the bottom of the elevator car.  The counterweight is on the opposite side of the loop.  The same motor and cable loop that pulls the elevator up also pulls it down.

Motor Size

According to the classic insider-look book, Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real, the Tower of Terror’s motors are 12’ tall, 7’ wide, and 35’ long.  This gives each motor a 245 sq ft footprint.  To put that into perspective, each motor is about the size of a 1-car garage.  They are three times larger than the world’s largest high-speed elevator motors.

Motor Weight

Not only are the Tower of Terror motors huge, they’re heavy.  Each lift shaft has its own motor which weighs 132,000 lbs. To get even more technical, this means the motors exert 432 pounds per square foot on the steel frame they rest on.  And they’re at the TOP of the structure, supported by a strong steel frame.  The pretty facade around it isn’t load-bearing, it’s just a decorative wrapper around the steel cage.

How Many Motors?

The Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror likely has six motors: one for each of the four lift shafts in the back,and one for each of the two drop shafts in the front. Newer versions of the ride take place in one shaft and require just three motors.


The motors accelerate 10 tons at 15 times faster than the world’s fastest elevators.  And in case you were wondering, the torque generated to move the elevators is equivalent to about 275 Corvette engines.

Top Speed

The Tower of Terror is said to travel at a top speed of 39mph. This is faster than gravity’s own acceleration, so, in other words, when you’re descending you’re actually being pulled.  (Keep in mind that some of the “wind” you experience on the descent is completely fake – it’s from fans located below the elevator car!)

Certified by Guinness World Records, the elevators of the Taipei 101 skyscraper are the fastest “normal” elevators in the world. The Taipei 101 skyscraper elevators travel at a top speed of 37.3mph.

More About Elevators

Elevators in general:

Elevator motor pictures:

Tower of Terror Architecture Styles

Even casual observers will immediately notice that the Tower of Terror comes in three distinct architectural styles:

  • The original pink-colored Neo-Mediterranean version in Florida
  • A boxy yellow-and-teal Pueblo Deco version in California and Paris
  • An ornate Moorish Revival version in Tokyo

Read on to learn more about each!

Tower of Terror architecture differences styles HS DCA TDS

So why the architectural differences?

Well, for starters, Disney is big on theming.  They never just drop an attraction into a park without thought to how it will complement the surrounding area.  Each park section has its own look and feel, and everything in that section (even down to the trash cans and streetlamps) is designed to fit in.

So while a Neo-Mediterranean tower fit in the “old Hollywood” of MGM-Studios, Florida, Disney’s Imagineers felt that a Pueblo Deco building was more appropriate for the heavily California themed Disney California Adventure park, even though both are creating an idealized vision of Hollywood.

Like most art, architecture doesn’t exist in a vacuum.  A single structure may incorporate traits from multiple time periods and regions.  As we explore the architecture styles of the Tower of Terror attractions, keep in mind that many design ideas are so widely used that they can be represented in multiple architectural styles.

The Original Original Tower

Before we dig into the individual Towers, let’s first meet the original Hollywood Tower.

No, it doesn’t look much like the rides – all it really has in common is the glowing Hollywood Tower sign and the pointy towers atop the roof.  But it’s been cited by Imagineers as inspiration for the attraction, so there you go.

The Hollywood Tower (how difficult it is to type that without adding “of Terror”!) is an apartment complex designed by Cramer & Wise and built in 1929 in the heart of Hollywood.  It still stands today. It’s considered a Hollywood landmark and national treasure (it was even added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1988).

Nineteenth and twentieth century revival styles were all the rage in early Hollywood, so the Hollywood Tower is far from the only “faux historic” building in the area, and we’ll get to the importance of those other buildings in the Florida Tower of Terror’s section.

Now that you’ve met the granddaddy, let’s meet the offspring.

The First Tower of Terror

Hollywood Tower Hotel Florida original

The original Tower of Terror’s most noticeable architectural characteristics are Neo-Mediterranean, a revival style that peaked in popularity in the 1920’s and 1930’s in both California and Florida.  The style was especially popular for hotels and apartment buildings. Characteristics of Neo-Mediterranean include red tiled roof, arched doorways and windows, keystones, stuccoed walls, rectangular floor plans, and even lush gardens.

But the Tower of Terror also draws inspiration from at least two real life Hollywood hotels.  The Tower’s twisted columns, minarets, archway ornamentations, and gardens are reminiscent of those of the Mission Inn Hotel and Spa in Riverside, California.

Mission Inn Riverside California vintage photograph Tower of Terror

Tower of Terror HS walkway Riverside Inn

Photo credit: Jack Spence

The Château Marmont Hotel of Hollywood, California looks at first glance like the tower repainted.  Its blocky facade and roof gables are echoed in the Tower’s design.

chateau marmont roof like tower of terror

Some elements of Spanish Gothic architecture tie it all together: the tiled roof, pinkish-orange facade, and soaring height are all reminiscent of the style.

Oh, and it had to blend in with EPCOT’s Morocco exhibit.


The California and Paris Tower of Terrors


Photo credit: Wikipedia

After Disney California Adventure opened in 2001 to relatively poor reviews, Disney’s Imagineers set to work on improving the park.  Opening in 2004, the new DCA Tower of Terror was one of the first imports brought in to help perk up the park.

But since Disney California Adventure is a celebration of California, the Tower would need an architectural makeover to really fit in at its new home on the park’s Lake Buena Vista street, which recreates Los Angeles as it appeared when Walt Disney lived there in the 1920s.  So whereas the original Tower was inspired by old Hollywood, the DCA Tower would be inspired by… 1920’s LA.  It’s a subtle difference, I agree. 🙂

The California (and later, Paris) Tower was built in the distinctly American Pueblo Deco architectural style. Pueblo Deco is a hybrid of Art Deco, which characterized by geometric shapes and bright colors, and Pueblo Revival, characterized by southwestern Native American motifs like sunbursts and arrowheads, adobe (real or simulated) exteriors, and flat roofs.


Photo credit: Matthew Walker


Photo credit: Cehannan


Photo credit: Scott Weitz

Combinations of the two can be found throughout the American Southwest. The DCA/Paris Tower of Terror’s fake construction plaque gives it a construction date of 1929, placing it right in the midst of the Art Deco fever that swept the United States between the World Wars.

But wait, why is the Paris tower built to look like California if it’s in Paris?  When the Tower came once again to the rescue of lagging ticket sales, this time in Paris, there was no “Hollywood Street” already established in the park. So Disney made one.

The decision to keep the Tower grounded in Hollywood was probably both a cost-saving move (yay, recycling!) as well as a desire to celebrate Disney’s California and Hollywood roots.

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

The DCA and the Paris Towers are practically twins, but if you look real close near the top you’ll see the easiest to spot difference:


The Lobbies

If there’s one thing the Hollywood Studios Tower and the DCA Tower share, it’s their lobbies.  Identical in layout but varying architectural details (most notably the ceiling structure), both lobbies were inspired by the real-life Biltmore Hotel.

Biltmore Hotel ceiling:

Tower of Terror (Hollywood Studios) ceiling:


Photo credit: maybesomeday

Biltmore elevator doors look a lot like the Tower of Terror’s pre-library wait area:


The Tokyo Tower of Terror


Photo credit: The Disney Wiki

Tokyo Disneysea’s Tower of Terror is mechanically identical to DCA/Paris, but the rest is a complete reimagining of the story concept and architectural design.  The new Tower was plopped down in the established “American Waterfront” land, set in turn-of-the-century New York Harbor and Cape Cod.  A story about the New York City Preservation Society’s efforts to save the historical hotel and solve the mystery of its owner’s disappearance was built up around the new Tower. Since the attraction was “relocated” to New York, styling it after old Hollywood or the American Southwest would be out of place.

Imagineers undoubtedly looked first at turn-of-the-century New York for inspiration, where the Moorish Revival  architectural style was enjoying a period of popularity.  Below, an example of Moorish Revival architecture (also known as Mudéjar, and not to be confused with Moorish).

The DisneySea Tower’s multifoil arches, small domes, simple window tracery, and detailed brickwork are all characteristic of the Moorish Revival style.  The style also emphasizes articulation – the emphasizing of distinct parts of the building.

Compare with the DisneySea Tower:


Photo credit: DF82

A few other influences are mixed in, such as elements of New York’s famous Brownstones.  The brickwork designs, roof gables, lighter stone window trims are all traits of Jacobethan architecture, and the columns and layered arches hint at some Neo-Byzantine and Richardsonian-Romanesque influences.

In contrast with the other two Tower designs is the noticeable lack of lightning damage on the DisneySea Tower’s facade.  According to the story, the destruction came from within on this version. The stained glass windows are broken, but the building itself looks pristine.

As long as we’re on the topic of New York…

Some say the Palazzo Chupi looks quite a bit like the Tower of Terror.  We’ve apparently gone full circle. 🙂

The Tower of Terror’s Environmentally Friendly Low VOC Exterior Refurbishment

If the Florida Tower looked different to you on a recent trip, it might not be you – the Tower got a new “green” paint job! In December 2010, extensive scaffolding was raised around the Tower of Terror’s 199 foot tall exterior.

tower of terror hollywood studios scaffolding new paint job low voc

Photo credit:

tower of terror hollywood studios scaffolding new paint job low voc

Photo credit:

In the five months that followed, the Tower’s surface was stripped bare and completely repainted with low volatile organic compound (low VOC) paint.  The new paint job is a part of Disney’s ongoing, parks-wide effort to reduce VOC emissions through the use of more environmentally friendly paints. The attraction remained open for business during the work.

tower of terror hollywood studios scaffolding close up

Photo credit:

If that sounds inconsequential, consider how much paint Disney uses in a year – usually about 6,000 gallons a year per park, or 110,000 gallons in total, with touchups applied nightly and completely new coats applied regularly.

Disney considers itself a worldwide leader in the adoption of low VOC paint and is proud of its contributions to the good stewardship of the planet. Switching to low-VOC paint for the 110,000 gallons Disney uses annually decreased Disney’s VOC emissions by 2/3rds in just two years. Fewer emissions means less ozone and air pollution for everyone, so let’s hear it for the newly painted Tower!

Tower of Terror at Night Photos

The flickering sign letters, the ominous blue glow, and the occasional shrieks… the Tower of Terror at night is extra spooky! One of my favorite park traditions is to watch the Tower during sunset – it’s a beautiful sight and a great way to give my aching feet a little break. 😀

Hollywood Studios, Florida (HS)

I took this photo of the Florida Tower myself on a cloudy day in December. The clouds suit the Tower well!


Photo credit: M. Grant (TowerSecrets)

I love the toasty brown sky in this photo. This photo is from DisneyRunning, and I have to wonder what conditions allowed for the amber sky and the orange lightshow on the front of the Tower! This is a difficult angle to get in the park, so kudos to them for this great photo of the Tower at twilight!

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

This photo is spectacularly spooky – what a great angle and a great effect with the orange and the grain! If I didn’t know there was a theme park around this structure, I’d be seriously creeped out!

Photo credit: Spectropluto

Photo credit: Spectropluto

The Tower of Terror falls asleep! Have you ever seen the Tower with its sign unlit? Credit goes to Jake for capturing this unusual sight of the Tower!


The Tower falls asleep by Jake.


Disney California Adventure, California (DCA)


Tower of Terror in October, 2014. Photo credit: M. Grant (TowerSecrets)

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

Nighttime Tower of Terror photo DCA

Photo credit: Rae Lane

Tokyo Disneysea, Tokyo (TDS)

The Tokyo DisneySea Tower of Terror doesn’t have a flickering old electric sign; in its place, a mysterious green flare of lightning in the top window. It is, however, still bathed in purple, just like its siblings elsewhere.

Photo credit: The Disney Wiki

Photo credit: The Disney Wiki

For more Tower photos shot by me, visit my Tower of Terror album on Flickr.

→ Return to the Main Photo Gallery.

Tower of Terror Cake Gallery

These fan-made cakes (plus one official Disney cake) pay tribute to our favorite haunted hotel! Browse our Tower of Terror cake gallery and be inspired… or spooked. 🙂

This tower of fondant and sugar made by Amanda Oakleaf Cakes in Boston, MA, is so incredibly detailed, I can hardly believe it’s a cake!


Cake can do that? Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror cake by Amanda Oakleaf Cakes.  (Her cake gallery is to die for, don’t miss the R2D2 cake.)

This Tower-inspired cake features a spooked-out bride and groom atop a topsy-turvey stack of bellhop hats, luggage, elevator dials, and old roses. The broken elevator wires are a nice touch.


Tower of Terror cake by The Cake Factory.

homemade Tower of Terror cake

This one’s my very own homemade Tower of Terror cake! (Can you tell I’m not a professional cake decorator? 🙂 )

Tower of Terror Paper Model – DCA Version

Some crafty folks have constructed their own miniature Tower of Terrors using nothing but paper, glue, and a ton of patience and talent!   This page showcases paper models of the DCA Tower of Terror. offers a completely free paper model “kit” of the Disney California Adventure Tower of Terror.  All you need is a color ink printer and cartridge, 33 sheets of paper (or cardstock), rubber cement, and an X-acto knife.  (Or print it in greyscale for an authentic Twilight Zone throwback 🙂 )

YouTube user J-Maester N shows off his completed Tower in the video below.  The amount of detail in this thing is incredible. Skip to :39 to see his paper model.

Free Tower of Terror paper model kit – DCA version is from