Tower of Terror Architecture Styles

The fundamentals of the ride are the same across all four Towers, but the architecture on the outside varies: 

  • Florida: pink-colored Neo-Mediterranean styling
  • Paris: boxy yellow-and-teal Pueblo Deco styling
  • Tokyo: ornate Moorish Revival (ie: New York brownstone)
  • California: Guardians of the Galaxy stuff  
Kinda makes you want to visit all four, doesn’t it?

So why the architectural differences?

Disney doesn’t really 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 street lamps) 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 were practically twins, but if you looked real close near the top you’d 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. 🙂

Confirmed: DCA Tower of Terror to be re-skinned with Marvel theming

Don’t freak out – yet – it’s just a rumor, but it’s a widely reported one and it’s picking up steam.

Update Monday, July 25, 2016: Rumor confirmed.

The DCA Tower of Terror will be closed down within the year (some sources say late 2016, some say early 2017) to be re-themed as Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy. It will reopen summer 2017. MiceChat has a very detailed article (and some speculation) on the re-skin.

If this change makes you unhappy, join the protest:

Numerous sources report a Guardians of the Galaxy or Marvel-themed “makeover” (or total ruining, depending how you look at it) in the works for the Disney California Adventure Twilight Zone Tower of Terror attraction, coming as soon as 2017.


The rumor goes something like this…

Disney’s paying mad bucks to CBS to license the Twilight Zone for its Towers in Paris, Florida, and California. Meanwhile, Marvel (also owned by Disney) is printing money like its going out of style, and Marvel-themed attractions would undoubtedly draw some crowds (the same way Star Wars is packing people into Tomorrowland with Season of the Force).

Iron clad licensing agreements with Universal Orlando (hello, Islands of Adventure) don’t allow for anything from the Marvel universe to appear at Walt Disney World, so this revamp would be limited to parks outside of Florida, namely Disney California Adventure.

(This also might mean the Florida tower is safe… for now.)

Where’s the rumor coming from?

Specifically, a poster by the name of “WDW1974”, also known as “Spirit”, on the rumor forums shared (supposedly) insider knowledge that Disney is looking to remake the California Tower in time for 2017, to be the first of many major Marvel attractions coming to DCA and parks not located in Florida.

“If they have their way, the current Anaheim ToT will close around the first oft the year and reopen before summer with an entirely new GotG based show, still (somehow I am told) centered on a haunted hotel from the 1930s.” [source post]

From what I can tell, Spirit has historically been a reliable source of insider knowledge regarding Disney parks.

How likely is this rumor to be true?

Obviously, Disney’s no stranger to building drop towers without the Twilight Zone licensing. They already did it for Tokyo DisneySea, and avoided paying licensing and royalty fees to CBS. Disney’s also not afraid to inject new and popular IPs into classic attractions, such as Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean and Frozen in the Maelstrom attraction at EPCOT.

The rest of this is my own speculation – take it with a grain of salt!

I think it’s fairly likely that Disney would permanently re-skin one or more of its Towers with a new theme. Whether that’s Guardians of the Galaxy, or something from the larger Marvel universe (Stark Tower?), or something else entirely is harder to say.

I thought GOTG was a fun film, but was it substantial enough to base one of the park’s strongest attractions on? I don’t know about that. If someone had asked me what theme I thought Disney might redo the Tower with, I’d have guessed Star Wars!

But I do know that The Twilight Zone license is old and was only vaguely familiar to me as a kid 20+ years ago, and I’m sure it hasn’t fared any better with kiddos born in the 90’s and 00’s.

Furthermore, the DCA Tower has forever lived in the shadow of the Florida Tower. Anyone who has ridden both is quick to compare the two and the Florida tower almost always comes out on top, if the comments this site gets are any indication. A unique theme in DCA could help the two towers stand on their own unique merits.

I also think Bug’s Land is ripe for bulldozing. A fully-realized Marvel-themed land could fit in that space, capitalizing on the record-breaking films’ collective popularity better than that glorified gift shop / museum over by Space Mountain ever could.


What’s the fan reaction?

Negative reactions abound on fan forums, but those are enthusiast forums, not the general public.

I trust Disney will do a good job with any makeover they might apply to the Tower, as they have with revamps in the past, but don’t take this as happiness on my part – I’ll be sad to see the Twilight Zone disappear from DCA. This Tower holds many special memories for me, and it saddens me to think I soon may not be able to “go back” to it, the same way I can’t go back to the Back to the Future attraction in Universal Orlando.

Anyway, that’s what I know about the Tower of Terror revamp rumor – I’ll post more when more is known! And if you know more than I do, please share in the comments!


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

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.

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney California Adventure (California)

The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror in Disney California Adventure opened its gates to the public on May 5th, 2004.  This Tower opened 10 years after the original, located in Florida, and includes many design changes. Mostly, they slimmed it down. Disney’s Imagineers reworked the Tower’s design to compact it and reduce the frequency of mechanical breakdowns.

The ride offers three drop shafts and guests move more briskly through the attraction.  The DCA Tower has two mechanically identical siblings in Tokyo and Paris.


This Tower was re-themed to “Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout” in 2017. This page documents its original design.  

The DCA Tower’s Early Development

Tower of Terror Disney California Adventure promotional poster

The first Tower of Terror (in Hollywood Studios, Florida) proved so popular that when Disney started looking for ways to punch up their newly-opened and poorly-reviewed Disney California Adventure, building another one must have seemed obvious.

Disney rarely builds the same attraction twice.  Usually they make improvements (which are sometimes controversial) and oftentimes they aim to reduce the cost of building the attraction.

Sometimes they have to adapt the design to the park’s unique geography or layout. For example, Disney’s basically out of space in California. The recent Cars Land expansion to DCA chewed up what was formerly a parking lot.  So it makes sense that the new Tower needed a smaller footprint, hence the minimalist garden and single drop shaft.

Disney’s done this before – the Haunted Mansion is a classic example. In Disneyland, California, the Haunted Mansion’s architecture fits the antebellum New Orleans area and the “stretch room” is actually a large elevator lowering passengers down to the attraction’s track, which runs underneath the Disneyland Railroad train tracks. Over at the Magic Kingdom in Florida, the Mansion’s Dutch Gothic Revival architecture fits the Colonial era inspired Liberty Square and the ceiling rises instead of the floor lowering.

DCA Tower Construction

The new Tower’s Pueblo Deco architectural style was likely chosen to fit the new Tower into its new California home.  The DCA Tower even got its own fake construction date: 1929.

Tower of Terror Disney California Adventurec onstruction scaffolding

Changes From the Florida version

Redesigns to beloved Disney attractions are almost always controversial among fans. The Tower is no exception. Almost as soon as the scaffolding went up, fans started squawking about the DCA’s Tower’s reduced budget, smaller footprint, stouter appearance, and Pueblo Deco architecture. But the designers were trying to be smart – they knew the ride would be popular, and the sacrifices they made served to enhance efficiency and reduce downtime.

Tower of Terror Disney California Adventure
The Twilight Zone theming is intact, and the pre-show is virtually identical. The video was changed to show the California version in the shot where the lightning strikes.

The ride experience still climaxes in a series of thrilling drops and a startling view of the park, but everything before and after the drops was compacted. In the DCA Tower, all the action takes place in just one elevator shaft.  The 5th Dimension scene from the Florida version was removed completely. In its place is a fantastic visual effect of a mirror reflecting the riders. The riders fade from the car in a ghostly, ethereal effect that can be actively smeared around the canvas by waving your arms around.

A third drop shaft was added (a 50% increase in capacity right there!) and the boiler room (loading area) was given two vertically stacked loading decks. These design changes greatly reduced the frequency of breakdowns and substantially increased the Tower’s rider throughput, but some fans were unhappy with the compromises on theme and appearance.

Tower of Terror in Disney California Adventure DCA
The DCA Tower of Terror at sunset. Photo credit: Wikipedia

The DCA Tower Today

I got busy raising a family and haven’t visited the California parks since the new theme was applied. I’ll reserve my judgment until I actually have a chance to see the update in person – I’m sure it’s still a fun ride.

It looks like this now:

Photo credit: Disney Parks

Tower of Terror Big Fig

What’s a Big Fig?

Appealing mostly to elite collectors (and elite wallets), Disney big figs (literally, “big figurines”) are some of Disney’s largest, most elaborate, and most expensive souvenirs. These replicas of beloved characters and park features are typically between 20” and several feet tall.

Tower Big Fig

Figurines of the Tower of Terror itself are, in general, quite rare.  Disney seems to prefer promoting the Tower through licensed characters and Hollywood Tower Hotel-themed merchandise like bathrobes and front desk bells.  But a few figurines of the Tower itself exist, and the biggest and brightest of all is this gorgeous DCA Tower of Terror replica.

tower of terror big fig replica

tower of terror big fig replicaThis Tower statue is not a “true” big fig (it’s 9” tall whereas normally big figs are 20”+), but it widely accepted as “the Tower big fig” because it’s the closest thing to a big fig Disney has made for the attraction.

The Tower of Terror big fig is 9” x 9” x 9” and made of carefully detailed cold-cast resin.  It is HEAVY – about 10 lbs.  Nearly two dozen individual trees decorate the exterior, along with a miniature fence perimeter, tiny window sills, roof tiles, detailed facade cracks, and light-up sign that flickers almost exactly like the sign of the real-life DCA Tower of Terror.

How to Find

This Tower replica is a must-have for any serious Tower of Terror and Disneyana collectors but Disney doesn’t make ’em anymore, and at $200+ (if you can even find it for sale) it won’t come cheap.  Stalking around eBay yields an occasional Tower big fig.  So if you’re interested in adding this one to your Tower collection, keep an eye on eBay and may the force be with you!

 tower of terror big fig replica side view