Alexander: It’s no secret that the 4 (sorry, 3) Tower Of Terror rides are some of Disney’s most popular and iconic attractions. “Why not rank them?” We asked ourselves (and if you’re wondering how we squeezed a “Top 5” out of this, your answer lies at the start of our list).
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5. MaliBOOMer – Disney California Adventure (Anaheim, California, USA)
Yes. Did you forget about first-era DCA’s dabble with off-the-shelf regional park rides? Disney would like you to forget. We, of course, will never forget the cringe. What is this ride? A comically-oversizded “Strength Tester” midway game? the fruition of Malibu Barbie’s space program (or “space force,” perhaps)? Whatever it was supposed to be, the core ride is nothing more than a modestly-sized and mildly-programmed trio of S&S Double Shot towers, complete with “scream shields” (or “vomit shields”– take your pick). Disney fans agree that the temporary Meet & Greet that replaced Maliboomer at the end of DCA’s first era was an aesthetic improvement, and Inside Out Emotional Whirlwind feels like a thematic triumph by comparison. Fun Fact: the near-identical Supreme Scream down the street at Knott’s Berry Farm was restricted to running a Turbo Drop program by S&S due to a localized “secret embargo” on upward launch towers – quite the flex for what’s remembered as one of Disney’s dumbest rides.
4. Tower of Terror – Tokyo DisneySea (Arayasu, Chiba, Japan)
Lightyears ahead of the disgraceful MaliBOOMer on our list is perhaps the most attractive-looking of Disney’s Towers: Tokyo Disney Resort’s un-Twilight Zone-Tower of Terror. With an installation of the “abridged” Tower of Terror ride system already in place in Anaheim, a 3rd installation for the dark ride-heavy Tokyo DisneySea park was a safe bet (but with a unique storyline, of course – not a lot of people outside the U.S. watch the show. Hell, not a lot of people inside the U.S. watch Twilight Zone anymore either). While the ride’s 1930’s NYC art deco high-rise look and compelling show scenes are deserving of accolades, the wimpy drop program and 3-point seatbelts make the actual ride part a lowlight of the whole experience.
3. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – Disney’s Hollywood Studios (Lake Buena Vista, Florida, USA)
Ahh, old faithful. Credited with anchoring Walt Disney World’s stumbling 3rd gate and catapulted drop towers back into the limelight, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror remains one of the most inspired and resonant power moves of the Eisner era. Nothing commands attention quite like the view of a neon-lit Hollywood Tower Hotel beckoning from the far end of Sunset Blvd, but despite its cult-classic/legacy/icon status, the ride could use a bit of a refresh. Blowing up the title sequence from The Twilight Zone into a dark ride never exactly read as a sturdy concept, but the show sequences of 5 elevator-riders-turned-victims have stood the test of time – now if we could just do something about the diminishing returns on the ride’s “5th Dimension” scene.
2. The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror – A New Dimension of Chills – Walt Disney Studios (Chessy, France)
Doubling down on the hotel guest-pov aspect of the original Tower of Terror rides, the 2019 relaunch of the Disneyland Paris Resort installation zeroes in on the 5 individuals we met on that stormy Hollywood night in 1939 – particularly the little girl, who emcees your visit to “La Quatrième Dimension.” On the surface the ride closely resembles its original incarnation (and Anaheim’s), but now sequences vary by shaft, with 3 distinct storylines and drop-scene-drop-scene combinations. Does the little girl assist guests as they ride out the storm? Or is she, herself, the storm? The answer lies somewhere in that elevator.
1. Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout! – Disney California Adventure (Anaheim, California, USA)
You may not like it, but this is what peak performance looks like: the best Tower of Terror isn’t a Tower of Terror anymore, but a very tall museum curated by an eccentric kleptomaniac and asshole (this is the Marvel Cinematic Universe, after all). Layered 4K-quality projections help bring the characters to life without the use of 3D glasses (a trick later used for Paris’ Chills tower relaunch), and the preshow actually gives us an audio animatronic to marvel at instead of just a standard-defention television preshow (although those aren’t without their charms). The flamboyant Jules-Verne-meets-Mary-Blair look of the tower works in terms of demonstrating “The Collector’s” eye for the garish, and we can comfortably assume that the new-for-2020-eventually-hopefully Avengers Campus will give Anaheim’s tower the Sunset Blvd it never had.
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