The original incarnation of the attraction opened at Disney's Hollywood Studios in 1994, with the California version opening ten years later and the Paris version in 2007. A similar attraction that dropped the Twilight Zone theme opened at Tokyo DisneySea in Japan in 2006. Opening to rave reviews and hailed as an instant classic upon release, The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror has become one of the most popular Disney attractions of all-time. Its popularity even spawned a 1997 TV film Tower of Terror, becoming the first theme park ride to have a film adaptation.
In the attraction's premise, inspired by themes of the television series, guests visit the legendary Hollywood Tower Hotel. Once a lively resort for the Hollywood elite, it closed after a disastrous accident where lightning had struck the building, causing several wings of the hotel to vanish and kill five people in an elevator that plummeted on October 31st, 1939. The hotel, now dilapidated and haunted, has mysteriously "reopened" having guests experience the events of that fateful night aboard one of the basement freight elevators as they go on a bizarre, frightening journey through the Twilight Zone.
The hotel's exterior features a big, blackened scorch mark across the front of the facade where lightning had struck that eerily glows purple at night. Elevator doors leading to the missing floors of the building are exposed, opening and closing upon the arrival of screaming riders. All of the cast members wear a costume that resembles a 1930's bellhop. At over one thousand (US) dollars per uniform, it is the most expensive costume in the entire chain.
At 199 feet, it is the second tallest attraction at the Walt Disney World Resort, shorter only than Expedition: Everest's 199.5 feet. (From 1999 to 2007, the Tower of Terror was third tallest, as the wand decorating Spaceship Earth temporarily added 41 feet to that 180-foot tall attraction.) The Tower of Terror is 199 feet high at Walt Disney World because of FAA regulations that require a fixed red light beacon to be added to the top of any 200-foot or taller building.Imagineers thought that the beacon would take away from the hotel's 1939 theme, but still wanted to make the tower as tall as possible. At the Disneyland Resort, the 183-foot attraction is the tallest attraction at the resort, as well as the tallest building in Anaheim.
With the demolition of the Sorcerer's Hat, the Florida version of the attraction appears has been promoted to park icon status in promotional material and the My Magic Plus app, though other materials and merchandise suggest this status is being shared with the Earful Tower.
CBS licenses the rights to The Twilight Zone™ to the Disney Theme Parks.
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Walt Disney Studios Park is based on the same design as the version at Disney California Adventure. However, it was originally "Imagineered" for the Paris park at the same time as Tokyo's tower and planned to open just 2 years after the opening of the park itself. When financial troubles again hit Disney's Parisian resort, the attraction was put on hold. In the meantime, it was constructed for California Adventure as an added crowd-puller.
The attraction was finally green-lit for Paris in 2005 and opened officially in January 2008 right in the middle of the Walt Disney Studios park, behind the "La Terrasse" seating area. It has been joined by a major new theme development producing an outdoor Hollywood Boulevard of faux movie sets. Unlike its American cousins, the Paris Tower was constructed using concrete rather than steel due to French construction guidelines and standards.
The Paris and California versions were originally believed to become identical versions upon completion, but construction in Paris showed several differences and additions when compared to the 2004 Californian version.
The official name of the attraction in all French publications (but not at the attraction itself) is La Tour de la Terreur - Un Plongeon dans la Quatrième Dimension.
Some sections of the attraction's audio narration and pre-show videos have been translated into French, including a new voice recording from an impersonator of The Twilight Zone's original French host, with separate English and French versions being presented.