Poster

Tower of Terror is a drop-tower attraction at Tokyo DisneySea in the Amercan Waterfront area that opened on September 22, 2006.

The Story

Harrison Hightower III was an explorer and collector, with a need to own any rare artifact he could get his hands on. Along with his trusted manservant, Smelding, he acquired any rare treasure that he could, no matter the cost. After inheriting his father's mansion, he renovated it and turned it into a hotel. The hotel had three towers - the five-story Caliph Tower, the eight-story Indian Tower, and the fourteen story Great Tower, where he stored all of his antiquities from all over the world.

In 1899, he made an expedition up the Congo River into the deepest parts of uncharted Africa. He was made the target of several attacks from local tribes, through his "acquisition" of artifacts. Several members of his party lost their lives, and they were forced into the territory of the Mtundu tribe, a group of people greatly feared by others. Despite this, they welcomed Hightower and his party and fed them.

Through this, Hightower learned about the tribe's protective idol: Shiriki Utundu. He tried to persuade the tribe into giving it to him, but they refused. The refusal only made Hightower's desire for the idol grow. He stole the idol, and escaped the village with what was left of his party. However, the Mtundu did not chase after it. They stood by and watched them leave with it.

On December 31st, 1899, Hightower returned to New York and held a press conference, showing off his newest "acquisition". He gave an exaggerated story of his journey and his "heroics" in obtaining Shiriki Utundu. New York-Globe News reporter Manfred Strang asked if the idol was cursed. Hightower laughed, calling it ridiculous, and had him thrown out.

That night, New Years Eve, he threw a massive party at the Hotel Hightower. He left the party to put Shiriki Utundu in his penthouse. Smelding warned Hightower to treat the idol with respect, but was dismissed. To emphasize his respect for it, he put out his cigar on his head, as the elevator doors closed.

The elevator fell from the 13th story, and Hightower was never seen, again. When they checked the broken elevator, only Shiriki Utundu remained. The Hotel Hightower was abandoned. Locals gave the hotel a new name: Tower of Terror. For thirteen years, no one dared go near it. Until 1912, when the New York Preservation Society, led by Beatrice Rose Endicott, launched a campaign to save the hotel and name it a historic landmark. The Hotel Hightower was reopened and the Preservation Society began offering free tours of it - culminating in a ride in the hotel's elevator to see Hightower's penthouse.

The Attraction

Entrance/Queue

Outside of the attraction's entrance is a display with newspaper clippings about the life of Harrison Hightower in different languages. Another sign advertises the tour:

THE HOTEL HIGHTOWER: A PARADIGM OF ARCHITECTURAL EXCELLENCE

TOWER OF TERROR: A BAFFLING MYSTERY OF EPIC PROPORTIONS

The hotel marque reads "Hotel Hightower", but a faint set of words appears on top of it: "Tower of Terror". The queue goes underneath an awning, passed the gardens of the hotel. The gardens are blocked off, with a "KEEP OUT" sign against the chained gate.

Guests walk into the hotel's entrance and enter the lobby, surrounded by paintings of Harrison Hightower's journeys. A portrait of him sits above the fireplace, surrounded by ancient artifacts he had "obtained". the queue winds around the lobby, passing by the condemned elevator where Hightower disappeared.

Pre-Show

At the end of the queue, guests are sectioned into groups and taken into the next room. A cheerful host from the Preservation Society greets them, telling the history of the hotel and its owner. The room is decorated in pictures of Hightower and his many adventures.

The guests are ushered into the next room - either his office or the library - to learn more. A stained glass portrait of Hightower sits against the wall, and Shiriki Utundu is sitting on a pedestal. The host turns on a gramophone and plays audio of Hightower's final press conference.

Harrison Hightower and Shiriki Utundu in the Pre-Show, from WDWNT

Then, the lights go out, and the portrait changes. Hightower has a worried expression on his face and Shiriki Utundu is sitting in his arms. He tells the guests that the curse is real and they must leave while they still can. Shiriki Utundu's eyes glow, and the scene changes - Hightower is now standing in an elevator and the doors close. The the scene fades to the outside of Hotel Hightower as the elevator rises to the top of the tower, and then the lights go out before the elevator crashes down to the bottom floor shattering the glass as it lands. The idol's eyes begin to glow and looks around the room. It grins and laughs, before it's engulfed a star field and vanishes.

Guests are ushered into the storage room where Hightower kept his artifacts. There are three loading rooms, in total - one filled with weapons, one filled with tapestries, and one filled with stone sculptures. The guests board the elevator, and the ride begins.

The Ride

When the doors close, Hightower chastises the guests for not leaving, while they had the chance. Shiriki Utundu's eyes can be seen at the top of the shaft. Hightower explains his hubris, and how it led to his downfall. His lust for artifacts and antiquities caused this.

The elevator ascends and opens to Shiriki Utundu sitting on a pedestal. Hightower walks up to it, laughing about the curse. The idol zaps him, and throws him down the elevator shaft. The room fades into a star field. Shiriki Utundu turns around and looks at the guests, laughing as the doors close.

The elevator ascends to the next floor, with a large mirror. Hightower tells the guests to wave goodbye, as their reflection becomes green. The reflection fades into Shiriki Utundu, who laughs at the guests and flies towards them. The elevator shakes, then falls, before going all the way up to the top floor. It falls to the bottom window, then drops. The elevator ascends, then drops, then ascends to the bottom window, and drops to the bottom floor.

At the bottom floor, Shiriki Utundu's eyes glow, and it laughs one last time. Hightower warns guests not to come back, before they disembark.

Behind the Scenes

Tower of Terror was inspired by The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney's Hollywood Studios and Disney's California Adventure. However, because The Twilight Zone is not well-known in Japan and because the Oriental Land Company did not want to pay CBS for the license, a new storyline was created, utilizing the Society of Explorers and Adventurers story that already existed at Tokyo DisneySea.

The ride system is most similar to Tower of Terror and Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout at Disney's California Adventure and Tower of Terror Walt Disney Studios Park. There are dual-loading floors, a backwards push away from the doors and into the drop tower, and a mirror scene. There is also a hallway scene that fades into a star field similar to the one at The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.

Harrison Hightower was portrayed and modeled after Imagineer Joe Rodhe, one of the current Vice Presidents of Creative at Disney Imagineering. He worked on attractions and lands such as Disney's Animal Kingdom, Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom, the Adventurer's Club at Downtown Disney's Pleasure Island, and New Fantasyland at the Magic Kingdom.

Shiriki Utundu was voiced by Richard Steven Horvitz. He has played characters such as Billy from The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy, Daggett Beaver in Angry Beavers, and Zim in Invader Zim.

Tower or Terror Level 13.jpg

Level 13: Shadow of Shiriki Utundu

Level 13: Shadow of Shiriki Utundu was a special overlay of the attraction that ran in 2018 from January 5th to March 30th. The attraction remained mostly unchanged, with some new elements[1].

  • The drop sequences were new, and the total number of drops were seven, instead of the usual three
  • A new room with a "void" showed Shiriki Utundu's face, before it flew towards the elevator
  • A projection of Shiriki Utundu appeared on the elevator shaft, cutting the wires before the drop
  • After the idol disappeared during the pre-show, it flew across the stained glass portrait

See Also

Further Reading

References

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