October 20, 2010

Pinvestigation: Hightower Hotel



The Tower of Terror at Tokyo DisneySea has no connection or tie-ins with The Twilight Zone, and is instead themed as the Hotel Hightower, an 1890s' New York City hotel owned by eccentric billionaire Harrison Hightower III who disappeared on December 31, 1899 while taking the elevator up to his private quarters shortly after taking a mysterious idol of a trickster spirit called Shiriki Utundu from an ancient civilization in Africa.

The ride's facade is an example of Moorish Revival architecture, and the Tower is located in the American Waterfront area of the park, close to the S.S. Columbia cruise liner. The ride system for this version is similar to that of Disney's California Adventure's version and that of Walt Disney Studios Paris' version.

The story of this Tower is much more complex then the others. The story follows the adventures of the hotel's famous builder, Harrison Hightower. Having completed many expeditions around the world and collecting thousands of countless artifacts, all of which he stored in his hotel. As it would turn out, he actually stole these many items for his own personal gain. After one such expedition to Africa, he brings home an idol by the name of Shiriki Utundu.



He claims that the natives were very unhappy to part with their beloved god and threatened him that it would curse him. On December 31, 1899, Hightower held a huge party, attended by many members of the press. There he boasted about how great he was for taking the idol and denied any claims to it being cursed and even went so far as to insult it. He even used the idols head to put out his cigarette. Around midnight, he entered the elevator to retire to his quarters at the top of the hotel. As the elevator neared the top, Shiriki Utundu came to life.

The idol zapped him and the elevator, causing it to drop and crash at the bottom. When the elevator was finally pried open, only Hightower's hat and the idol were found. The hotel was then abandoned and left for many years, claimed by the locals to be haunted. After several years, in 1912, a woman from a New York restoration company reopened the hotel with paid tours available. It is on these "tours" that guests embark on when they enter the hotel.

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The queue starts outside the hotel and winds through the gardens, all filled with many fascinating statues from many different countries. Signs are posted all over the front advertising the tour. Guests then enter the lobby, a very elaborate and well-decorated room filled with lush furniture and beautiful art. Across each arch near the ceiling is a mural of Hightower on one of his adventures. If one looks closely, they will notice that he is actually escaping the people in some way with a valuable artifact or item in his possession. At the end of the lobby are the elevator doors, broken open slightly and held in place by a plank of wood. The broken cable is visible inside. Guests are then ushered into a room filled with many pictures of Hightower, his expeditions, and his hotel.


Guests then enter one of two rooms, either his office or the library. From here the story is the same, in both rooms, a large stained glass window of Hightower is in the middle with Shiriki Utundu sitting on a pedestal nearby. A tour guide talks about Hightower a little bit, then winds up an old gramophone with a recording of Hightower's last interview. At this point, the stained glass window comes to life. The window changes to show Hightower holding the idol. It then shows him entering the elevator and the doors closing. It then shows the outside the hotel as the elevator ascends. Suddenly, all the lights on the hotel turn off, there is a big blast of green lightning and the elevator drops, leaving a shattered hole in the window where it lands.


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At this pont, Shiriki Utundu comes to life. It looks around with an evil grin on its face before laughing evilly and vanishing into a starfield. (This effect works with the room going dark, the projection that gives the doll its features turns off and it drops into the pedestal. The starfield is done by fiber optics on the pedestal, idol, and wall.) Guests are then ushered into an enormous storage room (the loading room). The room is two stories and is filled with countless artifacts from countries all over the world, from statues to furniture. There are multiple loading rooms on the second floor, each themed to a different type of item. One has swords, another has tapestries, another has masks, another has stone tablets.

Guests are then put into rows and loaded into an elevator. The restraints are over the shoulder and waist seatbelts, similar to car seatbelts. The doors close, the elevator goes dark, and pushes away from the doors. Suddenly, the idol's eyes appear on the door, a starfield appears, and Hightower continues talking about the idol. The elevator begins its ascent. The first stop is in front of a long hallway. Shiriki Utundu sits on a table and Hightower's ghost appears next to it.


He reaches out to touch it, but the idol zaps him into the elevator opposite the hall, it then drops. The idol turns toward the guest's elevator and its eyes glow menacingly as the hallway vanishes into a starfield. The doors close and the elevator ascends another level. This time the doors open, revealing a large mirror, Hightower tells the guests to wave goodbye to the real world. As they do, green lightning fills the mirror and the guests' reflections becomes green and ghostly.

It then vanishes altogether and the idol appears in the mirror. He starts laughing evilly and zaps the elevator with his eyes. The elevator then ascends rapidly to the top and begins the drop sequence. At some point the doors open at the top and a camera takes a photo of the elevator riders while giving them a view of the park. After the drop sequence ends, the elevator pushes back to the doors with idols eyes still on it. Hightower tells the guests how lucky they are to have survived. Guests then exit into a gift shop where they can buy their picture and other Tower of Terror merchandise.

Most of the pins for this attraction either feature the building, similar to the concept art and pin below, or the sacred idol that Hightower stole.


This series of pins was released on the opening of the attraction and featured each of Tokyo DisneySEA’s lands ‘mascot character’ getting cursed/scared by the idol, and all can be placed on the final card (pictured below) with Mickey on it.

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As most pins feature the idol, only this Walt Disney Imagineering pin feature Harrison Hightower III in this ID Badge, from the set. pin51808

Pictures and Information from Pin Pics and JTCent

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