Tokyo DisneySea – Tower of Terror

Tower of Terror is the tallest and most majestic building at American Waterfront, Tokyo DisneySea. Also known as Hotel Hightower, this exquisite hotel is owned by eccentric millionaire Harrison Hightower III.

Harrison Hightower is known to spare no expense – building a grander vision of his hotel over and over, finishing with the Grand Tower with his penthouse at the highest floor. The tower now exhibits a fusion of various architecture styles, with Moorish Revival as a central theme.

As a member of the illustrious Society of Explorers and Adventurers, Hightower has spent much of his time discovering rare and sometimes sacred artifacts and ruthlessly retrieving them for his collection…at any cost.

But, Hightower mysteriously vanished one night after hosting a lavish party at his Hotel. He was last seen at an elevator…which took a deadly plunge from the hotel’s highest floor. Only one thing remained in the elevator- a supposedly cursed idol.

The Shiriki Utundu, an idol from an African tribe in Congo, was Hightower’s last conquest.

After the incident, the larger-than-life Hotel Hightower was closed by the city and left abandoned for decades. It earned its name – Tower of Terror.

It was due to be demolished, until the New York City Preservation Society worked its way into restoring the Hotel and keep it a significant historic and culturally important site.

To fund the restoration efforts, the Preservation Society organized paid tours of the Hotel. The organisation spinned stories of the Hotel owner’s mysterious disappearance and a king’s ransom’s worth of treasure to entice the affluent and curious in New York to join the tour of the hotel.

Tokyo DisneySea park guests are invited to join such tours.

As part of the tour organised by the New York Presevation Society, guests will be brought around the hotel’s many rooms and discover Hightower’s private collection of art and artifacts from around the world. The highlight of the tour is a visit to Hightower’s Penthouse at the highest floor. But what other mysteries would tour guests uncover?

Hotel Hightower Gardens

A tranquil garden area, with statues that seem… a little out of place.

The standby line starts here and will extend out to the gardens if wait time is long enough.

An unfinished painting of a woman rests in the middle of the gardens.

The many banners promoting the tour organised by the New York City Preservation Society:

NOW on Exhibition! Harrison Hightower’s Private Collection
Art & Artifacts from Around the World

of the celebrated HIGHTOWER HOTEL.

What really happened “THAT FATEFUL NIGHT”?
Where is Harrison Hightower?

Sidetrack a little. Have a look at the Tower of Terror Fastpass Ticketing machines:

New York City Preservation Society
A Guided Tour of the MYSTERIOUS “TOWER of TERROR”
A Baffling Mystery of Epic Proportions

You can find the Harrison Hightower’s initials, H.H, almost everywhere. This emblem, of a sword, shell and pearl, will be explained later on.

The tour’s lines are split to Fastpass and Standby at the entrance and stay this way at the Lobby.

Hotel Hightower – Lobby

Guests step in the elegant Hotel lobby, where tour groups gather and gaze at the opulent furnishing and exhibits.

Around the lobby, guests can appreciate the fine fixtures and rare artifacts. Among them are Egyptian sarcophaguses, and an Asian themed seating area with a fireplace.

The Bell Captain’s desk, now deserted and dusty.

The World Is Mine Oyster Which I With Sword Shall Open
– William Shakespeare

Be sure not to miss the metal screen that is adorned with dragons and calligraphic detail 「高塔」, which means “High Tower”.

Hightower’s majestic mural, showing his completed hotel and his ship docked at American Waterfront. Unloading his latest acquisitions, of course.

The elevator that Hightower was last seen entering – completely destroyed and left to crumble.

Several murals around the lobby chronicle Hightower’s brave adventures into the exotic. From ancient Mayan ruins to Pyramids in the sands and African tribes – he has pretty much seen, and collected them all.

This looks… rather familiar.

If you return at night (and hopefully the lobby is deserted), it will be easier to view the murals and props around the lobby.

This is the point where the Fastpass and Standby lines merge. While you wait here (which can go up to 15-20 minutes from this point for Standby), you can admire another portrait of Harrison Hightower.

The NYC Preservation Society Tour guides usher us into a cosy room.

Of course, there are more photos showing Hightower’s many adventures, including some familiar places. Looks like he has been to Adventureland and Lost River Delta.

Our Tour Guide then formally introduces Harrison Hightower III and his last acquisition from an expedition at the Congo River – the Shiriki Utundu. On a poster, there is a photograph showing Hightower holding the idol beside the Mutundu Tribe Chief, who looks absolutely disgruntled.

We then enter High Hightower’s private study, where the Shiriki Utundu idol is resting.

As our tour guide plays an old phonograph recording of Hightower’s last press interview, guests hear about Hightower’s antics and more importantly, mocking the idol. He brushes off the curse of Shiriki Utundu, saying that it’s nonsense.

Suddenly, the stained glass window comes alive. The spirit of Hightower, now feeble, warns guests that the curse is indeed real and has claimed his life.

The lights in the room go off, and as the ghost of Harrison Hightower warns guests leave the tour and hotel immediately, the idol vanishes…

Secret Passageway

A large portrait in the room slides away, revealing a secret passage to the Hightower’s greatest stash of stolen treasure.

The loading area is quite interesting. There are 6 loading rooms, 3 pairs that are stacked on each other. For some reason we always ended up on the lower floor.

Something’s… looking back at us.

The Tour splits

Our tour guide leads us into a small chamber filled with artifacts and art. There are six different chambers, each with its own unique theme and are decorated very differently.

After a short briefing on elevator boarding procedures, our tour guide disappears. Lights in the chamber flickers, and suddenly, a hidden wall slides away. With a cheeky grin, our tour guide reveals the elevator and instructs us to board.

We then board the elevator and say our farewells to the tour guide.

Tower of Terror

In near darkness, the elevator slides backwards. We see a pair of menacing green eyes.

The elevator ascends, and at an unknown level, the doors open and we see the ghost of Harrison Hightower.

Shriki Utundu stands on a nearby table. Hightower taunts the idol again. Shortly, the idol comes to life and throws him to the end of the corridor, into an open lift shaft. Hightower falls and disappears. The entire level fades into a field of stars.

The elevator doors close and we move to another level. When the doors open again, we see an large mirror as wide as the elevator.

We see our own reflections, slowly turning green, before disappearing entirely in the mirror. Shiriki Utundu suddenly appears in the mirror and charges towards us.

The elevator shakes violently and begins to rush to the top.

The doors open again, but this time we see shattered windows and a bird’s eye view of Tokyo DisneySea.

There was a flash of green lightning. The elevator jerks and drops a floor.
There was an uncertain pause.

With no warning, the elevator falls into darkness.

A few seconds later, we hear the evil laughter from Shiriki Utundu and the elevator starts to shake. It races to the top again.

We see the park once more, for a moment. The elevator plunges, now at a speed so fast and totally unexpected, into complete darkness once again.

As the elevator finally falls silent, Hightower is heard once again, commenting on our narrow escape from the vengeful idol. We see the same pair of green eyes in the dark again, before elevator doors appear before us.

Exit corridors – plain but fits with the backstage theme.

The exit corridors lead to the Hotel’s indoor pool in the Indian wing of Hotel Hightower. The pool has been boarded up and the entire room converted into a souvenir store – Tower of Terror Memorabilia.

See your on-ride photos among other pictures of Harrison Hightower.

And snap them for free! The park doesn’t force you to buy prints.

Even the check-out area is designed to fit the theme.

Sadly, the park has taken off the life-sized Shiriki Utundu plush toys. All that’s left is the keychain.

This is probably the world’s most elaborate design for a Drop Tower ride. The attraction promises a tour of the Hotel and they do deliver – there is a lot of things to see. In fact, I think the experience of the tour overshadows the “ride” element of this attraction. The abundance of cast members, guiding and showing guests around, help enforce the illusion that guests are on a paid tour at the Hotel.

In my opinion, this is one of the best attractions at Tokyo DisneySea, and by extension, one of the best attractions in the world.

The entire pre-show stage takes about 15-20 minutes from the point where the Fastpass and Standby lines merge. For this I mean not just the pre-show room, but the period from the pre-show waiting room to boarding the elevator itself. The ride experience is less than 2 minutes. The lengthy show experience (give or take 20 minutes) is important to note if you are holding on to Fastpasses with short windows and hoping to pass the time while waiting at Tower of Terror.

Thrills-wise, I would say this is the most thrilling attraction in Tokyo DisneySea just for the negative g-forces at the ride’s last drop. It is accelerated freefall, going quite fast that things in your bags might start to float.

This attraction is obviously not suitable for young children. Even some young adults were noticeably disturbed. There is a guest height requirement of 102cm for this attraction.

Even non-riders can experience the curse of Shiriki Utundu from outside. Watch this video to see (and hear) the effect of green lightning surging from Hightower’s Penthouse and striking elevators to make them drop.

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