tower of terror = worst ride ever

So today, we went to California Adventure, because my friend Wendy had a SoCal 2fer pass to use. This is one of the ways Disneyland is getting their per head revenues up. They’re giving out free passes to California Adventure, but only to local residents with purchase of a Disneyland day pass, and with the condition that the pass can only be used on another day. So they get the added revenue from the return visit they wouldn’t get otherwise. Smart.

None of us have spent the kind of time at California Adventure that we have at Disneyland. I visited with my sister last June, but we determined that, with the limited time we had, we wanted to spend more time at Disneyland. So we rode the river raftin’ ride once, Soarin’ over California twice, and called it a day. But today, with a whole day to spend in the park, my friends and I finally had time to check out the other attractions. Including the Tower of Terror, the Twilight Zone themed ride in the Hollywood section of the park.

It should be said, I don’t do well with up and down rides. This includes roller coasters and rides with sudden drops. Especially when I don’t know what’s happening, or can’t see where I’m going. But I thought that the Tower would be like Splash Mountain: a ride with a plot, with one big drop at the end. And I’m such an old sci-fi fan, I thought that a ride based off the Twilight Zone would be awesome enough to make up for the drop.

So we get in line for the ride. And the outside of the building is dilapidated, like a haunted hotel should be. And the inside of the lobby is good enough to cause me to remark that I’m surprised the city of L.A. hasn’t come through to demolish the hotel – it looks that authentic, a glamourous hotel decayed with years, long since abandoned. L.A. tends to knock down places like that. We go into the library, where a girl in perfect, Vincent Price tones, tells us to wait, while an introductory video plays. And I’m really psyched about it, because, even though the buildup is vague at best (five people, who disappear in an elevator when lightning strikes the building), it’s still Twilight Zone. The elevator is going to…the Twilight Zone!

Then we go into another line area, this one in a sort of boiler room. For reasons that aren’t explained, even though we’re supposed to be guests at the hotel, we’re going through a boiler room to service elevators. No matter. We get into the elevators, strap ourselves in, and the bellhop (lacking the creepiness and enthusiasm of the girl downstairs) mumbles some instructions. And the ride begins, and the elevator jerks upwards.

The first scene is a mirror, not unlike the ones in Haunted Mansion, where our images dissolve. Then the elevator goes up again, and we see a hallway, which looks like it’s been abandoned in 1939, with roomservice dishes outside the rooms, and black and white holograms of the ghosts, crackling with electricity. I think this must be the start of the story.

Then the first drop happens. In freefall. I’d expected a drop, but a slowed one. Not something this sudden. I realize, I really don’t like this ride. And then elevator pauses for a moment, and drops again, another story. And I feel a twinge of panic as the elevator starts to go up. And when I realize, it’s going to drop again, then the twinge becomes total panic. The ride is going to keep going up and down, sharp ups and sudden downs, and I want it to stop. When the doors open at the top of the ride, and sunlight pours in, and then we drop again, I almost start screaming.

By the time we’d gone up and down twice more, I was praying for the ride to end soon. I didn’t know how long it would go on, how many drops I would be subjected to. When the doors opened, and we got off, I was shaking, and I literally ran out of the ride, through the gift shop, to sit in the sun outside and shiver.

In retrospect, I should have known better than to get on that ride, knowing that I just can’t handle drops. But I thought there would be more plot, less drops. A sort of vague hint that the elevator was going to, “the twilight zone”, followed by four terrifying elevator drops, is not the sort of all encompassing ride I expect from a Disney park. Who were those people that were in the elevator? Did they haunt the hotel now? Were they ghosts? Had the hotel been abandoned so suddenly that the dishes were still in the halls? A ride with a Twilight Zone plotline and a drop or two,, I could have handled. But this had a hint at a vague plot which it never delivered, and then just scared people by dropping them into freefall.

It was the ride equivalent of premature ejaculation. If I hadn’t been panicked when it stopped, I would have demanded it deliver, dammit!

Still, although I will probably get over it, I couldn’t go on “California Screamin'” after that. I was afraid all day of getting on another ride I couldn’t get off, and even the little drops on “Mullholland Madness” made me sick. If the ride had been as dedicated to a Twilight Zone story as, say, Temple of Doom is to Indiana Jones, I would have been OK with the drops, even though I hate them. Replacing the story and content with extra bouncing that pushes me to panic, is just inexcusable. The ride I’d actually wanted to ride for ages, was such a disappointment.

I have much more to write up about the park, but that will wait. Now, I need sleep. That park always wears me out.

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