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REVIEW: “Late Check-Out” is a mixed-bag send-off for Twilight Zone Tower of Terror at Disney California Adventure

in Disney's California Adventure, Disneyland Resort, Theme Parks

Change can be a difficult thing to accept. It’s hard to say goodbye to something you love, and when it comes to attractions at Disney theme parks, it’s sometimes hard to understand why the change is being made in the first place.

The stunning Twilight Zone Tower of Terror first opened in 1994 at the then-named Disney-MGM Studios in Walt Disney World. Ten years later, a somewhat watered-down version of the ride made its way to the still-in-its infancy Disney California Adventure in Anaheim, where it became one of the park’s most beloved attractions.

Now, as officially announced back in July at San Diego Comic-Con, California Adventure’s version of the Tower of Terror is being shuttered in favor of Guardians of the Galaxy: Mission Breakout, inspired by the recent hit Marvel movie directed by James Gunn. The Hollywood Tower Hotel will close its doors for the last time in January, but in the meantime Disney is adding some features that will help make the attraction’s final stretch in the park more memorable, for better or worse.

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First of all, guests arriving at the Disneyland Resort will notice a billboard marketing campaign informing attendees of the Tower’s imminent demise. It may seem crass to some that the company is willing to capitalize on the highly-protested removal of one of their favorite rides, but at least it’s nice to see that the Tower of Terror isn’t going to disappear without making some noise first.

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Also noticeable outside the hotel itself is a new photo op with an assortment of period-appropriate trunks and a luggage cart. Nothing too spectacular, but a nice way to create your own Tower of Terror memento.

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The absolute best part of “Late-Check Out” comes when you enter the lobby of the Hollywood Tower Hotel. There, in front of the check-in desk, are the Silver Lake Sisters, a female singing group (and fictional owners of one of the restaurants on Buena Vista Street.) The ladies perform at pre-arranged times throughout the day, so be sure to ask a cast member when you can catch them. It’s a fantastic show that fits its setting perfectly.

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The only problem here is that most guests will quickly make their way past the Silver Lake Sisters in a matter of minutes, missing most of the performance as they make their way through into the library section of the Tower of Terror’s pre-show. There isn’t room for too many people to slow down and take in the act, so what should be a welcome addition could feel like wasted effort unless the park figures out a way to allow for an audience in the lobby.

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The last, and perhaps most significant, change to the Tower of Terror for “Late Check-Out” is the opportunity to ride in “complete darkness” after sundown. “Complete darkness” is a bit of an exaggeration, however, as the ride is mostly the same as what you’re used to, with the exception of the visuals and some of the sound effects being turned off in the mirror and hallway scenes, and silence instead of machinery whirring during the actual drops. And yes, the doors still open at the top.

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The lack of optical references and audio cues make it difficult to predict when those drops will happen, and I will say that’s the one thing that makes “Late Check-Out” scarier than the standard Tower of Terror experience. Otherwise, however, it feels as though features of the ride have been taken away, rather than added. In the coming months, as we approach the January end date of the Tower of Terror, I have a feeling I’m going to want to have access to the attraction’s full effects, even (maybe especially?) after dark.

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It’s a sad time for Twilight Zone Tower of Terror fans in Southern California, but it’s at least a little reassuring to know that the original (and far superior, in my opinion) iteration of the ride is staying put at Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, Florida. And over the next four months, as the Tower of Terror’s time at Disney California Adventure winds down, we can make a point to use the remaining time to enjoy the attraction as much as we can, in new ways and in old.

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8 Comments

  1. Derek

    When I did it on opening night, everyone absolutely loved it in the dark. I can also say that only the top door opened for us, and at no point did I ever feel like anything was ever “taken away.” Interesting how this is the only mixed review I’ve heard yet. Every other has been very very positive.

  2. The photo op area seemed oddly empty…which I hope it is when I visit in 5 weeks so we can get some great pictures.

    Thanks for posting the Silver Lake Sisters show…that was great. Looking forward to seeing them in person (any idea how often they do their lobby show?).

    We’ll probably ride ToT at least a few times to bid it farewell. I was wondering how I’d like it in “total darkness” since to me a large part of this ride is the theming (which is also my argument for not going Guardians) and to ride it in the dark just gives the same physical experience without the emotional attachment. Oh well, we’ll see how it goes.

    Thanks, as always, for your posts. 🙂

    1. Hi Okie!

      The Silver Lake Sisters are appearing 7 times a day through 10/31:

      11 am
      11:55 am
      12:50 pm
      2:40 pm
      3:35 pm
      4:20 pm
      5:25 pm

      Make sure to check them out and let Disney know if you want to see more of them!

      Thanks, Julia (Proud Producer) 🙂

      1. Thanks Julia. I’m definitely excited to see them live and in person. Great job. 🙂

  3. Robert

    I understand why they are doing it. I realize space is limited in Disneyland. Don’t agree though. Also hope they do not loose that signature attraction in Disney World. Find another avenue if they are going to start including the Marvel attractions.

  4. Thanks so much for this post and the rave reviews about The Silver Lake Sisters Mike! We are so proud of our little show and hope to be a mainstay at Disney for years to come.

    Best, Julia Tobey (Producer, Lucky 15 Productions)

    1. Mike Celestino

      It’s really fantastic, and I wish it had been happening long before now, in the attraction’s final months. It really fits in perfectly in that lobby.

  5. Christina

    My cast member friend told me the reason as to why they are getting rid of the Tower of Terror is because Disney lost the rights to ‘The Twilight Zone.’ The other Tower of Terrors in like Florida for example will remain, but they’ll get rid of anything that says “Twilight Zone,” or so I’ve heard. Also the Marvel department has been getting on about “When are we getting a ride?” So that’s why DCA decided to make the change that way they can fix two of their problems. I have a feeling that in no time Hollywood Land will all be Marvel attractions.

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