I love Tower of Terror. It's one of the best attractions on Disneyland Resort property. Every time I ride, I savor the immersive queue setting, detailed props, and the masterful job Disney does of building anticipation in me. I love the ride.
Still, I see the Towers around the world and know that Disney was capable of maximizing DCA's version. For example, here are the budgets for ToTs beyond California:
Walt Disney World: $140,000,000
Disneyland Resort: $70,000,000-$90,000,000
Tokyo Disney Resort: $190,000,000
Disneyland Resort Paris: $180,000,000 (No one knows exactly the budget for DLRP, but this is the most believed number)
So, we have the cheapest Tower. Half the price of WDW's. Most of that is because the concept was already in place, much of the show's media was re-used, and the entire structure and ride system was cloned from Paris' plans. Still, even with a new story and new architecture, TDS' Tower of Terror has the cloned structure and ride system and is a whopping $190 million dollars. I normally try not to compare the TDR to another resort in terms of quality, because I know the funding from the OLC is much more generous. Still, more than 150% of a budget for another Tower over ours is huge.
I don't want to complain about how terrible our Tower of Terror is. Budget aside, I enjoy it enough that it may as well have cost $190 million. Still, I think about how much more amazing it could have been if it received a bit more love than would a quick-fix for a suffering California Adventure.
So this brings me to a new point. What are the specific issues of the WDW and DLR Towers?
WALT DISNEY WORLD
Tower of Terror at WDW uses a wire-guided track system in the fifth dimension and end scenes that are a bit delicate. But the main problem with constant delays and e-stops, as with some other Disney attractions, is the issue of the elevator ahead being too slow. There are four lift shafts, and two drop shafts each shared by two of the first four. Therefore there are two separate, independent rides in the attraction. Each of those two has two paths that merge into one. There are four elevator cars (AGVs) in each ride, but only two exit scenes. This means that there can be a backup in the exit and the other two AGVs will not be able to continue in the ride.
With this Tower, the first floor is actually the basement, containing the exit floor and the gift shop. The second floor is the lobby, libraries, and boiler room. To accomplish this, a hill was formed around the first floor to give the illusion that the second floor was truly ground level, and guests ascend the hill in a winding path through the gardens before reaching the lobby. There are two libraries, and each library leads to two loading areas on a single-boiler room. Since the lift shafts are located behind the tall wing of the tower and the AGVs travel over the other floors forward into the drop shaft, the bulk of the building is in the back.
In an attempt to simplify the ride system in order to accommodate more guests with fewer break-downs, WDI disposed of the fifth dimension scene, ride path merges, and the wire-guided track. Instead, there are three shafts, each their own independent ride with two AGVs each. When one AGV is in the ride, the other one is in unload/load position directly in front of the shaft on one level of the boiler room. When the other AGV is done, it is pulled out of the shaft by a pulling/pushing arm into the load area on the other floor of the boiler room. The other AGV, now loaded with new guests, is pushed back into the shaft and begins its ride while the other is unloading and loading guests.
With this ride system, one AGV cannot be delayed in-ride by the other, as there is always an open load zone to which it can return. Still, unique features had to be show up in order for this ride system to take place.
First, there is no need for a separate unload floor. This means no hill and no gardens. Just a direct entrance to the lobby and switchbacks to the side. Also, because there are two loading areas in each shaft, one on top of the other, the boiler room must be dual-level. This makes for a dramatic boiler room, but a contradiction in storytelling. The boiler room is depicted on basement level in signage around the hotel, but some guests are made to travel upstairs to this basement.
The exit is achieved by placing a hallway in between the boiler room and the AGV load zone. During unloading, the boiler room elevator doors are closed and the doors to the AGV open, letting guests spill out into the exit hall. When all the guests have unloaded, the hallway lights dim and the boiler room doors open and the loading process begins. Guests pass across the exit hall through two sets of elevator doors to load into the AGV. Though many guests don't notice the hallway, there are still many who do (I did on my first visit), and it's a bit confusing.
Since there are no extra lift shafts behind the Tower, the drop shaft must serve this purpose and so all the show scenes and boiler room are in front. This doesn't make it aesthetically inferior to the WDW Tower, but you should log that info away for later.
THE TOWER THAT SHOULD HAVE BEEN
Now, aside from what I have just mentioned, I have always found our Tower to be immensely uglier than the WDW original. It isn't the architecture, but the frequent use of stucco and concrete in large, non-detailed chunks. One thing I believe our Tower has over its predecessor is its believability in size. The wider frame of the building causes me to see more "hotel" in the Hollywood Tower.
In my musings, I have designed a re-worked Tower. Before you make comments on how ridiculous a modification like this could be, I fully understand and know that TDA would probably not do this unless A) They were obsessively desparate to have the best ToT, B) The building was utterly falling apart, or C) Both.
But it's fun to think.
So a few things I wanted to accomplish were getting all the parts I love from the WDW Tower, keeping all the parts I love from our Tower, perfecting all those parts, beautifying the exterior, and adding a few of my own ideas.
I'll save that explanation for later. But until then, here is my design for the front elevation:
Sorry for the low quality. My scanner has been acting up so I had to take a photo.