Sunset Boulevard is a real place located in Los Angeles, California, and is the major thoroughfare of Beverly Hills and West Hollywood. Familiar locations along this road include Figueroa Street and Echo Lake, both of which are represented in Disney’s Hollywood Studios.
In Hollywood Studios, Sunset Boulevard, and much of the area that surrounds it, is inspired by real locations like the 22-mile stretch of road named Sunset Boulevard. While Disney’s version isn’t nearly that long, the streets and shops along the way are inspired by the real place.
Sunset Boulevard was the first expansion in Disney’s Hollywood Studios. It opened in July of 1994. Current attractions in this area include Rock n Roller Coaster Starring Aerosmith, Beauty and the Beast Live on Stage in Theater of the Stars, Fantasmic in Hollywood Hills Amphitheater, and Lightening McQueen Racing Academy in Sunset Showcase Theater, which is the only indoor theater in the area. My favorite attraction in the land, and one of my all-time favorites, is Twilight Zone Tower of Terror.
Twilight Zone Tower of Terror
The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror is the focal point of Sunset Boulevard. It towers 199 feet tall and is the second tallest attraction in Disney World falling just half a foot below Expedition Everest: The Forbidden Mountain.
Tower of Terror is a thrill ride inspired by the Twilight Zone TV series that aired on CBS from 1959 to 1964. Rod Serling, the executive producer, died long before this attraction was created, but Disney felt it necessary to include his voice, so they enlisted his wife, Carol Sterling, to hold auditions to cast his voice actor.
Construction of the fictional Hollywood Tower Hotel began in 1992. A sinkhole forced the site to be moved slightly, but construction was completed in two years. The exterior of the tower could be seen from the Morocco Pavilion in Epcot’s World Showcase, so it had to blend in color and skyline.
The interior is inspired by real SoCal landmarks including the Biltmore Hotel and the Mission Inn.
Tower of Terror required technology that didn’t previously exist (because elevators are designed to do the exact opposite of a free fall, which was what Disney wanted), so Walt Disney Imagineers employed elevator engineers to help them figure out how to make guests feel like they were free-falling. WDI also created self-propelled vehicles that can move in and out of a vertical motion shaft. The ride uses a unique loop system with two identical ride systems, four shafts in the back for the dark ride portion, merged into two for the Fifth Dimension, then together in a single drop shaft.
WDI and their elevator engineers determined that they could attach cables to the bottom of the elevator and pull down slightly faster than a free fall to give guests a real feeling of weightlessness. The cabs drop at 39 miles per hour and reach top speed in 1.5 seconds.
One thing that makes this ride not just my favorite in this land but one of my all-time favorites is that it is never the same. The drop pattern is randomly selected by a computer before the ride begins so you never experience “…the same fear twice”.
The story of the ride is just as interesting as its construction. Rod Serling sets the scene: “Hollywood 1939”. The Hollywood Tower Hotel was a destination for the Hollywood elite, but something strange happened in 1939 that changed that.
Five people including a celebrity couple, a rising child star, and her nanny, and a bellhop mysteriously disappear during a severe thunderstorm when lightning strikes the hotel.
The outside queue is a winding path with some 1930s Jazz music playing in the background. Inside, the hotel appears to be untouched since that fateful night when the hotel closed. The lobby is covered in dust and cobwebs.
You eventually end up in the library when lightning strikes and the power goes on. A TV turns on playing the Twilight Zone show. Rod Sterling’s voice explains what’s going on, then you’re ushered into the ride vehicle where things just get weirder.
This ride features an onboard ride photo and video, which is a good thing because you’re definitely going to want to see your face during the drop sequence! You can purchase photos individually or get all of them included with your MemoryMaker purchase.