Tower of Terror (1997)

Donald James “D.J.” MacHale is a writer, director and executive producer that is probably best known for the show Are You Afraid of the Dark? and for creating two different young adult book series, Pendragon and Morpheus Road. He would write and direct this Disney Channel exploration of another Disney attraction.

This movie paved the way for the success of Pirates of the Carribean, which also turned theme park rides into movies, as well as Mission to MarsThe Haunted Mansion and The Country Bears.

It’s surprisingly way better — and more emotional — than I thought it would be when we purchased the DVD.

Buzzy Crocker (Steve Guttenberg) was fired from the Los Angeles Banner when a story turned out to be fake. His ex-girlfriend Jill (Nia Peebles) still works there and wants to try to get him back, but now he writes for The National Inquisitor with the help of his niece Anna (Kristen Dunst).

An old woman named Abigail Gregory (Amzie Strickland) tells Buzzy that on Halloween 1939, she saw the incident that forever closed the Hollywood Tower Hotel and caused the disappearance of child star Sally Shine (Lindsay Ridgeway from Boy Meets World), singer Carolyn Crosson (Melora Hardin, who was both Jan on The Office and Monk’s deceased wife), nanny Emeline Partridge, actor Gilbert London and bellhop Dewey Todd (John Franklin, Isaac from Children of the Corn and Cousin Itt in the 1990’s version of The Addams Family), who were all on their way to a party at the Tip Top Club.

To discover what really happened, Buzzy and Anna get the help of Chris “Q” Todd, the hotel caretaker and grandson of the aforementioned bellhop Dewey. If the truth is revealed, Chris will inherit the hotel if an explanation.

There are twists, turns and no small amount of tears and emotion, way more than you would think would be possible in a Disney Channel movie.

Most of the tower footage in the film was shot at the actual Tower of Terror attraction at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

MacHale would bring back Dewey Todd in his Pendragon books. He appears in The Never War and in The Pilgrims of Rayne, it’s revealed that he disappeared in the Hollywood Tower Hotel.

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