Skull Island: Reign of Kong is the newest attraction to be introduced to Universal Studios in Orlando Florida this year! King Kong will be making his much beloved return after first establishing his home at Universal Studios Hollywood while taking part in the tram tour. Sadly that part of the attraction burned down in 2008 and was later replaced by King Kong: 360 3-D in the year 2010. That attraction still stands today and audiences have been blown away with the updated technology that is being used to bring Kong to life.
King Kong: 360 3-D puts guests right into the middle of the fight between Kong and three T-Rex’s on Skull Island. Kong is tasked with protecting the Guests by taking down the dinosaurs all at the same time. Guests can experience the smell of the monsters breath, the intense sound of the action, and the feel of a dense jungle as water and gusts of wind are thrown at the audience during various sequences. The entire tram is locked into a motion based platform which jolts the tram every which way and is in sync with the action the Guest’s are observing. The attraction has been met with positive reviews and has continued to delight audiences to this day. However there’s one MAJOR flaw that I have with this attraction: there is not a “real” King Kong.
For those who remember (or people like me who grew up in the 90’s), Universal Studios Orlando had a King Kong attraction named Kongfrontation. This attraction operated from June 1990-September 2002. The ride placed the audience inside of a aerial tram vehicle not knowing the destruction that lay ahead. Guest’s were on their way evacuating off of Manhattan to be taken to the nearby Roosevelt Island for safety. Th only problem was, Kong was waiting for them.
Guests encountered Kong not once but TWICE on the attraction. The sets were all practical with no computer animation found (unless you count the brief silhouette of Kong shown on one of the buildings at the beginning of the attraction). Guests were met by the vastness of Kong and were terrified by the site of him. This animatronic beast was created with extreme care. You actually felt as though Kong was bringing terror to New York City and you were the victims.
As a young kid experiencing this attraction, I was absolutely terrified. I’ve always been a huge King Kong fan since I was a child. I love the original 1933 black and white claymation film. The effects were astounding at that time and believe it or not, the film still holds up today. Sure it has it’s corny moments, but there are scenes that still give me chills. The 2005 Peter Jackson remake while a little long, still stayed true to the King Kong lore by giving us more creatures and monsters to feast our eyes on. As good of a film it was heavily CGI’D and didn’t always feel as realistic as it could have been.
After the attraction, Guests were met with the King himself as you could obtain a great Kodak moment with Kong holding you in his grasp! P.S. This also terrified me as a kid and he didn’t even move!
Kongfrontation proved that practical effects could be done well. Hell, even Jurassic Park: River Adventure has a huge T-Rex at the end of the attraction to terrify Guests. All of the other dinosaurs including the velociraptors are brought to life and those animatronics still hold up today. This is why I hope and pray that Skull Island: Reign of Kong will have the necessary practical effects put to good use.
Last June, images of some of the art work surfaced online giving us some much needed information regarding the transformation that will be eventually be Skull Island: Reign of Kong. The picture shown above gives us a good look of what will be the entrance to the attraction. You can check out some of the photos of the ongoing construction for the attraction below:
There are also quite a few pictures that showcase the outside of the great wall that keeps Kong housed inside. Some of the pictures below give you a grand scope as to how much detail was put into just the outside of the attraction. The painted mountainous background, the enormous rock sculptures, and the desolate look makes this wait time for the attraction all the more bearable.
Mike West, Executive Producer at Universal Creative answered a few questions regarding the production of the ride and what Guest’s can expect going in. When asked how different this attraction would be compared to Universal Studios Hollywood West responded saying,
“Well, it’s really a vastly different ride than King Kong 360 3D. We’re taking guests to the physical, thematic environment of Skull Island, whereas in Hollywood it’s really about the movie-making process. You’re watching monitors and you’re on the tram and you’re going in and it’s got the cut and action. It’s all very segmented. We’ve gone in and actually created Skull Island. It’s not about a movie. The story is a story all to its own. It really has no relation to the Peter Jackson 2005 and is in no ways a prequel to the 2017 film. It’s its own piece, which is really exciting.”
This is a very interesting statement made by West here. While he doesn’t condone the Hollywood version of the ride in any way, he does mention how much different this ride truly is. This makes me believe that there actually may be more practical effects in this attraction than we anticipated. It sounds to me like they don’t plan on replicating the other attraction and are trying to distance themselves from Peter Jackson’s King Kong film.
I’m a little surprised that this ride won’t actually be based on the upcoming film since this ride title is VERY similar to the title for the new film due out in 2017: Kong: Skull Island. While I’m not disappointed by this by any means, it’s nice to know that they’re just not making an attraction based solely on a film since that seems to be the direction Universal is heading towards IE: Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem; Revenge of the Mummy; Shrek: 4-D, and one of the upcoming attractions is to be based off of the Fast and Furious franchise.
When asked about the story and ride system and how it operates West stated:
“Yeah I can talk about the story… The detail of the technology and the ride systems we’ll get into detail with a little bit down the road. But the guest experience entails a rather extensive queue that goes right up the boarding of the vehicles. And when guests come onto the island, they go through a rather dense jungle area, which gives way to some rather complex ancient ruins and that gives you a peek at some of the hostile natives who are on the island, you hear some cryptic messages that reference some of the unimaginable creatures you’re going to encounter on this rather perilous journey. So by the time you get ready to board the trucks, your senses are tingling and you’re ready for a very thrilling adventure. For once it’s not the thing where you are on the ride and something goes horribly wrong; you know from the very beginning that things aren’t going to go right.”
West continued on saying:
“Yes. You board the rather large expedition trucks and then part of the ride system is that the outside part is inside. One of the key pieces of key art that you got sent shows the expedition truck approaching the great wall, which is going to be the face of the attraction. It’s 72-feet wide and is really impressive; as you approach flames shoot up and huge wooden doors open up and you drive up in between these doors and things get darker and more mysterious at that point. Your charge, when you go onto this, is that you’re charged with going on and researching and collecting some specimens of unknown origin, which of course carpet this island. But it quickly turns into a fight for survival. The creatures get bigger and badder and eventually you come face-to-face with big Kong himself.”
“Eventually come face-to-face with big Kong himself?” Hmmm could West be alluding to the fact that we will be seeing Kong up close and personal? As in a practical effect and NOT just a screen? Man I surely hope so.
West also mentioned all of the other creatures that Guests will be encountering including the size of them. He also talks strongly about the 72-foot wide wall and how it’s the “face” of the attraction. The wall looks menacing and surely doesn’t look like a place I’d like to drop by for a visit.
Kong has made his way to the city of New York many times. Now, we are invading his home territory on Skull Island.
I seriously cannot wait any longer for this attraction to open already! I was very upset when I learned that Kongfrontation was going to be closed though Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride wasn’t a bad replacement.
We only have just a few more months to await this opening as the attraction is set to open this summer. This ride is shaping to look like it could one of the greatest attractions ever created. Even though they haven’t come right and said it, but all signs point to a HUGE practical effect King Kong. Only time will tell if this is true or not but you can bet I’ll be one of the first in line to witness “Kong, the Eight Wonder of the World!”