People are going ape for the new “King Kong: Skull Island” movie and similarly-named attraction at Universal’s Islands of Adventure in Orlando, FL.
The new attraction, Skull Island: Reign of Kong, which opened in July of 2016, is largely a simulator ride through adventure – a more detailed and involved version of the Hollywood ride in which the tour tram drives into the largest 3D theater in the world for a similar experience. Neither of these experiences, however, are based on the new film which opened March 10, 2017. Instead, they feature scenes reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s 2005 “King Kong” film.
Both attractions are also not the first appearances of the giant gorilla to Universal Studios’ theme parks.
California’s King Kong Encounter, which opened on June 14, 1986, featured an up close meeting with a 30 foot animatronic King Kong. Kong appears while the tour tram crosses the Brooklyn Bridge; he decimates a nearby helicopter and then starts to shred the bridge just as the tram manages to escape. Kong was crafted by former Disney artist and imagineer Bob Gurr. The giant ape even had banana scented breath! The King Kong Encounter was destroyed by a fire that broke out in the attraction’s soundstage on June 1, 2008.
Kongfrontation was one of the original attractions that opened when Universal Studios Orlando opened its gates in 1990. Instead of a studio tour tram, a sky tram was the attraction vehicle. While in queue, designed to look like New York’s Pennsylvania Station, guests catch glimpses of news broadcasts (featuring actual NY news reporters) detailing the advance of King Kong as he ravages Manhattan.
Once seated in the tram, riders are informed that they are being evacuated ahead of Kong’s rampage. During the 5 minute adventure the tram comes face to face with Kong twice, as he tries to smash it to the ground. Lifting and pushing on the tram, the giant ape is distracted the first time after being shot at by a police chopper (which he tosses into a nearby structure). A helicopter news crew, flying near the tram, illuminates guests with their lights, which they are urged to turn off lest they attract the ape.
As the lights are switched off Kong is already there, again attempting to bring down the sky-tram. Fortunately the tram manages a narrow escape after which Kong wanders off. For the remainder of the ride back to safety, guests revisit the trauma as video monitors show in the tram reveal that the entire encounter was recorded.
A photo op at the ride’s exit, just before the gift shop, lets guests pose with the infamous ape (banana breath included).
Kongfrontation was closed on September 8, 2002 (rumored to be the victim of high operating costs and unreliable animatronic tech). Today the $40 million thrill ride, Revenge of the Mummy (which did not open until May 2004) occupies the space that once housed Kongfrontation.
Did you encounter Kong in his previous appearance at Universal Orlando? What are some of your favorite memories of the experience? Please don’t monkey around and let us know in the comments below.