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King Kong is coming back to Universal Orlando

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Published: March 7, 2014 at 11:40 AM

King Kong is set to make its return to the Universal Orlando Resort. The great ape, star of movies from the 1933 Fay Wray original to the 2005 Peter Jackson blockbuster, once made a home at Universal Studios Florida, before the Kongfrontation ride closed in 2002 to make way for the Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster. When Kong returns, it will be to Universal Orlando's other theme park, Islands of Adventure.

We've known for some time that Universal Creative designers have been kicking around ideas for the Return of the Kong. As a result, theme park fans for months have been spreading rumors about a new Kong ride in one of the parks or the other. But ideas are worthless until they become reality. Lots of "blue sky" attraction ideas never make it to development. When parks start filing for permits with local authorities and start hiring contractors to develop the plans, that is when an idea become a project worth reporting as fact. That is when parks are putting real money behind an idea.

We appear to be at that stage now with Kong. Universal Orlando filed a permit application with the City of Orlando this week for a demolition project to clear space for either the new Kong attraction or possibly for a fifth hotel on the Universal Orlando property. We don't know for certain which project this permit represents, but we've heard from enough other sources within the industry to confirm that both projects are happening.

UOR permit

In addition, multiple Universal team members have reported seeing markers that suggest impending demolition work around the old Triceratops Encounter space in Jurassic Park, which is the land next to which industry sources have said a new Kong attraction would go. Frankly, space seems tight on that side of Jurassic Park with the show building for Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey encroaching into much of that land's old empty space, which is why we've been skeptical of rumors that Kong would go in on that site. (Oh, please don't let this just be a Kong-topped polercoaster.) There's more space for a new attraction on the other side of Jurassic Park, near the new Cabana Bay hotel.

Universal lost the original version of the Kong animatronic attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood in 2008 when the soundstage that housed that encounter on the park's backlot tour burned in a major fire at the studio. Universal ultimately decided to replace that attraction with the film-based King Kong 360/3D encounter, directed by Jackson, which opened in 2010.

With demolition on schedule soon, construction on Orlando's new Kong attraction, whatever and wherever it turns out to be, could begin once Diagon Alley opens to the public this summer. And development of the fifth hotel should be expected to begin not long after Universal wraps up its fourth hotel, the Cabana Bay Beach Resort later this spring.

Expect this as the new normal at the Universal Orlando Resort. As one major new attraction development wraps up, a new one will begin. As one new hotel opens, construction will start on the next. Meanwhile, new developments continue to begin over in CityWalk, too, beyond the new restaurants and shops that Universal Orlando already has announced for this spring and summer.

What are you hoping for in a new Kong attraction — or a new hotel — at the Universal Orlando Resort?

Readers' Opinions

From Rob Pastor on March 7, 2014 at 12:11 PM
A combination of a Kong AA with the 360 screen effects plus other scenes with a slow moving track seems to be the latest rumors. I'd like to see that. OU & OI have been reporting the last few months, though, that the proposed site is behind the River Adventure falls & restaurant area.That area has also been marked off recently. The Trike Encounter area, they report, will have some type of Jurassic Park attractions.
From 146.201.113.44 on March 7, 2014 at 12:17 PM
Man oh man, what am I not looking for? I can only assume that Universal, whatever they decide on for this attraction, is going to put the same effort and attention to detail into the new attraction that they have with other recent projects like the Harry Potter areas and Transformers.

I am curious as to what has changed recently with Universal. The Orlando parks seemed basically unchanged for a long time, and now it seems there is never a time when something new is NOT being built. Is there just a lot more cash available for development, or is there just a new focus on parks that used to not be there? Why wait until now (2009 or so) to start putting in so much development to become a major competitor to Disney?

From Robert Niles on March 7, 2014 at 12:45 PM
BTW, I rephrased a clumsy sentence about the location of the Kong attraction from my original version. I meant to shoot down the idea of the attraction over by the old Trike site, but my original phrasing suggested that was where it was going, instead.
From N B on March 7, 2014 at 12:56 PM
I have to say it will be nice when there are mo more construction walls at these parks... Its getting to be a bit much, even for me.
From Daniel Etcheberry on March 7, 2014 at 12:57 PM
Great news, but why locate the ride inside Jurassic Park? Is Universal changing the entire land into Skull Island?
From Rob Pastor on March 7, 2014 at 1:01 PM
To the questioning poster: Comcast purchased the park. Universal's mantra is now, basically , if you build it they will come. Especially after the huge success of HP1.
From edwin roman on March 7, 2014 at 1:02 PM
Kong!!!! 8th wonder of the world....oh boy...I missed the old one, and even though that ride had shut down issues, and long lines, it was a favorite..I enjoy the new one as I have seen the video on you tube...islands needs a few new attractions. and, Jurassic park is one of them. Not every one wants to go on the river adventure when its cold out in the winter time here so for 2-3 months, heck no, I won't go...But, lets get kong going...anything to pump up islands is going to be worth it. And, to start with the 8th wonder of the world, modern style, I am all in.

As for a hotel, why not make it more top end, so that when you pay, you get the all access room pass...the cheaper cabana just does early entry....and make the new one a great theme, like potter...lets do this guys!!!

From Marlon Benavides on March 7, 2014 at 2:03 PM
Robert did I just read this correctly? Did you say they're building a 5th Hotel at Universal? Where exactly How big? and Opening Date!!! Sooo cool!!!
From TH Creative on March 7, 2014 at 2:23 PM
Yawn.
From Mark Fairleigh on March 7, 2014 at 4:04 PM
TH Creative,
Yawn is the drawn out process New Fantasyland is :P KONG YEAH!! WOOOT!! :D
From Annette Forrest on March 7, 2014 at 4:17 PM
I wish they would build a Harry Potter themed hotel. My family would stay there every time we are in Orlando and would never stay at a Disney resort again.

They could do it one of a few ways:
* have the hotel buildings be themed to the Beauxbatons and Durmstrung schools, with a pool that has the Durmstrung ship in it (with water slides) and the pool themed to a lake. One building could look all French like Beauxbaton and one building could be Nordic like Durmstrung. Since these places were never shown in the movies, Universal has a lot of leeway in their looks. It would be fun to be able to visit these other wizarding schools by staying in them as hotels. Maybe even have a third building based on Salem, the American Wizarding School. JK Rowling could have a ball coming up with lots of little details for a project like this that really expands what she wrote in the books.

* have the hotel look like Privet Drive, the Dursley's home. And every room could be a suite, complete with a cupboard under the stairs with a murphy bed in it.

* Azkaban -- a hotel themed to Azkaban prison. It would be more dreary and spooky than a regular hotel, but it could be fun for all the Potter fans.

If they built a Harry Potter themed hotel my kids would go nuts.

From TH Creative on March 7, 2014 at 5:18 PM
Great ... It's a theme park attraction where I narrowly escape being killed by an enormous ape ... or a t-rex ... or a dragon ... or a giant robot.

How ordinary.

Last August I offered up a discussion thread titled "How Long Will Theme Parks Be Regarded as Viable Entertainment?"

http://www.themeparkinsider.com/news/response.cfm?ID=945509815

I invest great hope in the "park as a platform" model. I truly hope that Diagon Alley at Universal Studios and Avatar at Disney's Animal Kingdom will achieve that approach to themed entertainment -- and SUBSTANTIALLY raise the bar.

But the "grab the rights to a pyrotechnic movie franchise and build a manic ride vehicle" approach has been done to death.

Again ... yawn.

From Robert Niles on March 7, 2014 at 5:46 PM
To TH's point, Hogsmeade, Diagon Alley, and Star Wars Land (should WDI do it right) are places where people can cosplay and spend the day within the lands themselves. They inspire a level of audience interaction far beyond simply waiting in line, riding a ride, getting a snack and moving on to the next land.

As much as I like the Kong 360/3D and the Kongfrontation ride before it, no, I don't think we'll see a bunch of Kong fanboys/girls getting into this IP the way that they do for Potter, much of Disney's IP, and even The Simpsons (thanks to all the new food).

But if Universal delivers something along the lines of what it did for Transformers -- fun ride, engaging visuals, and enough narrative conflict to hold it all together -- it'll have another hit. Not a game-changing blockbuster, but a solid, respectable hit.

From James Rao on March 7, 2014 at 5:53 PM
Only issue I have is that the Jurassic area of IOA is pretty swell as is... wish they were fixing the Toon Lagoon instead. Maybe it will be next after Kong. Otherwise, a new King Kong attraction sounds fun. Although I seriously wonder if the franchise (I use the term loosely here) has any pull left outside of old fogies like me?

Do you think the the new hotel will offer Universal Express?

From TH Creative on March 7, 2014 at 7:09 PM
Um, "a solid, respectable hit?"

Are we discussing a major theme park attraction or the latest musical offering from Robin Thicke?

From 107.77.64.75 on March 7, 2014 at 6:22 PM
I'm glad Universal is pumping so much time, thought and money into the parks. And I couldn't be more pleased with the new additions over the past few years.
That said, with all this effort, would it really be so hard/expensive to improve/keep up current areas/attractions? So there is more consistency in quality and presentation?
Marvel Island and Suess Island both DESPERATELY need a coat of paint. Moreso than any other areas, those colors should POP! They've all been drab and sun faded for so long now...
And how hard would it be to PLUS some of the current attractions? The final leg of E.T. has had a fallen, droopy black drape for years. The pre show videos in the Hulk queue have done of the worst animation and voice acting I've ever seen/heard. The MIB headquarters look so bare in the queue. Another alien or two? Heck even a handful of costumed employees as humanoid aliens walking through at intervals would help liven up all that dead, white space. Maybe a new Dino or two on the River Adventure?

Basically the awesomeness of the new stuff is starting to really underline the cracks in the seams of the (otherwise still great) old stuff. Seems that for a fraction of the cost of a new attraction/land that numerous existing things could be plussed.

Better walk around characters would be another big improvement.

And although it does look like there are some strong new food options, they have GOT to step up their game on the quality of the counter service food.

I'm so glad that they've finally decided to offer at least one "value" resort (though have thought for years they should just but all the motels on Major Blvd, theme them and offer them as on-site, official Univerals" to allow more families to have a more immersive experience when they can't afford a $400 a night deluxe resort.

This may sound like griping. But it isn't. I love Universal and love how much effort they are putting into great new attractions. But what I'd really love is for them to spend just a pinch of that effort into other things that would improve the park experience as much or more than any single new ride (Potter, Kong or otherwise...)

From 216.81.81.84 on March 7, 2014 at 6:24 PM
I hope this will be universal's answer to expedition everest, with giant AA to boot. Working AA of course.
From 67.82.220.9 on March 7, 2014 at 6:47 PM
I hope the ride is outdoors and have it be like Indiana Jones and dinosaur
From 71.125.27.189 on March 7, 2014 at 7:20 PM
Love that Kong is coming back, but also love that nothing is leaving to make room for his comeback.

They're doing a great job of balancing replacements and additions. We go to universal 3-4 times a year, and there is always something new each time.

From Phil B. on March 7, 2014 at 7:44 PM
So will this be just a stand alone attraction, or will they try to cram a whole Skull Island land in the park? Space seems so limited to flesh out something substantial aside from the one attraction. Even though I'd like to see a Kong attraction make a return to the Orlando resort, in this case I rather just see a new Jurassic attraction get built to coincide with the new movie that has been rumored to be moving forward. Real interested to see how the whole thing will play out.
From TH Creative on March 7, 2014 at 8:16 PM
I imagine it will "play out" as a story where Universal guests will board a quiet ride through the jungle ... until something goes horribly wrong.

Kind of a nice change of pace for Universal Creative, eh?


From 184.89.29.58 on March 7, 2014 at 9:05 PM
PLEASE not a Potter Hotel!!!!!!!!!!!!! I don't think I can take ANYMORE Potter!!!!!!!!!!!
From Phil B. on March 7, 2014 at 9:52 PM
That's most likely a bulls eye on how the rides story will play out, no argument there. I'm curious as to how this attraction will find a home thematically at IOA. Looking at IOA on google maps, there's just nothing left with a large enough footprint to get a Skull Island area inside the gates. Shoe horning it into the Jurassic area just to add another big ticket attraction to the parks line-up is lame and goes against the concept of the park. I would much rather see them add another experience to the Jurassic Park area. Perhaps this ride would be best suited as an anchor attraction in a new land at a 3rd gate.... hmmmm ;o)
From Apple Butter on March 7, 2014 at 11:04 PM
TH Creative says....

I imagine it will "play out" as a story where Universal guests will board a quiet ride through the jungle ... until something goes horribly wrong.
Kind of a nice change of pace for Universal Creative, eh?

Disney imagineers don't do this too? Everyone used to do this but at least Universal/Comcast is bringing e ticket rides now almost every year. Rides that don't follow that scheme either. Your thinking of the Jungle Cruise.... that was created like what 50 years ago? People are showing up for the new things at universal too. If you build it they will come and they have since HP.

New hotels, restaurants, e ticket attractions, a water park, and plus rumors of another park? I'm seeing a change in Florida and sure does not have big round flappy ears on it either. You are one of the few that would yawn at this. I guess you don't want change but your previous threads seem to want change? I'm perplexed.

We'll see you later from the Universal Fan Club....

U N I..... I is for Imagination V E R.... R is for Real E ticket rides not a lame Mermaids ride... S A L.... L is for looking in the back mirror at the mouse who's coughing on everyone's dust. What's that spell kids? That spells a change in Florida.

From TH Creative on March 8, 2014 at 6:12 AM
Note to Apple Butter: The only thing more cliche than another dark ride where the guests are chased down by a giant beastie is an attempt to turn a TPI thread topic into another Disney vs. Universal battle.

And for the record earlier in the thread I expressed great hope that Universal's Diagon Alley and Disney's Avatar will successfully raise the bar using the "park-as-a-platform" approach.

I've no doubt that the Kong attraction will be exciting. I'm sure it will maintain the success that Universal orlando's model has been enjoying.

I'm just hoping that the medium (themed entertainment) will eventually find another course.

From Apple Butter on March 8, 2014 at 8:16 AM
Yeah I was going a little off kilter there sorry. The model that you spoke of is used in theme parks around the world because it works for most. Although there is a lot of different models out there using just IOA as an example. Like being a kid again in Sues Landing, Acting like a fool under the comic bubbles at toon landing, spraying water at unsuspecting guests star water cannon at ripsaw, when your kid or any kid is chosen where their wand chooses them in Olivanders, or just letting yourself step into the pages of HP while enjoying a frozen butter beer. You can find these things to do at Disney or similar things. It's not all you're going along a calm path and something happens model.
From O T on March 8, 2014 at 1:29 PM
So TH Creative (the man with the same reply on everything so how creative is he) will open his own theme park with rides based on literature like Pinter, Shakespeare and Harper Lee.
Sure Universal has rides who start slow and then something happens and all ends well. Disney got rides that start slow, nothing happens and it all ends well.
What do you want? Theme park are the equivalent of a popcorn movie, that's what draws the most guests and that's why they stay open. If you want the equivalent of an arthouse movie theme park it would be empty and because of that not feasible.
From TH Creative on March 8, 2014 at 4:49 PM
OT asks: "What do you want?"

I Respond: Well at the risk of repeating myself and thus inviting thoughtful criticism from someone with your level of (ahem) insight ("the man with the same reply on everything so how creative is he") -- I am interested in the "park-as-a-platform" approach.

Area development. Sound, lights, landscaping. Live entertainment. Enhanced and dramatic environments for character greetings. Full interactivity. High density projections. Following a path and coming to a load platform -- without even knowing the you are standing in line for an attraction. Changing environments.

I look forward to Diagnon Alley. I have great hope that the immersive elements will set a standard for future themed entertainment development. I have the same faith in Disney's development of Pandora. My confidence in both projects has been expressed on this thread. Apparently you missed those comments, eh?

(Chuckle)

From Phil B. on March 8, 2014 at 5:18 PM
Diagon Alley will no doubt improve upon the immersive experience of HP 1.0. For it not to would be a step backwards for Universal in creating themed environments. Even if it matches HP 1.0, it's a misstep in pushing things forward in my opinion. They have to improve upon what they have done before and continue to innovate what should be expected in a theme park experience.

With Disney, I am REALLY excited for Pandora. I know people are down on the use of the IP in the park, and have mixed emotions on the film. To me, none of that matters. The potential this IP has, to truly blow the doors off of what people have seen before is immense. There has been so much evolution in theme parks creating immersive lands since HP 1.0 opened, that Pandora has the opportunity to be THE next generation, of the current next generation of theme park environments, much in the way Potter pushed things forward several years ago. When you take into account all that will have been learned from both HP lands, Carsland and New Fantasy Land, mixed in with Disney ingenuity as well as full implementation of next-gen tech. This could very well be the crown jewel of the whole resort. I just hope they don't cut any corners and cheap out on the experience. AK as well as fans of the WDW resort in general deserve something to truly crow about. I could also do with out the phased opening, ugh. I can see why it happened at New Fantasy Land, and I understand why they will do it in AK since they want to begin generating revenue on their huge investment asap, but there really is nothing quite like a true grand opening! It makes for a great show, it's good theater, and I think Walt ideally would have liked to do things that way when at all possible, being the showman he was.

From 137.53.249.130 on March 9, 2014 at 4:22 PM
I'm sure some die-hard Universal fans are stoked about this, but I'm disappointed that this expansion isn't a Jurassic Park Jeep Adventure ride.

Personal opinion aside, it also seems odd that Universal would choose to go this route with Jurassic World launching a new trilogy soon. It seems infinitely more marketable than Kong (no matter how awesome the attraction turns out to be).

From TH Creative on March 9, 2014 at 4:45 PM
Really enjoying Phil B.'s comments. It demonstrates the TPI community's interest in themed entertainment environments, while offering no recognition claiming any significance to bringing a (yawn) "respectable hit" (Kong) to Orlando.

(Singing)

"Blurred liiiiiiines ...."

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