Theme Park Insider

Comcast Confirms Kong's Return to Universal Orlando

February 24, 2015, 9:41 AM · Comcast executives confirmed in an earnings call today that Universal Orlando Resort is building a new King Kong-themed attraction.

King Kong
Image courtesy Legendary Entertainment

Comcast is the parent company of NBCUniversal, which owns and operates the Universal Orlando Resort. Universal Studios has a distribution deal with Legendary Entertainment, which is producing a new Kong movie for next year, when the Kong attraction at Universal Orlando is expected to be complete.

The new Kong pavilion is under construction between the Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park islands the Islands of Adventure theme park. Blueprints for the new ride, leaked to Theme Park Insider, call for what looks like a mix of the wrap-around 3D screens featured in the Kong Kong 360/3D encounter on Universal Studios Hollywood's Studio Tour and the a large Kong animatronic, as was featured in the original Kongfrontation encounter on the Studio Tour and a standalone ride at Universal Studios Florida.

Kong plans
Public documents detailing the 'Project 340' Kong construction site at Islands of Adventure

USF closed the Kongfrontation ride in 2002 to make way for the current Revenge of the Mummy attraction. Hollywood's Kongfrontation was lost in a backlot fire in 2008.

Though Universal Orlando has been filing permit applications for the Kong construction project with local authorities and sources connected to the project have leaked the show building blueprints to Theme Park Insider, no one from Universal or its parent Comcast had confirmed the plans officially to the public before today.

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Replies (47)

February 24, 2015 at 9:48 AM · Big differences between disney and universal: universal is constantly and quickly putting in new rides, and actually listened to their loyal fans that missed one of their old attractions.
February 24, 2015 at 10:20 AM · Universal had a very successful fourth quarter, as announced at that same meeting. The "revenue increase" for all USA parks was an outstanding 29.9% increase. That follows a huge attendance increase (19% "attendance" increase all parks) during the third quarter. Since that figure also includes Universal Hollywood, which hasn't completed their expansion yet, that percentage was probably even a bit higher for Orlando Universal alone. This should put the lie to those posters who continually say that Diagon Alley was a failure. Those are numbers rarely ever reached during any expansions. It's a great time for Orlando theme park fans to see both Universal & Disney thriving. It can only result in a continued better theme park experience. Only Sea World, which is being dragged down by Blackstone's cost cutting & poor management, is lagging behind.
February 24, 2015 at 11:08 AM · nobody said it was a failure...now they did say it didn't meet expectations, but I don't recall the word failure ever used...
February 24, 2015 at 11:16 AM · Honestly, I love universal the best out of all the parks that I have been too. I don't agree though that disney doesn't listen. I think disney listens just as much as universal. I mean look at Luigi's tires attraction at Californias adventure. That was litterally just built a couple of years ago, and they are already replacing it with something more suitable to the area. but anyways, I love to see expansion, regardless of where it is at. This has me so excited for the future!!
February 24, 2015 at 11:31 AM · Continued expansion at both of the Orlando majors is VERY exciting.
February 24, 2015 at 11:47 AM · Is the large Kong animatronic from the original Kongfrontation attraction or a new construction? I guess we will know soon. Too many screen based attractions, but this is a mix of both screen and practical sets.
February 24, 2015 at 12:09 PM · With the advances in the art of AAs, they would have to be crazy to put in the clunky old Kong from the defunct attraction. It wasn't a bad AA for the time, but this new ride has only one animatronic. Obviously, we want to see something state of the art.
February 24, 2015 at 12:17 PM · Anon Mouse, it's a new construction. But it's the same upper-torso concept as the original.
February 24, 2015 at 12:23 PM · This Kong attraction looks pretty awesome. Having it sit in Jurassic Park is brilliant as well.
When will it open?? It looks like the prequel movie will open in 2016 or 2017. Will it take Universal that long to open or will it open prior to the movie?
Diagon alley isn't so much a failure as the opening dates and communication of them were completely bungled. It seems like the development team isn't talking to who ever markets the place. Universal had great gains, but imagine if they had their game together and were able to message the opening date and get huge crowds there all last summer.
Hopefully they have learned from this and will announce and execute an opening for Kong that really drives their attendance.
February 24, 2015 at 12:24 PM · I think Universal has been spending and investing money wisely.
Adding new Hotels, now a water park, Attractions...

Too bad for Sea World - we use to love it there when Busch owned them..
BGT is great park also... Discovery Cove is a unique experience... I wonder if they can come back?

February 24, 2015 at 12:24 PM · Ugh with the screens. You know what's more 3-D than a 3-D screen? Actual things existing in space.

Build some real rides and stop relying on fancy computer-generated images!

February 24, 2015 at 2:38 PM · I've been going to disney for years, since 87 and lived in Florida for 7 years through the 90s, 90-97, and the difference between universal and disney now is night and day. Universal puts in an attraction, starts building another one, a lot of the time with cutting edge technology involved and an amazing experience. I love disney, I just want them to step it up a bit. Give us something. Soarin should not have 120 minute waits, nor should toy story or seven dwarfs mine train. When I found out that disneyland had as many rides as disney world in a tenth of the space it shows how as long as the money keeps pouring in they can operate at a snails pace rather than making new exciting rides for their loyal patrons. They'll build another 5 parking lots 10 restaurants and a hotel before putting in a new ride, and it will probably just be a rebrand of something with short lines.
February 24, 2015 at 3:21 PM · Early reports are saying there will also be some giant insect animatronics plus a very unique ride system for the trams. They've already started rock work on the building. A large section of the Skull Island entrance section has rock as of today.
February 24, 2015 at 3:41 PM · Now, I'm pretty sure that this will end up being a fantastic ride, but I have some complaints. I'm honestly getting tired of Universal just turning everything into a motion simulator. Every time they get their hands on a new franchise, they ALWAYS have to turn it into a motion simulator! Don't get me wrong, Universal makes the greatest motion simulators in the world, but they do it too much. This is why I like Disney more, they have such a HUGE variety of attractions, so there's something for everyone. (Though grant it Disney has the unfair advantage of having a lot more space). I, personally, would like to see something more like Revenge of the Mummy, an indoor thrill ride that uses more practical effects. And I want those practical effects to be above and beyond, I want Universal to invest a truckload of money into making them as realistic and scary as possible! Ok...I've gone on for way too long...what about you guys? Would you by any chance be interested in this ride becoming something other than a motion simulator?
February 24, 2015 at 4:22 PM · Re: the comment directly above this one...

I share the concern about Universal potentially becoming the "simulator" or "3D" resort a few years down the road, but from what I've heard this new Kong ride is going to have lots of physical sets, effects, figures, and multiple creature AAs. So hopefully it's going to have a good and satisfying balance of techniques.

As for the official announcement, I find it kind of funny from a PR standpoint. You'd think they would have wanted to announce this through a webcast, or a Facebook post at the very least. I just seems like announcing it the way they did is not going to really capitalize on or generate any real excitement for the project (beyond what already exists in the "in the know" sections of the theme park fan community).

February 24, 2015 at 4:41 PM · Well, the attraction is only opening in 2016, probably in May or June (based on past history). So I would imagine they're saving the big media events for next year. An ad in next year's Super Bowl would probably generate a frenzy of anticipation.

By the way, does anyone know the budget for Kong?

February 24, 2015 at 6:07 PM · Just in my never-ending quest of "Disney-Defense"... to the people who keep bringing up that Universal is constantly pumping out new rides and lands, can I remind you that...
Seven Dwarfs Mine Train- 2014
Frozen Epcot Attraction/possibly the new nighttime show at Animal Kingdom- 2016
Avatar Land- 2017
Possible Star Wars Land/Pixar Place/ and more according to cast members I have spoken to- 2018 and beyond

Universal, primarily with Potter, has been in a period of awesome and rapid expansion, and it seems that Disney is now starting to pick up as well. This is an awesome time for Orlando theme park fans.

February 24, 2015 at 6:54 PM · Are people really excited by a King Kong ride? Really? Sure it is nice that something new is on the way, but to the average Joe does this "franchise" even register a blip? It is unfortunate Universal did not just expand the Jurassic Park footprint - even though the new JP movie looks pretty awful (why Chris Pratt, why???), at least it has relevance with today's Universal fan.

On the other hand, kudos to Universal for doing something different from Potter and for building something that is actually part of the Universal family.

February 24, 2015 at 6:56 PM · Let's call it by its proper name. James Cameron (quoted): “It’s going to be called, I believe, 'Pandora: The Land of Avatar'.”

Or in TPI-speak "PTLOA."

February 24, 2015 at 7:03 PM · Oh, and Rao's last post was funny ... In that snarky Rao-kinda way ... And extra points for successful funny without bald jokes ,,, Well done!
February 24, 2015 at 7:30 PM · As much as people malign the Avatar expansion at DAK, the source material is infinitely better than King Kong.

And who are you calling "snarky", TH Sarcasm?!?

February 24, 2015 at 7:41 PM · "why Chris Pratt, why???"

Sam Worthington is busy? They look almost alike. Sam's in Avatar and The Clash of the Titans.

Time to pass the baton to a new blank faced plain vanilla yet handsome hunk.

February 24, 2015 at 7:47 PM · Considering the abs ... It is more like Greek yogurt vanilla.
February 24, 2015 at 8:24 PM · I think the secret is looking at the sources potential as an attraction, not by how much the film is "liked". Avatar has potential to be a unique and beautiful land with potential for a wide variety of attractions (from a peaceful boat ride, to a simulator flying ride).

I would say the same for Kong, that is has potential to be a great attraction, but I cannot see it being very different from everything else already at Universal. Another high intensity, motion simulator(ish), action ride. Last time I went to Universal all the rides started to blur together in terms of what they offered, even though they were from different franchises. I don't feel like Kong will offer much variety to what Universal already has.

February 24, 2015 at 8:46 PM · I'm still not sure why some people are bagging on Kong for being a simulator with screens while at the same time looking forward to Avatar, a Soarin clone.
February 24, 2015 at 9:17 PM · James, firstly because Avatar is not just the "Soarin clone" but also a boat ride, and a completely unique land. And I doubt that Avatar is going to be a clone, seeing as how it has been promoted as "riding a Banshee will definitely be an “E-ticket” attraction unlike any our guests have ever experienced"- Tom Staggs

Also, Disney already has far more variety in its parks than Universal does in theirs. Even if Avatar is similar, it is a different park with multiple different kinds of rides in the same park, whereas Universal's rides tend to seem very, very, similar.

But Kong sounds like it will at least have some unique aspects to it, and it may surprise me. It is just tiring when you ride Despicable Me, The Simpsons, Gringotts, Transformers, Spiderman, Forbidden Journey, and leave with a spinning head from the constant bombardment of screens and action.

February 24, 2015 at 10:57 PM · This looks awesome. I love that while opening Potter which is the new, universal is also bringing back a classic. I can't help but think that a small reason for the giant Kong AA is to somehow 1 up disney, whose giant ape AA has been broken for years now.
February 24, 2015 at 11:01 PM · Avatar land is never going to be as successful as say Harry Potter is at Universal.

First up location....Universal has put up the immersive world of Harry Potter linking it by a train and in one section theming the front to look like London. Now the books are fiction but set in present time. The london theme works well into Universal Studios. Likewise the IOA section is its own island and works well with its surroundings. In the future Kong will be in the Jurassic section which will work well because skull island has those creatures.

Disney is putting Avatar in Animal Kindom? Isn't animal kingdom supposed to have animals of this earth? I mean even Dino USA they still roamed the earth. Every section is supposed to be a continent. Where does Pandora fit? Right in the movie park because it's fictional, meaning does not exist but in our imaginations and should be in another park.

Oh but it will be educational.... Ah no because whats to learn about fictitious plants and animals when there are real threats to animals and plants on this planet. There's no 10 foot blue people who can link up to save them. Does everyone have a gas mask? Pandora's toxic or is Disney leaving that out?

Pandora is so beautiful.....until your actually there and everything is trying to tear you to shreds including the animals. Disney is probably not going to include this either.

Let's see the attractions will be in the wrong theme park. Education value is none because crazy me I want my family go learn about real animals at Animal Kingdom. Disney will ruin it by taming the experience so everyone can enjoy which is great if your 4 or 84. If I see a pic of Mickey in blue paint and Minnie dressed all native with linking tails......I'm going to loose it.

All in all bad idea to make Avatar in Animal Kingdom. Just bring on Star Wars but if Disney is going to take this approach why don't you guys leave it to the professionals, Universal.

As for Avatar, they are going to make this so dumbed down that you are going to wish you were riding Stich's Escape. Like Han, I always fire first and ask questions later...... Apple Butter signing out.

February 24, 2015 at 11:58 PM · This is just another Disney droids bashing Universal thread. Seems Disney knows what the people want because the two most popular rides at WDW are screen rides Soaring and Toy Story Mania, and guess what? Disney is building a third screen/ride for both of them. Or soon will.
February 25, 2015 at 4:33 AM · Hmmmm... I see no bashing here. Just some constructive criticism from fans who do not always see the world through Pirates of the Caribbean spyglasses or Harry Potter spectacles. Well, until you get to Apple Butter's comments, anyway.

King Kong is a lame, largely irrelevant franchise and we all know it. But, as we have discussed many times before, just because the franchise is lacking doesn't mean the attraction won't be good. It just won't be something that moves the attendance meter in Harry Potter or Cars Land fashion. Outside of niche themed entertainment fans like us, no one is planning a vacation around King Kong.

February 25, 2015 at 5:58 AM · Just not even going to go into all of Apple Butters comments, Clearly you have made up your mind and I simply disagree with your assessment of Avatar, and I am sure many people have already posted about Avatar in some other thread.

Never said anything about Potter. Potter is a fantastic addition to Universal that is at the same or higher quality than anything Disney has produced. My problem is that all of the recent new additions to Universal have centered on screen-based, high intensity attractions. And Kong seems to be the same way. Whereas Disney has a lot more variety in the (granted fewer) attractions it has produced recently.

Simply put, I like variety in my parks. I like some gentle, relaxing rides, mixed with some intense rides, mixed with shows, etc, etc. And Universal, for the most part, is mostly intense rides.Which are top of the line in what they are, I just wish Universal developed more things like the Hogwarts Express that you didn't have to buy an extra ticket for.

But I am sure Kong will be a top of the line attraction that will be really fun to ride, and I am sure I will be making a trip to the Islands pretty soon after it opens.

February 25, 2015 at 6:10 AM · I'm not planning a vacation around Avatar either, I'm pretty sure most people on here are not either. Also phase one is not even ready until 2017? Universal will have Kong, a new waterpark, and a new resort by then. That's just what we know about too. Disney has one gear in Florida, slooooowwww as molasses. I don't know about you guys but I love me some phases! It's great to go to a new section only to find out that only part of it is open and in two years everything will be open, I love that.

So let's recap it will take Disney's imagislows 4 years to complete this Avatar? Universal will have Kong, Resort, Waterpark, and many more things that we can only speculate but are coming all due to Harry's 29% increase and Comcast making $ rain.

To the tune of Frozen...... "Disney's slow......Disney's slow, Here I stand with nothing in sight, I never wanted a meet and greet anyway....."

February 25, 2015 at 7:32 AM · Disney had always intended Animal Kingdom to include both real and mythical creatures. The original plans for the park included a section entitled Beastly Kingdom (which then became Camp Minnie Mickey). It's not hard to do a bit of research people, good grief.

And I am 100% agreeing on the too much 3D/motion simulation at Universal Parks. Me and many others in my family get motion sickness. This wipes out a giant portion of the rides there for us. A greater variety of attractions is desperately needed if Universal indeed wants to consider themselves an all-inclusive family destination.

February 25, 2015 at 8:29 AM · Jack, you clearly don't know what you're talking about.

King Kong will have one screen based scene. The one co-opted from Hollywood. The rest of the ride will involve lots of sets and animatronics.

Also, the ride will be a family attraction. The ride vehicles are going to be akin to the Kilimanjaro Safari jeeps. There will be no crazy shaking or speed parts. It will be a slow, low intensity ride. All the excitement will come from the visuals.

February 25, 2015 at 8:50 AM · This is basically my take on Kong & Universal, though of course it's just opinion. But there is a lot of info out there from various Universal insiders that have an excellent track record...Kong will create a bump in attendance similar to Transformers, which was significant. Since it is only an attraction & not a land it really can't be compared to Avatar, HP or Carsland. It looks like Kong will be a very entertaining "family" entertainment attraction that will also be using some new high tech. Universal Orlando has a very strong local customer base and they will flock to this attraction no doubt. Universal is basically pausing this year and taking advantage of the newness of Diagon for marketing. But starting in 2016 they go into blitzkreig mode for a few years. 2016 & 2017 will surely bring Kong, a state of the art theme/water park a step above anything existing in the Orlando market, a new convention hotel Sapphire Falls & added convention space. Plus good sources are saying a Soarin type replacement for Twister, Fast & Furious, and probably Star Trek. All of this opening in a 2 year time span. So the tourist marketing for Universal will include all of these attractions & amenities. And then 2018-2020 will bring another wave of new attractions. It will be a sum of the parts that will be the impetus for additional huge attendance & guest spending gains. Universal has really mastered the art of increased guest spending with the Harry potter model. Universal won't pass Disney during this time period but it will significantly increase it's market share. Universal is a monster.
February 25, 2015 at 9:01 AM · "Star Trek" vs. "Star Wars". The knives are out.

I hope Star Trek will be an entire land. I really miss the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas. Please bring back the Borg ride. It was amazing.

February 25, 2015 at 9:27 AM · Your right Anon Mouse, I really miss the Star Trek experience at the Hilton in Las Vegas. It had a restaurant themed with two solid motion simulater rides and small muesum while you waited. Characters from the movies and shows walked around and entertained the guests. It was ahead of its time in total immersion albeit in a small scale. Last I heard it was moth balled and was going into some downtown mall there. I don't think that ever happened because that was a few years ago. It would be great if Universal could do something like that. I'm a fan of both Star Wars and Star Trek. I know how dare he but I have Ahbrams to thank for rebooting both.
February 25, 2015 at 9:35 AM · Your right Anon Mouse, I really miss the Star Trek experience at the Hilton in Las Vegas. It had a restaurant themed with two solid motion simulater rides and small muesum while you waited. Characters from the movies and shows walked around and entertained the guests. It was ahead of its time in total immersion albeit in a small scale. Last I heard it was moth balled and was going into some downtown mall there. I don't think that ever hyyvappened because that was a few years ago. It would be great if Universal could do something like that. I'm a fan of both Star Wars and Star Trek. I know how dare he but I have Ahbrams to thank for rebooting both.
February 25, 2015 at 11:18 AM · im the one with the previous anonymous comments about universal being better, I should just make an account for myself. My argument comes from having no dog in the fight. Without disney world there would be no universal florida. I love both equally which is why im
dissapointed in disney. In the 90s they were building and building and building, and In October I could get on splash mountain with a 20 minute wait. 20 years later it's still one of the parks best rides and the lines are like 75 minutes! You go to Hollywood studios and tower of terror and aerosmith still have 60 minute waits on average. Neither rides been built in the last 10 years. They have people staffed just to tunnel you through the pathways of fantasy land. My complaints about disney come from a place of love. The demand is there. You have tons of space. Stop resting on the guarantee that people will come and give them more new experiences. They have two parks that deserve a full day, magic kingdom, which by this point should be twice the size to deal with the demand they have there, and epcot, which when your most popular ride is basically a 4 minute IMAX movie with a chair that tilts is a shame. Give me old epcot any day of the week over the mishmash it is now. Hollywood studios has like 6 things worth seeing and animal kingdom is so great but just not a full day experience. Maybe avatar will help some but 2 rides I can't see doing all that much. Star Wars land seems fun I guess but will come at the expense of something already there, which is what the rumors are. I have been to disney world at least 100 times in my life and 3 times in the past three month due to friends and family wanting to go, and from November to late January it was still mobbed. It's time to use some of that space! That's all im saying. Universal is cramming it in and it feels like every time I go I get a new ride to be blown away by. I can't recall the last time that happened at disney. And don't say mine train because big thunder mountain is a better ride. And 30 years old and still gets 45 minute waits ??
February 25, 2015 at 11:23 AM · "I hope Star Trek will be an entire land. I really miss the Star Trek Experience in Las Vegas. Please bring back the Borg ride. It was amazing."

Wow, we agree Anon!! I loved ST:TE at the Hilton, and for me nothing could replicate my shear joy when beaming onto the bridge of the Enterprise. Paramount Parks had a monster on their hands but had no idea how to tame it. The tech on the attractions at the Hilton is over a decade old, but would fit perfectly into any theme park right now. However, the rights to Star Trek might be as difficult to procure right now as Lord of the Rings.

February 25, 2015 at 11:32 AM · I think Rob Pastor should come clean and vet his sources. His comment make him seem like a UO publicity rep.
February 25, 2015 at 1:14 PM · Sorry about that guys, but I would never divulge any non public sources.Though I am confident to say that the theme/water park will be over & above expectations.....But, concerning Star Trek, I will tell you that Disneyhead, an individual who works for the media in Orlando & generally has had info that pans out, last week stated on OU that Universal was finally able to procure the IP rights for Star Trek in January.Take that "rumor" for what it's worth. ....And I like Disney too and think they're finally getting back on the track expansion wise. Just my opinion though.
February 25, 2015 at 2:50 PM · Ok, 2 things...1. Thank GOD they're finally getting rid of Twister! While I've always been more of a Star Wars fan, at least Star Trek is an actual quality franchise. 2. Re: Apple Butter's criticism of how Avatar Land "doesn't fit into Animal Kingdom." It is a known fact that Disney originally wanted a land in Animal Kingdom that was based around mythical creatures. Due to budget restrictions or something like that, it instead became Camp Minnie-Mickey. So this is something that Disney has wanted to do for a while. Animal Kingdom is about two things: cool animals and expressing the need for environmental protection. Mythical animals are something the park has barely touched on. And need I mention Avatar's not-so-subtle environmental message? And why complain about not making the new land extremely dangerous like its cinematic counterpart? By that logic, every theme park attraction based on a movie that's ever been created should start killing off guests. So yes Apple Butter, Avatar Land does fit into Animal Kingdom.
February 25, 2015 at 2:56 PM · @James Rao...

"King Kong is a lame, largely irrelevant franchise and we all know it."

I'll be charitable and assume you're talking exclusively about the 2005 remake, because the original 1933 version is a hugely influential and important film, and it remains a highly entertaining watch to this day (for people capable of appreciating cinema that is more than, say, 20 years old).

The new attraction may well be based entirely on Peter Jackson's (problematic, at best) film, but King Kong is an iconic character whose place in popular culture was secure long before the 2005 film went into production. Regardless of the quality of that particular movie, Kong is just as worthy of a mega attraction as almost any franchise could be. It's all about execution.

February 25, 2015 at 3:26 PM · They also have a new King Kong movie coming out soon, don't they?
February 25, 2015 at 3:41 PM · Blake, the statement "for people capable of appreciating cinema that is more than, say, 20 years old" essentially backs up my irrelevant comment, and rules out a majority of the current Harry Potter-centric Universal fans. However, "It's all about execution" is 110% correct, as I also stated previously, and is true for any attraction, even the ones based on relevant franchises.

@Apple Butter You are correct! JJ Abrams definitely deserves our gratitude for many things not the least of which is rebooting Star Wars/Trek, the first three or four seasons of Lost, and introducing the world to Jennifer Garner in Alias. ;)

@Rob Water Parks... blech. Who goes to water parks? I'll tell you who: people who think wearing a skimpy swim suit is a right, when in fact it is a privilege!


February 26, 2015 at 12:46 AM · I hope that the King Kong ride can be less challenging to do maintenance now with the better, upgraded technology they have. I also guess that King Kong is not the only on who goes after bananas because the minions from despicable me go after them as well but the pursue it in a comedic way where the kong might not find the acts humorous. I'm really going for King Kong opening in the summer of 2016! Go NBCUniversal!! Go Comcast! Keep it up!

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