Theme Park Insider

The walls are down at Universal Orlando's Reign of Kong

June 6, 2016, 8:07 AM · Universal Orlando has removed the construction walls for Skull Island: Reign of Kong and team members have been previewing the new King Kong attraction, raising hopes for an imminent "technical rehearsal" for the public.

Islands of Adventure's new attraction brings King Kong back to Universal Orlando for the first time since the Kongfrontation ride closed at Universal Studios Florida in 2002, to make way for the Revenge of the Mummy indoor roller coaster. The new Kong ride features a plussed version of Universal Studios Hollywood's King Kong 360/3D encounter, along with a massive new Kong animatronic — the largest and most impressive animatronic in Universal's history. (We can't wait to ride to see if we can erase the "Universal's" from that statement.)

But reports from team members online last night suggest that the element of the new attraction that might get the most initial attention is its queue. Theme park designers often talk about the queue being the "first act" of a new attraction, but Universal appears to have developed that idea to an unprecedented level. Not only does the queue set up the story of Skull Island and the terrifying beast who rules it, the queue brings that story to life — literally — with the use of scareactors.

That's right. There are scareactors in the the queue for Kong.

To my knowledge, the only other year-round, daily-operation major theme park attraction that has used scareactors was the old House of Horrors walk-through at Universal Studios Hollywood, which was essentially a year-round Halloween Horror Night-style haunted house. Yes, a Haunted Mansion cast member also might occasionally jump out at a Doombuggy on the ride, but that's totally non-SOP, and almost always ended up with the dismissal of the CM, if caught.

So is Reign of Kong the first use of scareactors in normal operation of a non-haunted house attraction... or does the use of scareactors in Reign of Kong qualify it as the most ambitious, expensive and technically impressive haunted attraction every built?

Universal is warning people about the scareactors, which is appropriate because the thought of people jumping out at you absolutely terrifies some guests. Plus, it's one of the more extreme triggers for some people on the autism spectrum, which brings the need for a warning into ADA territory.

Clearly, Universal is positioning Kong as more than just a physical thrill ride — it's something that plays with people's fears, as well. That isn't anything new in theme park world — Disney fans might remember Alien Encounter, after all. But it will be interesting to see if the addition of scareactors expands the number of people who want to experience Reign of Kong... or limits it. And if it does turn out to limit demand for this multi-million dollar investment, we should probably start taking bets on how long those scareactors last.

Universal Orlando visitors hoping to get on the ride should watch for a soft opening by searching the #ChanceOfReign hashtag on Twitter. If you do get on, use that and tag us @ThemePark with your impressions, photos and video (if you can take any).

Update: Here's a first look at one of the animatronics inside the queue:

More Kong Coverage:

Replies (45)

June 6, 2016 at 8:43 AM · The Mummy has had scareactors on and off over the years. Always scares the hell out of me when they're hanging out there!
June 6, 2016 at 9:33 AM · My excitement level for the attraction was pretty high...until I heard about the scare actors...both my wife and I hate that kind of thing and avoid Halloween Horror Nights for that exact reason...I think they could have done a nice dark, creepy, queue with some animatronics that would have been world class without implementing jump scares into the queue. Now, I'll be heavily reading about other people's experiences before I even consider riding...a theme park trip should be relaxing and being stressed out while waiting in line about when someone is going to jump around the corner is not my idea of relaxing...some people love that kind of stuff, but that's what Halloween Horror Nights is for. Hopefully the scare actors are just for the initial opening and they will slowly go away.
June 6, 2016 at 9:42 AM · One time when I went through the queue of The Mummy one of the cast members was down near a whole in the wall and grabbed my ankle. Scared the F--- out of me! I was screaming and crying. He got up and walked right past me with a blank expression. That's back when the guys on the ride played right up into the Mummy idea. Last time we went on the guys at the car bit were smiling and everything. It kinda kills the atmosphere a little, they need to look a bit more scary but I'm not for being jumped out on or being touched randomly.
June 6, 2016 at 10:50 AM · Anon from UO here...

There are no "scaractors" at mummy. Only Attraction Ops Team Members who play up the theming.

"Scareactors" will not be used at Kong. It's a term specific for Halloween Horror Nights. Entertainment may have positions in the queue but they will not be called "Scaractors."

In my humble opinion, if Derek can enjoy the Mummy queue he will enjoy the queue experience at Kong.

June 6, 2016 at 10:56 AM · 'The largest and most impressive animatronic in Universal's history', make that in Universal and Disney's history - Universal has always done large animatronics better than Disney. Scareactors - are you sure that's right? I read it as 'scare reactors'. Would they be the natives of the island? Or costumed creatures? Probably natives would be more effective and fit the story, unless it's un-politically correct.
June 6, 2016 at 11:36 AM · This is not a good idea at all. At the Horror Nights, people are paying to get scared. But not everyone likes that. Now Universal is basically saying "if you want to do our new ride, you have to put up with jump scares, whether you like it or not."

The quality of the queue and the attraction should be enough. This is a gimmick.

June 6, 2016 at 11:48 AM · I hate scareactors.
One of the most surreal experiences I've ever had at a theme park was walking through the old House of Horrors and seeing the polo-shirted team member along side every scareactor saying "PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH THE ACTORS. PLEASE, THE ACTORS WILL NOT TOUCH YOU". It took me right out of the show.
June 6, 2016 at 12:02 PM · I can see this ending in tears, it's hard enough for people not to react at Halloween horror nights and now your saying it will happen in the King Kong que, I wonder how long before we all read a cast member has been hit in the que, I for one like the idea but can understand fully why others do not.
June 6, 2016 at 1:30 PM · Scareactors = Really bad idea.
June 6, 2016 at 4:03 PM · This is the worst theme park idea I have ever heard since Disney decided to remove all the rides from Hollywood Studios!

Seriously though, this idea really sucks. My kids had been looking forward to this ride and now, not so much. I’m not sure what Universal is thinking here. Yes, Halloween Horror Nights is a cash cow but the crowd for HHN is far far different than your standard daily Theme Park visitor.

I mean, can you imagine the people lining up for this brand new attraction with little kids? Your regular visitors who don’t do their homework, didn’t read Theme Park Insider (I know, there are some weirdos out there who don’t), or ignore the signs like they ignore other theme park rules, and drag their little little ones on this ride as a result? Cue the tears and terror and falls and lawsuits.

How can they sell King Kong as a horror? None of the iterations of the Kong movies were all that scary. Giant apes = Cool. Scary? Not so much. I mean, Universal Studios had a Jaws attraction for many years based on a true R rated horror movie and we never had to endure baby sharks swimming through the queue to scare us.

Boo to Universal on this one! I hope they have a change of heart and reverse this horrible idea. I mean, just because Disney has scareactors doesn’t mean Universal has to try and copy them. Of course I am referring to Cinderella’s Ugly Stepsisters. Especially the one in the green dress. (shiver…)

June 6, 2016 at 4:44 PM · OK. I have to disagree about as much as I can. The best theme park experience of all time was the House of Horrors. It was so much fun, and tons of people had a blast. Of course, I also loved the Alien Encounter. They are thinking outside the box, which is always good. Before I thought this would be a spiced up version of the California section. Now it seems to be actually thrilling. Bravo
June 6, 2016 at 4:52 PM · Why don't you all wait to see what it is actually like before you comment that this is the worst idea ever and they should change it. Talk about overreacting to something you don't even know.
June 6, 2016 at 5:40 PM · The jump scares aren't as bad as the conclusions everyone on this comment section are jumping to
June 6, 2016 at 6:07 PM · Looking great! People are overreacting to the scare actors. One of my fondest memories when we visited Universal Studios as a child was boarding the studio tour, there was a Frankenstein actor that would sneak up on the boarded guests and give them a good scare. That was one of the big things that made Universal stand out from Disney and I'm glad to see them continue to do it. As many have pointed out they've done it for the Mummy ride for years. They can increase/decrease the scare level depending on guest reaction but I hope they keep doing it. I have full faith in Universal to make this fun and entertaining for their guests.
June 6, 2016 at 6:09 PM · This isn't going to be anything like Halloween Horror Nights. Those haunted houses feaure graphic violenc, loud triggers and sexual innuendo. While the Monster attacks might be intense, the queue should be any scarier or creepy than the Haunted Mansion or Forbidden Journey.

And the scary natives and monsters are taken directly from the movies.

Also Jaws is rated PG.

June 6, 2016 at 8:30 PM · This excites me. Kudos to Universal for not Disneying this down just to please little kids. Looking forward to it. Glad they made the bold move.
June 6, 2016 at 9:40 PM · I don't like it. I always avoid HHN, and don't watch movies with jump scares. Heck, I refused to watch LoTR 2 & 3 because of the one scene in the first movie where Bilbo Baggins lurched at the ring and his face got all creepy.

No no. If this stands, I'll simply avoid the attraction until I read otherwise.

Or maybe Universal can provide glow-in-the-dark stickers upon entering the queue that indicate to the actors that you are not to be scared.

June 7, 2016 at 3:00 AM · Remember when Disney had a live knight at the Haunted Mansion, to scare people? Yeah, we all know how that worked out...
June 7, 2016 at 3:54 AM · Oh, so, excited!
But I would throw out there that there would be an alternate line for those not willing or able to be scared.
Makes sense no? Maybe use any single rider line in some form?
June 7, 2016 at 4:42 AM · Went through the ride twice already, trust me, there are no "jump scares" You can clearly see when and where someone is going to come out from hiding, and there are only 2 actors in the entire queue, and trust me, its a very long queue.
June 7, 2016 at 4:51 AM · I will try to reserve judgment until I read some reviews from other people...I'm all about being surprised, but I will have to read some spoilers before I'm even willing to attempt the queue...I agree with others who stated perhaps it could be similar to mission space, where there are two adventures: a well detailed and creepy but scare actor free queue and a queue that they can go all out on and scare the pants off people...I do realize at this stage in the game they probably can't just change the queue, but maybe split it up?
June 7, 2016 at 5:51 AM · Scareactors = actors = people = thinking animals.
They are not robots! They can decide whom to scare. Obviously they will avoid families with young children and old people and focus on teenagers and young adults.

@Paul Danner - Cinderella’s Ugly Stepsisters do a marvelous job at Cinderella’s dinner party. The actresses are really good!!!!

June 7, 2016 at 6:00 AM · Uninformed overreactions from many people. Universal wouldn't do "jump scares" in a queue with 34" children - that's like 2 years old.

These actors will probably be similar to the witch actor in Knocturn Alley.

June 7, 2016 at 7:08 AM · One other major themepark attraction that has scareactors is Nemesis Sub-Terra at Alton Towers in the UK. Without wanting to give too much away, this is a combination of ExTerrorestrial, a very small drop tower and scareactors. People are advised before entering the ride that live actors are involved. Unfortunately it is the type of ride you only want to do a couple of times as most of the excitement comes from the surprise element.
June 7, 2016 at 7:11 AM · For those of you who are complaining about the "scariness"...there's something called a single riders line (also an express) for those who want to bypass the line. I've also heard but it's unconfirmed yet but there might but a seperate line to avoid the "scariness".
Besides that Universal is doing a great job despite what others might say. One step closer to an immserive line to keep you on your toes.
June 7, 2016 at 7:37 AM · King Kong was considered a horror movie. Tame by today's standards, but sounds like they don't want people to forget to be afraid. I think it sounds incredible.
June 7, 2016 at 9:56 AM · I would wait to see how this is actually implemented.

The use of scareactors doesn't automatically mean "horror nights jump scares" (which really wasn't the inhabitants of the island did).

This is in the queue, of a major mainstream attraction, so I think the intensity level will be for "general audiences.

Finally, the scareactors element can always be removed (or altered) if there are too many complaints / issues.

I'm sure Universal will be monitering the feedback & reactions & will adjust accordingly.

June 7, 2016 at 11:03 AM · Not everything has to be for kids.There is no shortage of attractions for families in Orlando. If you don't want to jump or be thrilled, DON'T RIDE. Not everything has to be specifically catered towards YOU and your family. Do something else. Magic Kingdom is right down the street. It's people like you complaining that take all the fun out of attractions where people actually wants to be thrilled. Get over it. Not everything has to be family friendly. The scare actors were the best part of the queue and the crowd was loving it when I experienced the attraction. I doubt it will last though because people think every attraction should be catered to their kids.
June 7, 2016 at 12:14 PM · Not everything has to be for kids.There is no shortage of attractions for families in Orlando. If you don't want to jump or be thrilled, DON'T RIDE. Not everything has to be specifically catered towards YOU and your family. Do something else. Magic Kingdom is right down the street. It's people like you complaining that take all the fun out of attractions where people actually wants to be thrilled. Get over it. Not everything has to be family friendly. The scare actors were the best part of the queue and the crowd was loving it when I experienced the attraction. I doubt it will last though because people think every attraction should be catered to their kids.
June 7, 2016 at 12:52 PM · I have had the opportunity to talk to several people who have already experienced the attraction and so far only one has reported that the scare actors are actually scary. Their "scares" are far more subdued and appropriately timed than the scares at HHN.
June 7, 2016 at 1:51 PM · Will this ride have Universal Express...and if so will you miss so much of the queue that you will be missing too much of the interactive portions of the story line?
June 7, 2016 at 2:00 PM · To quote make-up artist Mark James, "We're not Disney, we don't have to be nice."
June 7, 2016 at 6:22 PM · I could care less whether or not there are scare actors. I just hope Universal doesn't tone down any other aspects. Sometimes, it's fun to be a little scared.
June 7, 2016 at 6:41 PM · If you know it's coming, how scary can it really be?
June 8, 2016 at 4:21 AM · Of course the walls come down, we just left. But we are going back in October and am so excited to ride this ride not to mention a revamped hulk ride.
June 8, 2016 at 6:28 AM · They build their rides so much faster than Disney/
June 8, 2016 at 7:09 AM · Looks like Universal did away with that rumor of scareactors. Will definitely try to find out the extent the ride employees will be in character when Theme Park Insider arrives in two weeks. Make sure to check out TPI's Twitter and Instagram feeds!
June 8, 2016 at 8:50 AM · Universal better not remove this idea just because of Disney fanatics (moms too) complaining. Universal doesn't have to follow the traditional "kid" friendly experiences. Unlike Disney Universal cares about immersion even if it means live actors in it and a scary atmosphere. It'll be a different experience while waiting for a ride. Hopefully it means Universal will not act like Disney and tone down the experience.

Not everything has to be for kids.

June 8, 2016 at 11:27 AM · This ride doesn't support the myth that Universal builds faster. They broke ground on Kong just over two years ago.
June 8, 2016 at 4:58 PM · I've ridden it 4 times now under the preview. It amazes me the way the queue and the "natives" that are there are being viewed as a make or break for the ride.
People will truly miss out on an amazing ride just based on things they have read and yet have personally experienced. It's NOT like a HHN house however there are 3 boo holes in the queue before the load area. If you know they are there as stated above how can you be scared?
I think they really add to the attraction and queue and I CAN say that from riding it. Hopefully once it soft opens then all these false images people have will go away as it really is so different and when you come face to face with Kong. It will truly destroy the Disco Yeti in my opinion.
June 8, 2016 at 5:56 PM · I seem like one of the few that thinks the addition of actors in the queue is one of the most exciting things ever!!! I was already looking forward to the new attraction - but now I can't wait. Great idea Universal!!!
June 8, 2016 at 6:57 PM · Sylvain: You're kidding, right?
June 9, 2016 at 8:56 AM · @Scottland Jacobson

Me to man, I feel like everyone who is against it really needs to sack up. This is something new and exciting and people are complaining cause they are a bit scared. Not to mention, this allows universal to employ people who want to work in the performing arts and allow them something cool to put on their resume. I remember a time when the jaws ride, kongfrontation, and disaster ride were still here. The people who worked on those rides were aspiring actors most likely. now its nothing but teenagers working the line queue and gift shops.

MAN UP EVERYONE!!

June 9, 2016 at 9:07 AM · @Rubicon.

Death and taxes. You know they're coming, so how scary can they be?
;)

June 11, 2016 at 9:41 AM · Overreacting much? I have never seen so many people comment negatively about something they have never experienced. I think you all need to go to Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party....

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