King Kong 360/3-D debuts at Universal Studios Hollywood

June 29, 2010, 3:12 PM · Just got back from Universal Studios Hollywood, where the theme park today debuted the new King Kong 360/3-D experience on its Studio Tour. Today's event was for press and invited guests - you'll be able to experience Kong on the tram tour starting Thursday (July 1).

Entrance to King Kong 360/3-D

The new version of Kong is nothing like the old Bob Gurr-designed animatronic, which perished in the fire that consumed the Kong building along with four acres of Universal's backlot in the summer of 2008. While many fans loved the old Kong, that mechanical ape never could be described as thrilling. The old Kong was all about scale - a life-sized helicopter battled the immense Kong, with towering blasts of fire and the stench of Kong's famous banana breath completing a multi-sensory experience.

Universal's new Kong is all about action. King Kong 360/3-D slams riders with 90 seconds of the most intense fight ever seen in a theme park. As the name implies, this is a 360-degree, 3-D experience, enveloping you in the action on a studio tram that rocks and shakes throughout the brawl.

You're on Skull Island, as a velociraptors swarm your tram, only to be attacked by a trio of Tyrannosaurus Rex. Soon enough, the T-Rex are attacking the tram, too. But it's Kong to the rescue, who fights off the T-Rex, then saves your tram car from a deadly plunge into a bottomless ravine.

There's no banana breath here, though Universal Creative's substituted a generous helping of Tyrannosaur spit. Here's an on-ride video of the experience. Keep in mind that you'll see this in much sharper focus, while wearing provided 3-D glasses.

King Kong feature film director Peter Jackson oversaw the creation of the 3-D film, which was produced by WETA Digital. (We got a sneak peek at the production of King Kong 360/3-D earlier this year.) Visitors will get to hear from Jackson in an introduction that will play on the tram video monitors as they pass through the tunnel leading into the new Kong theater.

As part of the backlot renovation, the new Kong no longer plays in its old location on the backlot. You'll enter King Kong 360/3-D through a tunnel next to the old collapsable bridge on tram tour.

If you're interested: Red carpet photos on Facebook.

Replies (21)

June 29, 2010 at 4:49 PM · so how is it? Is this an "E" ticket attraction?
June 29, 2010 at 5:10 PM · It looks cool, but it's way too short. It seems like a lot of work was put into something that's over before it really gets going. I also think King Kong's entrance into the show could and should be much more dramatic, accompanied by a burst of symphonic music. The audience should want to scream, "It's King Kong!". As it plays now, Kong just seems like one more in series of big dinosaurs attacking the tram, not the star of the show. This doesn't look like something I'd travel across the country to see.
June 29, 2010 at 5:21 PM · its just an addition to a classic attraction. its like if they put a drop in its a small world!!!


June 29, 2010 at 6:00 PM · I'd have to agree with Rod. Although the technology seems fantastic, I can't help but wonder if they couldn't make it a bit longer. And yeah, when Kong shows up, it was kind of just like, "Oh, and there's a gorilla to save the day--when'd he show up?".

And was that the hydraulics I heard throughout the whole thing? Very distracting, and takes you out of the immersion.

However, it was just a video I saw, but I agree, Rod--I'm not going to rush to the west coast just to ride it.

June 29, 2010 at 6:52 PM · Why are people complaining about the length? It is not a ride in itself, it is a segment of the backlot tour. For that purpose, it seems to be just the right length.
In addition people are complaining about the appearance of Kong. We are seeing a single person's POV camera shot here. Who is to say that the person filming knew what direction to film and when? And as for the "ride" soundtrack vs the hydraulics... there is little in clarity and levels picked up by a dig-camera that is going to actually accurately convey what the soundlevels are in the tunnel during the attraction- dig cameras pick up some weird levels (see any live music performance filmed on a standard digital- the sound in the venue could have been FLAWLESS and it still sound like crap with jacked EQ on the recording.
All I am saying is a lot of the complaints lodged here are easily explainable and/or possibly a direct result of the footage itself and the person filming and the type of equipment and NOT the attraction itself.
June 29, 2010 at 7:02 PM · Lemme back up and explain for folks who haven't visited Universal Studios Hollywood before:

Kong is not a stand-alone attraction within the park. It's one part of the Studio Tour, which is a 45-50 minute tram ride around the back lot of the park. Most of the time, you're driving past outdoor sets, but there are a series of 30-to-90-second encounters along the way, including King Kong, Earthquake and Jaws. You stay on the tram for all of these, driving into various show buildings (for Kong and Earthquake) or past outdoor animatronics (for Jaws and Fast and the Furious).

Some of these have been duplicated and expanded as stand-alone attractions in Orlando: Jaws, Earthquake and the old Kong.

The Jaws ride in Orlando is most unlike its Hollywood version, a much longer narrated experience with multiple shark encounters. Kong in Orlando also was much longer than the old Hollywood version. Earthquake was pretty much the same, but with two added pre-ride show sequences in Orlando, before the whole thing was reworked as Disaster.

I think that this show needs to be considered within the context of the Studio Tour, and certainly shouldn't be compared to the old Kong ride in Orlando. Frankly, it's difficult to compare this to even the old Kong encounter in Hollywood, as it's such a radically different experience.

June 29, 2010 at 9:35 PM · Actually, since I'd seen the ride footage before, I did know where to move the camera for what I considered the best shots - so that is where Kong appears first in the show.

What I find so compelling about this is the fact that there isn't a forced focal point to command your attention as a viewer. With a 360 film such as this, you have to decide where to look. Your experience as a viewer might differ radically from mine!

Downside is that you might miss Kong for a bit on your first ride. Upside is that you are rewarded with multiple interesting perspectives on subsequent rides.

The audio is really tough, since there were so many camera crews on the tram this morning and equipment banging around next to me, in addition to the sound of the tram itself and the others riding. Clearly, though, it's loud in there.

June 29, 2010 at 8:23 PM · So do they give you the 3-d glasses at the beginning of the tour to hang on to throughout the entire tour?
June 29, 2010 at 8:31 PM · Yes, that's how we were told that would be handled. (We just drove straight to the Kong experience and back today, skipping the rest of the tour route.)
June 29, 2010 at 8:52 PM · This looks great,they should put a stand alone attraction over in USF,were the old hard rock cafe is.
June 29, 2010 at 11:58 PM · Robert, you gave us no idea on whether you liked the new Kong, what impact it had on you, etc. Comments?
June 30, 2010 at 3:10 AM · I think it looks brilliant. Universal is truly at the top of their game right now, and leading the pack as far as innovation and creativity are concerned.

So, Robert, USH's Tram Tour w/Kong, or USO's WWoHP? =)

June 30, 2010 at 9:04 AM · I didn't mean to be overly critical. I love Peter Jackson. I know it's only a small part of the backlot tour, but I would have thought it could have been a much bigger experience. It has its own advertising campaign. Also, I realize that watching a video camera shot clip is in no way a substitute for the live 360 viewscape experience it is meant to be. I stand by my comment, however, that the entrance of Kong should have stopped the show. When he arrives to save the day, the whole show should have stopped for a beat to thunderous music and let Kong beat his chest, getting the audience's attention before he joins the battle. That's just showbiz!
June 30, 2010 at 9:29 AM · Oh, please. Kong offers nowhere near the scale, detail or storytelling of Harry Potter. Kong delivers a rousing, engaging 90-second interlude on the Studio Tour.

At this point, it's by far my favorite part of the tour, but freshness also counts on a ride I've experienced dozens of times, too. The tech here is awesome and now that Universal Creative has learned some lessons with it, I'd love to see it implemented in longer form at one of the other Universal parks.

June 30, 2010 at 3:20 PM · Sure, it seems cool but it's way too short and I had no clue what was going on (in the video). It seems like it would be fun to ride, but I don't know about the length. It seemed cool that the vehicle seemed to rock when Kong pushed the T-Rex into the tram. Also, how did they do the part with the 2nd tram? Was it prerecorded or live footage?
June 30, 2010 at 3:36 PM · Frankly, I'm impressed they were able to compress the best components of the Jackson film fight into such a short period. It's not short. It's just the right length.
June 30, 2010 at 7:45 PM · I am not that thrilled, but perhaps the clip doesn't give it justice because its hard to film 3D. It really seemed to me that the one tram that gets lost's inhabitants look extremly fake. It could be the 3D doubling that makes it look weird. Maybe Robert could expand on how it looked while being there.

I just feel that the Robotic Kong was an iconic piece of the whole experience which is now gone. I will also go on the record and mention that I hated Jackson's version of Kong. I think I am more interested in the technology.

I think I am getting the same feelings I had with Harry Potter which my experience is pretty much based on Attractions Magazine's youtube channel. Their Forbidden Journey clip looks like the ride is lacking. I guess I gotta go down to Orlando now!

June 30, 2010 at 10:30 PM · My only knock would be on the "fifth" car on the tram (which only really has four cars, BTW) - the one that bites it and drops into the ravine. While the tram itself looks very real, the one guy in the green shirt who gets the close-up there doesn't look quite real enough to me to make the effect completely convincing. Animating people is still darn near impossible to do convincingly.

FYI, I was told by the UC folks that the people on that tram actually are digital representations of Peter Jackson's family, as well as family and friends of other Kong crewmembers. I'd love to see a detailed who's who on that some day.

July 1, 2010 at 9:32 AM · I wonder if Bob Burns and his wife were on that tram?
July 2, 2010 at 10:40 AM · Agreed that it could have been longer, but as mentioned, there are very tight timing constraints that have to be maintained in order to keep the tram cycles consistent on heavy days. It can't be much longer or you will have trams getting backed up at the entrance (or bypassing). When busy, trams leave as often as every 120 seconds.

The motion of the tramway is pneumatic, not hydraulic (it uses giant airbags much like semi-truck suspension, only on a much larger scale), with four seperate platforms (one for each tram car) so each car gets a slightly different "ride", as well as ensuring that if there is a defect in one of the bags, only one platform will be out of the show.

The most interesting part of the show is what you don't see. There are 16 Christie projectors (each with it's own dedicated HD video server), each pumping out 30,000 lumens that make up the show -- 4 stacks (each stack consisting of a right eye/left eye pair) along each side of the tram, with all of their respective images seamlessly "stitched" (edge blended) together to make one full length image along each side. No other installation has ever had this many projectors synced up like this before.

July 3, 2010 at 9:51 PM · Very interesting data here from YouTube.

If you've published anything on YouTube, you might know that by checking the "Insight" page for your video, you can see data about "Hot Spots" in the video - that is, the places in the video where people are clicking away from the video, or rewinding to watch a part again.

According to YouTube's viewer data of the Kong video I created, the off-the-chart hot spot in the video is the moment when the T-Rex attacks the fake tram car and pulls it into the ravine.

Moments with Kong get a collective "meh," but apparently people love watching other tourists plunge to their assumed demise.

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