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