King Kong is coming back to Universal Orlando, but the story line will be unlike that of any other King Kong theme park attraction — of which he has already had his share.
Skull Island: Reign of Kong has been under construction at Universal’s Island of Adventure since last spring, but park executives remained mum about the building going up until Wednesday, when they announced that it was a King Kong ride that would open in summer of 2016.
“It’s going to be a groundbreaking attraction. It’s going to be an intense attraction,” Mike West, executive producer for Universal Creative, said in an interview. “We’re going to draw guests into ... the mysterious and daunting world of King Kong. They will be playing an active role in this new generation of storytelling.”
The ride will be between Toon Lagoon and Jurassic Park.
This will be the second King Kong attraction at Uiversal Orlando. The first, Kongfrontation, one of the original rides at Universal Studios, was closed in 2002 to make room for Revenge of the Mummy. There have also been two King Kong attractions at Universal Studios in Hollywood. All have been different.
This time, he won’t be wreaking havoc on New York. Instead, guests will accompany explorers searching for prehistoric beasts to Skull Island. They will trek through dense jungle and temple ruins, encounter hostile natives, find an underworld of caves and hear cryptic messages about a monster. Then they will be confronted by a colossal Kong.
“There is a 72-foot high great wall. The huge wooden temple doors open. You are unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. You’re out there to help the explorers on this expedition to find creatures that no one has ever seen before,” West said.
Skull Island “is not a story line from any movie or attraction. It’s next generation,” West said. “The fact you’re there in his home instead of him coming to your home is what sets this attraction apart.”
The first part, through the jungle and temple ruins, will be done on foot — part of the queue — and the rest of the way will be in big expedition trucks. Although the ride starts outdoors, most of it will take place in a large show building.
“It’s really a very dramatic physical environment that you’re immersed in,” West said. “It’s an intense, thrilling ride.”
But not so thrilling that it will traumatize young children, he said. “It was conceived for the whole family. Kids will be in awe.” Minimum height will be 34 inches, which will allow many 2- and 3-year-olds to ride.
Universal consulted with Peter Jackson, director of the 2005 remake of the 1933 movie, on how to put the adventure together, West said, “but it’s its own story and its own experience. It’s a chance for guests to see Kong in a way they have never seen before.”