I remember my dad taking me on the original King Kong ride at Universal Studios Florida. It wasn’t a big deal, just a monsterous hydraulic monkey shaking your tram around. The cool part about it was it transported you to a world only seen on the screen, or at least someone made their best effort to put you there. Then you could bond with your dad over movies he was too old for and you were too young for.
When a fire on the Universal backlot destroyed the California equivalent of that ride, it became a mixed blessing. The new, revamped, bigger, badder King Kong 360 3-D was designed by Peter Jackson, based on his 2005 remake of the movie. Universal Studios premiered the ride, which opens this summer, with a Kong themed party on the backlot. There were snakes and monkeys and tigers from the Wildlife Waystation, tribal drummers and free trams through the new attraction.
King Kong 360 3-D is part of the tram tour that takes you through the Universal backlot. They give you some 3-D glasses and drop some early foreboding ambiance like a Kong crushed tram car outside the tunnel.
Once the tram drives through the dark tunnel, Peter Jackson comes on a monitor to tell you to put your glasses on. You continue through and there are screens on each side showing life on Skull island. You see dinosaurs munching on vines in a setting basically as realistic as Jackson’s film. You’re way up close to it since the screen is only a few feet away, and shot from passenger’s eye level. Maybe the 3-D makes it a tiny bit less lifelike but you’ll definitely suspend disbelief.
Then Kong shows up. They basically do the awesome T-rex fight from the film, down to the same gags with the jaw and swinging vines. It’s great to see a brand new Peter Jackson action scene. I don’t think it’s quite the original set piece that James Cameron’s T-2: 3-D is, but it is noticeably an A-list director doing a theme park ride.
They didn’t allow pictures, but it’s like you’re inside this.
Kong jumps from one side of the tram to the other, and he rolls on top of you with the dinosaur. The tram shakes for effect and sprays you with T-rex saliva and monkey breath. The cool part is there’s so much going on on all sides, you could ride it several times and keep looking at different things. The gag directly involving the tram is brilliant and I won’t spoil it for you.
It’s only about a minute or so of Kong. Maybe it was two and it just flew by, but it’s a brief component of the overall tram tour. Afterwards, they take you through the rebuilt New York façade which looks the same as ever, perhaps more brand spanking new than the previous backlot that stood for decades.
If you’re a movie buff, you’ll want to see how they repaired the landmark, and if you’re new to Universal, you’ll be glad they fixed up their back lot so you can take your kids on a movie studio tram tour. This time, you’ll also get to drive through an Oscar-winning director’s playground for a few minutes.