Earlier this morning Dread Central was invited to a very preliminary sneak peek at the upcoming King Kong attraction that will be integrated into the backlot tour at Universal Studios Hollywood Theme Park this summer.
In June of 2008 the original animatronic giant ape from the 2005 award-winning Peter Jackson film was one of the casualties of the backlot fire that burned for over 12 hours and claimed many beloved places on the famous tour, including Courthouse Square (which you may remember from Back to the Future). While there was no plan in place before Universal lost its animatronic Kong to update that part of the tour, Universal found that he’d always remained a fan favorite.
Show Producer Valerie Johnson-Redrow spoke about the fact that the fans can be thanked for bringing Kong back to the Universal tour and what improvements have been made to ensure everyone feels like they are getting the full experience.
Johnson-Redrow said, “Once Kong was gone, we did a lot of market research and found that fans really missed having him on the backlot tour. He’s got such a mass appeal to both international fans as well as here in the US, so Universal decided that if they were going to bring him back, they wanted to do something different.”
“With the animatronic attraction, Kong was either on one side of the car or the other, so sometimes you’d lose out on experiencing him depending on where you sat,” explained Johnson-Redrow. “Universal really couldn’t build two of them. So with this new ride, Kong is now up close and personal with every single person sitting in a tram car. There’s not a bad seat on the ride.”
Up close and personal indeed. King Kong will soon be coming right at you as part of a brand new revolutionary 360 3D experience.
Jackson worked alongside Universal to develop the new attraction, which features all original content and nothing from the original movie. The director brought back a lot of the crew from his film to work on the ride film, and the quality shows. The version we saw today was still a rough cut. The 3D was still being rendered and there were no audio tracks or motion cues for us, but that didn’t make the experience any less grandiose.
Through the use of Surround Digital 3D projection, we experienced going deep into the dinosaur-infested jungles of Skull Island. Shortly after I got used to the swarms of tiny dinosaurs as they jumped about the lush green backdrops, I noticed they were starting to scatter due to the arrival of some very angry 35-foot tall dinosaurs. Once these dinosaurs started trying to wreak havoc on the backlot tour guest, it was up to King Kong to save the day. Once he took care of business, Kong delivered a mighty display of dominance before disappearing.
Johnson-Redrow talked about what a massive undertaking the experience will be just from a technological standpoint through their work alongside WETA Digital.
“This three-minute adventure is actually half the size of a real motion picture, around 90,000 frames I would say,” explained Johnson-Redrow. “We load everything onto servers in a control room, and each server has a projector with a brain that links them all together. Then the projectors display the images on 187-foot screens that surround visitors for a larger than life experience.”
“It’s taken over a year and a half to develop this ride, and considering the scope of what we’ve done, that’s pretty incredible,” Johnson-Redrow added.
While no official date has been announced for when we can expect King Kong to start unleashing his wrath on the backlot tour, Johnson-Redrow could confirm that the Universal Studios Hollywood attraction will be open sometime in July and that, yes, Peter Jackson is expected to be there to celebrate the momentous occasion.
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