On June 1, 2008 the Universal Studios backlot was ravaged by a fire that destroyed much of it’s iconic metropolitan sets. And among the devastation, was the world famous King Kong experience which made it’s home in the heart of the area. And now, after two years without this jewel of the studio tour, the all new King Kong animation is set to open.
The original King Kong had wowed guests on the Universal Studios backlot tour for over 20 years. The encounter featured a 7-ton, 30 foot tall Kong figure which was the largest and most complex animatronic figure in existence for many years. It is one that has stood the test of time and technology as well, as it continued to be the face of the studio tour on billboards, ads, and television commercials.
The original King Kong film was released in 1933. Then Universal remade the classic film in 1976 which is what the King Kong tour encounter was based upon when it opened in 1986. Then the most recent Kong adaptation was released in 2005 for yet another generation to enjoy.
The 2005 King Kong film only stood to strengthen the appeal of the backlot animation to audiences around the world. In this newer version of the film, director Peter Jackson used never before seen computer generated imagery to bring King Kong roaring back to life.
The summer following the release of the blockbuster film came the addition of the King Kong sea (previously the red sea, as in ‘parting of‘) which consisted of the actual miniature boat used in the film, the SS Venture, alongside a scale model of skull island. It was set up by a DVD clip of Peter Jackson talking about the making of King Kong and usually occurred immediately following the King Kong animation on the tour. The two of them together served as a nice combination to really give tour guests some excitement as well as a bit of film history.
But for the past two years, the King Kong sea was the only appearance the famous gorilla made on the tour. And it was a weak substitute for the animation.
As of this summer however, Kong himself will make his triumphant return to his home along the Universal Studios backlot tour. This time Universal brought in Peter Jackson to direct the action. And yet again Kong will break new ground as the first ever 3-D animation along the tour. They are calling it “King Kong 360 3-D.”
It will feature the same setting as the old attraction of 1976 New York. Only this time the beginning portion of the animation will be based on the Peter Jackson’s King Kong and will recreate the fight between Kong and a T-Rex from the Skull Island scene in the film.
The new additions to the attraction would not have been possible in the backlot location that King Kong was originally. And once the old animation burnt down, Universal was determined that they would move the attraction out of the metropolitan area. The problem with it’s location was that the metropolitan sets are almost continuously in use by film crews.
The entrance to King Kong was right off of New York street which has been featured in countless films, TV shows and commercials– Most times, not as New York either. A few more recent films shot there were Transformers, the Spiderman trilogy, Bruce Almighty, and The Changeling. Right across New York Street from King Kong sits courthouse square which was home to the television show Ghost Whisperer just prior to the fires and is most famous as Hill Valley in the Back to the Future trilogy.
With all the filming that was actively occurring in those areas, having the tour tram constantly driving through was a hassle. It only made sense to take the ‘opportunity’ to relocate the animation to another place on the backlot. The big hangup with this move was the insurance company was saying they would not cover anything except rebuilding the exact same attraction in the exact same place. This left the rebuilding project in a bit of a temporary limbo. But eventually, the details were worked out and everything seems to have ended up according to plan.
The location of the new King Kong 360 3-D will be right next to the collapsing bridge. This area is just next to the hill that the tram takes to head to the picture cars, Fast and the Furious, and Jurassic Park sets. You can see the area if you look to your right as the tram makes it’s way from the front lot (soundstages and production offices) to the backlot where you begin to see the big outdoor sets.
Universal invented the idea of combining the movies and the adventure park. The original King Kong encounter took that idea to whole new level. And now, if you are anything like me, you are pretty geeked out about the newest incarnation of this famous feat of animatronics coming back better than ever.
For more info visit the Universal Studios Hollywood website.