Peter Jackson gives KING KONG a 3D Digital makeover for Universal's Back Lot Tour


It's been over a year and a half since the seven-ton, 30-foot-tall mechanical King Kong was destroyed in the June 2008 fire on the Universal Studios Hollywood backlot. But the complex animatronic ape that was built in 1986 won't be resurrected. Instead, Universal has spent more than six times as much as it would cost to remake the mechanical Kong, in favor of creating a digital 3D Kong. The theme park attraction will take advantage of the advances in visual effects to bring a more realistic and ferocious Kong, that is sure to knock the fanny-pack off of any tourist. 

Using 3D, holograms and pyrotechnics may be a growing theme park trend, but only Universal has Weta -- the same effects team behind Avatar -- bringing their rides to life. Leading the effects wizards and ride experts is Academy Award-winning Peter Jackson, who used the designs from his 2005 King Kong movie for the ride. But scenes converted into 3D for the movie served as the catalyst for the new ride long before the fire.

Joe Letteri, the visual effects supervisor for the film, said:

We saw it and we said we wish we had done the whole movie in 3-D.

Since then, Weta Digital have honed the 3-D technology and many of the technological advances developed for Avatar will be used in the Kong attraction.

Universal Studios Hollywood President Larry Kurzweil, said:

After the 2008 fire, we knew we had to bring him back to the back lot studio tour, but in a way that has never been experienced before. It's going to feel like Avatar but it will be happening all around you.

Last week during a preview for test audiences, they used scenes from from the 2005 movie. But when the ride is completed, it will feature all new original material, created by Jackson specifically for the attraction.

Here's a list of facts and features for the new attraction:

- Guests on the studio tour will board a tram that will enter a 200-foot-long soundstage

- Guests must don 3-D glasses for the 2 1/2 -minute attraction

- Park visitors will not only see Kong in three dimensions but also smell his banana breath, feel the gust of wind as he jumps over the guests and sense the ground quake when the ape engages a Tyrannosaurus rex in a life-or-death battle

- The 180-foot-long screens will curve around the tram so that the 3-D images seem to surround the passengers

- A system of fans, sprayers and other devices installed in the building will spew air, water and odors at park visitors to bring the images to life

- The new ape will resemble the Kong from the 2005 film, right down to the broken canine tooth and the scars over its right eye.

- Other creatures and scenes from the movie, including caves, giant bats and dinosaurs from Skull Island, will also appear on the four-story-tall screens

- Universal Studios describes the new Kong attraction as the largest 3-D exhibit in the world

There was a lot of money put into this two and a half minute stop, but the right team is behind making it truly immersive. The old animatronic ride was a major icon for the theme park, but how long of a life will this new ride have? Could it be replaced by new movies the studio releases? Of course, most movies don't contain creatures of King Kong's size. But Jurassic Park is getting the reboot, so it's not hard to see this helping promote those films along with the Jurassic Park ride.

The new Kong attraction will debut as one stop on the Universal back lot tour ride this summer.

What do you think of the new King Kong attraction?

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