Screamscape’s Test Ride of Universal Orlando’s Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Here’s a great look at Universal Orlando’s Skull Island: Reign of Kong from Screamscape from the beginnings, right up to there recent test ride of the new attraction.

icon_STOP2016 – Skull Island: Reign of Kong


2016 – Skull Island: Reign of Kong – (6/27/16) Greetings everyone, I’m writing this briefly from Universal Orlando where Screamscape was invited down to take a test ride on the new Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction and I wanted to get my impressions down while they were still fresh. While the attraction is still closed to the public, they have been quietly soft-opening it in the later afternoon / early evenings lately for those lucky enough to be standing nearby. While they don’t have an official grand opening date for it yet, they did tell us that they felt it would be very soon.
With that in mind, we were led into the queue area for the attraction, which features a very impressive amount of hand carved fake rockwork to create the experience of being transported to Skull Island in the 1930’s… ahead of the expedition to the island documented in the Peter Jackson film. You arrive in the midst of an exploration effort from the Eighth Wonder of the World expedition company who has set up a base-camp and is making runs around the island with a small group of off-road trucks and a motley crew of brave explorers, each there for their own particular reasons. As mentioned before you will eventually be led on a tour of the island in one of five 72 passengers trucks (12 rows of 6), each equipped with a different driver (a complex animatronic) who will share a little of their own personal back-story in the first segment of the tour. Each has a different personality and will help create one of five different possible experiences for you by how they act and react to the perils of Skull Island all around you during the journey.
Now I’ve gotten ahead of myself a bit… so lets dive back into the queue experience which kind of reminded me a bit of the old removed “skull” section of the Dueling Dragons queue. Much like that attraction, the queue for Skull Island is very much a big part of the overall attraction experience, but taken to an entirely new level. After passing through the outdoor queue you will entire a dark gothic looking temple structure full of wicked looking rock carvings, as if someone was trying to warn you to keep away. Inside you will pass through some large ornate rooms and then into dark narrow passageways, and if you keep your eyes open you might see some special apparitions.
Clearing there is something powerful present in these caves, and you will look encounter a special figure who chants and tries to communicate to you something that is clearly very important to everyone, but unfortunately she doesn’t speak English and the exact nature of what she is saying isn’t clear, other than the word “Kong”. Is it a greeting? A warning? You aren’t sure as you move deeper inside. Here things get a little darker as you encounter a few bodies set up on display… along with some special surprises that I’ve never experienced in an attraction queue before.
Paragraph Spoiler Alert for those who want to know! The queue actually contains some live actors hidden away who will jump out and scare you as you pass by. As a fan of Halloween Horror Nights I loved seeing this aspect brought to life in the queue, and they actually did manage to “get me” soon, causing me to blurt out an “Oh $#1T!!!” along the way, so applause to them! I’m not the easiest person to scare.
With that out of the way, we eventually move into a loading dock area where large crates of supplies have been dropped off (A lot of explosives and weaponry apparently), along with some large crates with air holes and warnings about containing dangerous unknown creatures… apparently samples of the local wildlife they are sending back for study. In one large glass container they have a small but particularly nasty looking worm-like creature… a Carnictis. Surprise… it’s still alive and not too happy about being contained in a giant glass aquarium-like structure. Moving along you a given a pair of safety glasses and approach the giant truck for your expedition around Skull Island.
The vehicle is very impressive as it has no track and can move along very quickly along the rough terrain, venturing outside briefly into the jungle for a proper approach to the huge 36 foot tall entry doors into a large temple structure. It is here you are introduced to your driver who tells you a bit about themselves and what’s been going on so far at Skull Island. It is also worth noting that in case of bad weather (rain, lightning, etc…) your ride experience will still go on, and there is a short-cut door that can be opened to allow the ride experience to take place, minus the small outside run, which is a fantastic bit of forethought in my opinion when you consider just how many other attractions are forces to close down in bad weather.
Entering the temple, you are instructed to put on your glasses as you enter the darkness and begin with a quick encounter with some sleeping giant bat like creatures hanging upside-down a few inches from the truck. They appears to be stirring from the light coming into the cave unless the doors close behind you and the truck moves on to find other members of the expedition group. From here things progress quickly, as your truck will pass by a couple of large scenes told through 3-D projection screen technology that are quite impressive. They set the scene and kick off the action that will drive you through the rest of your adventure, as the exploration team members are scattered by strange creatures and fighting for their lives. I enjoyed the second scene quite a bit as you quickly find yourself coming face to gaping maw with full sized Carnicnis creatures. I was mouth agape in awe and wonder as one of the heroes fought off the creatures and even managed to blow a few holes in the ones interested in getting to us inside the truck. Here is where the “mouth agape” part comes into play, as the goopy creatures are blown up I found myself getting hit in the mouth with the splatter, and I had to suppress my natural urge to spit it up. The timing and excellent 3D look of the scene unfolding before me was just so damn convincing, I was sure for a moment that I had a mouth full of Carnictis goop.
From here you move on to the next scene which is inspired by the action that takes place on the King Kong 360 attraction that opened a few years ago at Universal Studios Hollywood. For those worried that they just copied the scene entirely, this is not the case. The scene has been extended on both ends and had various elements replaced and re-animated, replacing the Hollywood park’s backlot trams with an Eighth Wonder truck and more. The end result is similar however, as your truck is surrounded on all sides by T-Rex style dinosaurs and other hungry creatures, and the arrival of King Kong who goes into battle to fight them all, keeping you safe along the way, bounding from one side of the tram and back again. Here is where you almost feel overwhelmed, because there is simply so much action taking place on both sides of the tram that you will need to ride this attraction several times before you can try to understand the full picture of what is taking place all around you. No worries though, if you only ride once I’m sure you will follow Kong around from one side to the other, but don’t be surprised if you feel something slobbering on you from behind because chances are there is indeed something there. The jungles of Skull Island are very dangerous and inhabited with hungry creatures of all shapes and sizes.
The action isn’t done as your driver manages to get you away to safety however, as you quickly find yourself in a face to face encounter with the might Kong himself on the right side of the truck. Here is where old-time Universal guests may have a brief flashback of the old Kongfrontation attraction, but this is an animatronic of an entirely new century. The movements are so much more fluid and lifelike, with facial movement that seems very realistic and entirely free from the comically memorable “banana breath” of the old attraction. This is a living breathing King Kong, live in the flesh, right before your eyes and he is inspiring to behold and a great final scene to end the attraction with.
As I said before, my initial reaction was that I wanted to jump on another truck and try it all again, but unfortunately we were only allowed to take one ride through Skull Island. The fact that I wanted to do it all again right away bodes well for the attraction and the re-rideability factor it should maintain over the years to come. The other great thing is capacity… Skull Island is a serious high capacity attraction. With the trucks holding up to 72 riders and dispatch times said to send off a truck every 2 to 2.5 minutes you are looking at an hourly capacity of between 1,728 to 2,160 passengers per hour which is fantastic.
While I was allowed to take pictures of the queue, I was asked not to take any pictures of video of the ride experience itself, which is fine, as I wouldn’t want to spoil it for you all. You’ll jump have to get down to Orlando and try out Skull Island: Reign of Kong for yourself. You won’t regret it.(6/10/16) Good news for those waiting for a soft open of Skull Island: Reign of Kong. Universal’s latest attraction soft opened to guests for about two hours on Thursday evening around 6pm or so. There are already videos you can find online of the queue and attraction, but in this case, I want to be surprised myself when I ride, so I’m going to avoid watching them all personally until I can see it with my own eyes.
(6/7/16) The good news from Islands of Adventure is that the construction walls around Skull Island: Reign of Kong are down. Countless fans lined up outside hoping for a soft opening, but it did not happen, as Universal is still putting on employee previews of the attraction. However, if previews go well, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do soft open to guests for limited periods of time later this week.
(5/17/16) Universal released some king sized news about Skull Island: Reign of Kong on Monday. It started with the release of the last chapter of the Myth Explorer video series, as they travel inside the same massive fortress structure that has been created at Islands of Adventure.
Then we get an all new update from Universal Creative’s Mike West, who finally reveals Kong himself… which they say will stand three stories tall. And Kong is waiting for you and the rest of Universal’s guests to visit this summer where you will get close enough to feel his breath on your skin. But, as they ask themselves… is Kong friend or foe?  Take a look at the video below and Mike West explains it for us.

(4/22/16) If you haven’t seen it yet, the latest episode of Myth Explorer: The Lost Expedition, the promotional video series for Skull Island: Reign of Kong, was posted a few hours ago. Things are turning dire for our explorer team. You can watch it by clicking here.
(3/26/16) Universal Orlando has gleefully provided nightmare fuel to disturb your sleep for the next few months with their latest Skull Island: Reign of Kong update on the Universal Orlando Blog. The latest update provides detailed files (and video footage) of the “unimaginable creatures” that inhabit Skull Island that we will soon find ourselves in face-to-fang encounters with (or claw, or pincer or the gapping slurrpy doom-hole of a maw on the Carnictis that is ready to swallow you whole….)
Errrr… sorry, my brain froze from fear for a second… (shudder…)
Anyway… check out the video below for details on the Arachno-claw, Decarnocimex, Terapusmordax, Vastatosaurus Rex and the …ewwww…. Carnictis. I think that’s the most gross one of them all… just disgusting. I can’t describe it anymore… you just have to see it yourself. Meanwhile I may never sleep again…

(3/22/16) If you check out the latest photo update posted to this week you will see a ton of aerial photos taken of the Universal Orlando Resort. Scroll down almost half way and you will come across some great shots of Skull Island: Reign of Kong, as seen from the air.
(3/21/16) OrlandoParkNews dropped by Islands of Adventure this weekend to take a look at the latest progress of Skull Island: Reign of Kong as a lot of smaller details are now being installed into the outer set and queue area.
While we’re talking about Skull Island: Reign of Kong an earlier permit for the attraction mentioned that Universal Creative was working with The Creature Technology Co. Pty Ltd. of Australia to design various creative elements for the attraction. These are the people who have designed the amazing live-action figures put to use in the Walking with Dinosaurs and How To Train Your Dragon arena shows, as well as a life-sized Kong puppet/figure used in a King Kong stage musical show. You can watch a great sizzle reel of their work by following this link, and then try to imagine what wonders they can bring to life for Skull Island: Reign of Kong. It would be so refreshing to find a mixture of projection and actual creature effects put to use in the attraction.
(3/16/16) A new teaser video for Skull Island: Reign of Kong just came out and we get our first up close and personal look at the giant expedition vehicles (from the Eighth Wonder Expedition Co.) that are 40 feet long, 13 feet tall, weighing 17 tons and able to carry 72 riders… all with a trackless ride system.
According to the latest blog report, each of the trucks will feature one of five different drivers as well, each who will tell their own unique story along the way. There is: Becky Callahan (wild cowgirl), Will Denham (adventure seeking cousin of director Carl Denham), Jinks Costanza (NYC ex-con), Kalana (descendent of the island natives) and Charles “Doc” Jordan (PhD student). With five different drivers, there will be five different ways to experience the ride, which is a great way to increase the re-rideability factor to keep guests coming back for more.

(3/7/16) Mako Madness has posted a great new video (see below) from IOA as they caught one of the new Skull Island: Reign of Kong trucks in action making several test runs around the outside portion of the track. One very interesting thing is that you’ll notice that the entire front of the truck is covered by a blue tarp, which means that the trucks are completely self-driving. If you watch carefully, you will also notice that the rear wheels also turn as goes around the corner.
With all that in mind, you may be wondering just why the truck has a driver compartment at all. And then, why the blue tarp covering it all? That’s the really interesting part, as Screamscape’s sources tell us that the trucks actually do have a “driver”… sitting in the seat… a unique and very special animatronic driver that I’m sure will play a very important part in the story they are telling.
If you’ve been reading Screamscape’s rumors about this attraction since the start, you may recall reading about some kind of interesting plot points once pitched that would involve the driver getting involved in the storyline in a spectacular and memorable fashion. While the exact nature of what will happen isn’t known for sure at this point, I’ve got the feeling that something very interesting will still be taking place involving with the driver.

(2/27/16) In an interesting bit of news, Universal Orlando held auditions back on Feb. 16th seeing performers that sound like they may be used as entertainment for the queue or just outside of the Skull Island attraction.
According to the call sheet, they were seeking African American Males, 5’7″ to 6’1″, athletic build, who are comfortable performing in a “fitted silicone mask”. Interesting.
(2/26/16) Universal Creative Guru, Mike West, tells us all about the new Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction in the latest Universal Orlando Blog, as well as in a new video telling us all about the attraction. They describe it as being one of the longest (time-wise) adventure attractions ever built at Universal Orlando where your journey will begin as you enter the queue, long before you board one of the ride vehicles.
More details are promised to be released soon!

(2/17/16) Universal Orlando is kicking off a new “web series” called Myth Explorer to promote their new Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction. The first video, a preview episode called The Quest for Kong is now live. The host, Erin Ryder, kind of gives me a Sarah Conner crossed with Lara Croft vibe on the show preview, plus there is also a Day 1 video blog you can also find on the site.
(2/15/16) OrlandoParkNews is back at Islands of Adventure once again with another construction update for Reign of Kong: Skull Island.
(2/3/16) A new construction update from Skull Island: Reign of Kong has been posted to this week. Lots of landscaping is going in now as well as the themed giant doors to the fortress. We’re also getting a better look at what the front of the area willl look like from the ground level as you walk in.
(1/21/16) A new Skull Island: Reign of Kong construction update has been posted to this week where the focus of the work right now seems to be on the queue structure area and items closer to the front of the property.
(1/7/16) The latest construction update for Skull Island: Reign of Kong has been posted to this week.
(1/5/16) Universal’s website has quietly slipped out a bit more of a description about what we can expect to see later this year from Skull Island: Reign of Kong when it opens. According to the latest teaser page for the new 3-D attraction, “Live the brutal struggle of a 1930’s expedition that’s caught in a clash between prehistoric predators, man-eating beasts and the most colossal ape ever to walk the earth – King Kong. Around every thrilling turn, ferocious monsters fight for dominance, while you just fight to survive. It’s the multi-sensory, multi-dimensional ride for your life.”
“Enter the ruins of a primal realm and journey into the dark heart of an island filled with untold dangers. Vicious, ancient predators and unspeakable monstrosities rip into your crew and swarm from every side. Then, in an act of sheer ferocity – or monstrous bravery – King Kong charges between you and certain doom with an earthshaking fury. With each thundering roar and each chest-pounding thud, one colossal truth comes clear. This is his home, his kingdom. Only he reigns.”
(12/4/15) More themeing and structures are being added to the exterior of the Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction area. Check out the latest pictures at OrlandoParksNews.
(11/23/15) The latest updates from OrlandoParkNews shows off the construction progress at Reign of Kong this week, as well as a quick look at the now missing Incredible Hulk coaster site. Looks like they are working on beefing up the support footers for Hulk that were in the water right now as well. As for Kong, an interesting note was posted to HHN Unofficial stating that guests in the queue would enter a facility from the “8th Wonder Expedition Company”, a fictitious company who will run the tour trucks you are waiting to board and enter the temple building.
(11/19/15)  The latest Reign of Kong construction photos have been posted to OrlandoParkNews this week. Check it out.
(11/13/15) The latest construction pictures showing off Skull Island: Reign of Kong have been posted this week. This includes a look at some interesting new blue sections of fake rockwork added to the ground level area in front of the main building.
(10/26/15) The latest Skull Island: Reign of Kong construction update has been posted to this week.
(10/15/15) OrlandoParksNews shows off the Skull Island: Reign of Kong construction site this week where the outer facade is looking more and more complete.
(10/7/15) A new Skull Island construction update was posted by OrlandoParksNews this week, as new changes and details are added to the outside of the attraction building.
(9/23/15) Some great new photos from the Skull Island: Reign of Kong construction site have been posted toOrlandoParkNews this week.
(9/7/15) OrlandoParksNews takes us inside Islands of Adventure this week for a look at the progress on Skull Island: Reign of Kong as new pieces of exterior themeing are being put into place, including fortress shaped wall shapes on the queue building.
(8/20/15) Some great new images from Skull Kingdom: Reign of Kong have been posted to OrlandoParksNews this week.
(8/10/15) A great new look at the Skull Island: Reign of Kong construction site has been posted to OrlandoParksNewsand the top of Kong’s head being built into the entrance arch can now be seen.
(7/28/15) A new Skull Island construction update was posted to OrlandoParkNews this week, showing off the progress on the exterior theming.
(7/18/15) The Reign of Kongstruction continues this week with another look at Skull Island: Reign of Kong, as posted by PixelsAtTheParks. The dark volcanic rock looking stone fortress structure is certainly quite an imposing sight to behold in photos, and will even more next year when you find yourself being driven right into it from your adventure truck.
(7/14/15) A great new construction update from Islands of Adventure featuring Skull Island was posted toOrlandoParksNews this week.
(6/29/15) New construction pictures of the Skull Island: Reign of Kong attraction site have been posted toOrlandoParkNews this week, showing off more of the detail on all that rockwork that is covering the building structure.
Meanwhile a new article about the attraction was posted to Moviefone that interviews the always awesome Mike West from Universal Creative. Mike West confirms that the storyline of the attraction really has no “direct connection” to the events of Peter Jackson’s 2005 film, though Peter Jackson did work with Universal Creative for the initial attraction development. This is also not a prequel attraction to the new Skull Island film coming in 2017.  Skull Island: Reign of Kong will tell it’s own unique story.
While it’s still early to talk about the ride system, West also confirms that the attraction will feature a long and extensively themed queue experience from the entrance all the way to where you board the vehicles. Guests will enter the island, go through a very dense jungle area, through ancient ruins and encounters with hostile natives… all before you even climb aboard the trucks for the real adventure. It’s also interesting that this isn’t going to be your typical theme park ride that starts off mellow before “something goes wrong”.  Nope… guests will know from the very start of the adventure that things are not alright, and probably only going to get worse. As the trucks approach the 72 foot wide “great wall” facade that we see being built right now, flames will shoot skyward before a set of huge wooden doors creek open and you venture inside.
(6/22/15) It has been awhile since we’ve seen the outside of Skull Island: Reign of Kong and OrlandoParkNews has posted a great new photo update, showing off new sections that are starting to form up, as well as sections of the outside that now look almost finished. Meanwhile a reader sent in a very interesting photo to me as well where they caught a glimpse of a small model in place with a King Kong shaped rock structure, which may serve as the entrance to this new attraction area. It is interesting to note that the the “entrance arch” area and scaffolding was soon covered by and hidden from view by a tarp, that will hide the Kong shaped rock arch as it is built.
(5/6/15) At long last Universal Orlando has confirmed that their newest attraction will be called Skull Island: Reign of Kong.  The mystery attraction that has been under construction for well over the past year at Islands of Adventure has been the subject of many rumors and photo trip reports, as it was rumored that King Kong would return to Orlando in attraction form for some time. Key artwork, a teaser video and a second video featuring Universal Creative’s awesome Mike West talking about his latest project can be seen below. In the meantime, start counting down the days until Summer 2016, because old Banana Breath is back!

(2/25/15) While no details were released, a executive at the Universal / Comcast company performance conference call did confirm that a “Kong” attraction was under construction in Florida, but said that any other details about this would be released in the future.
(1/5/15) OrlandoParksNews is back from Islands of Adventure with new construction site pictures of what we have long assumed to be the new Skull Island / King Kong ride. While not much is known about the ride, I’ll go over what I’ve heard about this project on and off for the past couple of years, as well as a few new tidbits.  For example, one thing that has changed from one of the early plans I was told about was the size of the attraction building. One of the original proposals I had first heard about described a ride experience that would be about half indoor and half outdoor, starting with the outdoor portion with a trip through a spooky jungle on a safari truck before encountering the entrance of a temple structure and then driving inside.
Since then the attraction building that is currently going up is much bigger than the first version I had heard about, however, I’m told that this version will still have an outdoor segment to the attraction at the start. The real interesting thing is that apparently the outdoor portion of the ride can be bypassed in bad weather conditions. While the attraction is supposed to have a massive 3D screen surrounding the attraction vehicle similar to King Kong 360-3D at the Hollywood park, I was always told that this was not the finale scene. There is supposed to be one more final scene beyond this that will include a new massive King Kong animatronic figure.

Don Korta
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