ByMatt Timmy Creamer, writer at
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Matt Timmy Creamer

Last week, I had the chance of a lifetime to test ride Orlando’s newest attraction, Skull Island: Reign of Kong. During these “soft openings,” fans can experience this attraction in its entirety at Universal's Islands of Adventure. Sitting next to another fan favorite, Jurassic Park: River Adventure, Skull Island: Reign of Kong takes guests to Kong’s own world of Skull Island. This attraction is loosely based off the Peter Jackson film that came out over ten years ago. The attraction also has no relation to the upcoming film Kong: Skull Island, even though both of these titles are very similar.

Kong has finally made his way back to Orlando! Fans like myself may remember that he once had a home where Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride currently sits. That former attraction was named Kongfrontation. Now that Kong has returned, we are already due for another incredible adventure!

The Story:

This rock structure looks familiar...
This rock structure looks familiar...

I was so happy to have had the chance to finally ride this attraction. I have been dying to see Kong make his grand return and in the most epic way. The story for this attraction is given by Mike West, who was one of the people who worked on this project. Watch the video below to get a better understanding of the story:

The ride takes place during the 1940s.' You will board a massive vehicle and meet up with Kate and her crew on the island to venture out to find the beast. Basically, you are taking a tour of the island, except things won't go as planned. You will find yourself surrounded by epic battle scenes taking place on various parts of the island until you meet up with the King himself.

The Vehicle:

The ride vehicles are huge as discussed in this next video:

The vehicles themselves are 40 ft long, 13 ft tall, and 10 ft wide. They can hold up to 72 guests at once. It is also Universal’s first trackless vehicle. The trucks are driven by one of five different animatronic characters named Doc, Jinx, Becky, Collana, or Will. These characters operate the ride and are the ones who give you the tour of Skull Island.

The story sets up an intriguing premise, which will surely be on your mind as you peregrinate your way through Skull Island.

Let me now discuss the ride in more detail, as I give you a better perspective on Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

The Ride Queue:

The queue line is certainly one of the best parts of this attraction. Like Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Harry Potter and the Escape From Gringott’s, there isn’t a dull moment while traversing towards the entrance of the ride. The second you enter past the rock structure that looks like a particular ape, you are immediately immersed into the land of Skull Island. There is plenty of detail to go around. The ground and all the walls are covered with mostly fake mud.

Something that stood out to me was the fake mud covering rope that was used to piece the bamboo and wooden structures together, which you can check out below:

Since the ride is supposed to take place during the 1940s, music of that time period can be heard as you wait in parts of the line. You can also hear someone over a radio giving you our daily broadcast. It’s these details that truly stand out.

You will also find plenty of skulls laying around thanks to the natives (I’ll talk more about them later). As you look around, you will see skulls everywhere and I mean EVERYWHERE. Don’t believe me? Well, I have a few pictures to prove my point:

As you make your way inside the building, the presence of the natives and their protector Kong feel ever so imminent. Besides all of the skulls you will encounter, there are also a few statues carved into the walls which were also well detailed. It immediately set up the mood and tone Universal was looking for, and I couldn't help but feel an Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom vibe. You can view one of them below:

Temple of Doom anyone?
Temple of Doom anyone?

However, the best part of the queue line takes place in one particular room. Remember this character from Peter Jackson’s King Kong? You know, the one who gave you nightmares?

Well, there is actually a full animatronic of her in the line and I have to say that it’s pretty incredible. Check out some of the pictures below:

She is definitely one creepy SOB. Due to the sheer noise inside of the room, I couldn’t hear exactly what she was saying. However, I’m sure it wasn’t good. After all, these natives only care about offering up sacrifices to their god Kong.

Introducing Scare Actors:

Another aspect of the attraction that makes it quite enjoyable, is that this is also the first Universal attraction to feature scare actors. For those of you who have attended Halloween Horror Nights, you know exactly what I’m talking about. This added feature makes it feel much more realistic as we are enveloped in the world of Skull Island. I don’t get creeped out too easily, but I must say one of the actors caught me off guard in one of the rooms.

I have to give big props for Universal going bold on this one. I hear rumors that they may be removing this feature, because some of the parents are complaining it’s too scary for their kids. It is a little frightening, but let’s be honest; the attraction is called Skull Island: Reign of Kong for a reason. I mean the word “skull” is in the title for heaven's sake, so of course there will be moments that may be frightening for younger kids! However, it’s all part of the experience and will hopefully stay for years to come.

Before I talk about the ride itself, here are a few more photos to check out:

What Takes Place In The Ride?

*Due to copyright violations, I will not be posting any videos or clips from the actual attraction.*

After you board your vehicle, you are immediately taken to the entrance of the walls where the large doors slowly open, giving you access to Kong’s world.

The very first scene takes place inside of Kong’s own cave, where you see the skeletal remains of one of his ancestors. Here is where you encounter large bats who are frightened and begin to attack your crew. You manage to escape the cave, only to find yourself battling large insect type creatures in the next room.

Remember these ugly worm-like creatures from the Peter Jackson film?

These are just one of the many creatures you will have to face on your journey as you get closer and closer to meeting Kong.

The following room is where you will confront with many dinosaurs including the vicious velociraptors and T-Rex’s. For those familiar with the Universal Hollywood King Kong 360 3-D, it’s literally the exact same thing. That one scene was taken directly from the Studio Tour from Universal Studios Hollywood. This is by far the best of the three large green screens in the attraction. But when the finale arrives, the hairs on your neck will surely rise up.

And finally, we meet King Kong in the flesh! For those who have been following me, you will know that I am a HUGE fan of King Kong. Below, you will see a picture of me with my family from the year 1996. This was what they called a KODAK moment, and we obtained this picture with Kong himself after riding Kongfrontation.

That's me right in the center of the picture :)
That's me right in the center of the picture :)

I was very pleased to hear that they were putting in an animatronic King Kong like they did with Kongfrontation. After all, that’s all I ever wanted from this attraction.

Final Verdict:

The bones of a lost ancestor
The bones of a lost ancestor

After only experiencing this attraction once, it’s tough to gauge how much I liked or disliked this attraction. On the one hand, I thoroughly enjoyed the queue line. It definitely sets you up on a grand adventure, as you make your way towards the loading dock. The biggest gripe I have with this attraction, is the lack of practical effects. I knew going in that there would be a ton of projection screens, but I was hoping for a few more live action sets.

While Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey has its fair share of screens, there are plenty of practical sets in there that make it feel real. I would also compare this ride to Kong’s original attraction; Kongfrontation. That attraction felt like you were soaring above the streets of New York inside an aerial tram vehicle. The pyrotechnics of that ride were also well done.

Another minor issue I have with the ride is the actual screens themselves. Depending on where you are sitting, it may be difficult to see everything that’s going on. You may find yourself constantly ducking to get a better view of the action or just to avoid staring at someone’s arms in the air. You definitely have to ride this attraction more than once to soak everything in.

The Great Wall at Night
The Great Wall at Night

When I mentioned earlier that the lack of sets are noticeable, it is very obvious in the green screen areas. Two of these scenes take place with only one screen on one side only, and Universal didn’t deem it necessary to add any more flavor to the plain black wall you will see on the opposite side of you. It kind of takes you out of the experience a little bit, since the build-up to this attraction was so high.

While I may sound like I am hating on this attraction, I want you to know that I certainly am not. In my opinion, it shouldn’t be considered a great ride. This is one of those situations where the build-up to the attraction overshadows the payoff, which is rather unfortunate. However, the queue line is incredible, along with the added scare actors. The attention to detail here is extravagant. The animatronic Kong is certainly worth the wait in and of itself. The animatronic giant bats at the beginning of the ride also look great.

If you’re a Kong fanatic, I would recommend this attraction. I would also recommend it to anyone who’s a fan of going on an adventure. Though this ride has many projection screens and a lack of practical effects, it’s still very much enjoyable. If for nothing else, ride it to see Kong once again. If you’d like to get a better perspective of Kong, try sitting all the way on the right side of the vehicle.

I’d give this attraction a solid 7/10 stars. I may change my score after I ride it a few more times, but it certainly won’t go lower than that. If you’re ever visiting the Orlando area and plan on going to Universal Studios, you should definitely check out Skull Island: Reign of Kong. Unfortunately, Universal has yet to announce an official release date, but are continuing to use "soft" openings which usually take place daily in the late afternoon.

That’s my review of Skull Island: Reign of King. I hope that you enjoyed reading this in-depth review on this attraction. What I’d like to know is, would you consider riding this attraction? Also, have you ever had a chance to ride Kongfrontation? I’d like to hear your thoughts in the comment section below! Also, don’t forget to share and follow me on!

In line for the Ride!
In line for the Ride!

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