skull island reign of kong

If your love of movies and your love of theme parks overlap, then Theme Park Bits is the news round-up for you. In today’s edition:

  • Universal Studios reveals a whole bunch of new Skull Island: Reign of Kong details.
  • A behind-the-scenes look at California Adventure’s new Frozen show.
  • Universal Studios raises their ticket prices, just in time for The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.
  • The Walking Dead is getting a permanent home at Universal Studios Hollywood.
  • The Matterhorn Bobsleds at Disneyland just got a bit more comfy.
  • Disney’s Hollywood Studios has carved out a new area for the Muppets.

Universal Studios has always been about speed. While Disney Imagineers hem and haw for years over the tiniest details, Universal’s creative team knows how to strike when the iron is hot, getting new attractions up and running with astonishing efficiency. The latest attraction to come together with such astonishing quickness is Skull Island: Reign of Kong, which is set to open at the Islands of Adventure park in Orlando, Florida sometime this year.

Now, a new post at the official Universal Orlando blog has revealed some very cool details about the ride vehicle. The will expedition truck that will take riders deep into the dangerous jungles of Skull Island will “measure over 40 feet long and 13 feet high, weighs in at 17 tons and carries up to 72 people.” But more importantly, it will be the first “trackless” attraction in Universal history. Trackless rides are still uncommon in American theme parks (overseas Disney parks have used this tech for some time now), so this will a truly next generation experience.

The post also notes that each ride vehicle will be “driven” by one of five characters:

  • Becky Callahan: The loose-cannon cowgirl who isn’t fazed by the dangers awaiting her on Skull Island.
  • Will Denham: The fresh-faced, adventure-seeking nephew of famed movie director Carl Denham.
  • Jinks Costanza: A hardened New York City ex-con who is wary of the island’s mysteries.
  • Kalana: A mystical descendent of the natives who first settled on the island.
  • Charles “Doc” Jordan: A PhD student in paleontology who took time off from his studies to explore the world.

These characters can’t be seen in the video above (and the chances of them being live actors are very unlikely), so it looks like each vehicle will come equipped with either an animatronic driver or a digital projection of a driver. Universal has been testing the vehicles for a the past week or so, but looking at footage of the tests won’t offer any hints – the front windows have been covered up to keep prying eyes away.

But if anything, this suggests animatronics. If there are life-size robots in this trucks, Universal is not ready for us to see them.

Universal also revealed this video showcasing some of the monsters that will menace riders during their experience, which range from dinosaurs to giant bugs to Kong himself. While the ride doesn’t have a direct connection to Peter Jackson’s 2005 King Kong, these designs look they could have easily come straight out of that film. Which is fine! Jackson’s monsters look terrific. The final ride will feature a blend of projected monsters and practical animatronics, so don’t think that the footage on display here is any way final. There’s still a ton of work to be done.

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