Skull Island: Reign of Kong
By James | Last updated November 7, 2023
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On May 6, 2015, Universal confirmed that the new attraction that was being built in Universal’s Islands of Adventure would be called “Skull Island: Reign of Kong”. It was scheduled to open in the Summer of 2016 and soft openings started in June 2016. Universal Creative worked closely with Peter Jackson, the director of the 2005 remake of the “King Kong movie”.
Skull Island: Reign of Kong forms the centrepiece of a brand new “island”, Skull Island, between the existing Jurassic Park and Toon Lagoon themed lands.
Unlike the earlier Kong aerial tramcar ride at Universal Studios that was set in the streets of New York, the new attraction takes you to the homeland of King Kong, Skull Island. The back story for the attraction is that you are joining the 8th Wonder Expedition Company to help discover unknown species living on Skull Island.
The new 3D immersive attraction contains both an outside element and an inside darker ride element and is one of the longest rides of any Universal attraction.
The Story Behind The Reign of Kong Ride
Set in the 1930s you enter the queue to the attraction and proceed on foot. Your first objective is to reach the communication base through misty dense jungle. Radio broadcasts warn of danger ahead and you stumble upon ancient temple ruins inhabited by hostile natives. The immersive queue is an attraction in its own right.
From the comms base you head for the 8th Wonder Expedition base camp. There you meet your animatronic driver and board the expedition vehicles to rendezvous with the expedition leader.
The new ride includes both projections and animatronics and you may even come face to face with a scare actor in the queue area.
Universal has described the new attraction as an intense larger than life experience. Despite all the scary talk, the ride height restriction is only 34 inches so it is geared towards older children. However, some of the fight scenes are fairly bloodthirsty and some kids may get spooked out by the inner queue area with lots of dark areas, plenty of skulls and an animatronic witch doctor talking in strange tongues.
Skull Island: Reign of Kong Expedition Trucks
After boarding an expedition truck style ride vehicle (think of the Kilimanjaro Safari ride at Disney’s Animal Kingdom), you drive through the massive 72ft high temple gates into Skull Island itself. As you enter the caves, you see large animatronic bats and giant ape skulls.
The all-terrain 4 wheel steer Expedition vehicles are massive, weighing in at 17 tons. They are 40 foot long, 13 foot tall and 10 foot wide. Each vehicle seats 72 guests with 6 guest per row. The ride is also the first trackless ride at Universal Orlando, the vehicles are free running with no tracks or rails.
Different Driver Characters
Another new idea for this ride is that your animatronic vehicle driver is one of five different driver characters, each with their own back story:
- Cowgirl Becky
- Will Denham, adventurous cousin of film director Carl Denham
- Jinks Costanza, ex-con from New York City
- Kalana, a mystical descendant of the island’s natives and
- Charles “Doc” Jordan, a palaeontology PhD student
Giant Creature Encounters
As you enter the cave, you can don your 3D glasses. In the first projection screen you see part of the expedition who are attacked by giant bats and the expedition leader Kate is carried off. In the second scene Kate is confronted by enormous slug like creatures with a ring of sharp teeth. After fighting them off, she is then caught by a giant locust like creature. Watch out for the “water” effects during the fight scenes.
In the third projection scene, the expedition truck is chased by small dinosaurs before coming face to face with a group of giant T-Rex type dinosaurs. Without giving too much of the game away, King Kong then appears and fights the dinosaurs.
Most of the encounters are on giant 180 degree screens that wrap over the top of the expedition vehicles. One downside of this is knowing where to look at any one time.
The last scene is where you meet King Kong up close. This time it is a very realistic animatronic Kong off to the right hand side of the vehicle.
Throughout the ride, the vehicle does shake and move with some of the special effects but it is not too violent.
Amongst the creatures you will meet are:
- the Arachno-claw, a six legged carnivorous arachnid (spider)
- the slug-like Carnictis with a gaping mouth ringed with sharp jagged teeth
- the Decarnocimex which looks like a giant wingless locust
- the large flying bat-like Terapusmordax
- the ultimate predator, the agile Vastatosaurus rex dinosaur (think large T Rex)
- and of course Kong himself
Skull Island: Reign of Kong Access Details
Height restrictions: Minimum 34 inches (86 cm)
Ride Time: Approximately 6 1/2 minutes
Express Pass: Available once fully open
Accessibility: No information regarding wheelchair access available at this time
The original King Kong attraction “Kongfrontation” was based on the 1976 remake of King Kong. It was one of the opening attractions at Universal Studios Florida in 1990 when the park itself opened. It was unexpectedly closed in 2002 and replaced by the “Revenge of the Mummy” dark rollercoaster ride in 2004.