It think it was the giant 3-D spider that put me over the top.
On Tuesday, I joined a small gaggle of invited press and VIPs at the official unveiling of Universal Studios Hollywood’s King Kong 360 3-D, the replacement for the old, animatronic studio tour Kong attraction, which was decimated in a fire two years ago. The brainchild of director Peter Jackson, the new Kong experience unfolds on two massive parabolic 3-D screens that wrap around either side of the Universal Studios Tour tram cars, inside a custom-built soundstage. Before you enter, Jackson appears on the TVs mounted inside each of the tram cars and tells you to put on your 3-D glasses (which you hopefully haven’t dropped somewhere along the line of the studio tour up until that point). Then your tour guide rolls the tram cars inside, and after plunging into eerie almost-total darkness, the screens suddenly light up, and boom, you’re back on Skull Island – i.e. the Skull Island from Jackson’s 2005 King Kong.
Here’s my best recollection of what happens next [SPOILER ALERT for those who want the experience to be a surprise]: A pack of raptor-like dinosaurs start stalking either side of the tram, so you speed up, and run smack into a pack of much larger T-Rex-like dinos – like, maybe a half dozen of them, I’m not sure – who start battering your car. (You know this thanks to the gimbals that jostle your car back and forth, and the wind guns blasting gusts of air on your face, and the sprinkler system that occasionally splashes you with drops of water.) Then King Kong arrives, and then, well, I think he starts attacking all the dinos at once, and at one point your tram car “falls” off of a cliff onto a nest of thick jungle vines. This is when that giant 3-D spider swung into my face and caused me nearly to jump into the lap of the kindly-seeming gentleman seated next to me. Then, suddenly, Kong wins? I think? And it’s over. [END SPOILER ALERT.]
So, A of all, I definitely had fun. B of all, thanks to my seat – all the way on the right side of the tram – I had a great view of the right screen, and a lousy view of the left one, hence my confusion as to what was actually going on. I’m not entirely sure how or if Universal could remedy this problem without taking Kong 360 3-D off the studio tour or completely redesigning their tram cars – if you’ve ever been on the studio tour, you know your experience of every attraction (the Psycho house, the Jaws attack, etc.) is largely dependent on your seat. C of all, the 3-D really worked well, giving the experience a nifty sense of depth without giving me a nasty headache. And D of all, the entire experience was entirely too short – I wanted more of Kong smashing things, and more time to simply take in the impressively rendered surroundings.
Overall, if I were to grade the experience – and bearing in mind that Universal Studios’ stand-alone The Simpsons ride rates a solid A – I’d likely give King Kong 360 3-D a B+, with the plus including the added value that it’s just one of many experiences on the studio tour.