King Kong 360 3-D: Finally a Reason to Visit Universal Studios Hollywood

Opening this Thursday, July 1 at Universal Studios Hollywood is King Kong 360 3-D, their new next-generation, interactive theme park experience designed by Peter Jackson, director of the award-winning 2005 Universal Pictures film on which the attraction is based. Earlier this morning Bloody Disgusting was on hand for the grand opening ignited by a 3-D introduction by Jackson. Get my brief thoughts inside.

The Universal Studios Hollywood backlot was host today to the red carpet “premiere”/launch of Peter Jackson’s “King Kong 360 3D”, an attraction they promised would be “groundbreaking” and “the most intense 3-D experience on the planet.”

It delivered.

An inside joke (although you might share the same sentiments) among my friends and myself was how uninspired Universal Studios Hollywood has been the past decade. The magic, the mystique, and the fun were reserved for those who were experiencing the park for their very first time — a child, maybe, or possibly someone from Japan?

Not to say that the completely separate Universal Horror Nights isn’t the best thing around…

The problem with Universal Studios Hollywood is their lack of attractions, and ultimately, the re-experience value. Let’s take a look:

-“The Simpsons Ride” (replacing the awesome “Back to the Future Ride”). Universal (to this day) has yet to change the projector bulbs (the footage is incredibly dark). While a “dimming” experience, the ride holds up, and is something you hop on and off a few times.

-“The Mummy Ride” is a two-minute whiplash that will pretty much be the highlight of your day. The shortest ride ever? Maybe.

-“Jurassic Park: The Ride” is your hot summer day, get me super wet filler that’s been completely lackluster in design since day one.

-Up until a few months ago, the studio FINALLY removed the “Backdraft” experience, a move over a decade late. Hopefully something big will replace it?

For actual rides: THAT’S IT!

Then there’s the Tram Tour, an attraction close to my heart as it’s always been the sole focus of the studio. Not only did you get to experience “Galactica” (years ago), but they also take you across a fake falling bridge, push you through ice/sand tunnels, and then put you face-to-face with both Jaws and King Kong…at least until the big lot fire that destroyed Mr. Kong.

Maybe it was a blessing in disguise (I’ll always miss it), but the Tram Tour is once again the highlight of Universal Studios Hollywood. Forget “The Simpsons,” “Mummy” and “Jurassic Park”, Peter Jackson has delivered a remarkable interactive experience that rivals most.

“King Kong 360 3D” is located where the old “Mummy Tunnel” was on the studio tour. Peter Jackson intros the ride and then asks you to put on your 3-D glasses.

The tram literally drives you straight into Skull Island.

As the tram pulls into it’s designated stopping point, you look left and right at the jungle that surrounds you. It’s as if you’re literally driving into the jungle. There’s smoke, smells, sounds and all sorts of goodies to glare at.

Then it happens: the tram is attacked by a herd of T-Rex, at least until King Kong comes to the rescue. Kong and the T-Rex battle on the left, then on the right. They roll over and step on the tram. They breathe in your face. It’s pure insanity. It’s feels like you’re right in the middle of the mayhem.

The one complaint I have is how short it was leaving me pondering how cool this could have been as a ride. I mean, Universal Studios Orlando hosts the spectacular “Spider-Man” 3-D ride, which I still consider to be a way more immersive experience (it’s a ride, and it MOVES) – and that was created years ago (over a decade now?). It’s also worth noting that Universal Hollywood already hosts both “Terminator 2: 3D” and “Shrek 4D”, two long-running shows that have the same technology as “King Kong 360: 3D”.

While “King Kong 360 3D” still might not make it worth your money, it’s a massive step (pun intended) in the right direction. It gives you one more reason to drop your hard earned cash on the theme park. To propel Universal Studios Hollywood into a yearly multiple-visit experience they still need to upgrade/update the lackluster “Jurassic Park” ride and add something off-the-hook cool where “Backdraft” was (and where the studio special FX show is)…

…and for Gods sake PLEASE change the freakin’ bulbs on the “Simpsons Ride”!