When an accidental fire torched a large section of the famed Universal Studios backlot in 2008, the giant animatronic King Kong that had terrorized countless visitors on the famed studio tram tour in Los Angeles was one of the most high-profile burn victims. But with the old-school jumbo gorilla reduced to a charred hunk of plaster and metal, director Peter Jackson lept at the opportunity to re-make the King Kong attraction in the image of his 2005 behemoth movie remake, replete with as much state-of-the-art technology as possible.
The result is King Kong 360 3-D, opening at Universal Studios Hollywood July 1. Visitors on the studio tour will be driven into a giant soundstage with two 40-foot-tall wrap-around screens, where (with the aid of 3-D glasses), they’ll visit a life-size, fully dimensional Skull Island — and find themselves in the middle of a brawl between King Kong and a massive dinosaur, visualized here in this exclusive image. “It’s all one shot,” says Matt Aitken, visual-effects supervisor at Weta Digital, the company behind the attraction. “We can’t have any cuts. The whole experience has to be continuous.” So after nine months of work on the project, has Aitken had a chance to have the full Kong experience? “It’s really all just come together,” he says. “The final motion-based programming, all the interactive effects with air, water, and smells and all that stuff, are really just locking in now. So I think, in a way, I haven’t actually had that experience myself yet. I’m looking forward to seeing it for the first time!”
EW will be getting a first look at the experience ourselves next week, but for now, what do you make of the new King Kong attraction, Popwatchers? Are you going to miss the old nuts-and-bolts giant gorilla, or are you keen on the prospect of a life-size virtual Kong peering at you in 3-D?