King Kong Encounter was part of the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood until it was replaced by King Kong: 360 3-D. The ride was built in 1984, and opened up in 1986, the year King Kong Lives came out. The ride was one of the most popular parts of studio tour, and everybody was amazed by Kong for 22 years. The story of the ride is long, and amazing. But first let's go over what the ride is about.
The ride takes place during the Universal Studios Tour. For those of you who don't know the Universal Studio Tour is a 1 hour long attraction where tourists at Universal Studios can ride on a special bus to actually see props and famous sets throughout Universal's history. They also have attractions along the way from movies that stun and flabbergast the passengers, and to make it seem like they are part of the movie. To learn more about the studio tour visit Universal Studios Wiki to learn more about the attraction's history. One of the attractions was the King Kong Encounter, which amazed and scared tourists for 22 years!
The ride starts when the tour bus drives through the doors of a giant building. Once the doors close, the bus is transfered into the world of King Kong. It comes out of a 12 yard long dark tunnel, and is in a giant set of New York City. While the bus makes it's way along a long twisty bridge, tourists see Kong's path of destruction. Cars that have been flipped over, street lights broken, a subway train is derailed, mutiple (Staged) fires are burning, and animatronic police cars drive through the street below. Suddenly, the tour opporator turns on a news bulliten on the TV inside the bus. Another TV turns on outside the bus, inside of building, that tourists can see through the window.
As the bus is moving, the news report shows a News Anchor saying why all this destruction is happening. He says a strange and rare ape known as Kong has escaped captivity and is going on a rampage through New York City. They then switch the Camera's Over to a reporter named Kelly King, who is in a news helicopter following Kong throughout New York City. Suddenly, she notices the studio bus, and says to the pilot to go down and help them, because they are getting closer to Kong. Suddenly, Kelly screams, "Look out for the bus!", because Kong is chucking a city bus at the chopper off screen. The bus hits the Chopper, and screaming, Kelly and the pilot spin out of control as the TV goes static.
Suddenly, on the left side of the bus, the News Helicopter comes crashing down, and gets tangled up in telephone wires, causing it to explode right in front of the passengers. The bus makes it's way through a turn, and onto the Brooklyn Bridge. The right side of the bus is dark and people can only see the sillhouettes of buildings and glowing of the windows. People can see black outlines of people in the window pointing and staring at bridge. No one knows what their looking at until they here a shout.
Everyone hears someone shout, "Ready the Searchlight!" Suddenly, a searchlight from atop the Chrysler Building shines down onto the bridge, revealing Kong climbing up the side of the bridge pillars, at eye to eye level with the tourists. Right when he is climbing up, he notices the bus, and roars at it. The bus and tourists attempt to escape, but Kong shakes the bridge, shaking the terrified passengers toward the edge of the bridge. Just before the passengers fall into the Hudson river, a police helicopter fires shots at Kong with a machine gun, distracting Kong from killing the tourists, and at this point the bus escapes. The bus heads off the bridge, into another tunnel, and heads through another door, exiting from the world of King Kong, and back to reality. While the tourists are exiting, they see another News Report, with footage of them being attacked by Kong, and saying they were an underground bus system, that barely escaped Kong's grasp. This News Report gives people an amazing feeling like they were actually in the movie!
The King Kong Encounter's construction began in 1984. As the studio tour bus drove by the construction sight, many people got excited. Building the attraction was mostley easy. Universal Studio employees bought broken down cars and other broken parts, to scatter around the set. They created 30 foot tall realistic buildings with lights and decorations inside. Finally, they built a giant building over it, and decorated it with paintings of city skylines, controlled fire machines, and spotlights on the cealing.
However dealing with machinery was the most dificult part. The crashing helicopter was almost life-sized, and had a controlled fire machine on it. It took almost 5 months to build, and 3 weeks to install it. However, they got it done. They built another helicopter prop, the half scale police helicopter that fires on Kong, so the tourists can escape. The helicopter was built with a small searchlight on it, a loudspeaker, a flashing light designed like a machine gun, spining blades, and a hidden fan to make wind, and make the encounter as realistic as possible.
Of course, the most amazing part was Kong. The 30 foot tall animatronic was built with a budget of over 7 million dollar budget. It weighed seven tons, and was the most complex and amazing animatronics of it's time. Kong was designed by Bob Gurr, who also worked on some of the attractions at Disneyland. So much detail was put into Kong, that he even had Banana-Scented breath! The giant animatronic was completed and installed 1985, and was put next to the shaking bridge.
The attraction was opened up in 1986, and it made national headlines. It instantly became one of the most popular rides at Universal Studios. The ride also helped Dino De Laurentis's spread the news of the release of King Kong Lives, prompting people to go see the movie after being on the ride. The ride amazed everybody who went on it, and made the Universal Studio tour more popular.This ride inspired another attraction at Universal Studios Orlando. The ride was called the Kongfrontation, and it featured kind of the same plotline, but this time, it had more suspense and two Kong animatronics! However, King Kong Encounter was still popular at Universal Studios Hollywood. What was even cooler was that the ride was even featured in the movie, The Wizard, which increased it's poularity even more. Kong stayed King for 20 years, and was still cool for everybody who encountered him. The ride celebrated it's 20th anniversery in 2006 and it was a big celebration. In the ride, Kong temporarilly wore a giant Party hat that said Happy 20th! He continued to scare more people for two years. However, those of you who are thinking about riding it, I'm sorry to say you can't. The Story of the King Kong Encounter ends in tragedy, just like the movie.
On June 1st, 2008 Kong, and the entire attraction met it's fate. On this day, a fire broke out in the Backlot of Universal Studios before the Studio Tour opened. The fire was accidently caused by a malfunctioning special effect. The fire spreaded, consuming multiple sets, and spreading very fast. Suddenly large gust of wind blew the flames into the Kong building. The whole building was up in smoke in less than 10 minutes. People gathered up in line to wait for the Studio Tour buses to pick them up. But instead of the welcoming horns of buses, loud deafening sirens shook the ground, as 10 firetrucks pulled through an emergency entrance, and drove down the studio tour roads. It took Firefighters almost all day to extinhuish the flames. Soon the fire was contained, and the rest of the backlot was safe. Unfortunatley, it was not enough to save the Kong attraction. The building was completley destoyed. The only part of Kong left was his severed hand.
The studio tour opened up again, once they cleared the debris, but for everybody, it wasn't the same without the King of Skull Island. Many people were devestated by the loss of Kong. However, their sadness turned to anger when Universal Studios announced they would not be rebuilding the ride, but replacing it with a new attraction. This caused outrage among many fans, who longed to see King Kong again. But Peter Jackson, creator of the 2005 remake of King Kong decided if they want Kong again, they shall have him. In 2009, at Comic Con, he announced to everybody that he would be creation the King Kong 360 3D ride for the studio tour. Everybody was overjoyed to hear this, and in 2011, the Kong was back! To learn more about the King Kong 360 3D, click on the link above. However, we will allways remember the King Kong Encounter!