Since 1990, whether it’s playing Quidditch with Harry Potter in Hogsmeade, battling Doctor Octopus with Spider-Man or defeating Megatron with Optimus Prime, millions of guests have walked through the gates of the two Universal Studios theme parks located in Orlando, Florida: Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure.

The theme parks are constantly pushing forward to make their visitors’ experience fresh and exciting by either building new attractions (such as The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Islands of Adventure) or updating existing attractions with more modern themes (such as the Despicable Me: Minion Mayhem in Universal Studios Florida). They continue that trend later this summer with the latest addition to their Islands of Adventure park – Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

The new ride (which can move an impressive 2000 riders per hour through its turnstiles), is situated between Toon Lagoon and the Jurassic Park attraction, but parkgoers will notice it well before then, as a daunting, giant, stone-carved head of King Kong looms across the park. The stonework for the entire ride is massive (there’s nearly 150,000 square feet of it) and all of it was done by hand, taking over 70,000 man hours to complete – a type of commitment to detail really pays off.

Skull Island Reign of Kong King Kong Concept Art Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

The Queue

Before getting to the ride, we really need to discuss the queue because it’s almost an attraction within itself. It was built to feel like a heartbeat, pumping guests through large open areas, into smaller constricted areas, over and over, as if they were flowing through the very body of Skull Island. Overhead, original music – scored by composer Bill Ross and performed by the London Symphony Orchestra – plays eerily along as guests walk through the line while surrounded by ritualistic idols, stone carvings and gates lashed together by human hair and skulls. It’s all quite enjoyably creepy.

The most impressive part of the queue has to be the animatronic cannibal witch found roughly halfway through line. Voiced by Victoria White and speaking in a language created solely for the attraction, the Shawoman casts creepy incantations on guests as they wait to enter the tight hallway leading into the vehicle prep area. It’s its own mini-show, complete with a bevy of stunning visual special effects.

One of Universal Studios’ most popular annual events is Halloween Horror nights, where many of the rides are turned into themed haunted houses – Skull Island: Reign of Kong will fit in perfectly. In the last claustrophobia-inducing hallway, many holes are scattered along the walls where live-action natives randomly reach out – providing a unique jump-scare experience.

Skull Island Reign of Kong Queue Island Native Attacking Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

The Ride

The story for the ride is set in 1931, a few decades before the upcoming movie, and takes guests on a journey through the island as part of the 8th Wonder Expedition Company. After boarding one of the massive 72-passenger expedition trucks, riders will notice there is neither a driver or track present – both of which are typically associated with theme park rides. Reign of Kong is the first trackless (non-water) ride of its kind for the park and operates on a series of light sensors and GPS tools to navigate.

After leaving the loading area, explorers meet Kate and her crew in a cave, then give chase after her team is attacked by giant bats. After watching helplessly as Kate battles giant insects, worms and various other creatures in a mud pit, riders find themselves trapped on a rickety bridge, surrounded by man-eating, prehistoric dinosaurs. Enter the mighty King Kong.

For several minutes, riders watch (via 3D goggles) as Kong fights a T-Rex and several raptors, with the action jumping from one side of the truck to the other. Once Kong has put a beat down on the dinosaurs the truck begins moving again and riders come face-to-face with the mighty beast in what is, in our opinion, the best animatronic creature made to-date – overshadowing anything produced by Disney (who pioneered the field of animatronics) up to this point.

The Pictures

Enjoy these pictures below from inside and outside of the ride, then check out our final thoughts on the entire experience:

Skull Island Reign of Kong Queue Skulls Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

Human skulls line the queue at Skull Island: Reign of Kong.

Skull Island Reign of Kong Queue Skeleton and Snakes Carving Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

Ritualistic altar (probably used for human sacrifice).

Skull Island Reign of Kong Queue Sacrifical Skulls Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

A bowl of human skulls served up to the god of the island.

Skull Island Reign of Kong Queue Shawoman Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

A Shawoman recites nefarious spells upon visitors.

Skull Island Reign of Kong Queue Island Native Starring Through Skulls Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

An island native, with evil in his eyes, greets visitors in the queue.

Skull Island Reign of Kong Queue Expedition Crates Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

Supplies and crates containing dangerous island animals await transport.

Skull Island Reign of Kong Queue Expedition Work Desk Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

Field office for 8th Wonder Expeditions.

Skull Island Reign of Kong Queue Expedition Chalkboard Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

A check-in board shows where all the drivers are…but Jared is missing.

Skull Island Reign of Kong Queue Skeleton King Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

A monument to the kings of the native island tribe.

Skull Island Reign of Kong Expedition Truck and Driver Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

8th Wonder Expedition Company Driver with her vehicle.

Skull Island Reign of Kong Main Gate Entrance Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

The massive gates leading into the heart of Skull Island.

Skull Island Reign of Kong Kong Skull Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

An ancient Kong skull lays just passed the gates – have there been others?

Skull Island Reign of Kong King Kong Close Up Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

Meet the beast himself – King Kong – up close and personal.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the ride creators decided not to incorporate any previously existing materials or story beats from the original Kongfrontation ride (replaced by Revenge of the Mummy: The Ride in 2004) but the action scenes were influenced by the King Kong 360 3D attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood – a smart decision. Also a smart decision in our opinion, the new attraction has nothing in common with the upcoming Warner Bros. movie starring Tom Hiddleston (which will be at San Diego Comic Con this year).

One possible drawback to note: riders might experience “tennis neck” as they bounce their heads from left-to-right in order to watch the action around them. Additionally, younger riders sitting in the middle of the truck, might have a difficult time seeing everything going on as sight is somewhat obscured by the guard rails on the sides of the truck. These are minor issues, though.

Skull Island Reign of Kong King Kong Skull Island: Reign of Kong Ride at Islands of Adventure Preview

All that being said, Skull Island: Reign of Kong is a fantastic new addition to the Islands of Adventure that should entertain visitors of every age for years to come.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong is now open at Universal Orlando.

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