Kong: Skull Island had a pretty monstrous reign at the box office this past weekend. It opened worldwide with $146 million, and is well on its way to being a beast at the box office.
It’s also a very wild film that is just a feast for monster kids and monster lovers. The actors are great, and the creatures are just as ferocious as you’d hope. While this isn’t our first trip to Skull Island, it definitely feels like the most fun. True, there isn’t that wonder of huge dinosaurs and majesty that Peter Jackson’s King King had, but it’s also not almost three hours. From the actors and graphics to the amazing soundtrack, Skyll Island does Kong right. It also gives plausible reasons for the way things are, but more on that later.
King Kong was originally released in 1933 by Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Shoesdsack. The story was inspired by Coopers love of gorillas and a book cooper received as a kid called Adventures and Explorations in Equatorial Africa by Paul Du Chaillu. Du Chaillu billed himself as an adventurer and would bring back specimens from Africa that the rest of the world had never seen. Cooper took the idea and ran with it, substituting a mysterious island where time had forgotten. The film was a smash hit, earning $4 million dollars.
The film would be followed nine months later by Son of Kong, a direct sequel seeing the offspring of the original beast. Later RKO would gives rights to Godzilla creators Toho, who would create some amazing mashups like Kong vs. Godzilla and Kong Escapes. In the 70’s Kong would come home with a remake of the original, by Dino de Laurentis. It was a smash, and go on to transplant Kong from New York to San Francisco, with the direct sequel, King Kong Lives. In 1986, King Kong would make the jump from the silver screen to real life, as Universal Studios Hollywood opened King Kong Encounter. As an addition to the tram ride, guests would be taken into a soundstage, where an entire city block has been recreated, and guests would be able to spot a “big star”.
50 years after Kong changed cinema, he changed the theme park industry. Massive movie sets and huge animatronics were now a possibility. Kong Encounter created such a stir, that Universal had to launch an East Coast version when they opened their Florida park. Kongfrontation took the 151 second encounter that was part of the tram tour at Universal Studios Hollywood, and made it into a massive ride at Universal Studios Florida. They repeated several encounters with the big ape, and even copied his banana breath from the Hollywood attraction. This attraction closed in 2003 to make room for the Revenge of the Mummy coaster. High costs and maintenance of the Kong attraction was cited as the reason for the closure of the ride. The ride would often break down, and his huge size was a nightmare for ride techs to repair.
In 2008, a massive fire destroyed the Kong Encounter at Universal Studios Hollywood. While many thought that would be the end of Kong at both parks, director Peter Jackson, who directed a nearly three hour version of King Kong, stepped in. King Kong 360 was born, and took guests to Skull Island. There they encountered the largest 3D projection at the time, and would encounter Kong like never before.
As for Orlando? In 2016, Universal Orlando opened Skull Island: Reign of Kong. It took the footage of Kong 360 and added on to it. The ride uses a massive queue to tell the story, complete with live actors, and detailed animatronics. The ride vehicles were also changed, and remain similar to the trams in Hollywood, though much shorter. They are guided by an animatronic driver, who has their own story to tell about Kong. In the finale, guests are brought face to face with Kong himself, as the park created a massive 30 foot tall animatronic head.
So, what’s next? While the Skull Island film originally started at Universal, with Legendary Pictures, rights were transferred over to Warner Brothers. The reason? Godzilla. The American remake of the Godzilla film was very well received, and saw a sequel teased that would use even more of the monsters. Skull Island also did an amazing job of telling where the creatures from Godzilla and even King Kong came from. They also explain how “he’s still growing”, which means the next time we see him, we’ll see a much larger ape than this one. The end of this film teases more monsters, such as Mothra and Rodan for Godzilla 2. Then? Let them fight.
Warner Brothers and Legendary are already prepping for a remake of King Kong vs. Godzilla, in which we will see the two tackling many other monsters before facing off with each other. It’s every monster kids dream.
What about the parks? Universal Japan already has a Godzilla attraction. The new attraction is a 3D movie in which Godzilla attacks Osaka. While Universal Japan is definitely busy with Minions, and Nintendo, they are the only park without a King Kong attraction. It’s possible that the park could get a version of Skull Island next.
Eventually, we are putting bets on a King Kong vs. Godzilla attraction at one of the parts. Hopefully the monster fight becomes such a massive hit that Universal HAS to make something featuring the two King of Monsters together!
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