Universal’s top executives attended the premiere of the studio’s next-generation theme park experience, including Universal Parks and Resorts Chairman and CEO Tom Williams, Universal Studios President Ron Meyer and Universal Studios Hollywood President Larry Kurzweil. The premiere event was also a benefit for the Wildlife WayStation and featured native dancers and exotic animals, including a 450-pound Bengal tiger, a Macaca monkey and a 13-foot albino Burmese python brought by the folks from the animal refuge. Thrill-seekers were happy to see many celebrity guests on the red carpet, including Christopher Lloyd (Back to the Future), Craig Robinson (Hot Tub Time Machine), Mark Pellegrino (“Lost”) and Kate Flannery (“The Office”), as well as Oscar Nuñez, Yvette Nicole Brown, Wayne Brady, Josh Sussman and many others. Also on hand were Actors Thomas Kretschmann (featured in Jackson’s King Kong) and Jack O’Halloran (from the 1976 film King Kong), and the family of Dino De Laurentiis, who produced the 1976 remake.
In the original 1933 film classic, King Kong was known as “the eighth wonder of the world.” In 1986, Kong arrived at Universal as part of the studio tour, where he shook trams loaded with visitors as they toured the backlot. “Here we are over 25 years later and Kong is coming back,” said Kurzweil. “King Kong is one of these living, large legacy brands that will last forever. He has survived everything from the Godzilla movie in the ’60s, to swarms of biting T-Rex and battalions of U.S. armies defending New York City. Then, as if all these attackers weren’t enough, just two years ago he lost his habitat here at Universal Studios due to the backlot fires.”
In the two years since the fires, Jackson worked closely with the creative team at Universal Parks and Resorts to resurrect the King Kong attraction. “Peter Jackson has showed an unrivaled interest in helping us to bring a living movie brand to life like we have here today,” said Kurzweil. “There is no peer in what you are going to see in this 3D experience. We have improved and developed and worked with this technology that you are going to see today. But 3D is still in an evolving and emerging state, and this is the first day that you will be inside of a 3D story, as opposed to viewing the story from a seat. You will literally be as deep inside a battlefield on Skull Island as you could possibly imagine. It’s riveting, it’s perilous and it’s intense. It gives me great pleasure today to unveil King Kong 360 3D.”
After a thunderous Kong-like roar from the crowd, everyone put on 3D glasses to watch Peter Jackson’s 3D press briefing on a large screen. “Well, we got the big hairy guy back out of retirement for his appearance in this theme park attraction,” Jackson said. “So I welcome you to the premiere of King Kong 360 in 3D. I’m down here in Wellington, New Zealand, where we shot our 2005 version of King Kong. Sorry I can’t be with you over there, but I think you’re going to enjoy yourself.
“When Universal asked me to bring back King Kong, I was delighted because, as you are probably aware, the King Kong movie doesn’t really lend itself to a sequel, because Kong falls off the Empire State Building at the end,” Jackson continued. “So I was thrilled to have an excuse to go back and have a bit more fun with King Kong. He’s just about my favorite movie character. And [to] have him back again with the dinosaurs and creatures, it’s just fantastic fun.”
Jackson explained that he brought back his creative team to re-create the King Kong experience with new technology. “[We’re] using technology that we only dreamt about in 2005,” he said. “It’s amazing what five years has done. I’ve never seen anything like the technology that we’ve brought to bear on this attraction, [such as] its incredible high-resolution, powerful images and sound. Being involved with the creation of the Kong attraction at the theme park has given me a chance to do a form of entertainment which is not a feature film. And it’s really the first time in my career that I’ve ever done that, and I really enjoyed it. It’s something that hopefully young and old will get a real kick out of it.
“[The King Kong attraction is] unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before,” Jackson boasted. “So you can’t describe it. I mean I can’t sit here and actually tell you what it’s like because it engages all of your senses. [With] its movement, its smell, its sound [and] its vision, it’s everything that engages you as you experience this attraction.”
And, yes, you do actually have to experience King Kong for yourself, as the attraction is completely different from watching a movie and can’t be fully described. One of the first to enjoy the King Kong event was Historian Bob Burns, the sci-fi maven who curates the Bob Burns Memorabilia Museum in Burbank. He has one of the largest collections of movie props in the country, and Jackson asked Burns for his opinion of his King Kong experience. “I can’t wait to tell him how exciting it was,” said Burns. Jackson also asked Burns to bring the original armature of King Kong used in the 1933 Fay Wray film to the unveiling. Featured in a behind-the-scenes documentary on the 2005 King Kong DVD, the stop-motion King Kong “skeleton” truly reminded everyone how far technology has come.