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|Attraction type||Special Effects Ride|
|Designer||Totally Fun Company|
|Vehicle type||Aerial tramway|
|Height restriction||40 in (102 cm)|
|Ride Host||Roosevelt Island Tram Operator|
Universal Express available
Kongfrontation was a ride at the Universal Studios Florida theme park, in Orlando, Florida, the main attraction in the park's New York section. It opened as one of the original attractions at the park on June 7, 1990 and was closed on September 8, 2002. Revenge of the Mummy opened in its place on May 21, 2004. It was based on a 1976 movie King Kong (1976 film) and King Kong Encounter, a previous attraction on the long running Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood.
Guests entered the attraction through a facade recreating Pennsylvania Station as it appeared in New York City at the beginning of the 20th century. Within the six-story walls of the massive show building, guests would find themselves in an elaborate production set simulating a New York subway station, Manhattan's Roosevelt Island tram station and a surrounding city block (intricately detailed from garbage cans and graffiti covering the walls, to fully stocked storefronts). Overhead television monitors displayed a special WWOR-TV news report entitled "Kong on the Loose", anchored by real-life newscaster Rolland Smith. The giant ape King Kong had escaped its confines and was wreaking havoc on the streets of New York. Kong had already destroyed two elevated trains and was rapidly approaching the East River with authorities seemingly powerless to stop him. Clips from the 1976 version of King Kong portraying the beast's rampage played during these newscasts. The queue made its way up a long ramp and ended at the elevated Manhattan station of the Roosevelt Island Tramway.
Upon arriving at the station, guests boarded a large, open-air aerial tram vehicle. There, a live guide aboard the tram informed them that they were being evacuated off of Manhattan Island and over to Roosevelt Island during Kong's attack. The tram's radio was tuned to the police emergency frequency so that guests could be informed of Kong's location in the city. The tram traveled above the streets of downtown New York City where guests could view Kong's path of destruction. There was a water geyser from a broken fire hydrant, broken steam pipes, crashed and overturned cars, and a subway train partly derailed from its elevated track. A police chopper described the scene around the tram over the radio, alerting that Kong was approaching the tramway and that he was grabbing a power pole. Kong's silhouette could briefly be seen as a spotlight shone on a building ahead of the tram. As the tram passed the power pole, it tipped over and its electrical transformer exploded, unleashing a shower of sparks and fire, which ignited the derailed elevated subway train.
Rounding a bend and nearing the East River, the tram encountered Kong hanging from the Queensboro Bridge. A police helicopter hovering nearby opened fire on Kong to protect the approaching tram. Kong retaliated, pounding the roof of tram and sending the chopper crashing and exploding into the bridge. Narrowly escaping the attack, the tram finally crossed over the river to Roosevelt Island. A second helicopter hovering nearby shone a bright searchlight directly at the tram, inhibiting the view of what lay ahead. The tram operator urged the chopper to turn off the light, and in doing so, revealed that Kong had cut the tram off. He proceeded to grab, lift and subsequently drop the tram after being fired upon by the circling police helicopter. After narrowly escaping the enraged beast for a second time, small television monitors lowered from the tram's ceiling and guests watched themselves on the ride as part of a breaking news report as the tram safely made its way into the Roosevelt Island station. Although Kong was never actually defeated, the news report indicated that he was making his way away from New York City, thereby alleviating the threat.
Guests exited the attraction and traveled down a series of ramps into a King Kong themed gift shop called Safari Outfitters Ltd. There, a Kodak photo opportunity booth was located where guests could pose with King Kong, who appeared to grip them in front of a Queensboro Bridge backdrop.
Construction and design
The attraction was based on the 1976 film remake of King Kong and was designed by Totally Fun Company and MCA Planning and Development. Two King Kong animatronic figures were built for the attraction and were scaled to be 39 feet (12 m) tall with an arm span of 54 feet (16 m). The one used for the "street sequence" weighed approximately 13,000 pounds (5,900 kg), while a lighter figure, that weighed approximately 8,000 pounds (3,600 kg), was used for the "bridge sequence" of the ride. The Kongs were built to be both analog and digital, giving them the ability to perform sixty two separate functions. A smeltzer device was constructed to give the Kong figures "Banana Breath," which was emitted during roars at the riders.
The soundstage show building covered an area of 62,000 square feet (5,800 m2) and a height of 6 floors. The slabs used to construct the exterior walls of the building are the largest of its kind ever used for construction. To make the city setting appear as realistic as possible, fifty facades were modeled after Manhattan's Lower East Side circa 1976. News reports from the TV station WWOR-TV were integrated into the ride and queue line as MCA/Universal owned the station at the time the attraction was designed. The helicopters that were used in the ride were molded from actual helicopters and were true to size, which is why they looked as realistic as they did.
Originally a scene for the Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tram Tour, Kongfrontation has been credited as being the catalyst for the Universal Studios Florida project (which has since evolved into the Universal Orlando Resort). Universal originally envisioned the attraction as the crown jewel of the Florida park. While the attraction drew substantial crowds, it had an unreliable track record due to the complex special effects involved. Universal engineers attempted several times to improve reliability, which ultimately required removing functionality of Kong by limiting his movements and some of the background effects.
Kongfrontation was a signature piece of Universal Studios Florida, more than any of the attractions that remain there today, and the idea to close such an attraction struck many fans of the ride as being "unreal". Despite many protests and complaints from fans, Kongfrontation officially closed on September 8, 2002. There has never been a solid reason given by Universal for the closure, although it is speculated that maintenance issues, high staffing costs and the costs of repairs and upkeep are the main reasons. The attraction joined a list of original and popular Universal Studios Florida attractions that have since been retired and replaced, including Ghostbusters Spooktacular, The Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera, Back to the Future: The Ride, Earthquake: The Big One and Jaws.
During Halloween Horror Nights II at the park, the attraction was turned into a "horrified attraction" titled Tramway of Doom . The theme was that Darkman was on the loose in New York, and after riding Kongfrontation, guests had to exit the tram and walk on the ground of the ride, where a haunted maze awaited. Guests were also permitted to walk on the ground during Halloween Horror Nights XI, in a show titled The Oozone Fright Club, where guests entered an employees only area of the queue line for the show, and then had to exit to the ground where another haunted maze awaited.
- Peter N. Alexander. "King Kong: The Monster Who Created Universal Studios Florida". Totally Fun Company.
- "Travel Advisory, Jaws Clenched At Universal". New York Times. September 30, 1990.
- The Largest Online Tribute to Kongfrontation
- Kongfrontation at Orlando Rocks
- King Kong: The Monster Who Created Universal Studios Florida By Peter Alexander, Totally Fun Company
- Kongfrontation Photos
- More Kongfrontation Photos showing the intricate detail of the ride's 1970's New York art direction