Kongfronatation was an opening day attraction at Universal Studios Florida. The ride, designed by the Totally Fun Company and Universal Planning & Development, was an action-packed, spectacular dark ride! The ride was based off of the 1976 version of the film King Kong, and was essentially an expanded version of the King Kong Encounter on the Universal Studios Hollywood Studio Tour.
The ride was located in a 6 story tall soundstage, and featured realistic New York City street sets inside. The ride system was developed by Arrow Dynamics, who subcontracted Intermountain Lift to help make the trams move up and down. Two gigantic King Kong animatronics were built, each were 39 feet tall and had a wingspan of 54 feet. Scent emitters were placed in the mouths of the animatronics, spraying a “banana breath” as the trams would pass by.
In the New York section of the theme park, guests entered a facade of Pennsylvania Station as it would’ve appeared in New York in the early 1970’s. The inside of the building was a subway station and tram station, the walls were filled with graffiti. As the years went by, guests started adding their own graffiti making for a very unique queue. Tv’s hanging overhead showed footage from WWOR-TV news, anchored by Rolland Smith, of King Kong on the loose in New York City. The giant ape was destroying the city, he destroyed two elevated trains, buildings and houses. Authorities could do nothing to stop him, and he was heading towards the East River.
Guests arrived to the load station and were being forced to board an aerial Roosevelt Island tram, and they needed to evacuate Manhattan. The tram’s live guide and driver turned on the police radio transmissions so the passengers would know where Kong was. The tram drove over destroyed New York streets, wrecked cars and busted fire hydrants.
A radio transmission came over the radio from a police helicopter, saying that Kong was approaching the tramway. You could see a silhouette of the giant ape from the police helicopter’s spotlight. “BOOM!” A power line transformer exploded, sending fire and sparks everywhere, igniting a destroyed train on fire.
The tram rounds the corner, there he is! King Kong is hanging from the bottom of a bridge! A police helicopter is hovering over, warning us that he is about to open fire. He shoots! Kong didn’t like that, the giant ape hit the top of the tram, he smashed the helicopter, causing it to hit the bridge and explode!
Our tram escapes from the ape! We are about to cross the river over to Roosevelt Island, but King Kong has cut us off! Another police helicopter shoots at Kong! The ape then proceeds to pick up our tram! Our frightened tour guide screams! Kong drops the tram, all the passengers scream out of fear!
The passengers evacuating Manhattan barley escape, but they safely make it to Roosevelt Island. Kong is still on the loose, but news reports indicate that he has moved away from New York City.
Many memories were made on this iconic attraction, and we had the chance to ask former Kongfrontation team member, Stephanie, to share a few of hers!
Park Pass: Tell us a little about what you did at Kongfrontation, did you enjoy your job?
Stephanie: “I LOVED my job! I did everything from Crowd Control to “acting” on the trams for the ride itself.”
Park Pass: What was your favorite part of the attraction, and why?
Stephanie: “My favorite part had to be the queue line (I know, weird). But once it started to get filled with graffiti from all the visitors, it was neat to go through it and see what people wrote and where they were from.”
Park Pass: Kongfrontation was known to have many technical issues, were team members prepared with a backup script if something were to go wrong on the ride?
Stephanie: “MANY, MANY issues. I would become Inga from Sweden, but technically we were to try to “stay the part” which never worked after a few minutes. Most of the time, you joked and got to know the people on your tram.”
Park Pass: Do you have any funny stories to share while working at the attraction? Or any special team member memories?
Stephanie: “I have several from Kong. 1st one.. one of the many technical issues, had my group, tram broke right at the end when Kong is smashing it, we sat there a few minutes. The ride eventually got moving again and the guests got back to the station. Took the same tram group around again (since they did not get the whole show) only to have it break down again in the exact same spot. Another time I had a group, while going around the hydraulics decided to fail and my tram went up to the ceiling, down to the floor and up again…”
Park Pass: How often was the ride evacuated due to technical issues? Was it a hard thing to do?
Stephanie: “Yes, we had to evacuate often, depending on where the tram was on the ride, depended on how it went. Most of the time you were lowered to the floor and walked out, sometimes you were brought to a specific location by one of the buildings and walked out.”
Park Pass: What are your thoughts on Skull Island: Reign Of Kong coming to Islands Of Adventure in 2016?
Stephanie: “I LOVE that it’s coming back, some of the original rides were the best!”
Gone, But Not Forgotten
Kongfrontation later went on to close in 2002, on September 8th. The iconic attraction closed to much fanfare, and a special “banana salute” to send off the big ape. The ride was replaced by Revenge Of The Mummy, which opened in 2004. (Photo below from Touring Plans)
Like all of Universal’s former attractions, tributes to Kongfrontation can be found throughout the ride that replaced it. Inside of Revenge Of The Mummy, a statue of King Kong can be seen to the left hand side in the treasure room portion of the ride. In the queue of the attraction, hieroglyphic soldiers are painted on the walls holding banana swords, a reference to Kong’s favorite snack! Because the show building was originally built for Kongfrontation, Universal had a hard time removing all of the infrastructure of Kong. Next time you ride the Mummy, when you’re in the coaster portion, look up to the ceiling.. You might just see the former Kongfrontation ride track!