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To See These 10 AMAZING Animatronics, You'll Have to Wait... Literally.

7 and 6. The Shaman and Carnictis 

Image: Universal

Attraction: Skull Island: Reign of Kong
Location: Universal's Islands of Adventure
Video: Carnictis and the Shaman

Anticipation was high when Universal announced the return of the king... In fact, some fans saw the opening of Skull Island: Reign of Kong as a mea culpa for Universal's closure of the resort's one-time headliner and Lost Legend: Kongfrontation. On that classic dark ride, guests would tour the wreckage left in the raging ape's path during his cinematic escape through Manhattan before coming face-to-snout with the raging, gigantic animatronic ape himself.

Cleverly, the new ride (set in the more mythological Islands of Adventure park) flips the script. Rather than setting Kong loose in our world, we're dropped into his as members of an explorer's society bent on uncovering the wonders of Skull Island. Trouble is, most of the wonders here want to eat us, as evidenced by one of the most simple – but impactful – queue animatronics around: the abhorrent carnictis worm. As the queue wraps around its enclosure, the vile creature rears back, squirms, and gnashes its fangs... A chilling foreshadowing of what's to come...

The queue also passes by an elderly, haunting Shaman of the native people of Skull Island (who, by the way, terrorize guests throughout the queue) preaching fear and reverence for Kong and perhaps offering a final warning for any who dare continue deeper into the island... 

Does Reign of Kong live up to Kongfrontation? For quite a few reasons, no. What fans hoped to be a return to practical effects ended up as (you guessed it!) yet another variation of the same general set-up pioneered by the Modern Marvel: The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man and since applied to almost every new Universal attraction in the last decade. Even if the ride's best animatronics are in the queue at least they prove Universal's still got it.

5. C-3PO

Image: Disney / Lucasfilm

Attraction: STAR TOURS: The Adventures Continue
Location: Disneyland, Disney's Hollywood Studios, Tokyo Disneyland, and Disneyland Paris
Video: C-3PO

With all of the celebration surrounding Galaxy's Edge, it's sometimes easy to forget that Star Wars has been an essential part of Disney Parks since 1986. Due to then-CEO Michael Eisner's groundbreaking partnership with George Lucas, the Lost Legend: STAR TOURS opened in Tomorrowland, whisking guests from a simple spaceport into a battle between the Empire and the Rebellion.

Though the ride has been updated to "The Adventures Continue" with 3D, HD visuals and a frantic randomizer that scrambles destinations, one thing remains iconic: the queue. Guests' first view in this intergalactic terminal is a parked StarSpeeder undergoing routine maintenance (and cleverly giving guests a peek at the vehicle they'll soon be climbing aboard). Watching over the process is C-3PO, who banters with R2-D2 and guests as he looks out across the queue.

Seeing the light refract from C-3PO's armor as he turns, gestures, and types on his computer is enough to leave Star Wars fans (young and old!) breathless... It's not every day you get this close to a character you've seen on screen. The simple encounter may be downplayed for those of us who've seen it a hundred times or more, but the moment is nonetheless satisfying, entertaining, and – when you think about it – pretty cool. Of course, it becomes even cooler when C-3PO inadvertantly becomes the pilot...

4. Na'vi

Image: Disney / Fox

Attraction: AVATAR Flight of Passage
Location: Disney's Animal Kingdom
Video: Na'vi

Disney gobbled up the rights to Avatar just as the film peaked at the box office (and, coincidentally, just as the Wizarding World prepared to open...), so fans were less-than-thrilled when it was announced that Animal Kingdom would host a permanent land dedicated to the PG-13 action film about humans attacking a peaceful alien moon. The chorus of dissent grew even louder in the years after since Avatar practically disappeared from pop culture without so much as a character or quote remembered. 

When Pandora – The World of Avatar opened in 2017, everything changed. Cleverly, Imagineers had severed the land from the storyline of the film, setting Pandora generations after humans' assault on the planet was over and also not mentioning a single character from the movie. Instead, guests play the role of eco-tourists, arriving on Pandora to explore its lush, bioluminescent jungles and see the rusted remains of failed human occupation.

The land's starring ride is Flight of Passage, a breathtaking and wild simulator though the moon's floating mountains and beyond. To reach it, guests pass through the remains of a Resource Development Administration facility, reclaimed by both nature and the benevolent Pandora Conservation Initiative. In its laboratory, guests witness a most remarkable sight... a Na'vi in stasis in a water tank. It's one of those classic "Disney" moments that makes guests literally stop in their tracks to stare in wonder and awe...

We're headed back to Universal to kick off our top three best queue animatronics... Any guesses?

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