Home » Vintage Universal: Remembering Kongfrontation at Universal Studios Florida

    Vintage Universal: Remembering Kongfrontation at Universal Studios Florida

    If rumors are to believed, King Kong could be on his way back to Universal Orlando. In the meantime, let’s take a look back at his original incarnation at Universal Studios Florida.

    Inspired by the King Kong section of the world-famous Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood, Kongfrontation was part of the original line-up of attractions at Universal Studios Florida when it opened in June 1990. Along with Jaws, it was one of the headline rides at the park, and featured heavily in Universal’s marketing campaign.

    Unfortunately for Universal, King Kong spent more time out-of-action during the months after the park’s debut than he did terrorizing guests. Problems with the attraction’s then-high-tech computer systems left the big ape feeling poorly much of time, and angry guests demanding refunds or free tickets (which they were usually given).

    Once the kinks were ironed out, though, Kongfrontation became one of the most beloved Universal attractions of all time. So what exactly lay in store for those lucky enough to ride it?

    An encounter with a movie icon

    While queuing through an elaborate recreating of a New York subway station, Roosevelt Island tram station and a city block, guests would watch a special news report that explained that King Kong was on the loose in New York City (real-world newscaster Rolland Smith presented the slot). Footage from the 1976 remake of King Kong was used to bring the rampage to life.

    Finally, guests would board the Roosevelt Island Tramway, which they were promised would “evacuate” them from Manhattan and carry them over to the relative safety of Roosevelt Island. Soaring over scenes of destruction below, they were kept up-to-date on developments by a running commentary on police radio.


    Suddenly, they would come face-to-face with Kong himself, hanging from the Queensboro Bridge. A handily-placed police helicopter came to their defence, but was swatted out of the sky by Kong, who went on to bash the tram itself. A bright light from a second helicopter then obscured guests’ view, but they soon realised that Kong was now blocking their path.

    Kongfrontation (2)

    Image © Universal Orlando Resort

    Then came Kongfrontation’s iconic moment. King Kong grabbed the tram, lifted it and then dropped it to the ground below after coming under fire from the circling helicopter. Finally, guests were free to complete their journey to Roosevelt Island.

    Here’s a video showing the full Kongfrontation ride experience, courtesy of HHNCrypt.com:

    The beasts

    Kongfrontation postcard

    King Kong himself existed in the form of two enormous, 39-feet-tall animatronic figures, with an arm span of some 54 feet. Both were able to perform sixty-two separate functions, and emitted “banana breath” via a smeltzer device. Some fifty facades were used to recreate the shattered Lower East Side of Manhattan, while the helicopters were molded from real-world choppers.

    The end?

    Sadly, Kong’s reign over Universal Studios Florida came to an end in September 2002, when Universal closed the ride to make room for the Revenge of the Mummy roller coaster. Many fans were up-in-arms about the closure, and some still are.

    King Kong

    Any new King Kong attraction would be based on Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake.

    Could Kong make a return, though? It is widely rumored that Disaster! is on its way out of Universal Studios Florida, to be replaced by a new, modern King Kong attraction. There are even rumors that a recreation of Kong’s home, Skull Island, could be added to Islands of Adventure. Keep your eyes peeled for a return of this banana-breathing movie monster to the Orlando theme park scene.