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Gorilla's in the midst at Universal Orlando

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By Brian Farrell
Skull Island: Reign of Kong will open this summer at Universal Orlando Resort
Skull Island: Reign of Kong will open this summer at Universal Orlando Resort
The ride vehicles on Kong operate on a trackless system and carry 72 passengers
The ride vehicles on Kong operate on a trackless system and carry 72 passengers
The impressive 80ft-high Great Wall facade, behind which lies unknown horrors
The impressive 80ft-high Great Wall facade, behind which lies unknown horrors
The entrance to Skull Island - home to the world's most-feared monster...King Kong
The entrance to Skull Island - home to the world's most-feared monster...King Kong

IT’S time to summon your inner Bear Grylls - to boldly go where no explorer has gone before.

Only the bravest souls need apply, for there is no knowing the terrors that await.

The expedition to this famed Florida archipelago - christened the ‘Islands of Adventure’ by the early thrill-seeking explorers - will be treacherous and not for the faint-hearted.

The jungle drums have been beating in this fun-loving paradise of late, and the natives at Universal Orlando say they herald the return of the King - Kong!

Not since Harry Potter blew into town on his broomstick has a ride been so eagerly anticipated.

But whatever magic the wizards at Universal have conjured up in the past, Skull Island: Reign of Kong promises to be on a scale never seen before.

When the Sunday World caught up with Mike West, Kong’s creative director and executive producer, he had one word to describe the new ride: “MASSIVE!”

“If I got paid $10 every time I mentioned the word ‘massive’ in describing the new ride I’d be a very wealthy man,” he laughs. “But, honestly, I’ve never worked on anything the sheer size and scale of this.”

When it opens this summer at Universal’s Islands of Adventure, Skull Island: Reign of Kong will bring to life the next chapter of this colossal gorilla. 

Legendary movie maker Peter Jackson - who directed the 2005 film King Kong, along with the Lord of the Rings trilogy - was consulted at the start-up phase of the project, yet the ride itself will bear no real resemblance to silver-screen blockbuster.

As Mike says, “Basically, we took Peter’s Kong and we put him on steroids!” 

Though the full details of the new ride have been shrouded in secrecy for some months - there is round-the clock security to prevent spoilers - the drip-feed of information has confirmed the enormity of Orlando’s newest attraction.

The entrance alone features 150,000sq foot of rock work - including the 80ft-high Great Wall façade and temple ruins – which took 70,000 work hours to complete. The intricate brickwork - none of which has been prefabricated - has all been handcrafted onsite by an army of more than 300 workers.

Even the ride vehicles promise to be king-size. Unlike the majority of attractions, they will operate on a completely trackless system and are a massive 40ft long, weigh 17 tons and carry 72 passengers at one time.

According to Mike, each of the trucks will feature one of five different drivers - Becky Callahan (wild cowgirl), Will Denham (adventure seeking cousin of director Carl Denham), Jinks Costanza (NYC ex-con), Kalana (descendent of the island natives) and Charles ‘Doc’ Jordan (PhD student), each of whom will tell their own unique story along the way. 

As well as being one of the biggest attractions ever built, Kong will also be one of the longest theme-park adventures.

Over the course of six scintillating minutes – the average ride or roller-coaster takes four minutes – you will navigate perilous jungles, explore ancient temples and brave foreboding caves crawling with prehistoric creatures.

Among the cast of grisly characters recently unveiled by Universal are; the Carnictis (a giant, slug-like creature with no eyes or facial features, pictured above), the Terapusmordax (a flying predator that uses its large fangs to penetrate its prey), the Arachno-claw (a six-legged carnivorous scavenger) and the Vastatosaurus rex (the most-intimidating dinosaur that roams the island’s dense jungles).

And all this before you come face to face with Kong himself. 

How the world’s most-famous gorilla will look is a closely-guarded secret but, make no mistake, this guy is going to be big. Summer 2016 will be remembered as the year the King returned, this time on his terms and on his territory. 

“Previously, we took Kong away from Skull Island and brought him into our world. Well, this time we’re bringing our guests to Skull Island,” says Mike. “The entire experience takes place in Kong’s neighbourhood – and it will be truly terrifying.” 

Be afraid, be very afraid.

Skull Island: Reign of Kong launches at Universal Orlando’s Islands of Adventure this summer. For further information, check out www.universalorlando.com. Tour America has great family packages available for summer 2016. Check out www.touramerica.ie