Jul 1, 2010

King Kong 360 3-D Emerges as a Next-Generation Theme Park Experience

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"We’re confident that our ‘King Kong’ attraction is the largest, most intense 3-D experience on the planet. Our intention was to create an enormously spectacular and immersive 3-D experience and we’re pretty confident we’ve done that."

- Peter Jackson, writer, producer, director of the multiple Academy Award-winning film, "King Kong," and the creator of the new "King Kong 360 3-D" attraction.

Attraction Overview

King Kong makes his colossal return to Universal Studios Hollywood, re-emerging in the ground-breaking attraction, "King Kong 360 3-D" Created by Peter Jackson on the world-famous, behind-the-scenes Studio Tour. Characterized as the largest, most intense 3-D experience on the planet, the revolutionary special effects ride is a collaboration between Universal Studios Hollywood and triple Academy Award®--winning director, Peter Jackson, based on Universal Pictures’ 2005 Academy Award-winning blockbuster.

"King Kong 360 3-D" opened in Summer 2010 as a monumental, visceral tour de force featuring new, never-before-seen imagery re-imagined from the film and presented in groundbreaking 3-D technology. In creating this ambitious, interactive theme park ride, Jackson infused progressive film technology and dynamic storytelling with an adrenalized motion-based environment and visceral special effects to propel guests into the heart of the action as it materializes in a 360-degree environment.

The combined efforts and visual effects wizardry of the multiple Oscar® -winning Weta Digital—the visionary special effects company behind "King Kong"—have pushed realism to the extreme to deliver an incomparable theme park ride of epic proportions.

"King Kong 360 3-D" transports Studio Tour guests to Skull Island and catapult them into the middle of a terrifying struggle between a giant T-Rex and "the eighth wonder of the world" – King Kong. In a scene where predator meets prey, guests will find themselves launched into the film, projected on the world’s largest wrap around, 3-D compound curved screens.

Peter Jackson: "As a filmmaker, you’re hoping to have the audience step inside your movie and become part of the experience…to create the illusion of reality in a way that is much more tactile and profound than can be done in a cinema environment of a normal theatre. It’s only within a theme park attraction like this that you have the opportunity to do that."

An Immersive Guest Experience

For the first time ever, guests on the Studio Tour don special 3-D glasses to experience this breakthrough attraction. Trams will enter a darkened soundstage where guests will be launched—via the magic of Surround Digital 3-D projection—deep into the tangled jungle location of Skull Island. They’ll survive a close encounter with a swarm of hungry raptors, only to be confronted by the terrifying presence of 35' tall dinosaur behemoths, intent on attacking the tram and Studio Tour guests.

When a gigantic 30' tall, 6,000 pound silverback gorilla thunders onto the screen, the tram will jolt and shudder as guests physically find themselves trapped in the middle of a titanic struggle between two colossal foes, the great ape and a carnivorous reptile.

The realism of the immersive 3-D action will enable each guest sitting in the tram to have a ringside seat to the best prize fight on earth as King Kong and the colossal T-Rex battle to the very end as the tram cars slide ever closer to the edge of a bottomless chasm.

King Kong, known as the "eighth wonder of the world," has been called "the experience for which movies were invented." Since first appearing on the screen in the 1933 original classic, "King Kong" has been re-made twice, each time on a tremendous scale, earning a total of seven Oscar® and three Golden Globe® nominations. Most recently, Peter Jackson’s 2005 version took classic elements of the original "King Kong" story and adrenalized them with up-to-the-minute special effects magic and the alchemic talents of a superlative group of filmmakers, cast and crew. Released to critical acclaim in late 2005, "King Kong" was a worldwide hit.

Adding perspective to the attraction, Peter Jackson, called "King Kong 360 3-D," "a mini-sequel where King Kong and the dinosaur encounters another incident on Skull Island."

3-D Film Projection and the World’s Largest Wrap Around 3-D Screens

"King Kong 360 3-D" Created by Peter Jackson features the world’s largest 3-D projection installation ever produced. Two seamless, compound curved screens, each measuring a massive 187’ wide by 40’ high will surround the Studio Tour tram to cocoon guests within the Skull Island environment and fully immerse them in a riveting experience.

The compound curved screens were custom built to accommodate the unique attributes of the attraction’s viewing environment. To best deliver 360-degrees of uncompromised 3-D viewing, the designers were tasked to develop screens that were precisely curved—both in plan and in elevation—to maximize light return to the eye given the linear viewing area. Given the tram’s parallel trajectory to the screens, the effect will enable guests, seated anywhere on the tram, to fully experience incredibly high-resolution filmmaking.

Groundbreaking, original 3-D media has been created for the attraction. The media will project at the highest resolution possible, running at a significantly higher frame rate than traditional 3-D films, utilizing one terabyte of information and 90,000 frames. Guests will see and experience nearly three minutes of uncompressed media, the equivalent of what is usually rendered for one hour of a feature film. The average film typically projects at 24 frames per second. "King Kong 360 3-D" will project at 60 frames per second.

The result: uncompromised, exceptionally detailed, high-resolution 3-D imagery projected within a 360-degree wrap around environment. The majestic span of the two massive screens warranted 16 high definition projectors, eight strategically positioned on each side of the tram and each emitting 30,000 lumens.

Summarizing the technological achievements in his own words, Peter Jackson said the attraction "comprises 16 different projectors that are simultaneously linked together with the image seamlessly connected. The screen is so large that one single piece of film and one projector couldn’t fill the area, so it’s taking 16 projectors, each projecting a huge cinema-size image. It is fully absorbing. The effect will put you inside the movie."

Elaborating on the special effects,Jacksonsaid: "…it’s ultra realistic and astounding." Image flickering associated with 24 frames per second is being replaced with 60 frames per second for an incredibly fluid sense of reality. "It’s the first time it’s ever been done to this extreme," he said.

Resonating Surround Sound System

The powerful sound system employed in the attraction is equivalent to that of a movie-going experience, but orchestrated in tandem with the multi-sensory effects, is significantly more impactful. Breathing life and volume into King Kong, the dinosaurs and the other audio effects is sound designer Brent Burge, who also created the voice of Kong in the Peter Jackson film.

The dynamic, fully immersive and realistic jungle sounds emanating throughout the attraction will broadcast from 16 acoustic clusters, each equipped with 16 audio channels. The effect will resonate at 108 decibels from 68 speakers, which is significantly more intense than a movie-going experience.

A Multi-Sensory Experience

To enhance the 3-D experience and add a heightened interactive dimension to the attraction, visceral special effects will be synchronized along with the film’s action sequences to connect the guest-filled tram with the film’s spectacular scenes.

The Tram Mover System is a pneumatic mobility program that was developed specifically for "King Kong 360 3-D" and is the first of its kind ever created for a theme park ride. It consists of four very large movable platens (flat metal plates) situated beneath each of the tram cars and is maneuvered by compressed-air power. The weight of each individual tram car is perfectly calibrated to enhance the synchronization of its movement to the media. This, in combination with the multi-sensory effects of olfactory, water and wind, further contributes to the attraction’s immersive sensation.

The multifaceted Tram Mover System is programmed to move in concert with the film’s intense action sequences. By manipulating four detached platens, the tram cars have the ability to move independent from one another and in direct correlation—or in unison with action sequences on the screen.

The Tram Movers offer innumerable movement effects. The tram can roll, pitch, undulate and vibrate along with smaller textural motions or larger more aggressive movements to simulate severe tram impacts, such as when King Kong hurdles himself atop the tram. The seamless interweaving of revolutionary 3-D imagery on the largest 3-D screens ever created with a highly intense sound system and precision synchronized movements will redefine theme park ride immersion.

The attraction also affords other noteworthy traits, including its ecological aspect. In total, "King Kong 360 3-D" will expend over 6,000 cubic feet of compressed air, as opposed to oil lubricated hydraulics, to operate over 200 nozzles, tubes and other tactile devises that comprise the attraction’s vast array of special effects.

How real are the effects? Peter Jackson describes: "When the tails of the dinosaurs or Kong’s hands sweep past the tram, passengers will feel air blow across their faces. When the dinosaurs bang or try and push the tram, passengers will feel the tram being moved around physically."

A New Colossal Backlot Soundstage

The building that housed the original animatronic "King Kong" attraction was destroyed in a backlot fire that swept through four acres of the studio in June 2008. To accommodate the newly re-envisioned and technologically advanced "King Kong 360 3-D" attraction, an entirely new soundstage was built on a portion of the backlot adjacent to its original location. The giant structure has impressive stats:

Width: 100’ wide

Height: 70’ tall

Length: 370’ long is the length of the entire structure, comprised of two distinct areas: the pre-show tunnel at 170’ in length and the main show venue at 200’. The entire area combined is the equivalent of a football field.

The pre-show introduces Director Peter Jackson as he helps guests become re-acquainted to King Kong and to "King Kong 360 3-D."

Animatronic vs. 3-D

By the time the original animatronic King Kong attraction was destroyed in the June 2008 fire, the technology used to bring him to life had become dated. The advances in animatronic technology has yet to succeed advancements in both film and 3-D digital film and the choice to develop the most immersive experience possible relied on the technical achievements of 3-D. Universal Studios Hollywood and Peter Jackson seized the opportunity.

Peter Jackson said: "The technical aspects of this new attraction are very, very exciting. Presenting King Kong in 3-D at 60 frames a second with interactive movement and effects is more realistic than an animatronic would ever be."

A Filmmakers Dream: From Fantasy to Film to Theme Park Ride

When Peter Jackson first watched the original 1933 black-and-white "King Kong" film, it was more than just an evening’s diversion—it quite literally became a life-changing event.

Peter Jackson remembers, "I first saw ‘King Kong’ when I was about eight- or nine-years old on TV in New Zealand. And it made such an impact on me, such a huge impression, that it was the moment in time when I decided I wanted to be a filmmaker.  I thought, ‘I want to make movies. I want to able to make movies just like ‘King Kong.’ It had that profound of an effect on me."

From fantasy to film to theme park ride, Jackson noted: "Over the years, I visited Universal as a tourist and then more recently when we were working on our movie. I got quite familiar with the old Kong attraction. Our remake was not related to the attraction, but I thought it would be cool if the Universal theme park attraction had a Kong that matched the one in our film. I wondered if there’d be some possibility of updating the Kong attraction to follow along the lines of our movie."

As the catalyst that launched him to become a filmmaker to this epic theme park ride interpretation, King Kong has played a key role in Peter Jackson’s life-long imagination. How does he feel about it? "…surprised and thrilled. I get to spend more time with my best buddy, King Kong, which I’m happy to do any time. Our new Kong attraction will be an integrated part of the Studio Tour."

"King Kong 360 3-D" Visionaries: An Award-Winning Theatrical Film Team

"King Kong 360 3-D" Created by Peter Jackson is a collaborative effort by an award-winning team of seasoned filmmakers that include:

Peter Jackson, Producer, Writer, Director

Joe Letteri, Senior Visual Effects Supervisor, Weta Digital Ltd.

Matt Aiken, Visual Effects Supervisor, Weta Digital Ltd.

David Houghton, Compositing Supervisor

Eric Reynolds, Animation Supervisor

R. Christopher White, Digital Effects Supervisor

Brent Burge, Supervising Sound Editor

Valerie Johnson-Redrow, Show Producer

Chip Largman VP, Exec. Producer, Universal Studios Hollywood / Universal Creative

Dale Mason, Vice President, Executive Art Director / Universal Creative

Thierry Coup, Vice President Creative Development

Jennifer Sauer, Creative Director

Mark Rhodes, Executive Media Producer

The Studio Tour, "Mobile Movie Theatres" and a Newly Rebuilt Backlot

Universal Studios Hollywood’s behind-the-scenes Studio Tour are referred to as "mobile movie theatres," outfitted with cutting edge HD flat screen monitors and digital playback systems. The program enables the knowledgeable tour guides to showcase a vast selection of movie and television clips corresponding to sites visited along the Tour route and show how they were transformed for the various productions. Video commentary from filmmakers, including Steven Spielberg, Ron Howard, Stephen Sommers and Peter Jackson will join actors and personalities such as Al Roker, Billy Bush and Whoopi Goldberg in offering insightful perspectives on film and television production.

The arrival of "King Kong 360 3-D" Created by Peter Jackson coincided with major enhancements to the iconic Studio Tour and the most extensive backlot reconstruction project ever in the history of Universal Studios.

When guests venture aboard the behind-the-scenes Studio Tour, they are also greeted by a new experience showcasing four acres of innovative contemporary movie sets and striking facades on the Universal backlot. The new locations includes a gas station, a firehouse and, most notably, a modern urban cityscape, with glass and steel façade structures that will provide film and TV crews with the opportunity to replicate a modern city street scene in a controlled studio environment. The contemporary cityscape represents the largest modern urban backlot shooting location in Los Angeles.

These advanced facilities were constructed to provide ideal shooting conditions for contemporary productions, and were designed with the assistance of leading filmmakers and art directors.

"King Kong 360 3-D" Trivia

"King Kong 360 3-D" Created by Peter Jackson was a monumental undertaking that required its creation to take place simultaneously in three separate locations.

1) Accommodations for the project’s massive 3-D projection system and elaborate design required an extraordinarily large space, a facility larger than anything available on the 400-acre Universal Studios lot. To house two 187’ long, 40’ tall screens, 16 film projectors and 12 huge acoustic clusters of sound speakers, Universal located a facility in Playa Del Rey, approximately 25 miles away from the studio, a building with a pedigree appropriate to the project's enormity.

The new attraction’s design work was crafted in a former World War II-era airplane hangar that was built by Howard Hughes for the construction of his giant "Spruce Goose" airplane. Considered the world’s largest wooden structure, the building has been utilized as a sound stage to accommodate major film productions over the years, most notably as a principal stage for the filming of James Cameron’s production of "Titanic" and for Michael Bay’s "Transformers."

2) The other location took place over 6,500 miles away from Los Angeles in New Zealand, home to Peter Jackson and Weta Digital. The Universal Creative team would fly periodically to New Zealand to meet with Peter Jackson and the Weta Digital team.

3) The third location was at the attraction’s newly constructed soundstage on Universal Studios historic backlot.

King Kong – A Behemoth Beast

If the digital 3-D King Kong could leap off the screen, he would be astoundingly large:

20' tall sitting down

30' tall standing up

20' wide

15' deep

6000 pounds

When It Opened

"King Kong 360 3-D" Created by Peter Jackson opens at Universal Studios Hollywood, The Entertainment Capital of L.A, in Summer 2010.

Where It Opened

Peter Jackson’s 2005 "King Kong" blockbuster roared onto the big screen, opening nationwide in 3,568 theatres. "King Kong 360 3-D" Created by Peter Jackson open exclusively at Universal Studios Hollywood as a featured attraction on the world-famous, behind-the-scenes Studio Tour, in just one location and in one colossal theatre.

More Information

More information about "King Kong 360 3-D" Created by Peter Jackson and tickets to The Entertainment Capital of L.A. are available at www.UniversalStudiosHollywood.com.

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