By Fowl Owlerson
If you’ve been following along with the saga of King Kong’s rumored and now seemingly confirmed return to Universal Orlando, you know what kick-started the rumors of Project 340: The Jurassic Park land archway in Universal’s Island of Adventure was removed and constructions wall were erected. Since then, we’ve seen rapid progress in construction that includes a massive structure (pictured above), which will clearly house a brand new e-ticket attraction.
In my first column about the new attraction, I discussed what this attraction is rumored to be:
The expansion is said to consist of one major attraction. Incorporating the technology seen in Universal Hollywood’s tram tour, guests will walk through the vestiges of an ancient temple. From there, they will be ushered onto ride vehicles that are rumored to be heavy duty truck-like vehicles linked together in a tram-like manner.
Rumors suggest guests will be accompanied by a tour guide at the front of the vehicle. The ride will start out as just a “normal” tour of the island, with the guide allaying guest’s fears by showing them a vast wall designed to keep King Kong and the island’s beastly inhabitants away.
As they always do, things will go awry and guests will be thrown into several harrowing encounters between Kong and the island’s menagerie of monsters. This will be accomplished with practical effects, ride vehicle movements and large 3D domes.
In Livonia, Mich., there exists Roush Industries. The company operates inside a 450,000-square-foot space and is completing work on the clandestine Google electric car. To pivot in a tough economic client and diversify its company’s business model, Roush created a division called Roush Entertainment. The company specializes in ride vehicles and modules related to them, and has done work for Disney, Universal and an assortment of other theme parks around the world.
I highly recommend you take the time to peruse the Crain’s Detroit Business article penned by Dustin Walsh and titled, “Your favorite theme park ride potentially made in Detroit.”
Two items stand out in the piece and have made me curious.
Back inside Building 50B, Roush engineers are currently in the beginning stages of a ride system project for an upcoming ride based on one of the highest grossing films of all-time. (Specific details are confidential.) But Michael Deneau, director of engineering for Roush Entertainment, called the 192 modules for the upcoming ride ‘revolutionary’ in the theme park business.
It’s just vaguely worded enough to leave us pondering. Given the timing of Disney’s Animal Kingdom Avatar expansion, it wouldn’t surprise me if this was for one of its e-ticket experiences. Perhaps it’s the ride vehicle system for Banshee ride experience mentioned in Disney’s overview of the land?
We’ve assumed up until this point that the ride will be a Soarin’ clone, but what if Disney Imagineering opted to go further and make this something more akin to Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey and Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts? What if this attraction will immerse guests further by placing them on ride vehicles to emulate the point of view of being on a Banshee in the world of Avatar?
Some may suspect it’s referring to the new King Kong attraction, but take a look at the following paragraph from the article:
Roush is also completing a vehicle project for a safari ride at a theme park in Florida. The project includes retrofitting 43 Ford F-650 commercial trucks with its propane conversion fuel systems from its Roush CleanTech LLC subsidiary. Again, details on the client couldn’t be disclosed for this report. Propane is a cheaper alternative to diesel, usually lower than $2 per gallon. The project also puts to work Roush’s fabrication, composite and other departments, Deneau said. Other portions of the Ford trucks were strengthened to endure the rigorous use of a theme park vehicle, said Deneau. The trucks will be used 16 hours a day, seven days a week for 15 years, Deneau said. Because most rides last three to four minutes, cycle more than a million times and are safety-critical, customer requirements are stricter than even the aerospace industry, Deneau said.
Given the rumored descriptions of the ride vehicles and experience of Skull Island, I suspect this is the description of the ride vehicle that’ll take guests between King Kong and the island’s inhabitants. Per corporate policy, Universal and Disney declined to provide comment for Walsh’s story. You can see a photo of the trucks in the online article.
UPDATE: Since publishing the article, further discussion from the Orlando United fan site has related that the vehicles have most likely been commissioned by Disney to replace Kilmanjaro’s current fleet of ride vehicles at Animal Kingdom. Given the similar aesthetic and build of the ride vehicles, we think this is a likely possibility.
Further information has persuaded us from suspecting these will be the King Kong ride vehicles: Kilmanjaro is due for a refurbishment. Our followers on Facebook have speculated that Kilmanjaro is due for updates and a refurbishment for a new nighttime experience.
Another source has revealed that the King Kong vehicles won’t need propane to operate. Due to the vehicles running through what will be mostly an indoor experience, it’d be too much as far ventilation goes for the propane exhaust emitted. While effects are fine with proper ventilation, using a whole fleet of propane powered ride vehicles indoors probably isn’t feasible.
The first ride vehicle description still seems as if it’s for the new Banshee experience for Avatar and subverts our expectations of the ride just being a “Soarin’ clone.
What do you think?
• Fowl Owlerson, or “Fowly” as he’s affectionately known, has been attending theme parks since he was a spry owlet. When he’s not filtering through the latest murmurings around the industry, he can be seen writing, reading, and snacking on the occasional mouse. Follow him on Twitter @fowlowlerson for the latest rumors or drop an anonymous letter to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo by Theme Park Review.