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3 new things coming to Universal Studios this summer

The opening date for Skull Island: Reign of Kong at Universal's Islands of Adventure has not been officially announced, but the theme park is planning a media preview June 22 to 24. So chances are good the public will get a look at this giant primate's mammoth crib before July 4.

Reign of Kong will be the largest addition to the theme park since the Wizarding World of Harry Potter opened in 2010. With elaborate sets and 3D effects, Skull Island will be one of the longest rides ever at Universal. A vehicle from the "8th Wonder Expedition Company" will take visitors through an island with prehistoric creatures of unknown origin, also home to Kong.

Then there's the great ape himself. King Kong will be lifelike in facial expressions, Universal has said, and 26 feet tall, with a head as big as a car and 18 feet across the chest. Riders will be "close enough you'll feel his breath sweep across your skin," Universal Creative's Mike West says in the video on the park's official blog.

The attraction looms large, with huge rock walls rising from what looks like an ancient temple in a primordial jungle setting. Universal worked with Peter Jackson, the director of 2005's King Kong, a $207 million spectacle that was at the time the most expensive movie ever filmed.

Also opening at Islands of Adventure this summer is the complete revamp of a fan-favorite roller coaster, the Incredible Hulk. The green guy's coaster is strong and fast, so hopes are high that the new queue will be slicker, in the spirit of an Avengers-style Hulk. The shape of the track and the fast-launch start — riders are shot out at 40 mph and flung upside down into a zero-G barrel roll — will be the same. But Universal says the ride vehicles and the story line will be enhanced and the ride will be smoother.

A new sound system will also blast a custom score created by Patrick Stump, the frontman for Fall Out Boy. Hulk will reopen in "late summer," according to the park.

Also opening this year is Universal Orlando's fifth hotel, Sapphire Falls, a Caribbean-themed resort with a tropical lagoon and waterfalls. The hotel is taking reservations for dates starting July 14.

Universal Orlando

Two parks, Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure, 6000 Universal Blvd, Orlando

Admission: $105, $100 child (one park); $155, $150 child (one day/two parks). Florida resident deals available online. (407) 363-8000.

3 new things coming to Universal Studios this summer 05/24/16 [Last modified: Friday, May 27, 2016 5:45pm]
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