Themed attractions at Islands of Adventure – how do they live up to the source material?

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When you visit Islands of Adventure at Universal Orlando Resort, you’ll likely come across many attractions that are based on popular movies or television shows – and just like the rides at Universal Studios Florida, some of these feel truer to their source material than others. Let’s dive into just how well the themed experiences at the park hold up to their sources of inspiration.

(Wondering why you don’t see The Wizarding World of Harry Potter on this list? Don’t worry – we have something special in mind for that magical land.)

Skull Island: Reign of Kong

Skull Island Reign of Kong at Islands of Adventure
Those skulls certainly look inviting

This 3D trackless dark ride is (loosely) based on the 2005 film King Kong, which itself is the second remake of the 1933 original. As you may have guessed, Skull Island: Reign of Kong takes place on Skull Island, home of the infamous gorilla. The queue takes you through a temple and into a base camp before you board ride vehicles that are styled as expedition trucks. Along the way, you’ll encounter natives of the island and an audio-animatronic Carnictis Sordicus worm, both of which can be seen in the movie.

Although Reign of Kong doesn’t feature any of King Kong‘s characters or plot (besides the King himself, of course), you’ll still encounter familiar creatures, including Arachno-claws, Deplectors, and a swarm of Terapusmordax. After surviving a pack of venatosaurus, your expedition truck is attacked by a group of Vastatosaurus rexes. Kong battles the vicious dinosaurs just as he does in the film, allowing you and your fellow passengers to escape and later encounter him in massive animatronic form.

Despite the more-or-less minor plot differences, fans of the movie will still enjoy being transported to Skull Island and coming face to face with the titular gorilla.

The Cat in the Hat

The Cat in the Hat at Universal's Islands of Adventure
The titular hat of the titular cat

The Cat in the Hat is a dark ride based on the book of the same name by Dr. Seuss. It follows the original story, beat by beat, with the help of animated figures, narration, and other special effects. After entering the show building through a giant version of the title character’s famous hat, you walk through a line that features projections of the opening text from the famous book. The attraction then takes you through each scene, from the Cat in the Hat’s arrival to Thing 1 and Thing 2 wreaking havoc. Much of the dialogue is pulled directly from Cat in the Hat, and the sets and animated figures also appear nearly identical to their textual counterparts.

Although this ride is extremely similar to the book that inspired it, there are still some slight differences that are worth noting, especially the fact that Things 1 and 2 feature more prominently in Universal’s version (likely because the chaos they create makes for great entertainment). All in all, though, The Cat in the Hat is a great example of an experience that is faithful to the work of art that inspired it.

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls

Dudley Do-Right's Ripsaw Falls at Universal's Islands of Adventure
Danger + explosives = fun for the whole family

Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls is a log flume ride based on the famous Canadian mountie, who appeared both on The Adventures of Rocky and Bullwinkle and Friends and, of course, The Dudley Do-Right Show. The attraction’s queue includes the hideout of Snidley Whiplash, Dudley’s archenemy, while another room is themed to a theater, where you watch as Nell Fenwick — Dudley’s love interest — is kidnapped (thus setting up the main plot of Ripsaw Falls).

The ride itself features many references to its television progenitor, like the sight of our fearless mountie riding his horse backward. Animatronics of such characters as Dudley, Horse, Nell, and Snidley make appearances along the way, and narration is also featured throughout, just as it is in the show. Overall, the theming and spirit of Dudley Do-Right’s Ripsaw Falls are very similar to that of the original cartoons, and the finale even features a rendition of the theme song playing in the background.

Jurassic Park River Adventure

Jurassic Park River Adventure at Universal's Islands of Adventure
I can’t wait to see my favorite character, Dennis Nedry!

Jurassic Park River Adventure is, unsurprisingly, based on Steven Spielberg’s 1993 mega-film, Jurassic Park. The premise of the water ride is that John Hammond rebuilt a new version of the ill-fated Jurassic Park on Isla Aventura, an island near Orlando. As you tour the new facility from the water, you travel through Ultrasaurus Lagoon, Stegasaur Springs, and Hadrosaur Cove. Along the way, you’ll spot dinosaurs that appear both in the film and the Michael Crichton novel it was based on.

The most significant parallels between Jurassic Park and River Adventure are seen in the raptor containment area. Here, you’ll encounter familiar carnivorous dinosaurs that served as antagonists in the movie – velociraptors, dilophosaurus (like the one that devoured Dennis Nedry), and a Tyrannosaurus rex. Like Skull Island: Reign of Kong, this attraction is merely inspired by the source material rather than being a recreation of its plot, but fans of the franchise will still thrill in seeing the cinematic dinosaurs brought to life.

Honorable Mention: Poseidon’s Fury

Poseidon's Fury at Universal's Islands of Adventure
The Temple of Poseidon, sans fiery explosions

Poseidon’s Fury may not be based on a movie or TV show, but ancient Greek mythology still counts as source material, right? This live theater walk-through attraction takes you into the ancient Temple of Poseidon, the Greek god of the sea. Inside, an archaeologist guides you beneath the ocean and through a vortex of water to witness a battle between Poseidon and the evil Lord Darkenon. Along the way, you’ll receive guidance from the Oracle and deliver Poseidon’s famous trident to assist him in battle.

Although Darkenon is – obviously – an original character, the mythological influence on this experience is still undeniable. And even if you aren’t particularly well-versed in the ancient mythos (no, not Mythos), the special effects and theming are impressive enough on their own.


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About Nicole Wills

Nicole was born and raised in Orlando, so it's no surprise that theme parks have been part of her life for as long as she can remember. With experience writing content for both Universal Orlando Resort and her own theme park blog, she's turned that passion into a career, and she loves nothing more than helping others make the most of their Orlando adventures. When Nicole isn't writing, she can be found playing video games, hanging out with her cat, and counting down to Halloween Horror Nights (sometimes all at once).