Two years ago, a black pillar of smoke rose up from Universal Studios as a three-alarm fire tore through the back lot. When the smoke cleared, iconic sets were ash and the beloved animatronic “King Kong” ride was no more.

Two years later, the ape, part of Universal’s 46-year-old tram tour, is back and fiercer than ever thanks to director Peter Jackson. With the attraction, Jackson is able to do what his 2005 remake of King Kong was just shy of; he can put audiences inside the experience.

Created in 360 3-D, it’s a ride you see, smell, feel and, if you’re not careful, taste. It begins on a hilltop above what appears to be a New York City street as visitors roll past a crushed tram car, smoke still billowing from the wreckage. Welcome to Skull Island.

Inside the attraction, the doors close behind you leaving you in inky blackness, Jackson instructs you to put on your 3-D glasses and suddenly you are immersed in a dense jungle where a damp wind blows and tensions are running high between free range dinosaurs and everyone’s favorite mighty ape. When a fight between the two species breaks out, tails whip, knocking the tram from side to side, Kong charges over the top of the ride, slamming against the roof, and things get messy with angry spit flying from the foaming mouths of the two ferocious challengers. Word to the wise: Try to keep your mouth closed. I was so blown away, mine was gaping open in wonder and I ended up getting a light tongue bath.

What Disneyland’s “Star Tours” first introduced, Jackson has taken to a whole new level, giving riders an exhilarating three-minute experience that will have you begging for more. In fact, our tram started to chant, “One more time! One more time!” as soon as we rolled to safety.

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