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A new Kongfrontation shows how the shift to CG has affected theme parks.

A new Kongfrontation shows how the shift to CG has affected theme parks. (photo)

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The Los Angeles Times has an interview with Matt Aitken, the visual effects supervisor of Weta Digital, about their work on the new “King Kong 360 3-D” ride, which opens later this week at Universal Studios Hollywood.

The comment that caught my eye was about the technical specs of the attraction, which is a new addition to the park’s venerable Studio Tour and a replacement for the old animatronic King Kong that was destroyed by a disastrous fire a little over two years ago.

(Can you imagine the old Kong trapped in that inferno, stuck dutifully cycling through its endless loop of growls and punches until its burned into oblivion? It’s almost as terrifying and tragic as the actual movie. You can practically smell the burnt banana breath.)

Anyway, Aikten tells the LA Times that the new Kong 3D movie runs “at a very high frame range — 60 frames per second — so a lot of the [adverse things] associated with a typical movie experience at 24 frames per second — motion blur and flicker — those go completely out the window. The audience is getting delivered a huge amount of visual information at a very high rate.” The ride’s official site states that “guests will see and experience the equivalent amount of media — one terabyte of information — that is usually rendered for one hour of a feature film.”

These stats suggest a few things. First, that the rise of 3D movies designed to work like theme park rides has had a negative impact on theme park rides, which now have to work extra hard to emphasize on how superior they are to the stuff we get at the multiplex. Second, that there’s still a long way to go in improving movie theater 3D, and that’s just within the realm of existing (albeit expensive) technology. Third, animatronics, those borderline creepy staples of theme park attractions for decades, might be on their way out.

That makes sense. With fewer and fewer practical effects and more and more CGI in movies, there’s less inherent appeal for good old-fashioned effects-based rides at theme parks. This change also represents a subtle but important shift in the way park guests consume these rides. The old “King Kong Encounter” was couched as a trip through a working movie production — listen to the tourguide’s intro in this video:

That model is now completely outdated; there’s no animatronic or prosthetic gorillas on movie sets anymore; on bigger productions, there are barely any movie sets period. A tram ride pretending to be a trip through Peter Jackson’s “King Kong” set would have to discover a small English actor covered in ping pong balls, not exactly a show-stopping display of movie wizardry before you add in all the computerized bells and whistles.

To accommodate the shift from on-set movie magic to post-production trickery, parks like Universal Studios have shifted from pitching themselves as a trip into the movies to a trip to the movies you can’t see anywhere else. Instead of immersing themselves in a “production” via clever analog trickery, theme park attendees now basically watch movies with better frame rates and image quality than the ones they get at home. That seems to me like an inherently more passive experience, but I guess you’ll need to ride this new “Kong” and decide for yourself.

Here, for comparison’s sake with the video above, is a featurette for the 2005 “King Kong” — as jarring a juxtaposition as the one between Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s film and Peter Jackson’s:

[Photo: “King Kong 360 3-D,” Universal Studios, 2010]

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

It’s the final countdown to Christmas and thanks to IFC’s movie marathon all Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, you can revel in classic ’80s films AND find inspiration for your last-minute gifts. Here are our recommendations, if you need a head start:

Musical Instrument

Great analog entertainment substitute when you refuse to give your kid the Nintendo Switch they’ve been drooling over.

Breakfast In Bed

Any significant other or child would appreciate these Uncle Buck-approved flapjacks. Just make sure you’re not stuck on clean up duty.

Cocktail Supplies

You’ll need them to get through the holidays.

Dance Lessons

So you can learn to shake-shake-shake (unless you know ghosts willing to lend a hand).

Comfy Clothes

With all the holiday meals, there may be some…embigenning.

Get even more great inspiration all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC, and remember…

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A-O Rewind

Celebrating Portlandia One Sketch at a Time

The final season of Portlandia approaches.

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GIFs via Giphy

Most people measure time in minutes, hours, days, years…At IFC, we measure it in sketches. And nothing takes us way (waaaaaay) back like Portlandia sketches. Yes, there’s a Portlandia milepost from every season that changed the way we think, behave, and pickle things. In honor of Portlandia’s 8th and final season, Subaru presents a few of our favorites.


Put A Bird On It

Portlandia enters the pop-culture lexicon and inspires us to put birds on literally everything.

Colin the Chicken

Who’s your chicken, really? Behold the emerging locavore trend captured perfectly to the nth degree.

Dream Of The ’90s

This treatise on Portland made it clear that “the dream” was alive and well.

No You Go

We Americans spend most of our lives in cars. Fortunately, there’s a Portlandia sketch for every automotive situation.

A-O River!

We learned all our outdoor survival skills from Kath and Dave.

One More Episode

The true birth of binge watching, pre-Netflix. And what you’ll do once Season 8 premieres.

Catch up on Portlandia’s best moments before the 8th season premieres January 18th on IFC.

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WTF Films

Artfully Off

Celebrity All-Star by Sisters Weekend is available now on IFC's Comedy Crib.

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Sisters Weekend isn’t like other comedy groups. It’s filmmaking collaboration between besties Angelo Balassone, Michael Fails and Kat Tadesco, self-described lace-front addicts with great legs who write, direct, design and produce video sketches and cinematic shorts that are so surreally hilarious that they defy categorization. One such short film, Celebrity All-Star, is the newest addition to IFC’s Comedy Crib. Here’s what they had to say about it in a very personal email interview…


IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Celebrity All-Star is a short film about an overworked reality TV coordinator struggling to save her one night off after the cast of C-List celebrities she wrangles gets locked out of their hotel rooms.

IFC: How would you describe Celebrity All-Star to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Sisters Weekend: It’s this short we made for IFC where a talent coordinator named Karen babysits a bunch of weird c-list celebs who are stuck in a hotel bar. It’s everyone you hate from reality TV under one roof – and that roof leaks because it’s a 2-star hotel. There’s a magician, sexy cowboys, and a guy wearing a belt that sucks up his farts.


IFC: What was the genesis of Celebrity All-Star?

Celebrity All-Star was born from our love of embarrassing celebrities. We love a good c-lister in need of a paycheck! We were really interested in the canned politeness people give off when forced to mingle with strangers. The backstory we created is that the cast of this reality show called “Celebrity All-Star” is in the middle of a mandatory round of “get to know each other” drinks in the hotel bar when the room keys stop working. Shows like Celebrity Ghost Hunters and of course The Surreal Life were of inspo, but we thought it
was funny to keep it really vague what kind of show they’re on, and just focus on everyone’s diva antics after the cameras stop rolling.

IFC: Every celebrity in Celebrity All-Star seems familiar. What real-life pop personalities did you look to for inspiration?

Sisters Weekend: Anyone who is trying to plug their branded merch that no one asked for. We love low-rent celebrity. We did, however, directly reference Kylie Jenner’s turd-raison lip color for our fictional teen celebutante Gibby Kyle (played by Mary Houlihan).


IFC: Celebrity seems disgusting yet desirable. What’s your POV? Do you crave it, hate it, or both?

Sisters Weekend: A lot of people chase fame. If you’re practical, you’ll likely switch to chasing success and if you’re smart, you’ll hopefully switch to chasing happiness. But also, “We need money. We need hits. Hits bring money, money bring power, power bring fame, fame change the game,” Young Thug.


IFC: Who are your comedy idols?

Sisters Weekend: Mike grew up renting “Monty Python” tapes from the library and staying up late to watch 2000’s SNL, Kat was super into Andy Kaufman and “Kids In The Hall” in high school, and Angelo was heavily influenced by “Strangers With Candy” and Anna Faris in the Scary Movie franchise, so, our comedy heroes mesh from all over. But, also we idolize a lot of the people we work with in NY-  Lorelei Ramirez, Erin Markey, Mary Houlihan, who are all in the film, Amy Zimmer, Ana Fabrega, Patti Harrison, Sam Taggart. Geniuses! All of Em!

IFC: What’s your favorite moment from the film?

Sisters Weekend: I mean…seeing Mary Houlihan scream at an insane Pomeranian on an iPad is pretty great.

See Sisters Weekend right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib

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