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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]


Hacked In

Funny or Die Is Taking Over

FOD TV comes to IFC every Saturday night.

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We’ve been fans of Funny or Die since we first met The Landlord. That enduring love makes it more than logical, then, that IFC is totally cool with FOD hijacking the airwaves every Saturday night. Yes, that’s happening.

The appropriately titled FOD TV looks like something pulled from public access television in the nineties. Like lo-fi broken-antenna reception and warped VHS tapes. Equal parts WTF and UHF.

Get ready for characters including The Shirtless Painter, Long-Haired Businessmen, and Pigeon Man. They’re aptly named, but for a better sense of what’s in store, here’s a taste of ASMR with Kelly Whispers:

Watch FOD TV every Saturday night during IFC’s regularly scheduled movies.


Wicked Good

See More Evil

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is on Hulu.

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GIFs via Giphy

Okay, so you missed the entire first season of Stan Against Evil. There’s no shame in that, per se. But here’s the thing: Season 2 is just around the corner and you don’t want to lag behind. After all, Season 1 had some critical character development, not to mention countless plot twists, and a breathless finale cliffhanger that’s been begging for resolution since last fall. It also had this:


The good news is that you can catch up right now on Hulu. Phew. But if you aren’t streaming yet, here’s a basic primer…

Willards Mill Is Evil

Stan spent his whole career as sheriff oblivious to the fact that his town has a nasty curse. Mostly because his recently-deceased wife was secretly killing demons and keeping Stan alive.

Demons Really Want To Kill Stan

The curse on Willards Mill stipulates that damned souls must hunt and kill each and every town sheriff, or “constable.” Oh, and these demons are shockingly creative.


They Also Want To Kill Evie

Why? Because Evie’s a sheriff too, and the curse on Willard’s Mill doesn’t have a “one at a time” clause. Bummer, Evie.

Stan and Evie Must Work Together

Beating the curse will take two, baby, but that’s easier said than done because Stan doesn’t always seem to give a damn. Damn!


Beware of Goats

It goes without saying for anyone who’s seen the show: If you know that ancient evil wants to kill you, be wary of anything that has cloven feet.


Season 2 Is Lurking

Scary new things are slouching towards Willards Mill. An impending darkness descending on Stan, Evie and their cohort – eviler evil, more demony demons, and whatnot. And if Stan wants to survive, he’ll have to get even Stanlier.

Stan Against Evil Season 1 is now streaming right now on Hulu.



Reminders that the ’90s were a thing

"The Place We Live" is available for a Jessie Spano-level binge on Comedy Crib.

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GIFs via Giphy

Unless you stopped paying attention to the world at large in 1989, you are of course aware that the ’90s are having their pop cultural second coming. Nobody is more acutely aware of this than Dara Katz and Betsy Kenney, two comedians who met doing improv comedy and have just made their Comedy Crib debut with the hilarious ’90s TV throwback series, The Place We Live.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a fancy network executive you just met in an elevator?

Dara: It’s everything you loved–or loved to hate—from Melrose Place and 90210 but condensed to five minutes, funny (on purpose) and totally absurd.

IFC: How would you describe “The Place We Live” to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Betsy: “Hey Todd, why don’t you have a sip of water. Also, I think you’ll love The Place We Live because everyone has issues…just like you, Todd.”


IFC: When you were living through the ’90s, did you think it was television’s golden age or the pop culture apocalypse?

Betsy: I wasn’t sure I knew what it was, I just knew I loved it!

Dara: Same. Was just happy that my parents let me watch. But looking back, the ’90s honored The Teen. And for that, it’s the golden age of pop culture. 

IFC: Which ’90s shows did you mine for the series, and why?

Betsy: Melrose and 90210 for the most part. If you watch an episode of either of those shows you’ll see they’re a comedic gold mine. In one single episode, they cover serious crimes, drug problems, sex and working in a law firm and/or gallery, all while being young, hot and skinny.

Dara: And almost any series we were watching in the ’90s, Full House, Saved By the Bell, My So Called Life has very similar themes, archetypes and really stupid-intense drama. We took from a lot of places. 


IFC: How would you describe each of the show’s characters in terms of their ’90s TV stereotype?

Dara: Autumn (Sunita Mani) is the femme fatale. Robin (Dara Katz) is the book worm (because she wears glasses). Candace (Betsy Kenney) is Corey’s twin and gives great advice and has really great hair. Corey (Casey Jost) is the boy next door/popular guy. Candace and Corey’s parents decided to live in a car so the gang can live in their house. 
Lee (Jonathan Braylock) is the jock.

IFC: Why do you think the world is ready for this series?

Dara: Because everyone’s feeling major ’90s nostalgia right now, and this is that, on steroids while also being a totally new, silly thing.

Delight in the whole season of The Place We Live right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib. It’ll take you back in all the right ways.