|Who is it?||Actor|
|First appearance||King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)|
|Created by||Merian C. Cooper|
|Portrayed by||Shoichi Hirose (1962) Haruo Nakajima (1967)|
|Binomial nomenclature||Megaprimatus kong|
|Aliases||The Eighth Wonder of the World|
|Family||Little Kong (1933) Lady Kong (1986) Baby Kong (1986) Deceased parents (2017)|
|Relations||Mechani-Kong (robot replica)|
|Last appearance||King Kong Escapes (1967)|
I was a great believer in constantly changing Kong's height to fit the settings and the illusions. He's different in almost every shot; sometimes he's only 18 feet tall and sometimes 60 feet or larger. This broke every rule that O'Bie and his animators had ever worked with, but I felt confident that if the scenes moved with excitement and beauty, the audience would accept any height that fitted into the scene. For example, if Kong had only been 18 feet high on the top of the Empire State Building, he would have been lost, like a little bug; I constantly juggled the heights of trees and dozens of other things. The one essential thing was to make the audience enthralled with the character of Kong so that they wouldn't notice or care that he was 18 feet high or 40 feet, just as long as he fitted the mystery and excitement of the scenes and action.
Merian C. Cooper became fascinated by gorillas at the age of 6. In 1899, he was given a book from his uncle called Explorations and Adventures in Equatorial Africa. The book (written in 1861), chronicled the adventures of Paul Du Chaillu in Africa and his various encounters with the natives and wildlife there. Cooper became fascinated with the stories involving the gorilla, in particular, Du Chaillu's depiction of a particular gorilla known for its "extraordinary size", that the natives described as "invincible" and the "King of the African Forest". When Du Chaillu and some natives encountered a gorilla later in the book he described it as a "hellish dream creature" that was "half man, half beast". These stories planted the seed of adventure in young Merian's mind.
A man-eating giant gorilla is featured in Henry Rider Haggard's The Holy Flower, a 1915 novel.
When Merian C. Cooper created King Kong, he assumed that he owned the character, which he had conceived in 1929, outright. Cooper maintained that he had only licensed the character to RKO for the initial film and sequel but had otherwise owned his own creation. In 1935, Cooper began to feel something was amiss when he was trying to get a Tarzan vs. King Kong project off the ground for Pioneer Pictures (where he had assumed management of the company). After David O. Selznick suggested the project to Cooper, the flurry of legal activity over using the Kong character that followed—Pioneer had become a completely independent company by this time and access to properties that RKO felt were theirs was no longer automatic—gave Cooper pause as he came to realize that he might not have full control over this product of his own imagination.
Once the film got green-lit and it came time to design King Kong, Cooper wanted him to be a nightmarish gorilla Monster. As he described him in a 1930 memo, "His hands and feet have the size and strength of steam shovels; his girth is that of a steam boiler. This is a Monster with the strength of a hundred men. But more terrifying is the head—a nightmare head with bloodshot eyes and jagged teeth set under a thick mat of hair, a face half-beast half-human". Willis O'Brien created an oil painting depicting the giant gorilla menacing a jungle heroine and hunter for Cooper. However, when it came time for O'Brien and Marcel Delgado to sculpt the animation model, Cooper decided to backpedal on the half-human look for the creature and became Adam Ant that Kong be a gorilla. O'Brien on the other hand, wanted him to be almost human-like to gain audience empathy, and told Delgado to "make that ape almost human". Cooper laughed at the end result saying that it looked like a cross between a monkey and a man with very long hair. For the second model, O'Brien again asked Delgado to add human features but to tone it down somewhat. The end result (which was rejected) was described as looking like a missing link. Disappointed, Cooper stated, "I want Kong to be the fiercest, most brutal, monstrous damned thing that has ever been seen!" On December 22, 1931, Cooper got the dimensions of a bull gorilla from the American Museum of Natural History telling O'Brien, "Now that's what I want!" When the final model was created (one that Cooper ultimately approved of), it had the basic overall look of a gorilla but managed to retain some humanesque qualities, such as a streamlined body and a removed paunch and rump, distinctive aspects of the gorilla's anatomy that Delgado purposefully removed. O'Brien would incorporate some characteristics and nuances of an earlier creature he had created in 1915 for the silent short The Dinosaur and the Missing Link into the general look and personality of Kong, even going as far as to refer to the creature as "Kong's ancestor". When it came time to film, Cooper agreed that Kong should walk upright at times (mostly in the New York sequences) in order to appear more intimidating.
Cooper and his legal team offered up various documents to bolster the case that Cooper owned King Kong and had only licensed the character to RKO for two films, rather than selling him outright. Many people vouched for Cooper's claims including David O. Selznick (who had written a letter to Mr. A. Loewenthal of the Famous Artists Syndicate in Chicago in 1932 stating (in regard to Kong), "The rights of this are owned by Mr. Merian C. Cooper." But Cooper had lost key documents through the years (he discovered these papers were missing after he returned from his World War II military service) such as a key informal yet binding letter from Mr. Ayelsworth (then President of the RKO Studio Corp.) and a formal binding letter from Mr. B. B. Kahane (the current President of RKO Studio Corp.) confirming that Cooper had only licensed the rights to the character for the two RKO pictures and nothing more.
He also stated that the original 1933 look was the inspiration for the design, saying:
In the 1960s, Japanese studio Toho licensed the character from RKO and produced two films that featured the character, King Kong vs Godzilla (1962) and King Kong Escapes (1967). Toho's interpretation differed greatly from the original in size and abilities.
Years later in 1962, Cooper found out that RKO was licensing the character through John Beck to Toho studios in Japan for a film project called King Kong vs. Godzilla. Cooper had assumed his rights were unassailable and was bitterly opposed to the project. In 1963 he filed a lawsuit to enjoin distribution of the movie against John Beck as well as Toho and Universal (the film's U.S. copyright holder). Cooper discovered that RKO had also profited from licensed products featuring the King Kong character such as model kits produced by Aurora Plastics Corporation. Cooper's executive assistant, Charles B FitzSimons, stated that these companies should be negotiating through him and Cooper for such licensed products and not RKO. In a letter to Robert Bendick, Cooper stated:
Cooper issued a reprint of the novelization in 1965 that was published by Bantam Books. Some time later the copyright expired and the publishing rights to the book fell into the public domain. Since then a myriad of publishers have reprinted the novelization numerous times. Blackstone Audio produced an audio recording of the book in 2005 narrated by Stefan Rudnicki, while StarWarp Concepts released an Ebook version complete with 6 new illustrations from pulp-comic Artist Paul Tuma in 2017.
In 1966, Toho planned to produce "Operation Robinson Crusoe: King Kong vs. Ebirah" as a co-production with Rankin/Bass Productions however, Ishirō Honda was unavailable at the time to direct the film and Rankin/Bass backed out of the project, along with the King Kong license. Toho still proceeded with the production, replacing King Kong with Godzilla at the last minute and shot the film as Ebirah, Horror of the Deep. Elements of King Kong's character remained in the film, reflected in Godzilla's uncharacteristic behavior and attraction to the female character Dayo. Toho and Rankin/Bass later negotiated their differences and co-produced King Kong Escapes in 1967, loosely based on Rankin/Bass' animated show.
Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention recorded an instrumental about "King Kong" in 1967 and featured it on the album Uncle Meat. Zappa went on to make many other versions of the song on albums such as Make a Jazz Noise Here, You Can't Do That on Stage Anymore, Vol. 3, Ahead of Their Time, and Beat the Boots.
The Beatles' 1968 animated film Yellow Submarine includes a scene of the characters opening a door to reveal King Kong abducting a woman from her bed.
The Kinks recorded a song called "King Kong" as the B-side to their 1969 "Plastic Man" single.
In 1972, a 550 cm (18 ft) fiberglass statue of King Kong was erected in Birmingham, England.
ABBA recorded "King Kong Song" for their 1974 album Waterloo. Although later singled out by ABBA songwriters Benny Andersson and Björn Ulvaeus as one of their weakest tracks., it was released as a single in 1977 to coincide with the 1976 film playing in theatres.
The second track of The Jimmy Castor Bunch album Supersound from 1975 is titled "King Kong".
DDL (whose rights were limited to only their 1976 remake) did a sequel in 1986 called King Kong Lives (but they still needed Universal's permission to do so). Today most of DDL's film library is owned by Studio Canal, which includes the rights to those two films. The domestic (North American) rights to the 1976 King Kong film still remain with the film's original distributor Paramount Pictures, with Trifecta Entertainment & Media handling television rights to the film via their license with Paramount.
In 1977, a novelization of the 1976 remake of King Kong was published by Ace Books. This novelization was called The Dino De Laurentiis Production of King Kong and was simply the 1976 Lorenzo Semple Jr. script published in book form. The cover was done by Frank Frazetta.
Tiger Electronics released various King Kong games in the early 1980s. These include
Epoch Co. released two LCD games in 1982. One was King Kong: New York, and the other was King Kong: Jungle
Daniel Johnston wrote and recorded a song called "King Kong" on his fifth self-released music cassette, Yip/Jump Music in 1983, rereleased on CD and double LP by Homestead Records in 1988. The song is an a cappella narrative of the original movie's story line. Tom Waits recorded a cover version of the song with various sound effects on the 2004 release, The Late Great Daniel Johnston: Discovered Covered.
The first King Kong attraction was called King Kong Encounter and was a part of the Studio Tour at Universal Studios Hollywood. Based upon the 1976 film King Kong, the tour took the guests in the world of 1976 New York City, where Kong was seen wreaking havoc on the city. It was opened on June 14, 1986 and was destroyed on June 1, 2008 in a major fire. Universal opened a replacement 3D King Kong ride called King Kong: 360 3-D that opened on July 1, 2010, based upon Peter Jackson's 2005 film King Kong.
A second more elaborate ride was constructed at Universal Studios Florida on June 7, 1990, called Kongfrontation. The ride featured a stand-alone extended version of King Kong Encounter and pinned guests escaping on the Roosevelt Island Tramway from Kong who was rampaging across New York City. The ride was closed down on September 8, 2002, and was replaced with Revenge of the Mummy on May 21, 2004.
Toho Studios wanted to remake King Kong vs. Godzilla, which was the most successful of the entire Godzilla series of films, in 1991 to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of the film as well as to celebrate Godzilla's upcoming fortieth anniversary. However they were unable to obtain the rights to use Kong, and inititially intended to use Mechani-Kong as Godzilla's next adversary. But it was soon learned that even using a mechanical creature who resembled Kong would be just as problematic legally and financially for them. As a result, the film became Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, with no further attempts to use Kong in any way.
In 1992, Nintendo produced an educational game called Mario is Missing that features a treasure hunt level involving King Kong in New York City. The character is represented by images of his arm grabbing the Empire State Building in the NES version and a full body statue in the SNES version.
In 1994 Anthony Browne wrote and illustrated a book called Anthony Browne's King Kong. Credited as "From the Story Conceived by Edgar Wallace & Merian C. Cooper", the book was published by the Turner Publishing Company. It was re-released as a paperback in the U.K in 2005 by Picture Corgi.
Filk Music artists Ookla the Mok's "Song of Kong", which explores the reasons why King Kong and Godzilla shouldn't be roommates, appears on their 2001 album Smell No Evil.
Bam! Entertainment released a Game Boy Advance game based on Kong: The Animated Series in 2002.
MGA Entertainment released an electronic handheld King Kong game (packaged with a small figurine) in 2003.
Starting in 2004, artist/writer Joe Devito began working with the Merian C. Cooper estate to write and/or illustrate various books based on the King Kong character. The first of these was an origin story labeled as an authorized sequel/prequel to the 1932 novelization of King Kong called Kong: King of Skull Island. This illustrated hardcover novel was published in 2004 by DH Press and featured a story Devito co-wrote with Brad Strickland and John Michlig. It also included an introduction by Ray Harryhausen. A large-paperback edition was then released in 2005, with extra pages at the end of the book. As well, a CD audiobook narrated by Joey D'Auria was released by RadioArchives, and an interactive two-part app was released in 2011 and 2013 respectively by Copyright 1957 LLC. In 2005, DeVito and Strickland co-wrote another book together called Merian C. Cooper's King Kong for the Merian C. Cooper Estate. This book was published by St. Martin's Press. It was a full rewrite of the original 1932 novelization, which updates the language and paleontology and adds five new chapters. Some additional elements and characters tie into Kong: King of Skull Island enabling the two separate books to form a continuous storyline. In 2013, the first of two books featuring crossovers with pulp heroes was published. To coincide with the 80th anniversary of both King Kong and Doc Savage, Altus Press published Doc Savage: Skull Island in both softcover and hardcover editions. This officially sanctioned book was written by Will Murray and based on concepts by DeVito. In 2016, Altus Press published the other crossover book, this time featuring a meeting between King Kong and Tarzan. The novel, called King Kong vs. Tarzan, was once again written by Will Murray and featured artwork by Devito. In 2018, a new book featuring another origin story written and illustrated by Devito was released called King Kong of Skull Island.
In 2005, Ubisoft released 2 video games based on the film King Kong. Peter Jackson's King Kong: The Official Game of the Movie was released on all video game platforms, while Kong: The 8th Wonder of the World was released for the Game Boy Advance. Also to tie into the film, Gameloft released King Kong: The Official Mobile Game of the Movie for mobile phones, while Radio Shack released a miniature pinball game.
Taiyo Elec Co released a King Kong Pachinko game in 2007.
In mid-2012, it was announced that a musical adaptation of the story (endorsed by Merian C. Cooper's estate) was going to be staged in Melbourne at the Regent Theatre. The show premiered on June 15, 2013, with music by Marius De Vries. The huge King Kong puppet was created by Global Creature Technology.
The controversial World War II Dutch resistance fighter Christiaan Lindemans — eventually arrested on suspicion of having betrayed secrets to the Nazis — was nicknamed "King Kong" due to his being exceptionally tall.
On May 6, 2015, Universal Orlando announced that a new King Kong attraction titled Skull Island: Reign of Kong will open at Islands of Adventure in the summer of 2016, making it the first King Kong themed ride in Orlando since Kongfrontation closed down 14 years earlier at Universal Studios Florida. It officially opened on July 13, 2016.
King Kong has been featured in various online casino games. NYX Gaming developed a King Kong online video slot casino game in 2016. In 2017, Ainsworth Game Technology developed 2 licensed King Kong casino games. King Kong and Kong of Skull Island, while in 2018, NExtGen Gaming released a game called King Kong Fury.
The musical will appear on Broadway starting in the fall of 2018.