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Behold King Kong: The Eighth Wonder of the World

4 Minute Read
Apr 4 2024

Not many Kaiju have had a chance to rampage through New York City multiple times. But King Kong is just special like that.

In a few universes, kaiju-style monsters demolish various cities around the world, sometimes as revenge for humanity’s own hubris and sometimes in our defense. “King of the Beasts” and “Eighth Wonder of the World,” King Kong has been one of the most famous since he first debuted in 1933.

1933’s King Kong

1993’s King Kong follows a filmmaker named Carl Denham, prospective actress Ann Darrow, and first mate Jack Driscoll (Bruce Cabot) to the mysterious Skull Island. There they see a number of still-living dinosaurs and the gigantic gorilla-like beast, King Kong. Kong immediately takes an interest in Ann and carries her off, rampaging whenever she manages to get away or another creature attacks her.

Denham decides that bringing gigantic creatures from an island mostly populated by dinosaurs back to New York City would be a great idea. Much to everyone’s surprise, the flash photography at Kong’s Broadway premiere triggers a rampage, culminating with Kong climbing the Empire State Building with a terrified Ann in hand. The movie ends when biplanes shoot Kong down, killing him.

“No, it wasn’t airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast.”

– Carl Denham, completely oblivious to the real lesson of the movie; that wild animal isn’t your friend and you’re not going to domesticate it, leave it be, King Kong

At the time, King Kong was made with the use of groundbreaking special effects. The dinosaurs were brought to life with stop-motion animation—the fight between Kong and the tyrannosaurus alone took seven weeks to complete. Backdrops for the island were matte painted on glass while parts of the jungle were created in miniature.

In order to combine different kinds of effects like interactions between these creatures and humans, animaters expose part of the frame and then run the same piece of film through the camera again to expose the other part. Another technique involved using different colored light to filter and photograph desired images into the black and white film. Other scenes used rear-screen projection to combine live-action actors with stop-motion creatures.

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When Kong Met Godzilla; 1962’s “King Kong v. Godzilla”

In 1962 two of the world’s most iconic kaiju met in King Kong v. Godzilla. Directed by Ishiro Honda, it was the third movie in both monster franchises and features a battle between the two monsters on Mount Fuji.

This movie was originally conceptualized by Willis O’Brien, the animator of the original stop-motion Kong as King Kong Meets Frankenstein, which would have Kong sizing up against—you guessed it—Frankenstein in San Francisco. But when he told producer John Beck about the project, Beck took it to Japanese Studio Toho behind O’Brien’s back. There, it went through some major retooling.


A Complete History of King Kong Movies

There have been ten movies that featured King Kong, plus four television shows.


  • King Kong (1933)
  • Son of Kong (1933)
  • King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962)
  • King Kong Escapes (1967)
  • King Kong (1976)
  • King Kong Lives (1986)
  • King Kong (2005)
  • Kong: Skull Island (2017)
  • Godzilla vs. Kong (2021)
  • Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire (2004)


  • The King Kong Show (1966)
  • Kong: The Animated Series (2000)
  • Kong: King of the Apes (2016)
  • Skull Island (2023)

King Kong also appears in the final chapter of the ongoing Apple TV series Monarch: Legacy of Monsters. Finally, there is a live-action series exploring the origin of Kong currently in development for Disney+.

Peter Jackson’s 2005 Remake

Way back in 1995, Universal Pictures approached Peter Jackson to direct a remake of the original 1933 King Kong. But between other similar movies coming out at the time, and Jackson’s commitment to making The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Kong production stalled until 2003.


By and large, many of the story beats are the same. Skull Island is visited under the guise of a film production, and Kong is brought back to New York City before going on a rampage through the city. Ann is a slightly more fleshed-out character, and some aspects are updated, while others are kept classic.

Perhaps the biggest difference with this, and many other more recent takes on Kong, is the development of special effects over the last century. Instead of stop motion and matte paintings on glass, 2005’s King Kong featured motion capture and computer graphics. Jackson also spent a lot of time working with and observing gorillas at the London Zoo and Rwanda to make sure he captured the behaviors and actions of real gorillas… and giant gorilla-like monsters.

via Warner Bros.

How Big is King Kong?

Kong’s size has evolved over time. In the original 1933 film, he was envisioned to be between 40 and 50 feet tall, but many of the models and sets built scaled him closer to between 18 and 24 feet tall.

By the 2017 Kong: Skull Island, Kong was scaled to stand at 104 feet tall. And then by 2021’s Godzilla vs. Kong he is a whopping 337 feet tall.

Where Did King Kong Come From?

Kong’s origins vary from film to film. But he is often the last remaining member of a species of giant, prehistoric Megaprimatus Kong apes. He lives in relative seclusion on Skull Island with a variety of other prehistoric creatures, including dinosaurs.

Happy adventuring!


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