Today in History... King Kong has its world premiere in New York

The name of "Kong" was how the inhabitants of Skull Island knew him, but today King Kong is recognised as one of the most iconic characters ever to grace a cinema screen.

Possibly inspired by Sun Wukong, the Monkey King from Chinese mythology, RKO's 1933 publicity materials described Kong as a "a prehistoric type of ape."

Unlike the Kong envisioned by director Peter Jackson in his 2005 remake - which was much like a real gorilla - the 1930s Kong had a vaguely humanoid appearance and upright anthropomorphic walk.

He also varies in size drastically throughout the film. While creator and director Merian C Cooper envisioned Kong as being, "40-50 feet tall," animator Willis O'Brien and his crew scaled Kong to be only 18 feet tall on Skull Island, and rescaled him to 24 feet tall in the famous New York scenes.

The 56cm animatronic skeleton used by Willis
O'Brien and his team, auctioned for £121,250

To counter this, Cooper used camera angles to play around with Kong's size, making him appear as tall as 60 feet in some shots.

Overall, Kong's movement was filmed using three miniature metal skeletons, or armatures. The largest of these sold at Christie's in London, last year.

The incredibly complex mini construction is made from steel and alloys with various ball and socket joints enabling the character's movement, including joints in its fingers.

And the pint-sized giant's actual height? Fifty-six centimetres. It was snapped up by an anonymous bidder for £121,250.

Also featured in the auction was designer Natalie Visart's original watercolour sketch for the dress worn by actress Faye Wray as her character, Anne Darrow. It sold for £12,500.


Image: Christie's

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