The Evolution of King Kong: From Stop-Motion Monster to Computer-Generated Giant

     March 10, 2017


Director Jordan Vogt-Roberts is about to bring one of the biggest Kongs ever to the screen in Kong: Skull Island … and I mean that literally. In the history of King Kong, only one mega gorilla ranks bigger in terms of height. And yet it’s not size alone that has shaped the legacy of the iconic movie monster that first graced screens nearly 85 years ago. Kong has transcended a world war, the atomic age, and the end of a millennium. He’s been formed from clay, molded into a rubber suit, and rendered into 1s and 0s. Kong has battled dinosaurs, biplanes, giant robots, and almost Frankenstein, as well as Godzilla, which he’ll get the chance to do again before too long.

But not all of Kong’s cinematic outings have been golden; far from it. He’s been featured in sequels, remakes, and spin-offs, as well as a wealth of parodies, satires, and outright imitations. The more popular Kong became, the more his likeness appeared in cartoons, comics, and all sorts of merchandise. But that’s not our focus today, so if you were hoping for an in-depth breakdown of Mighty Joe Young or The King Kong Show, I’m sorry to disappoint you.


Image via Legendary Entertainment, Warner Bros.

What we will be talking about, however, are the changes that came to King Kong over the years in order to see how the character went from the creation of Merian C. Cooper‘s nature journal-inspired imagination, to the revolutionary stop-motion animated character brought to life by Willis O’Brien and Buzz Gibson, to the modern versions made more expressive than ever thanks to digital effects and filmmakers like Peter Jackson and Vogt-Roberts. King Kong has gone through some very bizarre transformations and has gone up against some truly laughable combatants over the decades to get us to this point, so let’s get into it! (A big thanks to Inverse for providing some insight into Kong’s height over the years.)

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