Megalon (メガロ, Megaro) is a fictional daikaiju featured in the 1973 Japanese tokusatsu film Godzilla vs. Megalon, the 13th Godzilla film produced by Toho. A cockroach/beetle-like arthropod, Megalon is the primary antagonist of the film. Godzilla vs. Megalon is one of the most popular and frequently criticized of Godzilla films, and Megalon himself plays no small part in that. Despite this, the character has remained a fixture of the popular imagination.
Concealed in the depths of the great lands of Seatopia, a living god sleeps. Laying in slumber within his sculpted frame, an untapped power that is unequalled coleuses. Revered as the symbol of Seatopia's Kingdom, the giant was worshipped daily. But the prayers in his name were never as strong as when the people of the undersea city challenged war against the surface dwellers. Calling and pleading with the creature, they shouted for revenge on the lands of Japan. For their ignorance, the human race will die, and their blood would run in great torrents in flashing rivers. Screaming for their savior, the god awoke and shrieked into the sacred lands. Then, in a blinding act of speed, took to the air, and began his ascension to the surface. It did not take the insect beetle long to tunnel through the layers of rocky strata, and soon he made his presence felt. Attacking with unrelenting fury, tanks, jets, and men met their fates. All being crushed at the burning standards of the rampaging creature.
The road of mankind's survival looked grim, until the intervention of a robot. Originally captured and controlled to lure Megalon to his targets, Jet Jaguar gained freedom. Striping the bonds of his Seatopian controllers, through the help of his creator, the robot grew to a massive size and prepared to battle. Assaulting the armored creature with a fury of punches and kicks, it seemed that the light at the end of the tunnel would be realized. But more tricks were yet to be revealed. Seeing that trouble could arise from their strayed robot, the king of Seatopia quickly sent word to the colony of Nebula Space Hunter M for Gigan. Adding in their struggle, the cyborg arrived on Earth and changed the tide of battle. Double-teaming the hapless Jet Jaguar, the demonic duo was about to literally shred that humanoid machine to pieces, when Godzilla arrived on the scene. Beckoned by the man made machine earlier, the leviathan turned the battle once again and for the final time. Alarmed and fearful, Gigan retreated to space, leaving his ally at the mercy of the terrestrial heroes. Bashing the god a bit more, Megalon finally was given a breather in which he took the opportunity to flee. Diving back beneath the ground, heading back to Seatopia where he has since stayed at bay.
Shinji Takagi (Godzilla), Kenpachiro Satsuma (Gigan), Tsugutoshi Komada (Jet Jaguar) and Hideto Odachi (Megalon) rehearse their fight scenes in a school's gymnasium.
Godzilla Vs. Megalon was originally planned as a non-Godzilla film, a solo vehicle for Jet Jaguar, which was the result of a contest Toho had for children in mid-to-late 1972. The winner of the contest was an elementary school student, who submitted the drawing of a robot called Red Arone, which superficially resembled both Ultraman and Mazinger Z. The robot was renamed Jet Jaguar and was set to star in Jet Jaguar vs. Megalon, which pitted him against Megalon. However, after doing some screen tests and storyboards, Toho figured Jet Jaguar would not be able to carry the film on his own, either in screen appearance or marketing value, so they shut the project down during pre-production. Nearly a month later, producer Tomoyuki Tanaka called in screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa to revise the script to add Godzilla and Gigan. To make up for lost production time, the film was shot in a hasty three weeks. The production time totaled at nearly six months, from planning to finish.
According to Teruyoshi Nakano, the Godzilla suit made for this film (known as the Megaro-Goji) was made in a week, the fastest featured Godzilla suit ever made to date. Godzilla was portrayed by stunt actor Shinji Takagi.
There are three notable deleted scenes. A scene towards the end of the film in which Antonio ponders aloud if sending Megalon to destroy the world above is really any different from what the people above are doing with atomic testing. Another is a roughly minute-long "conversation" between Gigan and Megalon that consists of quirky gestures and bodily movements. One that can be seen in the Japanese trailer has Jet Jaguar blinding Megalon with his flashlight eyes right before Megalon starts to kick at him while Gigan holds him down.
There are, interestingly, no major female characters in the movie, making this the only Godzilla film without a female lead.
Toho's popular kaiju character Anguirus appears in some stock footage from Destroy All Monsters and in two newly-filmed scenes on Monster Island. In the second new scene, Anguirus appears largely as he did in the previous film, Godzilla vs. Gigan. The first brief scene of Anguirus shows the monster without his fangs. This modification would carry over into his last appearance the next year in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.
Varan (バラン Baran) is a kaiju that first appeared in Varan the Unbelievable (1958). Physically, Varan resembles a giant reptile with skin membranes between his arms and legs, allowing him to glide much like a flying dragon or flying squirrel; he also has a horned head.
Appearance and abilities
Eiji Tsuburaya and Akira Watanabe based Varan's design on that of a Draco lizard, Godzilla, and a kappa. The name Varan is derived from Varanus pater, or "Father of lizards." In his film appearances Varan does not have any special abilities such as fiery or radioactive breath. He can however glide at speeds of Mach 1.5, and has a row of spines along his body which may afford protection.
Varan the Unbelievable
Destroy All Monsters (Cameo)
Godzilla Final Wars (Stock Footage)
In his first appearance, Varan is a monster that lives in a saltwater lake within the Kunishiroshima valley, where he is known to the natives as Baradagi-Sanjin. He kills an expedition duo and then completely destroys a nearby village. After his home is invaded again, the monster proceeds to attack Tokyo and is seemingly unstoppable until he is tricked by the military into eating bombs. After a few detonate in his stomach, Varan is mortally wounded and escapes back into the ocean, but one final bomb explodes, apparently killing the creature.
Years later, Varan reappears in Destroy All Monsters living in Monsterland with many other monsters including Godzilla, Mothra, Kumonga/Speiga, Anguirus, Baragon, Minilla, Rodan, Gorosaurus,and Manda. Varan is seen, however only in publicity photographs for the film, gliding in to join the other Earth monsters to fight against King Ghidorah, even though he does not actually take part in the fight. After King Ghidorah is killed, Varan, along with the other monsters return to Monsterland. Within the context of the film itself he is only seen gliding through the air prior to the fight against Ghidorah, and in the last scene as a static model rather than as a suit.
Varan makes a semi-cameo in Godzilla: Final Wars using stock footage from Varan the Unbelievable during the narrative at the beginning, claiming that Varan was one of many monsters that arose due to the devastation that the World Wars brought, along with Gezora, Baragon, Gaira, Titanosaurus, and Megaguirus.
In one of the early drafts of what would become Godzilla vs. Gigan, Varan was to have joined Godzilla and Rodan in defending the Earth against King Ghidorah, Gigan, and a new monster that had never been seen before with the name Mogu. Shusuke Kaneko, director of the popular Heisei Gamera trilogy had originally considered Varan, along with Anguirus to star in Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack as antagonists to Godzilla. Varan and Anguirus were however replaced with the far more popular Mothra and King Ghidorah. The suit designer compromised by giving some of Varan's facial features to King Ghidorah.
Godzilla: Monster of Monsters (1988) Nintendo
Monster King Godzilla (1993) Game Boy
Godzilla: Unleashed (2007) Wii
Godzilla Trading Battles (1998) PS1
Varan was considered for Godzilla: Save the Earth, but was scrapped at some point.
Varan made his first playable video game appearance in the Wii version of Godzilla: Unleashed as an Earth Defender. He is given the ability to fire a sonic beam and a concentrated sonic energy ball. He has a gliding ability that works much like Rodan's flying, he can be unlocked by destroying the three purple objects on the Vortaak mothership while playing as an Alien. Varan himself appeared purple in Godzilla: Monster of Monsters.
Few figures of Varan have been issued compared to other kaiju. Bullmark released the first Varan vinyl toy in 1970. Bandai has only issued Varan in gashapon form as part of High Grade series 6, in promotion for the film Godzilla 2000. Y-MSF has also released a figure on the 6" scale in 2005. Other companies, such as CCP, Marmit, Trendmasters, and the modern version of Marusan have also released Varan figures.
Guiron is a Kaiju that appeared as the main antagonist in the fifth original Gamera movie, Gamera vs. Guiron, (Known statewise as "Attack of the Monsters"). Due to the lack of distinction in Japanese between the "l" and "r" sounds, Guiron is actually named after the guillotine.
Guiron is an alien monster that normaly walks on all fours, but can also stand on two legs when the situation requires. It is an unusual looking creature, with tough gray skin, a small mouth, sleepy looking eyes and a low, groaning bellow. The most unusual feature of this beast's anatomy, however, is the gigantic blade that it sports on its head, which is nearly as long as its body.
Guiron is mostly a melee oriented kaiju. Almost all of his abilities revolve around the massive blade he sports on his forehead. It is strong enough to reflect a blast from a Space Gaos and cut Gameras shell. When he can't use his blade Guiron resorts to his secondary attack. A pair of four shurikens stored in two circular indents in the blade. Guiron can guide these shuriken using telepathic waves. They were sharp enough to cut right through Gameras arms.
Guiron acted as the guard dog of two brain-eating space women, the last of a dead civilization on the planet Terra. The aliens guided him with a mind control device. Guiron proved his combat prowess by effortlessly defeating a Gyaos, reflecting its sonic cutter beam and literally slicing it to pieces with his blade. Guiron later fought Gamera, and nearly killed him as well. After a long fight, Gamera eventually managed to defeat the knife headed beast by flipping him upside down - his blade stuck in the earth - then igniting a missile that had gotten stuck in his circular indents, blowing his head off and killing him.
Gamera vs. Guiron
Gamera vs. Guiron (ガメラ対大悪獣ギロン Gamera Tai Daiakujū Giron, Gamera vs. Devil Monster Guiron, released in the U.S. as Attack of the Monsters), is a 1969 kaiju ("monster") genre film, the fifth entry in the original Gamera series.
While scanning the skies through their telescope, two young boys, Akio and Tom, spy a spaceship descending into a nearby field. Stunned, bewildered, and bemused, they tell Akio's mother what they have seen, but she dismisses their story as childish nonsense. The next day, the two boys—with Akio's younger sister, Tomoko, in tow—bicycle to the site to investigate. Enthralled, Akio and Tom manage to steal into the spaceship. But then, without warning, the ship takes off, leaving Tomoko behind. It soars into outer space...toward a field of asteroids, which sends the boys into panic. However, Gamera (obviously aware of the boys' plight) appears and clears a path for the ship through the asteroids. The spaceship, flying near the speed of light, leaves Gamera behind and transports the boys to an unknown planet, where it lands on the outskirts of an alien city. Suddenly, a silver "Space" Gyaos appears, menacing the ship and the two young boys. Just before the creature attacks, a second, bizarre monster—whose head resembles a knife—emerges from an underground lair and attacks the Space Gyaos. After a violent battle, the knife-headed monster kills the Gyaos by chopping it into pieces.
Akio and Tom explore a portion of the alien city and meet the planet's only inhabitants: two beautiful women, named Barbella and Florbella, who explain that their planet, known as "Terra," orbits the sun directly opposite the earth, which is why it has never been discovered by earth's astronomers. Furthermore, Terra is facing extinction; not only is the planet growing old—and cold—the Space Gyaos race has targeted it for occupation. The knife-headed monster, which the Terrans call "Guiron," is their last defense against the Space Gyaos.
Barbella and Florbella suddenly turn on Tom and Akio and put them into restraints. Using their super-technological devices, the alien women probe the boys' minds, in the process learning about Gamera—who, they discover (again via stock footage), has a terminal soft spot for human children and is hurtling toward Terra on a rescue mission. The Terran women turn out to be cannibals and plan to feed on the boys' brains. In preparation to extract his brain for their nourishment, the women shave Akio's head. Now, however, Gamera lands on Terra in search of the boys. The women deploy Guiron to attack the giant turtle, and after a brief battle, Guiron renders Gamera helpless, sending it into a lake...unconscious and on its back.
Tom manages to free Akio, but, in the process, unintentionally releases Guiron. Out from under the aliens' control, Guiron rampages through the Terran city—even attacking its masters as they attempt to flee to Earth. The knife-headed creature slices the spacecraft in half, mortally injuring Barbella...who then dies at the hands of her own companion. Guiron attacks the base where the boys are imprisoned, but Gamera awakes and renews its assault on the alien creature. Gamera finally rams Guiron's head into the ground, and, using a missile launcher they have retrieved, the boys fire a missile at Guiron, slicing it in half and killing Florbella. Gamera uses its flame energy to weld the alien spacecraft back together, so that Akio and Tom can use it to return to earth.
King Kong is a fictional character, a giant movie monster resembling a colossal gorilla, that has appeared in several movies since 1933. These include the groundbreaking 1933 movie, the film remakes of 1976 and 2005, as well as various sequels of the first two films. The character has become one of the world's most famous movie icons and, as such, has transcended the medium, appearing or being parodied in other works outside of films, such as a cartoon series, books, comics, various merchandise and paraphernalia, video games, theme park rides, and even an upcoming stage play. His role in the different narratives varies, ranging from a rampaging monster to a tragic antihero. The rights to the character are currently held by Universal Studios, with limited rights held by the estate of Merian C. Cooper, and perhaps certain rights in the public domain.
The King Kong character was conceived and created by U.S. filmmaker Merian C. Cooper. In the original film, the character's name is Kong, a name given to him by the inhabitants of "Skull Island" in the Pacific Ocean, where Kong lives along with other over-sized animals such as a plesiosaur, pterosaurs, and dinosaurs. An American film crew, led by Carl Denham, captures Kong and takes him to New York City to be exhibited as the "Eighth Wonder of the World".
Kong escapes and climbs the Empire State Building (the World Trade Center in the 1976 remake) as Denham comments, "It was beauty that killed the beast," for he climbs the building in the first place only in an attempt to protect Ann Darrow, an actress originally offered up to Kong as a sacrifice (in the 1976 remake, the character is named Dwan).
A mockumentary about Skull Island that appears on the DVD for the 2005 remake (but originally seen on the Sci-Fi Channel at the time of its theatrical release) gives Kong's scientific name as Megaprimatus kong, and states that his species may have evolved from Gigantopithecus.
King Kong (1933) – The original film is remembered for its pioneering special effects using stop motion models, and evocative story.
The Son of Kong (1933) – A sequel released the same year, it concerns a return expedition to Skull Island that discovers Kong's son. The critics' response to the film was generally mixed, but it was successful.
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962) – A film produced by Toho Studios in Japan, it brought the titular characters to life via detailed rubber and fur costumes, and presented both characters for the first time in color. The Toho version of Kong is much larger than the one in the original film. This is more than likely because of a significant difference in size between the 1933 King Kong and Godzilla (and, for that matter, all of the company's giant monsters), with Kong automatically rescaled to fit Toho's existing miniature sets.
King Kong Escapes (1967) – Another Toho film (co-produced with Rankin/Bass) in which King Kong faces both a mechanical double, dubbed Mechani-Kong, and a giant theropod dinosaur known as Gorosaurus (who would appear in Toho's Destroy All Monsters the next year). This movie was loosely based on the contemporaneous cartoon television program, as indicated by the use of its recurring villain, Dr. Who/Dr. Huu, in the same capacity, Mechani-Kong as an enemy, Mondo Island as Kong's home and a female character named Susan.
King Kong (1976) – An updated remake by film producer Dino De Laurentiis, released by Paramount Pictures, and director John Guillermin. Jessica Lange, Jeff Bridges and Charles Grodin starred. The film received mixed reviews, but it was a commercial success, and its reputation has improved over the last few years. It was co-winner of an Oscar for special effects (shared with Logan's Run).
King Kong Lives (1986) – Released by De Laurentiis Entertainment Group (DEG). Starring Linda Hamilton, a sequel by the same producer and director as the 1976 film which involves Kong surviving his fall from the sky and requiring a coronary operation. It includes a female member of Kong's species, who, after supplying a blood transfusion that enables the life-saving surgery, escapes and mates with Kong, becoming pregnant with his offspring. Trashed by critics, this was a box-office failure.
King Kong (2005) – A Universal Pictures remake of the original (set in the original film's 1933 contemporary setting) by Academy award-winning New Zealand director Peter Jackson, best known for directing the Lord of the Rings film trilogy. The most recent incarnation of Kong is also the longest, running three hours and eight minutes. Winner of three Academy Awards for visual effects, sound mixing, and sound editing. It received positive reviews and became a box office success.
The literary tradition of a remote and isolated jungle populated by natives and prehistoric animals was rooted in the "Lost World" genre, specifically Arthur Conan Doyle's 1912 novel The Lost World, which was itself made into a silent film of that title in 1925 that Doyle lived long enough to see. The special effects of that film were created by Willis O'Brien, who went on to do those for the 1933 King Kong. Another important book in that literary genre is Edgar Rice Burroughs' 1918 novel The Land That Time Forgot .
A novelization of the original King Kong film was published in December 1932 as part of the film's advance marketing. The novel was credited to Edgar Wallace and Merian C. Cooper, although it was in fact written by Delos W. Lovelace. Apparently, however, Cooper was the key creative influence, saying that he got the initial idea after he had a dream that a giant gorilla was terrorizing New York City. In an interview, comic book author Joe DeVito explains:
"From what I know, Edgar Wallace, a famous writer of the time, died very early in the process. Little if anything of his ever appeared in the final story, but his name was retained for its saleability ... King Kong was Cooper's creation, a fantasy manifestation of his real life adventures. As many have mentioned before, Cooper was Carl Denham. His actual exploits rival anything Indiana Jones ever did in the movies."
This conclusion about Wallace's contribution agrees with The Making of King Kong, by Orville Goldner and George E. Turner (1975). Wallace died of pneumonia complicated by diabetes on February 10, 1932, and Cooper later said, "Actually, Edgar Wallace didn't write any of Kong, not one bloody word...I'd promised him credit and so I gave it to him" (p. 59). However, in the October 28, 1933, issue of Cinema Weekly, the short story "King Kong" by Edgar Wallace and Draycott Montagu Dell (1888–1940) was published. The short story appears in Peter Haining's Movie Monsters (1988) published by Severn House in the UK. Dell was a journalist and wrote books for children, such as the 1934 story and puzzle book Stand and Deliver. He was a co-worker and close friend of Edgar Wallace.
Several differences exist in the novel from the completed film, as it reflects an earlier draft of the script that became the final shooting script. The novelization includes scenes from the screenplay that were cut from the completed movie, or were never shot altogether. These include the spider pit sequence, as well as a Styracosaurus attack, and Kong battling three Triceratops. It also does not feature the character of Charlie, the ship's Chinese cook, but instead a different one named Lumpy, subsequently used in both the 1991 comic book version and the 2005 big-screen remake.
The original publisher was Grosset & Dunlap. Paperback editions by Bantam (U.S.) and Corgi (U.K.) came out in the 1960s, and it has since been republished by Penguin and Random House.
In 1933, Mystery Magazine published a King Kong serial under the byline of Walter F. Ripperger. This is unrelated to the 1932 novel. The story was serialized into two parts that were published in the February 1933 and March 1933 issues of the magazine. As well, that fall King Kong was serialized in the pulp magazine Boys Magazine.
Over the decades, there have been numerous comic book adaptations of the 1933 King Kong by various comic-book publishers, and one of the 2005 remake by Dark Horse Comics.
Kong: King of Skull Island, an illustrated novel labeled as an authorized sequel to King Kong (1933), was published in 2004 by DH Press, a subsidiary of Dark Horse Comics. A large-paperback edition was released in 2005. Authorized by the family and estate of Merian C. Cooper, the book was created and illustrated by Joe DeVito, written by Brad Strickland with John Michlig, and includes an introduction by Ray Harryhausen. The novel's story ignores the existence of Son of Kong (1933) and continues the story of Skull Island with Carl Denham and Jack Driscoll in the late 1950s, through the novel's central character, Vincent Denham. (Ann Darrow does not appear, but is mentioned several times.) The novel also becomes a prequel that reveals the story of the early history of Kong, of Skull Island, and of the natives of the island. The book's official website claims a motion picture version is in development.
The novelization of the 2005 movie was written by Christopher Golden, based on the screenplay by Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, and Peter Jackson, which was, of course, in turn based on the original story by Merian C. Cooper & Edgar Wallace. (The Island of the Skull, a "prequel" novel to the 2005 movie, was released at nearly the same time.) In November 2005, to coincide with the release of the 2005 movie, Weta Workshop released a collection of concept art from the film entitled The World of Kong: A Natural History of Skull Island. While similar collections of production art have been released in the past to complement other movies, The World of Kong is unusual — if not unique — in that it is written and designed to resemble and read like an actual nature guide and historical record, not a movie book.
Also in 2005, Ibooks, Inc published Kong Reborn by Russell Blackford. Ignoring all films except the 1933 original, it is set in the present day. Carl Denham's grandson finds some genetic material from the original Kong and attempts to clone him. Late in 2005, the BBC and Hollywood trade papers reported that a 3-D stereoscopic version of the 2005 film was being created from the animation files, and live actors digitally enhanced for 3-D display. This may be just an elaborate 3-D short for Universal Studios Theme Park, or a digital 3-D version for general release in the future.
To coincide with the 80th anniversary of both characters, Altus Press announced on January 29, 2013, that King Kong would meet pulp hero Doc Savage in a new, officially sanctioned book written by Will Murray and artist Joe DeVito, who will also do the cover artwork. Set in 1920, shortly after returning from military service during World War One, Doc Savage searches for his long-long grandfather, the legendary mariner Stormalong Savage, with his father, the explorer-scientist Professor Clark Savage, Sr., that ultimately leads father and son to the mysterious Skull Island and its prehistoric denizens, including King Kong. Doc Savage: Skull Island is slated to be released in March 2013.
Appearances and abilities
In his first appearance in King Kong (1933), Kong was a gigantic prehistoric ape, or as RKO's publicity materials described him, "A prehistoric type of ape." While gorilla-like in appearance, he had a vaguely humanoid look and at times walked upright in an anthropomorphic manner. Indeed, Carl Denham describes him as being "neither beast nor man". Like most simians, Kong possess semi-human intelligence and great physical strength. Kong's size changes drastically throughout the course of the film. While creator Merian C. Cooper envisioned Kong as being "40 to 50 feet tall", animator Willis O'Brien and his crew built the models and sets scaling Kong to be only 18 feet tall on Skull Island, and rescaled to be 24 feet tall in New York. This did not stop Cooper from playing around with Kong's size as he directed the special effect sequences; by manipulating the sizes of the miniatures and the camera angles, he made Kong appear a lot larger than O'Brien wanted, even as large as 60 feet in some scenes. Concurrently, the Kong bust made for the film was built in scale with a 40-foot ape, while the full sized hand of Kong was built in scale with a 70 foot ape. Meanwhile, RKO's promotional materials listed Kong's official height as 50 feet.
In the 1960s, Toho licensed the character from RKO for the films King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong Escapes. For more details on the Toho Kong see below.
In 1975, Producer Dino De Laurentiis paid RKO for the remake rights to King Kong. This resulted in King Kong (1976). This Kong was an upright walking anthropomorphic ape, appearing even more human-like than the original. Also like the original, this Kong had semi-human intelligence and vast strength. In the 1976 film, Kong was scaled to be 42 feet tall on Skull island and rescaled to be 55 feet tall in New York. 10 years later, DDL received permission from Universal to do a sequel, King Kong Lives. Kong more or less had the same appearance and abilities, only he tended to walk on his knuckles more often and was enlarged, being scaled to be 60 feet.
Universal Studios had planned to do a King Kong remake as far back as 1976. They finally followed through almost 30 years later, with a three-hour film directed by Peter Jackson. Jackson opted to make Kong a gigantic silverback gorilla without any anthropomorphic features. Kong looked and behaved more like a real gorilla: he had a large herbivore's belly, walked on his knuckles without any upright posture, and even beat his chest with his palms as opposed to clenched fists. In order to ground his Kong in realism, Jackson and the Weta Digital crew gave a name to his fictitious species, Megaprimatus kong, which was said to have evolved from the Gigantopithecus. Kong was the last of his kind. He was portrayed in the film as being quite old with graying fur, and battle-worn with scars, wounds, and a crooked jaw from his many fights against rival creatures. He is the most dominant being on the island; the king of his world. Like his predecessors, he possesses considerable intelligence and great physical strength; he also appears far more nimble and agile. This Kong was scaled to be only 25 feet tall on both Skull Island and in New York.
Jackson describes his central character: “We assumed that Kong is the last surviving member of his species. He had a mother and a father and maybe brothers and sisters, but they’re dead. He’s the last of the huge gorillas that live on Skull Island, and the last one when he goes...there will be no more. He’s a very lonely creature, absolutely solitary. It must be one of the loneliest existences you could ever possibly imagine. Every day, he has to battle for his survival against very formidable dinosaurs on the island, and it’s not easy for him. He’s carrying the scars of many former encounters with dinosaurs. I’m imagining he’s probably 100 to 120 years old by the time our story begins. And he has never felt a single bit of empathy for another living creature in his long life; it has been a brutal life that he’s lived.”
Origin of the name
Merian C. Cooper was very fond of strong hard sounding words that started with the letter "K". Some of his favorite words were Komodo, Kodiak and Kodak. When Cooper was envisioning his giant terror gorilla idea, he wanted to capture a real gorilla from the Congo and have it fight a real Komodo Dragon on Komodo Island. (This scenario would eventually evolve into Kong's battle with the Tyrannosaur on Skull Island when the film was produced a few years later at RKO). Cooper's friend Douglas Burden's trip to the island of Komodo and his encounter with the Komodo Dragons there was a big influence on the Kong story. Cooper was fascinated by Burdens adventures as chronicled in his book Dragon Lizards of Komodo where he referred to the animal as the "King of Komodo". It was this phrase along with Komodo and C(K)ongo (and his overall love for hard sounding K words) that gave him the idea to name the giant ape Kong. He loved the name as it had a "mystery sound" to it.
When Cooper got to RKO and wrote the first draft of the story, it was simply referred to as The Beast. RKO executives were unimpressed with the bland title. David O. Selznick suggested Jungle Beast as the film's new title, but Cooper was unimpressed and wanted to name the film after the main character. He stated he liked the "mystery word" aspect of Kong's name and that the film should carry "the name of the leading mysterious, romantic, savage creature of the story" such as with Dracula and Frankenstein. RKO sent a memo to Cooper suggesting the titles Kong: King of Beasts, Kong: The Jungle King, and Kong: The Jungle Beast, which combined his and Selznick's proposed titles. As time went on, Cooper would eventually name the story simply Kong while Ruth Rose was writing the final version of the screenplay. Because David O Selznick thought that audiences would think that the film, with the one word title of Kong, would be mistaken as a docudrama like Grass and Chang, which were one-word titled films that Cooper had earlier produced, he added the "King" to Kong's name to differentiate. RKO filed the copyright for the name King Kong on February 24 1933.
While one of the most famous movie icons in history, King Kong's intellectual property status has been questioned since his creation, featuring in numerous allegations and court battles. The rights to the character have always been split up with no single exclusive rights holder. Different parties have also contested that various aspects are public domain material and therefore ineligible for trademark or copyright status.
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 having 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 the figment of his own imagination.
Years later in 1962, Cooper had 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 films 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 Cooper wrote to Robert Bendick he stated:
"My hassle is about King Kong. I created the character long before I came to RKO and have always believed I retained subsequent picture rights and other rights. I sold to RKO the right to make the one original picture King Kong and also, later, Son of Kong, but that was all."
Cooper and his legal team offered up various documents to bolster the case that Cooper had owned King Kong and 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 regards to Kong), "The rights of this are owned by Mr. Merian C. Cooper." But unfortunately Cooper had lost key documents through the years (he discovered these papers missing after he returned from his WW2 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.
Unfortunately without these letters it seemed Cooper's rights were relegated to the Lovelace novelization that he had copyrighted (He was able to make a deal for a Bantam Books paperback reprint and a Gold Key comic adaptation of the novel, but that was all he could do). Cooper's lawyer had received a letter from John Beck's lawyer, Gordon E Youngman, that stated:
"For the sake of the record, I wish to state that I am not in negotiation with you or Mr. Cooper or anyone else to define Mr. Cooper's rights in respect of King Kong. His rights are well defined, and they are non-existent, except for certain limited publication rights."
In a letter addressed to Douglas Burden, Cooper lamented:
"It seems my hassle over King Kong is destined to be a protracted one. They'd make me sorry I ever invented the beast, if I weren't so fond of him! Makes me feel like Macbeth: 'Bloody instructions which being taught return to plague the inventor'."
The rights over the character didn't flare up again until 1975, when Universal Studios and Dino De Laurentiis were fighting over who would be able to do a King Kong remake for release the following year. De Laurentiis came up with $200,000 to buy the remake rights from RKO. When Universal got wind of this, they filed a lawsuit against RKO claiming that they had a verbal agreement from them in regards to the remake. During the legal battles that followed, which eventually included RKO countersuing Universal, as well as De Laurentiis filing a lawsuit claiming interference, Colonel Richard Cooper (Merian's son and now head of the Cooper estate) jumped into the fray.
During the battles, Universal discovered that the copyright of the Lovelace novelization had expired without renewal, thus making the King Kong story a public domain one. Universal argued that they should be able to make a movie based on the novel without infringing on anyone's copyright because the characters in the story were in the public domain within the context of the public domain story. Richard Cooper then filed a cross-claim against RKO claiming while the publishing rights to the novel had not been renewed, his estate still had control over the plot/story of King Kong.
In a four-day bench trial in Los Angeles, Judge Manuel Real made the final decision and gave his verdict on November 24, 1976, affirming that the King Kong novelization and serialization were indeed in the public domain, and Universal could make its movie as long as it didn't infringe on original elements in the 1933 RKO film, which had not passed into public domain. (Universal postponed their plans to film a King Kong movie, called The Legend of King Kong, for at least 18 months, after cutting a deal with Dino De Laurentiis that included a percentage of box office profits from his remake.)
However, on December 6, 1976, Judge Real made a subsequent ruling, which held that all the rights in the name, character, and story of King Kong (outside of the original film and its sequel) belonged to Merian C Cooper's estate. This ruling, which became known as the "Cooper Judgment", expressly stated that it wouldn't change the previous ruling that publishing rights of the novel and serialization were in the public domain. It was a huge victory that affirmed the position Merian C. Cooper had maintained for years. Shortly thereafter, Richard Cooper sold all his rights (excluding worldwide book and periodical publishing rights) to Universal in December 1976. In 1980 Judge Real dismissed the claims that were brought forth by RKO and Universal four years earlier and reinstated the Cooper judgement.
In 1982 Universal filed a lawsuit against Nintendo, which had created an impish ape character called Donkey Kong in 1981 and was reaping huge profits over the video game machines. Universal claimed that Nintendo was infringing on its copyright because Donkey Kong was a blatant rip-off of King Kong. During the court battle and subsequent appeal, the courts ruled that Universal did not have exclusive trademark rights to the King Kong character. The courts ruled that trademark was not among the rights Cooper had sold to Universal, indicating that "Cooper plainly did not obtain any trademark rights in his judgment against RKO, since the California district court specifically found that King Kong had no secondary meaning." While they had a majority of the rights, they didn't outright own the King Kong name and character. The courts ruling noted that the name, title, and character of Kong no longer signified a single source of origin. The courts also pointed out that Kong rights were held by three parties:
RKO owned the rights to the original film and its sequel.
The Dino De Laurentiis company (DDL) owned the rights to the 1976 remake.
Richard Cooper owned worldwide book and periodical publishing rights.
The judge then ruled that:
"Universal thus owns only those rights in the King Kong name and character that RKO, Cooper, or DDL do not own."
The court of appeals would also note:
"First, Universal knew that it did not have trademark rights to King Kong, yet it proceeded to broadly assert such rights anyway. This amounted to a wanton and reckless disregard of Nintendo's rights. Second, Universal did not stop after it asserted its rights to Nintendo. It embarked on a deliberate, systematic campaign to coerce all of Nintendo's third party licensees to either stop marketing Donkey Kong products or pay Universal royalties. Finally, Universal's conduct amounted to an abuse of judicial process, and in that sense caused a longer harm to the public as a whole. Depending on the commercial results, Universal alternatively argued to the courts, first, that King Kong was a part of the public domain, and then second, that King Kong was not part of the public domain, and that Universal possessed exclusive trademark rights in it. Universal's assertions in court were based not on any good faith belief in their truth, but on the mistaken belief that it could use the courts to turn a profit."
Because Universal misrepresented their degree of ownership of King Kong (claiming they had exclusive trademark rights when they knew they didn't) and tried to have it both ways in court regarding the "public domain" claims, the courts ruled that Universal acted in bad faith (see Universal City Studios, Inc. v. Nintendo Co., Ltd.). They were ordered to pay fines and all of Nintendo's legal bills from the lawsuit. That, along with the fact that the courts ruled that there was simply no likelihood of people confusing Donkey Kong with King Kong, caused Universal to lose the case and the subsequent appeal.
Since the court case, Universal still retains the majority of the character rights. In 1986 they opened a King Kong ride called King Kong Encounter at their Universal Studios Tour theme park in Hollywood (which was destroyed in 2008 by a backlot fire), and followed it up with the Kongfrontation ride at their Orlando park in 1990 (which was closed down in 2002 due to maintenance issues). They also finally made a King Kong film of their own, King Kong (2005). In the summer of 2010, Universal opened a new 3D King Kong ride called King Kong: 360 3-D at their Hollywood park replacing the destroyed King Kong Encounter. In 2012, Universal will open another King Kong ride, a King Kong-themed dueling roller coaster at Universal Studios Dubailand.
The Cooper estate retains publishing rights for the content they claim. In 1990 they licensed a six-issue comic book adaptation of the story to Monster Comics, and commissioned an illustrated novel in 1994 called Anthony Browne's King Kong. In 2004 and 2005, they commissioned a new novelization to be written by Joe Devito called Merian C Cooper's King Kong to replace the original Lovelace novelization (the original novelization's publishing rights are still in the public domain) and Kong: King of Skull Island, a prequel/sequel novel that ties into the original story. They are working on an upcoming musical stage play due out in 2013 called King Kong Live on Stage with Global Creatures, the company behind the Walking with Dinosaurs arena show.
RKO (whose rights consisted of only the original film and its sequel) had its film library acquired by Ted Turner in 1986 via his company Turner Entertainment. Turner merged his company into Time Warner in 1995, which is how they own the rights to those two films today.
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 King Kong though, still remain with the film's original distributor Paramount Pictures, with Trifecta Entertainment & Media handling television rights to the film via their licence with Paramount.
King Kong (Toho)
The Toho rendition of the original Hollywood version appeared in Toho Studios' successful film King Kong vs. Godzilla, and later in King Kong Escapes. This Kong differed greatly from the original in size and abilities.
Among kaiju, King Kong was suggested to be among the most powerful in terms of raw physical force, possessing strength and durability that rivaled that of Godzilla. As one of the few mammal-based kaiju, Kong's most distinctive feature was his intelligence. He demonstrated the ability to learn and adapt to an opponent's fighting style, identify and exploit weaknesses in an enemy, and utilize his environment to stage ambushes and traps.
In King Kong vs. Godzilla (1962), Kong was scaled to be 45 meters (147 feet) tall. Like most kaiju, Kong was given a power weapon: he possessed the ability to become stronger by drawing power from electric energy. When fully charged, Kaiju Kong could direct this power against an opponent by means of an electric touch attack.
In King Kong Escapes (1967), a stand-alone movie loosely based on the animated television series The King Kong Show, Kong was scaled to be 20 meters (65 feet) tall. He was more similar to the original Kong in that he had no special powers beyond his great strength and intelligence.
Unlike the Hollywood version, this Kong did not reside on Skull Island. In the first film he lived on Faro Island, while in the second film he lived on Mondo Island.
The King Kong (from King Kong vs Godzilla) was originally set to return in a 1966 Toho project called Operation Robinson Crusoe: King Kong vs Ebirah to be co-produced with the Arthur Rankin Jr.-Jules Bass Production Company. However, Arthur Rankin, Jr. rejected the script as not being close enough to his cartoon series The King Kong Show, on which the project was to have been based. Toho and Rankin/Bass would then co-produce King Kong Escapes in 1967 instead, which was more in line with Rankin's cartoon. Instead of throwing out the King Kong vs Ebirah script, Toho simply replaced Kong with Godzilla and filmed it as Godzilla vs The Sea Monster instead, with almost no change to the script. This explains why Godzilla displays uncharacteristic behavior in the film, such as drawing strength from electricity and showing interest in the film's female protagonist, elements that had been originally written for King Kong.
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. However 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.
The King Kong Show (1966). In this cartoon series, the giant gorilla befriends the Bond family, with whom he goes on various adventures, fighting monsters, robots, mad scientists and other threats. Produced by Rankin/Bass, the animation was provided in Japan by Toei Animation, making this the very first anime series to be commissioned right out of Japan by an American company. This was also the cartoon that resulted in the production of Toho's Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster (originally planned as a Kong film) and King Kong Escapes.
Kong: The Animated Series (2001). An animated production set many decades after the events of the original film. "Kong" is cloned by a female scientist. This show, coming a few years after the release of Centropolis' Godzilla: the Series repeated at least two of the monsters (although with vastly different backgrounds) seen in the Godzilla series.
A direct-to-DVD movie called Kong: King of Atlantis, based on the 2001 series, was released to try and cash in on the 2005 movie. Both the series and the movie were then included in Toon Disney's "Jetix" group for a time, also to take advantage of the 2005 movie's release. A year later, a follow up direct-to-DVD film was released called Kong: Return to the Jungle.
The King Kong suit from King Kong Escapes appeared on Ike! Greenman episode 38 called Greenman vs Gorilla. Due to copyright reasons King Kong's name was changed to Gorilla.