Skullcrawlers, also known as Cranium Reptant, are giant reptilian Kaiju that appeared in the 2017 MonsterVerse film, Kong: Skull Island.
Height : 3.65-28.95 meters
Length : 10-59 meters
Mass : 40-100 tons
Skullcrawlers got their name from their skull-like heads and their crawling locomotions. Their true name is known but unspoken by the natives, and the name "Skullcrawler" was invented by Marlow as he explained their history to Weaver and Conrad.
Skullcrawlers are large reptilian creatures with only two long forelimbs and no hindlimbs, as well as long, prehensile, serpentine tails. They have long and slender, yet muscular, sturdy bodies. Several aspects of their appearance are noticeably skeletal, particularly their torsos and their heads. What appear to be the "eye sockets" of their skull-like heads are merely empty fenestrae: their real eyes are set much further back, with the fenestrae perhaps serving to distract enemies from their more vulnerable eyes and acting as heat-seeking sensory pits. The colors of their scales range from dark brown to dark green to a bone white color.
Their heads closely resemble those of Mosasaurs such as Tylosaurus, and their jaws possess two rows of serrated, razor-sharp teeth. The Skullcrawlers have four digits in total of each hand, with the thumb being the smallest digit and the rest of the digits being larger and of the same size, and a prominent bony spike protrudes out of each of their elbows. The thorny, toothlike structures of their inner mouths somewhat resemble that of a leatherback turtle's. Additionally, they have long, prehensile triple-forked tongues that they can use to grab their prey.
Skullcrawler adolescents are easily distinguishable from adult skullcrawlers. Their heads are smaller, and more sloped than an adult. They also possess a more prominently brown skin tone. Adult skullcrawlers are larger, with most being as big as Kong. Their heads are more defined, larger, and somewhat angled.
The Skullcrawlers were designed to act as the "fallen angels" of Kong's kingdom and represent the darker, bleaker aspects of Skull Island.
The roar of the Skullcrawler is very high in tone, possessing a raspy quality with a hiss and growl mixed in between. According to supervisor sound designer/editor Al Nelson, the Skullcrawler roar was inspired by the pained squeal of a dying rabbit as well as the sounds of sea lions and squirrels. Some of its sounds were recycled from an Indominus rex from the 2015 film, Jurassic World.
Skullcrawlers are subterranean pack-hunting predators with insatiable appetites that are the results of their heightened metabolisms. They are highly aggressive, as well as incredibly persistent in pursuing their prey. They do however show some degree of intelligence, shown when the largest of the Skullcrawlers refuses to devour a grenade-armed Cole and simply swats him away. Adolescent Skullcrawlers appear to be naturally fearless, as two of them teamed up to attack Kong despite being smaller and out-muscled.
The largest of the Skullcrawlers appeared to be more intelligent than the rest of his kind. This was seen when he appeared only once Kong was subdued by Preston Packard. It also seems to have a hint of sadism as he licks Kong's face maliciously after he's been tangled up in a shipwreck's rudder chain during their battle. This large Skullcrawler was also shown to have a deep desire of killing and eating humans, which was shown several times when he diverted his attention from Kong to James Conrad and Mason Weaver, implying that he acts not only from primal instinct but some degree of malice and cruelty. This could also hint that the skullcrawlers are innately malevolent.
Little is known about the origins of this voracious predator, although its evolutionary purpose is abundantly clear. The Skullcrawler exists to devour, destroy, and dominate. Subterranean in nature, burrowing up through the geologically unstable steam vents across Skull Island, it is as though the Skullcrawler climbed up out of Hell itself.
This terrifying serpentine is a hypervore: a creature with such a hyper-adrenalized metabolism that it exists in a constant state of starvation. Just as a shark must keep swimming to survive, the Skullcrawler must keep feeding, dislocating its own jawbone so to maximize its ability to swallow anything that crosses its path. And within that gaping maw exists a long, whiplash tongue, which the creature uses to ensnare and constrict its prey. Its olfactory system can sense hot-blooded life across huge distances. Once it has picked up your scent, the blood in your veins is like blood in the water!
Perhaps most striking is the beast's fearful visage. A chilling, lidless skull-face peers out through translucent flesh, as two dark and lifeless eye sockets regard their prey with cold, unflinching malice. The patterning of its facial features may be indicative of deimatic behavior designed to threaten and terrify its prey.
Given the unreachable depths of their subterranean nesting grounds, we have no way of knowing how big these things get, or the pecking order that governs their tribal feeding patterns.
The more we learn about the cultural history of Skull Island from the indigenous petroglyphs we have discovered, the clearer it becomes that the evolution of the Skullcrawlers has long been interwoven with Kong and his fallen ancestors. If Kong is god of Skull Island, then here comes the Devil!
Kong: Skull Island
A Skullcrawler was first seen feasting on a dead Sker Buffalo by Kong. Kong was about to confront the creature when he was ambushed by a second one from behind. After a quick battle, Kong ends up subduing and killing both Skullcrawlers by stuffing one's head into the ground, breaking its neck, and smashing the other's skull with a devastating stomp.
Another Skullcrawler ambushed Jack Chapman and a Spore Mantis, but went for Chapman and ate him alive while the Spore Mantis managed to escape. The same Skullcrawler then showed up in the boneyard and vomited Chapman's remains. When William Randa attempted to make his camera work, he was devoured by the Skullcrawler, who then tried to attack the group. Randa's camera started to flash inside the predator, which started to aggravate the monster.
The Skullcrawler then started chasing Weaver but the group retaliated using flamethrowers. The creature batted a crew member with its tail onto one of the Kong skulls, causing his backpack to detonate several canisters of toxic gas. The Skullcrawler started to grow relentless, and disturbed a flock of resting Leafwings, which then turned their attention to attacking the group. Conrad managed to kill some of the flying creatures using Hank Marlow's katana. The Skullcrawler then set its eyes on Conrad and Reg Slivko, but Weaver rescued them by tossing Conrad's lighter at one of the subterranean vents, creating an explosion that killed the Skullcrawler on the spot.
The largest of all the Skullcrawlers was awakened due to seismic explosives dropped onto Skull Island along with the rest of his kind, and after Kong was incapacitated by Packard, he let his presence be known by emerging out from the water. Then he attacked the weakened Kong, quickly rendering the ape unconscious before turning his attention to the humans. As he chased Conrad and the other survivors of the research expedition sent to Skull Island, Earl Cole tried to sacrifice himself along with the beast by arming several grenades before having the massive creature try to eat him. However, the monster didn't fall for it, and batted him against a mountainside as the grenades went off, killing him.
As the large Skullcrawler finally reached the rest of the crew in a marsh, Kong appeared in time to stun it with a large boulder, enabling the crew to run to safety. The Skullcrawler then returned his focus to Kong, pouncing on him and gripping his throat with his jaws. Kong and the Skullcrawler continued to brutally wrestle, pummel, and bite each other until the Skullcrawler threw Kong into a shipwreck with his tail, where the ape became entangled in the chains. With Kong subdued in the wreck, the Skullcrawler was about to kill him when he's fired upon by Conrad and his companions. It then returned his focus to the humans and approached them, giving Kong the chance to free himself from the chains.
As he approached the crew once more, the monster's right eye was destroyed by a flare fired by Weaver, and Conrad lured him away from the crew on their boat. This allowed Kong to use and swing the propeller of a wrecked ship at his adversary like a medieval flail, which caught the beast in the shoulder and allowed Kong to pull the the Skullcrawler back toward him and resume their fight. Kong continued to wrestle the creature and threw him into the side of a cliff, causing Weaver to fall into the water below.
As the Skullcrawler continued to attack Kong, the ape uppercut him with the ship's propeller, slicing the monster's throat wide open and seemingly killing him. As Kong saved Weaver from drowning, the Skullcrawler pounced at Kong once more. After coiling his tail around Kong, he wrapped his tongue around the ape's arm, pulling it down his gullet in an attempt to devour Weaver as she's clutched in Kong's hand. After a brief struggle, Kong tore out the creature's internal organs through his mouth, killing him instantly.
Skull Island: The Birth of Kong
The Skullcrawlers' history on Skull Island is revealed in Riccio's visions. Riccio says that the Skullcrawlers attempted to invade Skull Island and waged war against Kong's ancestors. When the Iwi first arrived on Skull Island, the Skullcrawlers had wiped out all but the two strongest apes, which turned out to be Kong's parents.
After the 1973 Monarch expedition, Skullcrawlers still inhabit Skull Island, but their population is controlled by Kong and none of them have grown to the size of the largest Skullcrawler. In another vision, Riccio explained that the Skullcrawlers continued their fight against Kong's parents.
One day, the Skullcrawlers attempted to kill Kong's mother while she was in labor but Kong's father kept them at bay. After Kong was born, his mother hid him in a cave and sealed it with rocks before she rushed to aid her mate. Kong then watched as the Skullcrawlers slaughtered his parents.
Agility and speed
Skullcrawlers can run very quickly despite having only two legs, and their speed matches or surpasses that of an adult human. They can also make quick turns as well.
Being subterranean in nature, Skullcrawlers are capable of using their limbs to burrow deep into the earth.
Durability and stamina
Skullcrawlers are very durable, as they can withstand bullets from rifles and the searing heat of a flamethrower. The largest of the Skullcrawlers was only dazed when Kong slammed his head with a boulder or smashed his face with a tree branch. They have incredible stamina, being able to stay in a full-fledged fight for several minutes even whilst being incredibly injured.
Skullcrawlers are both solitary and pack hunters. One can kill a Sker Buffalo on its own, and they can cooperate to take down more powerful creatures such as Kong.
Much like snakes, the Skullcrawlers' olfactory system allow them to sense hot-blooded lifeforms from miles away.
Prehensile tail and tongue
Skullcrawlers have prehensile tongues that they use to grab and quickly devour small prey, or for gripping large prey in combat. The tail is heavily muscled and extremely powerful, shown when a Skullcrawler lifted and flung Kong like a football across the marsh with his tail. As stated before, the tail is also for wrapping around large prey, possibly to latch onto them for balance or to constrict them.
As the apex predators of Skull Island, Skullcrawlers are fearsome and deadly in battle, using their jaws full of razor-sharp teeth as their primary weapons. They can hold their own against opponents like Kong, able to withstand the blows and pummeling of the ape. Their serpent-like tails are used for swatting or for wrapping around an opponent during combat.
Skullcrawlers possess accelerated metabolism, which causes them to live in constant starvation. This is shown when the largest Skullcrawler ravenously tried to eat Weaver, and refused to let go of Kong's arm. Kong then turned his insatiable appetite against him, tearing out his tongue and other attached organs.
Having only two limbs to walk on, their stance is rather unstable and can easily be toppled.
It is shown that Kong can easily eviscerate Skullcrawlers by yanking out their tongues, which are connected to their internal organs.
The eyes of a Skullcrawler are one of its only weak points, as seen when Weaver destroys one of the larger Skullcrawler's eyes with a flare gun. It is likely that the large eye-like sockets on the front of their faces serve as distractions from their real eyes which are set further back. They may also serve a function as heat-seeking pits.
Mechani-Kong (メカニコング Mekanikongu) is a remote-controlled robot double of King Kong introduced in the 1966 animated television series The King Kong Show and featured again in the 1967 film King Kong Escapes. The robot was created by Dr. Hu (not to be confused with the British television series Doctor Who or its main character) to kill the giant ape King Kong.
Mechani-Kong first appeared in the ninth episode of The King Kong Show (the segment titled "Mechanikong") as one of several monsters in the series used by Dr. Hu to fight Kong.
Mechani-Kong was built by Dr. Hu to dig for Element X, a large core containing a natural abundance of nuclear power. However Mechani-Kong was not strong enough to dig out the element, as the robot's circuits were destroyed by magnetic waves. Dr. Hu then kidnaps the real Kong to dig for the element, placing him in a hypnotic trance. Kong eventually breaks out of his trance and swims to Tokyo, where he and Mechani-Kong fight atop Tokyo Tower. After a long battle, in which both of them nearly fall off the tower, Dr. Hu's associate Madame X rips out the robot's control cords, causing Mechani-Kong to malfunction. The robot falls to its destruction from the top of the tower, mirroring Kong's demise in the original film.
After abandoning a remake of King Kong vs. Godzilla in 1991, Toho attempted to produce a film called Godzilla vs. Mechani-Kong. However, though Toho had created the live-action Mechani-Kong, Turner demanded payment for using King Kong's image. The film was dropped in favor of Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah.
Aside from its great strength, Mechani-Kong possesses a dome on the top of its head which features a flashing light that can be used to blind or hypnotize its foes. Although not as agile as the real Kong, Mechani-Kong possesses greater endurance. It is later modified with attachments on its waist which it uses to carry multiple grenade-like explosives. He can also fire beams from his eyes.
Mechani-Kong inspired the creation of Mechagodzilla for Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla.
Mechani-Kong also inspired the creation of an enemy character named 'Mecha Pong' from Capcom's 1989 arcade game Strider.
Akira Ifukube utilized a reworked version of Mechani-Kong's theme for Mechagodzilla in the Heisei film Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II.
In Godzilla: The Series, a monster appeared called Robot Yeti who is very similar to Mechani-Kong.
In The Grim Adventures Of Billy And Mandy episode "Giant Billy and Mandy All Out Attack" Mandy gets a robot named Mecha-gorillasaur in order to stop a gigantic humanoid fish hero version of Billy.
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.