Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Original Kong Armatures #1 & #2 - A Technical Inquiry

If you did not know, back in 2009, Peter Jackson (movie director) acquired an original 1933 King Kong metal skeletal armature, at a Christie's Auction. It is now in his private collection. Most everyone is familiar with the Bob Burns (collector, cinema historian) as the custodian of the other original Kong armature #2. Kong armature #1 was somewhat underground & remained hidden, but many years later it made a reappearance, and in 2009, Christie's offered it as an auction piece and that is when Peter Jackson purchased armature #1.

In 2016,  Adam Savage ('Tested' Youtube channel), visited Peter Jackson's 'Collection Cave' at his New Zealand home.When I first saw Adam's video, it has always bothered me that someone altered or mis-positioned the PJ Kong Armature Torso/Chest block section. PJ's Kong armature chest block is backwards, and for a Gorilla, that is not anatomically correct. Both LEFT & RIGHT Kong ARMS are attached to the Chest Block which should be on the FRONT of the upper armature section. Adam Savage's video interview will be included here. Pay attention to the the armature upper shoulder area.

At the Christie's Auction, the Kong armature was correctly posed & displayed with the chest block in the front forward position.

However, afterwards, when Peter Jackson has the armature in his possession, we see this. Peter Jackson and Bob Burns displaying their Kong armatures.

When Peter and Bob met, they laid both armatures on a flat surface, side by side.

Historical Note: KONG Armature #1 (Long Face), was the FIRST armature made and used for the Log & Sailor encounter scenes, the infamous Kong vs T-Rex battle, and also the distant shot of Kong climbing the Empire State Building. Kong #1 might also have been used in other shots. KONG Armature #2 (Round Face) was the SECOND armature made. Kong puppet #2 was used in various scenes such as the Kong & Anne Darrow first encounter, also the final scene at the top of Empire State building. Armature #1 was larger (22 inches / 55.8cm) than Armature #2 (19.5 inches / 49.5cm). After all  the rubber & fur taxidermy is done, covering the armatures, then when both puppets are posed & positioned in the hunched over gorilla stance ... the final puppets appeared to be approximately 18 inches (45.7cm) overall size. Gorilla's do not have a straight posture stance like a human.

In the photo below this is a close-up of the Bob Burns armature with the chest block in front, in the forward position, which is correct!

My theory is ... when Peter Jackson purchased the Kong Armature, it was delivered / shipped to him at his New Zealand residence. I am speculating that perhaps the New Zealand 'Customs', first inspected the armature shipment and perhaps the customs agents handling the Kong armature, twisted and wrongly positioned the armature upper section with the chest block facing backwards.When Peter received the 'inspected' shipping box with the Kong armature inside, and then he opened & unpacked it, and then perhaps, Peter was not aware of the error that the armature chest block was backwards and left it as it is. An imaginative possible scenario? 😁

Take a look at this, from the Adam Savage video.

Here is Adam Savage's interview in 2016, talking with Peter Jackson about the King Kong armature. If needed, you can play back key parts of the video in slow motion!

One more piece of evidence for you. Look at a real Gorilla's skeletal anatomy. Observe the Side View ... the upper shoulder collar bone / clavicle. Those bones are in a forward protruded position (front of neck). A gorilla walks hunched over ... called Knuckle Walking and basically, mostly walks on four limbs. So apparently, Willis O'Brien and/or Marcel Delgado designed both armatures with some degree of anatomical accuracy.

It is now the year 2023 and I have no knowledge if Peter Jackson is aware of this technical armature detail. Personally, I think it is important and why my 'lone voice in the wilderness', is calling attention to this for Cinema Historical accuracy! 
Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury ... I rest my case!


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