KING KONG (RKO 1933) is unquestionably the greatest "big monster" movie ever made. The combination of fast-paced, perilous adventure, romance, dinosaur battles, and the Eighth Wonder of the World himself, KING KONG ruled the movie houses.
The most amazing thing about the picture, however, was that all the scenes showing Kong's full body as well as the dinosaurs were done in stop-motion animation. Lost in the avalanche of today's computer-generated imagery (CGI), stop-motion was the early method that was used for animating objects that would have been too difficult to otherwise portray on film.
Everyone knows the stunning achievements made in stop-motion by Ray Harryhausen. His movies featuring "Dynamation" were filled with exciting scenes of everything from sword-wielding skeletons to cyclopean giants. But, decades before Harryhausen was a group of animators led by Willis O'Brien that were thrilling moviegoers with their pioneering camera techniques. Their art culminated in the RKO feature film, KING KONG and it smashed the box office just like Kong broke down the gate on Skull Island.
Pictured here is a rare photo from Willis O'Brien's KING KONG scrapbook sold at auction on July 30, 2012, for $2,000. "Obie" as he was affectionately called, was the special effects supervisor and had an important role in bringing sculptor Marcel Delgado's model of Kong to life. The combination worked and the film became a sensation.
The photo below is how it appeared in the scrapbook. The reverse tells, in O'Brien's own hand, the picture is depicting the scene where Kong is climbing up the Empire State Building. The straight edge was used to match the composite shot of the building. The title photo above shows a vertical shot of Kong as he would have looked in the film.