King Kong kit review

Kit #VHO 50
Size: 1/35 scale; just a hair above 8 inches tall
Price: $64.99
Out of production and very rare

Kit Review by Alan Nadel

This review originally appeared at PCModeler.com

   Watch the original 1933 version of King Kong and you'll see a film with special effects that seem quaint compared to today's CGI animation. What sets this classic apart from other "effects films" however, is writing and direction that set the standard for action-adventure movies to come and an 18 inch tall stop-motion puppet with acting skills exceeding those of his human co-stars.
   I've been a big fan of the movie since I first saw it on TV in the 1960s. Sadly, while there have been several King Kong model kits produced over the years, none of them really looked like the big guy. The classic Aurora kit is the first to come to mind, at left. Even in the best of recent figure kits, Kong's appearance is so stylized that all resemblance to the Eighth Wonder of the World is lost.
Click on the above image to view
the full instruction booklet
   In the 1990s, garage kit makers GEOmetric Design and Max Factory Custom Craft worked together to produce a licensed model kit of King Kong. Thanks to the wonderful sculpting of Izume Takabe, GD/MFCC produced a kit that faithfully depicts the mighty ape.

   This nicely packaged kit is made up of nineteen dark gray vinyl parts, six of which are optional. The instructions include an assembly diagram with building tips and a basic painting guide all contained in a nice glossy "collector's booklet." The booklet also has several pages of King Kong trivia and behind the scenes photos provided by the mighty Bob Burns.

   Detail on the kit is exceptional. The face is an excellent likeness of a roaring Kong and the proportions look just right. The fur is nicely represented although both of the upper arm pieces (parts 4 and 5) lack the crisp fur detail of the rest of the kit. This is visible in the image on the right.

   Kong is well engineered and easy to work with. The hard vinyl softened nicely under hot tap water and excess vinyl was easily removed with a hobby knife. Parts are numbered and clearly marked "L" and "R". The warm parts popped together firmly and easily at the joints which are all circular to allow rotation. These joints include the neck, waist, hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists and ankles. What one winds up with is an eight inch tall, fully articulated figure.

   The kit comes with what the instructions call the "Fay Wray option." This includes a manacled right hand and a figure of Ms. Wray as Ann Darrow dressed for the New York scenes. The four piece figure, which measures three inches when assembled is nicely executed. The body is in two parts, separated at the knee along with separate arms which attach at the shoulders. Once again, detail is excellent including the face, hair, gown and delicate little hands.

    Warning: Nerd rant ahead!

   At the kit's listed 1/35 scale, however, the three inch Fay scales out to nearly nine feet tall! According to Wikipedia, Fay Wray was five feet, three inches tall, making the figure scale out to 1/21 scale. But that would make the eight inch tall Kong figure scale out to fourteen feet in height. According to the book The Making of King Kong by Orville Goldner and George E. Turner, the miniature sets used in the movie's Skull Island scenes were scaled to make Kong appear 18 feet tall which would make the kit 1/27 scale. The New York miniatures were built to make the Kong puppet appear 30 feet tall which roughs out to 1/45 scale. Either way, Ann Darrow winds up being seven or eleven feet tall, respectively. (I knew Bruce Cabot was wearing lifts!)

   I decided to leave the Fay Wray option out and instead posed Kong with arms raised in a menacing gesture using super glue to fix the figure into position. A 1/35 scale military figure (2 inches tall) was modified to resemble a running sailor and placed alongside Kong for comparison. At that scale, Kong works out to about 23 feet tall, an acceptable compromise.

   Puttying and blending the seams was a challenge because of the kit's furry texture but with a little patience and a pointy object, I was able to blend in the seams at the joints. I used epoxy putty with a 4-hour cure time for maximum workability. My sculpting tool would be a 3/8 inch wood dowel sharpened to a point using a pencil sharpener. Extra putty was needed at the backs of the hip joints to hide what looked like "panty lines." Ambitious modelers may want to sculpt extra fur detail onto the backs of the hands and to re-texture the upper arms.
   Painting Kong was simple enough. The instructions recommend "rabbit fur brown" because the stop-motion Kong puppet was covered with real rabbit fur. Since the movie was in black and white, I took some liberty with the colors and chose to use a darker brown for the fur and flesh. I wanted Kong's coloring to more closely resemble that of an actual gorilla.

   A base coat of 1:1 flat brown and flat black Tamiya acrylic was sprayed on with a Badger 250 mini spray gun. Lighter mixes of brown were then dry-brushed on over-all and finally a mix of brown, white and yellow was dry-brushed on to add highlights to the fur. Kong's face is large enough to make painting his eyes and mouth easy.

   When finished, I had spent about nine hours on Kong: one hour building, five hours filling and texturing seams and three hours painting. The finished model looks just like the real Kong, even down to the dramatic facial expression. The kit is easy enough for modelers new to vinyl figure kits and because it's poseable, it can be placed in any scene or setting.

   Special thanks to Sharon L. for hunting down and finding this kit and for putting up with my occasional single minded obsession with whatever it is I happen to be obsessing about at the moment.

Pros: Excellent likeness, easy to build, poseable

Cons: Fay Wray figure out of scale, detail on forearms softer than rest of the kit 

Worse than that: this kit was discontinued long ago!



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