Friends, there have been multiple times on this site as well as the Pop Culture Retrorama and Saturday Frights podcasts, where I have shared my love for stop motion animation. That really is all thanks to watching the 1933 version of King Kong when I was around five years old – staying up late to catch it on the local Saturday night monster movie. While I was incredibly moved by Boris Karloff’s performance as the Monster in 1931’s Frankenstein – I was absolutely devastated by the death of Kong by the end of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s picture. Although having said that, I was comforted a little when my Father explained how Kong was created – brought to life through stop motion animation. It would be quite a few years later when I learned that it was Willis O’Brien who was the stop motion animator who brought Kong to life.
Growing up watching the “Animagic” animated holiday specials from Rankin and Bass like 1970’s Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town, my desire to become a stop-motion animator continued to grow. The biggest hurdle to that dream however was access to the proper equipment, although as you will see in the video below that did not stop me from attempting a stop-motion short. I had to use a VCR deck attached to the video camera with a remote – I learned that if you recorded for two seconds, after hitting the pause button the VCR would back up one second… most of the time.
As pathetic as “Gorp/Ed vs. The Critters” might be as an example of a claymation short (forewarning of my writing and podcasts to come) – it did earn me an award from the local cable access channel. I would continue to dabble in stop motion over the years but fate eventually took me down another career path. My love of stop motion animation though has never wavered, buoyed by big screen offerings such as The Nightmare Before Christmas, Coraline, and Fantastic Mr. Fox to name a few.
The stop motion animation of the late and great David Allen and his studio is one of the reasons I was so impressed by the first few Puppet Master films from Full Moon Pictures. But Allen had worked on more than a few notable movies before that particular 1989 picture – just a few include The Howling, Q, Twilight Zone: The Movie, Young Sherlock Holmes, and *batteries not included.
David Allen also worked on television commercials, case in point this 1972 Volkswagen King Kong ad – one that apparently only aired once as the company wasn’t too keen on seeing a giant ape driving their vehicles. In addition, there are rumors that the beginning of this commercial was actually test footage by Allen for an abandoned King Kong remake by Hammer Films – this was of course before Dino De Laurentiis produced the 1976 version starring Jeff Bridges and Jessica Lange.
In closing out this article I have one last bit of trivia for you, supposedly the young woman in the King Kong commercial is none other than granddaughter of Fay Wray, the original Ann Darrow in 1933’s King Kong.