Godzilla vs. Kong is the newest iteration of the Monsterverse (see article, page 30) with a special effects legacy that dates back to 1933. That’s when the original black-and-white movie of King Kong debuted to stunned audiences. Even today, it ranks as one of the greatest monster/horror features of all time. It displayed the genius of special effects pioneer Willis O’Brien who was able to blend stop-action animation with live action, revolutionary at the time.
For a while, many people believed Kong was a stuntman in a gorilla suit, but Kong was, in fact, 18- to 24-inch models with rabbit fur, metal skeletons and joints. The film also used rear projections for certain special effects sequences. The filmmakers built a giant hand that was raised in the air by a crane. There was also a 20-foot head constructed with three men inside operating levers to enable Kong’s facial expressions for closeups.
The 1954 original Godzilla did have a man in a 200-pound suit for special effects creator Eiji Tsuburaya. The team built highly-detailed miniature buildings and sets that Godzilla could stomp through. Director Ishiro Honda also dialed down the action since slow motion gave the monster a more realistic feel. Hand puppets were used as inserts for close-up action on Godzilla’s face.
The original King Kong and Godzilla movies seem quaint by today’s standards. Little did these creatures know at the time that they would meet in 2021 with the help of hundreds of VFX and SFX artists from around the globe.