Monday, March 06, 2006

Twas High Winds and Poor Construction that Killed the Beast

The year was 1983 and King Kong was set for a comeback. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the big ape picture, Robert Keith & Company of San Diego created a ten-story inflatable Kong. The balloon weighed 3,000 pounds and stood 84 feet tall.

That means he was 30 feet taller than Kong was in the film.

The much hyped stunt was designed to promote an RCA video disc. RCA video disc's were the main rivals to the LaserDisk format. This format was also known as SelectaVision. It wasn't that successful, but it did produce the "first movie distributed for home viewing systems in the widescreen format.

That flick was a 1973 Italian picture called Amarcord and featured a scene where a woman killed a teenage boy by smothering him with her large boobs.

Sadly, that release was not as hyped as King Kong. It would have been fascinating to see a giant pair of boobs hanging over New York City.

Anyway, the giant King Kong balloon was going to be displayed from April 7-15 1983. In fact, they had talked about keeping it up longer if possible.

So on April 7th, six workers tried to inflate Kong.

They couldn't.

They tried again and again but could not get things to work out.

On April 9th the workers spent a windy and rainy evening trying to inflate him but a gust of wind made a 4 foot tear across his neck. So, they tied him to to the building and called it a night.

On the 10th they worked on repairing him and finally got King Kong up and inflated by April 13th.

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He did look cool, but the whole thing had become a bit of an embarrassing joke at this point.

Still, he was up and inflated, the SelectaVision video disc was selling like... uh... a popular SelectaVision title usually sold.

Plus visitors to the Empire State Building were able to view a selection of memorabilia from the film.

Finally, things were going well for King Kong.

The next day, April 14th another 100 mph gust of wind tore a FIFTEEN FOOT hole in Kong. He flapped around like a garbage bag for two days and then they took him down.

In the end, King Kong was on the building AND inflated for just ONE day.


  1. I don't know what became of balloon Kong, but I did find the following in an old New York Times article:

    Ruth Sarfaty, a spokesman for the project, said the 84-foot balloon might be put on display for at least one day next weekend on a site closer to the ground. Among the places being considered, she said, were the base of the Empire State Building on 34th Street, a sixthfloor setback of the building, or the Great Lawn or Belvedere Castle in Central Park.

  2. Anonymous3/06/2006

    I saw this movie. If watching people in shabby gorilla suits pretending to be gorillas and failing miserably, while bad actors chew abysmal dialog in a ludicrous plot is your thing, then this is the movie for you. Me? I'll take "Jurassic Park" over this crap any day of the week. Life is too short to waste on moronic drivel like this. I could never tire of this movie, I’ve seen it so many times and always watch it when it's on tv-in fact I watched it just a week ago! It's one of those films that is rewatchable countless times, like many other 'monster' movies. But this is the best 'monster' movie, it is so well made-it is a masterpiece. Everything is right-the effects, the photography, the score, pacing, continuity. My favourite part would be the big middle chunk on the island. Ann captured-natives dance-a sacrifice to kong-rescue mission-defeat of stegasoraus-swamp adventure-swamp escape-log catastrophe-trex battle-snake creature fight-pterodactyl disposal-rescue/escape-kong wrecks village-gas bomb. There is almost no let up in the action in this sequence.

    I have seen two versions of the film though. One is a juvenile movie that's not to be taken seriously, and that it should be enjoyed as the preposterous silly movie that it is. They might have a point if "Congo" was actually watchable. To get to those moments of juvenile glee you have to sit through hours (well, its only minutes but it seems like hours) of dull, lifeless set-up... or you can just fast forward to the funny stuff. That does not a good movie make, that's just a few worthwhile moments of comedy in a bad movie, the other wasn't.

    Watch this garbage at your own risk. This is the final movie in trilogy, and certainly doesn't disappoint like some other trilogies *coughMatrixcough*. The three films had their principal shooting all done at the same time, which lowers their overall costs and keeps a good sense of continuity for the films.

    Overall, this is a movie well worth watching, and even paying to see in a theatre. I'd recommend against bringing small children, as there are some scary images, and they'd also be a distraction during the final movie in what will probably remain the series of the decade. Not a particularly great date movie, either...this is a real, bring-your-friends big movie. Five out of five decapitated orcs (and trust me, there were a lot more than that).

  3. Sweetie, how did you find out about this in the first place? I don't know how you keep track of all this stuff you write about.

  4. Fair question, Mark, here is the serious answer:

    CRAIG (who has his own blog at mentioned seeing a picture of a Kong balloon on the Empire State Building in a newly published book on Kong. I was intrigued and started seaching for photos on the internet. Then I found a site that claimed that "a mouse chewed a hole in Kong, ruining the balloon."

    So, I checked that story out with the New York Times online (it turns out to be false.) However, the Times had over a dozen articles about the problems with the balloon.

    Then, I constructed a timeline, tried not to plagurize, made up a couple of jokes and biggety bam, theres the article.

    Bottom line is, I had never heard of the balloon before yesterday and now you, me and everyone else who reads this page has a good enough understanding to sound like a trivia master next time the subject of King Kong comes up at a bar.

  5. Well, there goes my theory that Sweetie is really a time traveling android. I was really hoping he could get me a copy of Amarcord.

  6. Anonymous3/07/2006

    Being trapped under a giant deflating King Kong balloon is my new biggest fear. It used to be giant bear balloons, but that bear that posted really opened my eyes. I'm in counseling now.

  7. Who knew that an off-hand comment would inspire you to produce such a great post. Thanks for doing the heavy lifting!