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King Kong (Illustrated)

King Kong
by yo go re

Is this a toy from an alternate reality?

NECA has made plenty of "big monster" figures over the years, in both their Pacific Rim and Godzilla lines, but now they're doing the original American kaiju [Paul Bunyan? --ed.] No, King Kong! Allow us to quote Joe Bigelow's 1933 review for Variety:

"Kong surpasses anything of its type which has gone before it in commercial film-making. [sic] The work has many flaws, but they're overcome by the general results. The errors will probably be overlooked. [...] While not believing it, audiences will wonder how it's done. If they wonder they'll talk, and that talk plus the curiosity the advertising should incite ought to draw business all over. Kong mystifies as well as it horrifies, and may open up a new medium for scaring babies via the screen."

Good prediction, Bige!

NECA's first release of the eighth wonder of the world came out at the end of last year, and while I did see it (the dull brown packaging did it no favors in that regard), I passed because it didn't feel that different from Mezco's King Kong: calm and screaming head, open and closed hands... NECA wasn't even giving us broken chains or a kidnappee, so why bother? This new release does something better, however.

NECA calls this the "Illustrated" edition, with paints apps meant to reflect the classic poster illustration. We say it looks like he just finished doing one of those "Color Runs" where you do a 5K race and people throw powdered dyes at you. The base of the body is still a dark shade, but it's then painted with various blues and pinks and yellow-oranges in large, blocky sections. It's rather like the 8-bit Dog Alien from several years back, with the warm and cool colors being used to create stylized highlights and shadows on all the different bodyparts.

Kyle Windrix's sculpt remains unchanged, of course: the point is to reuse the molds, not spend money on new ones. Clearly my thought that this looked similar to Mezco's Kong was the delusion of a deeply addled brain, because they're entirely unalike. This is more like the classic movie Kong, with proportions that are closer to human than gorilla, and fur that's short and smooth, yet still highly detailed. The fur is a little thicker on his back than on his front, and his palms and the soles of his feet are bare. The heads have heavy brows over the extremely deep-set eyes, tiny ears on the sides, and nostrils that almost point up instead of out. The teeth are detailed really well inside the mouth, though it's funny that the ones in the calm head are smaller than the ones in the angry head.

Kong's articulation is as good as we expect from NECA: balljointed head, swivel/hinge shoulders, swivel biceps, double-swivel/hinge elbows, swivel/hinge wrists, a balljointed torso, swivel/hinge hips, swivel thighs, double-swivel/hinge knees, and swivel/hinge ankles. The thigh joints on mine were stuck, so King Kong got to take a hot bath before everything was moving well. All the hinges are pretty stiff, so they'll be able to support his weight well.

Other than the alternate hands, the figure has no accessories. It's sold in a box that features photographs of the toy, showcasing just how artistic it looks. I was initially under the impression that this was a Walmart exclusive, but I was wrong: he's since shown up at Target, too.

The Illustrated Edition Ultimate King Kong is a really nifty release, with a creative design that makes him stand out, but one that doesn't mark him as an "other" like the 8-bit figures' do. But it also brings us back to the question from the top of the review: is this toy from an alternate reality? King Kong is not in the public domain, so NECA theoretically had to license this from somebody - but there's no copyright info on the packaging anywhere, so who? Surely they're not just trying to skate under the radar, right? The sculpt looks like the 1933 version of the character, and that movie is definitely still under copyright (for another seven years, as we write this), so shouldn't Warner Media's logo be on the bottom flap? NECA also says the paint job is intended "to reflect the classic poster illustration," but King Kong's poster didn't look like this. At all. So what poster are they talking about? All we can assume is that this is an artifact from a different plane of reality, one where Sonny Bono didn't help extend copyright protection in 1998, so the 1933 movie became the residents' communal property 13 years ago, and also it had a different style of poster than the ones we got here.

-- 03/25/21

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