King Kong

Peter Jackson's take on the classic story King Kong was a grand undertaking, not quite at the level of Lord of the Rings of course, but grand nonetheless. While not everyone was enamored with the final product, the effects around Kong himself, and the design of the big ape, were truly outstanding by anyone's standards.

Fans were thrilled to hear Mezco had picked up the license to produce a large scale version of Kong. It started out in the 18" range, but was dropped to the 15" size, most likely due to manufacturing costs. The big ape started hitting stores last week, including Spencer's and online shops. You can expect to pay around $40 - $50.

Mezco loves their face variants, and Kong has three. There's a placid, serene look; a grumpy, pissed look; and the one I picked up, an open mouth roaring Kong.

Packaging - ***
The large box has some decent Kong graphics, along with a nice jungle style cardboard tray. The plastic insert isn't heat sealed to the cardboard tray, so you can remove Kong without damaging it, but there's a million twisties holding this guy in, so you probably won't be looking to return him to his plastic coffin any time soon.

Sculpting - ****
The sculpt is extremely nice, with lots of excellent detail in the ape body hair, very accurate proportions between the head, torso and appendages, and a dynamic life-like feel to all three expressions.

I prefer the roaring expression, because it has the most emotional and visual energy of the three. It also adds the teeth and interior of the mouth to the sculpt, both of which are done perfectly. Here's a monkey in need of proper dental hygiene. You'd think that grinding the bones of his victims would clear off more of the plaque.

They've also included plenty of scars from injuries old and new. When you're the biggest and the baddest, there's always some young punk Rex (or three) trying to prove they're badder, and Kong shows the results in the wounds on his chest and face.

The more serene look fits in with the scenes of the sunsets, when he was his most relaxed and, dare I say it, happy. The third expression is the middle of the ground, his gruff, annoyed, slightly pissed off look that said you were about a whisker away from getting into some real trouble. The calm Kong is the least favorite of mine, not because it's poorly done, but because it just doesn't say "Kong" to me. Obviously, your mileage may vary.

Scale might be a bit of an issue for some at this height, since he doesn't tower over 3 3/4" figures quite as much as you'd like. He'd be more in scale with figures in the two inch range, with figures in that 1/36th to 1/48th scale being just about right.

Paint - ***1/2
The paint is very nice, but not quite as spiffy as the sculpt. This is more an issue with esthetics than quality, however.

Kong is predominately the same color over his entire body, hair and skin alike. This makes the hair and skin, like on the hands or face, appear to be the same rather than different 'stuff'. There is some slight variation, but from any distance it's tough to see, and it results in the figure looking a little plainer than it could have.

The face paint work is the real highlight, with a nice job done on the eyes, teeth and interior of the mouth. Once again, they went with a gloss finish in those areas that would appear wet, giving his expression quite a bit more realism. You can almost smell the stink of his breath. Now there'd be an action feature!

Articulation - ***
Kong has somewhat limited articulation, but what's here works fairly well.

At first I thought he had only a cut neck - I was wrong.  You can actually get the head to tilt backward far enough to work in both a full standing pose, and a pose with him tilted forward on all fours.  You have to push pretty damn hard, and it's definitely a tight joint, but that's okay, since it makes the sculpt a little more seamless.

The arms have ball jointed shoulders and wrists, and the legs have cut hips and ball jointed ankles. While the ankles and wrists sound good, the sculpted hair from the forearms and calves negates much of the movement, making them more like cut joints.

But as I said, even with this limited articulation, he can stand quite nicely upright, with no wobble or likelihood of tipping over, and he can roll forward on his hips and stand on his feet and knuckles. 

Accessories - Bupkis
This is a category that really hurts for me. I understand with some characters that coming up with sensible accessories is an issue. But Kong? Where's my itty bitty villagers? Or a car or plane to mangle? He interacted with enough small scale characters and items during his 3 hour oddyssey that something could have been added in at a reasonable cost.

Fun Factor -***
Kong isn't super articulated, but that doesn't hurt the fun factor much. He's big but light weight, with a great sculpt and a reasonable scale to take on at least the 3 3/4" figures in any kids arsenal. And now with a cartoon version of Kong on television, kid's would know who he was without having sat through the more adult film.

Value - **1/2
I'm grading this guy at the $37 I paid online, not the $50 Spencer's is charging. At around $37, he's an average value, considering his size, sculpt detail, articulation, and perhaps most important in the cost factor, low run. These aren't a mass market toy produced in the high tens of thousands or even in the six figures, and lower specialty market runs always means higher prices.

However, at the $50 Spencer's is charging, you can knock off another half star.

Things to Watch Out For - 
Zip. You could toss this monkey around like a beach ball and not hurt him. Of course, you'll want to get the expression that works best for you, if possible.

Overall - ***1/2
I'm very, very pleased with Kong, and he'll go in the short list of excellent figures in the 12 - 18" range for this year. The sculpt is excellent, especially with the roaring expression, and I was very happy to see that the articulation at least allowed for two different critical poses. I really would have liked to have seen some sort of elbows articulation, although it's not critical. Adding in screaming villager or two would have also gone a long way to pushing this guy over the hump to a full four stars overall.

Score Recap:
Packaging - ***
Sculpt - ****
Paint - ***1/2
Articulation - ***
Accessories - Bupkis
Fun Factor - ***
Value -  **1/2
Overall - ***1/2

Where to Buy - 
Spencers stores have them in stock, but are on the expensive end at $50. Online stores are a little cheaper:

- Time and Space Toys has him listed at just $36.

- CornerStoreComics has him listed at $37, and instructs you to be sure to request which head style you prefer.

- Amazing Toyz has him listed at $37.

- Killer Toys has him for $45.

Related Links:
If you prefer your Kong fuzzy and cute, there's the Playmates Roaring Kong, which was recently on clearance for cheap at Target. Also from the Playmates line, in a smaller scale, is the Gripping Kong. And way back in the day, over six years ago now, McToys did a version of the original movie Kong which was terrific.

Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.

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