Original King Kong model makes $200,000 at auction

LONDON Tue Nov 24, 2009 1:00pm EST

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The model used to film the final, climactic scenes of the 1933 film "King Kong" sold for 121,250 pounds ($200,000) at auction on Tuesday.

Barely recognizable as the giant ape that terrorized New York as it scaled the Empire State Building, the metal model sold by Christie's is just 22 inches high and consists of a collection of hinges and screws that were once covered in rabbit fur.

The model had been expected to fetch 100-150,000 pounds at the auction of film memorabilia in London, and was the star lot of the sale. The auction overall fetched 519,000 pounds.

"This King Kong armature was instrumental in filming one of the most recognizable sequences in cinema history, and as such it is an exceptional relic of film memorabilia," said Neil Roberts, head of popular memorabilia at Christie's in London.

"We are thrilled to have seen such excitement leading up to the auction and to have been able to exhibit the model to the public for the first time."

The armature, complete with aluminum skull molded from a wooden carving, was painstakingly manipulated using "stop-motion" animation.

It is believed to be the only model of its kind. Two slightly smaller, 18-inch Kong models were used for most of the animation in the film's jungle sets on Skull Island.

The model survived thanks to film fan Eugene Hilchey, who set out to gather as many King Kong artifacts as he could from 1949 onwards.

He got hold of the auctioned model in 1967 when the miniature department where it was being kept was closed for demolition.

After his plans for a museum of Hollywood artifacts fell through, Hilchey entrusted the model to Bison Archives/Productions who brought it to Christie's.

(Reporting by Mike Collett-White, editing by Paul Casciato)