And now, ladies and gentlemen, before I tell you any more, I’m going to show you the greatest thing your eyes have ever beheld. He was a king and a god in the world he knew, but now he comes to civilization merely a captive – a show to gratify your curiosity. Ladies and gentlemen, look at Kong, the Eighth Wonder of the World. -King Kong 1933
If you grew up going to the Jersey Shore between 1972 and 1980, chances are good that one thing stuck in your memory. Even if you were very young, there’s an unforgettable sight you saw on that summer vacation-The Eighth Wonder of the World. KING KONG. For eight years, a 25 foot hulking ape stood watch over Hunt’s Pier, but in the summer of 1981, he did not return to the shore.
Kong started his life in New York, where he was assembled over nine months by a team of artists lead by Fred Mahana. Mahana’s legacy is not only this giant ape, but also other custom-built beloved Jersey Shore attractions like Castle Dracula, Star Wars, Planet of the Apes, Star Trek, and Brigantine Castle. Fred Mahana also made memories outside of NJ as the artist behind the Hollywood Wax museum in Ocean City, MD.
Many of his amusements can be seen in this wonderful 8mm film:
Despite being disassembled into his nine pieces for winter storage, years in the salty air and the blazing sun were unkind to King Kong and his 7 foot captive bride Fay Wray. In 1980, he attempted to make the trip back to his homeland in New York for refurbishment. Unfortunately, it was discovered that the wire armature inside was too deteriorated to make the return trip to Hunt’s Pier. Kong would never be assembled again, he had mesmerized his last season of tourists on the Wildwood Boardwalk. Read more about Kong’s fate on Fun Chase
Kong’s memory never truly went away for the generation that grew up with him and he continued to appear on retro t-shirts and mugs. He even graced the cover of the Morey’s Fab-O-Rama: A Wild Ride book. So when a cryptic email came in to me in the fall of 2014 from Morey’s Piers with the subject line: “New Ride Survey” you can imagine my delight as I saw an ape in body of the message. The Morey Brothers, who are working tirelessly to restore Wildwood to its 1970s glory days were bringing Kong home again for the 2015 season!
In the original concept art I saw, Kong was holding a Statue of Liberty and wearing a T-shirt reading “I ❤ NJ”. He had a silly “cute” face and looked a bit too friendly. I felt strongly that Kong should be a bit scary-looking, and also shared some feedback on the items he was holding and wearing. NJ seemed a bit too generic, and the Statue of Liberty (although a nod to the original film) just felt out of place. The entire thing seemed to be lacking a sense of cohesiveness, as if too many good ideas got put into one design.
I was thrilled to see in the final artwork that they update Kong’s face to add fangs, and a bit of a meaner scowl to his facial sculpt overall. He is now wearing a Wildwood tank top (Now reading “I ❤ WW”). His feet and hands were also slightly modified, but the biggest change (and the one I am happiest about) was the decision to put one of Wildwood’s famous Tram Cars in his terrifying grip. NOW Kong has truly come home to Wildwood!
According to the Morey’s Piers Facebook page, The planes showed up this week, and Kong is currently making his cross-country trip to the shore and is due to arrive any day now! (All Photos courtesy of Morey’s Piers)
I am ecstatic to see Morey’s giving a nod to the bygone days of Wildwood, while keeping the boardwalk a little bit scary for kids. We cannot wait to see the beast in all his glory! Are you excited to see King Kong make his return? What do you think of his new look? Have a memory of Kong to share with us? Add it to the comments!