The Altar (King Kong - 1933)

Another resin kit I picked up on eBay to go with my fairly extensive collection of King Kong dioramas. This one has been OOP for sometime and I had only seen it once before a a local model show built up by a friend of mine. This early 90's sculpt is by Jim Davidson and is quite rare. Despite the raves about this kit, I wasn't that taken with it once I took it out of the box. It needed about eights hours of prep before assembly (not that unusual) but I found the quality lacking, specifically in the detail. I realize that resin has its limitations in this regard but compared to the work done by Joe Laudati and/or Tony McVey, this kit would have to be regarded as average at best.

So, I had reached a crossroad. Do I build it 'straight out of the box' or do I tinker with it? Those of you that are familiar with my nature, the tinkering part came easy. In my opinion, the Ann Darrow character suspended between the altar columns as Kong lurches into view is a more compelling scene than Kong just holding her in his hand. In fact, just about EVERY King Kong kit has him holding her in his hairy mitts. Yawn. So, I decided to do just that and recreate the scene I had in my mind's eye of his victim posed between the columns.

My 3D printer test results. The complete figure at the far right is what I went with. The truncated part at far left is what a failed print looks like. The similar object on the right is the kit version of Ms Darrow's lower body.

This was easier said than done. Ann Darrow's upper torso, arms and head were cast in Kong's hand and her butt and legs (a separate piece) would be attached beneath after some filing and positioning. There was absolutely NO way that I could copy or cast the Darrow figure as a stand alone so I went to my favorite standby, my good old 3D printer. I can't emphasis it enough on how many times that device has saved my rear in kit modifications and I highly recommend purchasing one is you are serious about the hobby. These days you can get a pretty nice printer for around $250.00 or less on eBay.

I went to where you can find downloadable 3D recipes of almost anything you can imagine. After a bit of searching for “female figure” and “dancer”, I found the perfect pose I was looking for (see photo at right). I resized the figure to be the right scale and made her a little 'meatier' than the original recipe by playing with the 'X' & 'Y' settings. I printed four samples, changing each ever so slightly to get the look I was searching for. Her arms were raised above her head and fused at the hands but I carefully cut them apart and separated them at the shoulders. I reattached them with acetone (this is the solvent for some 3D materials, in this case, PLA) and filled them in with modeling paste to hide the seams. A little filing and paint and Ann was ready to hang (so to speak).

Which brings us to the columns. The pair that came with the kit were very clunky looking and though they matched those in the film pretty closely, I just didn't care much for them. Sooooo, back to Thingaverse! A search under 'pillars' and 'columns' turned up a zillion recipes, most of which were designed for the miniature fantasy & war gaming folks. I found one that generally matched the look of the original, Aztec as it turned out. Scaling the column recipe to give me the correct size for the scene, I printed out a pair (you can do that). I did the same for a pair of skulls, one for the top of each column. I built up the top of the column with two part epoxy clay to give it a domed appearance and then glued the skulls on top> See comparison photo at right. The column on the left was what came with the kit, the one on the right was a Thingaverse recipe.

Next came the base. It was roughly twelve inches in diameter with most of its surface taken up by the altar. I wanted to add more 'stuff' to the surface to increase viewer interest but I just didn't have the room so I decided to cut the sides and rear of the base right off and flush with the altar bottom. I now had an altar which I glued to a Masonite base and surrounded by irregularly cut sections of one inch thick builder's foam (the pink stuff) to create a larger area overall around the alter. I then came back with some Sculptamold to finish off the edges and coat the upper surface to hide seams and provide a more natural texture (see photos). Finally, I finished it off with various items such as ground foam, tufts of static grass, aquarium plants, chunks of plastic debris for remnants of another structure since collapsed, a couple dead trees and a partial T-Rex skull with a plant growing out of it.

  • Photo of the painted base showing its original size. It is resting on top of my built up version. Click for a larger image.

  • Photo of the trimmed down base which I placed inside the larger version. The tan areas are where I put wooden blocks for Kong's mounting screws. Click for a larger image.

Finally, we come to Kong. The cast was fairly clean although there were lots of bubbles in the left arm and some pronounced seam lines. I also had to drill out the Ann Darrow figure from Kong's right hand and then carve it in a way that looked natural. I decided to have him holding a dead tree that he's just ripped out of the ground before laying his eyes on his future love. I did all this before his assembly (four parts total) since it would be easier to make the alterations on the right arm by itself. I pinned the arms and head to the body with short lengths of coat hanger wire and filled any joints that needed it with modeling paste. Once the paste had set, I cleaned him up again with a file and/or my motor tool before giving Kong a standard paint job which, for me, is gloss black on the fur areas and very dark gray for the exposed skin.

For his eyes, I went with 3mm doll eyes that I get online since I can't paint them to save my life. I suppose some would regard this as “cheating” but what the heck.

As I tend to do with older films, I've altered the image to its 'original' black and white version with some computer magic.

  • A view from the wall. Click for a larger image.

  • Photograph of the kit in its standard format.

A screen shot from the original classic film showing King Kong in all his glory.

My version of the same scene.

All in all, I very pleased with the way this kit came out considering what I had started out with. True, adding all the other “stuff' took more time than if I had just built the kit as it came out of the box but I believe I ended up with a more interesting scene overall. And that's part of the fun of the hobby. Don't be a slave to the kit and make as many changes you like that please you or your audience. 3/10/19