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Re: Popularity of dinosaurs in the 1920s/30s? (King Kong question)



Rich Travsky asks:
<< Just out of curiousity, is there anything that speaks to how popular
dinosaurs were in the 1920s and 30s? I'm thinking of King Kong's use
of dinosaurs (as well as Lost World). Was their use in Kong a twofer, in
that they needed some more big dangerous critters in the story line and
dinosaurs were not only big and dangerous but popular too? >>

Most of the Kong dinosaurs were constructed for the unmade (except for a few 
scenes) film "Creation". The Kong Tyrannosaurus and Stegosaurus were to have 
had a battle inside of a ruined temple. See this for pre-production art:
http://www.sculptureone.com/kong/creart.html
Merian Cooper was asked to evaluate RKO's roster of productions by David O. 
Selznick. "Creation" was "cancelled", but the film's effects unit (along with 
the dinosaurs) was transplanted to Cooper's "big animal play"we know as "King 
Kong". Creation's dinosaurs appearing in "King Kong" was pretty much 
serendipity. Kong's fight with Tyrannosaurus was actually part of a test reel 
made for the approval of RKO's executives. Note how crude the Kong animation 
model looks in this sequence compared to the others when he was much more 
refined. Willis O'Brien was probably the key to the success of the project. 
We forget today how important magazines were through a great deal of the past 
century. Ever heard of "The Century"? "Scribners"? They were the "Time" and 
"Newsweek" of their day. I'm old enough to remember (don't even think about 
it, Mary!) "Collier's", "The Saturday Evening Post" and "Life". H.F.Osborn 
used the early mass market magazines to publicize the paleo programs at the 
American Museum, using Chas.R.Knight artwork. Dinosaurs became popular almost 
immediately. Windsor McKay with his film of "Gertie the Dinosaur"and Willis 
O'Brien's Edison shorts were certainly influencial. Back in those days a 
visit to the doctor or dentist would give you some time with the "National 
Geographic"and Roy Chapman Andrews' adventures in the Gobi made all the 
headlines. "The Lost World" was a huge hit in the movies and the frosting on 
the cake was the adoption of the dinosaur as the official mascot of the 
Sinclair Refining Company. After that dinosaurs were a part of everyone's 
life in the US. DV