For those of you who are fond of the Rankin-Bass/Toho production of King Kong Escapes it may be worth your while to check out the show that was responsible for it, King Kong: The animated series. In 1966 Rankin and Bass wanted to do a King Kong cartoon but the only way they could get the rights from RKO was if they promised to do a live action Kong movie, and thus King Kong Escapes became their first non-animated feature. The film was loosely tied in with the series; most of the cartoon’s episodes take place on Mondo Island (though some times called Skull Island), there is a pretty girl named Susan (but Susan Bond in the cartoon as opposed to Susan Watson in the movie), and of course one of the recurring villains in the series is that international Judas, Dr. Who.
Professor Bond (it is mentioned that he is an anthropologist, but like many scientist he is also an expert in zoology, geology, and botany) has come to Mondo Island to do research on whatever seems to strike his fancy, and like his predecessor Doctor Benton Quest he insist on bringing his family into a potentially dangerous situations. His teen-age daughter Susan seems to work as his assistant, but it is Bobby Bond who is the central character to the show, it is he who finds Kong and befriends him. The family is dropped off on Mondo Island by Captain Englehorn (this is the only tie in with the 1933 classic and in name only as in this version he is the captain of the Java Queen not the Venture, and looks more like a Japanese version of Mister Magoo than actor Frank Reicher) who warns them of the dangers of the island and specifically of the beast Kong, and he urges the professor to return with him back to the ship. The Professor will hear none of that and the next morning he sends his children out to look for some rare moss. His sole parenting thought is that they should stay with in ear shot. Letting your kids wander around an uncharted and reputedly dangerous island by themselves, yep I don’t see him winning any father of the year awards in the near future.
Bobby of course strolls well beyond ear shot and deep into the jungle where he witnesses a pterodactyl fly off with a hapless armadillo, nearly bumps into a stegosaurus, and then finds himself face to face with a T-Rex. But just as Bobby is about to become a dino-snack Kong appears, grabs the T-Rex by the tail, swings it around and bashes it repeatedly into the ground until it’s dead. Kong and Bobby then become fast friends and the kid convinces Kong to come and meet his family. After a the shock of Bobby’s new friend wears off they all accept the big ape, which is good because it’s the big lug who saves them all from a tidal wave that soon crashes over the island.
Professor Bond wants to do some tests on Kong but the equipment he has with him on the island won’t do, and so they decide to take Kong to the Science Foundation labs in Virginia. Unfortunately getting him there is easier said then done. They get Kong to help build a raft and then they tow the raft behind Engelhorn’s ship the Java Queen. The voyage starts out smoothly until they spot a ship in distress, and it’s up to Kong to wrestle with a kraken to save both ships, which he defeats by stabbing it with the broken mast off the ship. Kongs troubles are far from over as the next day a storm strikes and the raft Kong is on is acting as a sea anchor and is endangering the ship. Captain Englehorn gives Bobby a lesson in morality and makes Bobby cut the tow line, and thus dooming his best friend to die in the storm.
Kong of course does not die but wades ashore in New York City. The army and navy is mobilized but before they can move into kill the ape they are told by the President that an expert is coming to deal with the situation. The Bond family is flown to New York and Bobby, the Kong expert, is given a helicopter to try and talk Kong into leaving the city, but unfortunately the sound of the copters rotors drowns out his voice. Meanwhile Susan has gone to where Kong is rampaging to give talking to him a try, and when tanks fire near her Kong thinks she is in danger, grabs her and legs it to (you guessed it) the Empire State Building. Jets are launched with the intent to scare him off the building. The buzzing planes almost make Kong drop Susan so the ape sets her down to deal with the threat, allowing the planes to now go into kill mode. Bobby takes off to save his buddy and breaks through the military cordon and makes his way up the observation deck. He reaches his Kong just as the ape rips the wing off a passing jet. The pilot bales out safely but the jet crashes into support cables of the Center City Bridge (looks like the Brooklyn Bridge to me) and it starts to fall apart. Bobby chastises Kong for causing all this mess and orders him to go and save the people trapped on the collapsing bridge. Kong easily holds the bridge up while emergency repair parties get to work. The pilot episode ends with the mayor giving Kong the key to the city, and which the big ape immediately sticks in his mouth and chews on.
Most of the series takes place on Mondo/Skull Island with a few outside adventures taking place in Egypt, San Francisco, and the North Pole. Kong fights off many different foes each week such as; under dwellers from Vulcania, giant African killer bees, big game hunters, and even spacemen. But the main nemesis in the series is Dr. Who (looking like a cross between Simon Barsinister and Dr. Silvana) and almost every episode with Dr. Who involves him usually kidnapping some or all of the Bond family, and with plans to hold the world ransom or to control Kong (for what purpose is never made clear) then having these plans stomped on by Kong. Each story is quite short, at about eight minutes each, so the repetitive nature of some of the plots isn’t to annoying, and it does have simply one of the coolest theme songs ever produced. If the Bobby Bond’s voice seems familiar it should as Billie Richards, the actress who provided it, was also the voice of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer in the Rankin and Bass Christmas classic.
Now if you are a true Kong fan I advise you to check these out, but a word of warning the pilot episode is divided across both volumes, part one is on Vol.1 and part two is on Vol.2 of the DVDs.
King Kong: The Animated Series
Rankin and Bass bring us a delightful animated show about a boy and his giant ape.