Somewhere between the movie hype and the fan-drawn maps of Skull Island, I became a King Kong fan. I didn't love the monkey so much as his connected lore's long and storied history; its ups and downs, its triumphs and follies, its commendable attempts to make giant gorillas and dinosaurs engage in no-holds-barred matches for the Hardcore Title. Since they don't offer membership cards, I can only prove my allegiance to the Kong Klub with this: I own Son of Kong on DVD, and I tear up every time I see Denham and the ape put aside their differences.
The original film is considered a classic almost in spite of itself. Though done much better, its themes, dialogue and design were really no different from thousands of subsequent flicks that are considered low-end horror/sci-fi junk reserved for genre fans only. And I only say that to give credit to Peter Jackson and the guy who played Native #78. To make that story work today -- despite the gripes some had -- is really something. Moreover, though, I'm just thankful they didn't skimp on the bug ravine scene, because if they did, I would've had to hunt down Peter Jackson and sodomize him with a fully assembled praying mantis Gigantics model diorama. The new King Kong is now available on DVD, and to celebrate, the studio has...uhh... ohhh...myyyyy .....aaaahhh.... ooooooh OOH OHH AHHHH
The promotional blitz for All Things Kong has hit its peak with Hostess's new Banana Twinkies, a Kong-branded sponge cake with an amazing and ridiculous gorilla picture on the box. For however popular it was, King Kong didn't really equate to an unbelievable success in the merchandising department. The toys were far from chart-toppers, and even seemingly can't-miss offerings like Electronic Kong Arms didn't pull more than a few passing whiffs of interest from kids. We may like King Kong, but King Kong is by no stretch of the animation "cool" in the eyes of today's youth. I just called my sister's son -- a fifth grader -- to get his opinion. He's all like, "Dayum, that ape shit be played like Pokiemang and Spy Kids, bird."
Since the effects team did such a remarkable job of making King Kong seem more like a giant gorilla playing King Kong and less like computer graphics playing King Kong, his lack of a Gorilla Q Rating has me sitting here actually feeling bad for the monkey. I picture him laying high up in that ledge thing on Skull Island, scratching himself with a long face. He's willing to change, totally. He just doesn't know what kids want. Do they want him to wear sunglasses? Fine, he'll wear sunglasses. Don't act like it's an easy fix -- Kong-sized sunglasses need to be specially ordered.
But the Banana Twinkies definitely put Kong on the right track. If you want to make people pay attention to King Kong, you've gotta have his picture on boxes of Twinkies. I've been trying to tell the studio this all along, but it kept going like...
ME: I know how to make people pay more attention to King Kong, and I'm ready to tell you all about-- THEM: You had us at "Kong."
...and they'd never let me finish the thought. Point is, it's a little late in the game for anyone to care whether people appreciate Kong or not, but I guess it'll help sell DVDs, because generally speaking, people buy DVDs within thirty minutes of eating Twinkies.
I can't tell if it's brilliant or obvious, but it makes sense: If King Kong is going to have his own line of Twinkies, the creme should be banana flavored. I absolutely loathe bananas and even more so in their artificially flavored state, but I can't argue with the logic. Gorillas love bananas, ee, en eh en eh ay es.
They look exactly the same as normal Twinkies, which kinda sucks considering how much more of an effort they'd seem like had Hostess made the creme a bit yellowish. I tried to tell them to do that too. Even stranger is that they taste pretty much the same as the original Twinkie. I hate banana and thus am extremely sensitive to anything that might vaguely taste like bananas. I detected no banana presence here. The creme's a bit different -- a bit "softer" -- but in no way, shape or form reminiscent of bananas, ee, en eh en eh ay es. What gives, Kong? Gonna play that "I'm just an animal and too dumb to know that Hostess was perpetuating a scam when I pawed my clan symbol on the contract?" I don't buy it. You're no better than Thade, motherfucker.
The Kong revival is dying before our eyes. It's done pretty well. Big movie, some scratch-off Lotto cards with Kong imagery on 'em, and now, Twinkies. I can't help but think that Kong's peeps hoped for more, but they should be proud and satisfied of all the big places they took their monkey. I am. I'm proud of Kong's achievements. Mostly proud of his Twinkies, yes, but also proud of all the doodles I made of the arachno-claws and scorpio-pedes he fought, and the Lotto cards, and a reason to love Naomi Watts again after Ring 2. Good job, Kong. Ting, tang, wallawallabingbang.
Our story could've ended here, but I was Googleing like a dick last night, trying to gage overall awareness and interest in Kong's Banana Twinkies. The bloggers are commenting, yes. They think "this shit is fucked." The press releases are out there, yes. They think this shit will save humanity. Most important of all, though, is the King Kong Banana Twinkies official site. It's a wonderful slice of Internet, with wonderful....oh...my...OOH OOH OOH AH AHHHH
In my years of doing X-Entertainment, I've encountered plenty of product-specific promotional sites that...uh, promote specific products. They're always odd, they're always exciting, and they're always a reason to crank up my speakers and make sarcastic comments to my imaginary friends. After these specific products run their course, I often check to see what happened to their associated websites. Some are simply taken offline. Others are left up with broken images and media, living on as ghost pages and reminding me of the second half of the first Zelda game on the third Nintendo system. The best are left up fully intact -- a good example would be this site from Heinz, calling all interested parties to mark their calendars for the special debut of the long-discontinued line of green and purple ketchup. Where will Kong's Banana Twinkies site end up? Hopefully in a museum, because it's a better website than me or any of my contemporaries could come up with.
On every page of the site, Kong flies in, grunting and screaming. It never gets old, and you're talking to someone who refreshed each page at least 75 times to prove it. The site's features include an entry point for the "Go Bananas! Sweepstakes," which affords Kong's fans the opportunity to win a trip to Universal Studios, or more appealingly, 1 of 25 "Kong Fun Packs," which include absolute crap, but they're called "Kong Fun Packs," so bring that shit on, baby. I'm kind of in love with this site, and most of the credit for goes to the Twinkies Trivia Game...
With musical effects lifted from Who Wants To Be A Millionaire? mixed with classic grunts from the gorilla at hand, The King Kong Twinkies Trivia Game challenges us to answer questions about Kong's movie and assorted Twinkie facts. I don't think anyone in the world predicted a hybrid trivia game exclusively covering King Kong and Hostess Twinkies, but had you listened to what Penn Jillette said instead of becoming entranced with the gross white film that builds on his lips as he speaks, you would've already known that psychics don't really exist.
If you answer a question wrong...
...you get this scary ass Red Hell page where Kong's face flies at you and the onscreen text warns about "displeasing him twice." You get the same page on subsequent wrong answers, so all that shit about not displeasing him twice? Hyperbole. Hyperbooh ooh AH AH.
The theatrics for this game are incredible. While I'm sure it's frightening to see Red Hell Kong in the still frame above, you haven't experienced fear until you've seen it in full motion. Kong's head flies RIGHT AT YOU, earthquake-esque foot stomp after earthquake-esque foot stomp. Really eerie shit, but I must admit that there would've been a more lasting impact if, immediately following these scary sequences, a flying Twinkie with a comet tail didn't cover the screen to serve as a transition into the next question.
If you answer a question correctly...
...you get this much friendlier page, with Kong and Ann reflecting on how much ass you kick.
After completing the quiz, you get your official Banana Twinkie Rating, and according to the quizmakers themselves, my score was "Kong-Tastic!" (Pretty much everything in the game is called "Kong-Tastic," so take the compliment with a grain of ooh ooh ah.) Though with a few too-obvious questions, there were some good bits of trivia in there. I didn't know that banana creme was actually the original filling for Hostess Twinkies! I didn't know that it took 30 minutes to bake one! I didn't know that Denham's ship was called the "S.S. Venture," even though I should've!
If Banana Twinkies end up being King Kong's curtain call, he went out with style. One love, monkey man. One love.
You may remember my review of Electronic Hulk Hands, where I proudly proclaimed the green foam fists to be the toy of its year -- and arguably, it was. It was a new kind of playthang that playthanged into the burgeoning "pretend play" trend; not that there hasn't always been a "pretend play" trend, but as literal action figures are falling further and further out of favor, toy companies who aren't willing to say "fuck it" and just make video games have sought other avenues of revenue. In the case of Hulk Hands, and later Thing Feet, the theory is that today's kids are more prone to put aside their electronic gizmos if hands-on toys let them not just play with their favorite characters, but become them. That's all just a fancy way of saying that it fucking rules to wear Hulk-sized gloves made of a material safe to punch people in the face with. The fact that the gloves talked just iced the kapows.
Thing of it is, when Hulk Hands came out, a lot of the charm had to do with the fact that there was really nothing like them. Sure, every hero, every superhero and every general good guy ends up being immortalized in dress-up kits and Halloween costumes, but this was different, this was special and this was green. Now everyone's doing it, and you're not going to see kids buying the hands or feet or crotches of a certain character just because they're there -- no, the selection's become much too broad for that sort of guarantee. And maybe that's the problem with "Electronic Kong Arms." As stated in the meatier part of this article, Kong is NOT COOL. Carlito says so, and kids say so. There is no hip factor involved in dressing up like Kong. Kong doesn't kick ass, Kong doesn't wear a utility belt, and the closest Kong gets to banging hot chicks is skating on ponds with them for two seconds before like twenty trillion nuclear missiles ruin the date. I said it earlier, I'll say it again: I feel SO SO bad for King Kong. Perhaps this is why I was so compelled to own his toy arms. He was giving me a hand, yes, but really, I was giving him a hand.
Whatever, "Electronic Kong Arms" are pretty sweet. They're totally anatomical as far as a gorilla's hand and elbow go, and by this I mean, they're anything but a snug fit on human arms. The "electronic" bit comes in when you punch something, which triggers a magic box inside one of the hands that blows out various monkey screams and ooh ooh ah ahs. The rubber "skin" portions are incredibly well detailed, so much so that I think we've found a perennial solution to the age old problem of costume shop gorilla outfits never coming with the right kind of gloves. Factor in the generous amount of black faux fur, and you're looking at a toy that can convince anyone -- ANYONE -- that you're really a gorilla in a human costume that's missing the gloves. Makes sense if you read it 80 times. To end this bonus section on a remarkable note, I present this King Kong haiku: