The Lost Spider Pit Sequence (2005)
The Lost Spider Pit Sequence is a short film directed by Peter Jackson and produced by Weta Workshop based on the famous "lost scene" from the original 1933 King Kong film. It was created using period techniques and intense study of Merian C. Cooper's methodology to create a more accurate feel. This short film was released as a special feature on the DVD and Blu-ray releases of King Kong (1933), alongside a featurette documenting the history of the mystery of the original scene and the creation of the new one entitled "The Mystery of the Lost Spider Pit Sequence."
Lifelong Kong fanatic Peter Jackson took up a sort of obsession with the infamously cut or lost scene. Fueled by its status as a pop culture mystery and urban legend he eventually approached Weta Workshop with the prospect of recreating it as a fan film. Using reference pictures and authentic period-accurate construction techniques, the Weta team recreated several of the lost creatures. While researching the sequence, they discovered that the scene in which the sailors are chased by an Elasmotherium, and later a Styracosaurus had also been cut simply because it was deemed unnecessary. Luckily, Jackson's immense Kong collection which served as reference material for the project also included the original Styracosaurus puppet seen in some promotional material and stills. Unfortunately, the model was in a state of disrepair, so it was only used as a reference for the new puppet. Wanting to see the internal armature and being unwilling to destroy the puppet to see it, the team took the model to a hospital and got it X-Rayed. To make it more authentic, they scanned the original puppet's head into a computer and had it modeled on a robotic routing table.
The team studied the film's screenplay, where a detailed account of the pit scene remained, and studied King Kong and other Cooper films from the same writing team to discover how the script was translated to the screen as part of their painstaking dedication to authenticity. The team worked to make each model and the shots thereof as authentic as possible to the visions of their original creators as well as the tools and techniques available to them at the time.
With the creatures recreated, they turned their attention to the backgrounds, which they rebuilt by cutting up photographs of backgrounds and layering them like a shadowbox to determine their layout. After storyboarding, they began to film the live-action aspects with volunteers from the production team. In order to maintain a sense of fluidity, they had the modeler Graham Binding play the sailor killed by the Octopus-Insect, which he had animated so he knew its movements. The Styracosaurus proved difficult to animate, and so the staff looked at Son of Kong for reference as to how O'Brien made it work. When filming was complete, the footage was sent to the video lab to degrade the footage to the quality of the original film. The footage was shot without sound, so for sound design, the Great Spider's roar was developed from possum hisses, the Octopus-insect used a combination of snake and lion cub roars, and the Styracosaur used slowed-down recordings of Fay Wray's screams taken from the King Kong soundtrack. Music editor Nigel Scott was able to use a cut 20 minutes from Max Steiner's original score and use it to fill the space between the new and old footage to complete the short film.
While trying to flee a rampaging Brontosaurus, the sailors of the Venture run through the jungle, and lose one of their men who tried to escape the beast by climbing a tree. He was menaced and eaten by the creature while the rest of the party escaped into the path of a Styracosaurus. It gave chase, and ate a slow crewman just as Carl Denham got his shirtsleeve caught in a bush. Meanwhile, Kong crossed a fallen log bridging a great chasm before resting Ann Darrow in a tree to stake out the cause of the commotion. As the sailors came to the bridge, Kong arrived as Jack Driscoll escaped by sheltering in a cave in the cliff face. The sailors tried to flee Kong, only to find the Styracosaurus blocking their path from the other end. With Jack watching in horror, Kong begins to shake the log, sending the sailors plummeting into the pit below before throwing the entire log in after them. At the pit's bottom, the surviving sailors are attacked by a giant quadrupedal lizard, and they try to take refuge on top of a rock where they are assaulted by the reptile and a strange crab-like creature. They try to defend themselves, as another sailor is rounded on by a huge spider, which prepares to devour him as a Two-Legged Lizard scales the rock wall behind him. The last surviving member of the party backs into the shadows, where he is attacked by the horrifying Octopus-insect. He tries to fight back with a knife, but is quickly overwhelmed. Up top, Kong realizes where Jack is hiding, and reaches his hand in to try and grab him. Jack stabs his hand, and this continues for a moment until the hissing two-legged lizard climbs closer to Jack on a vine. Jack quickly cuts the vine and sends the monster tumbling back down as Kong reaches back in to restart his search for the man.
- King Kong (stock footage)
- Brontosaurus (stock footage)
- Giant lizard
- Crab creature
- Huge spider
- Two-Legged Lizard
- Giant vulture
Animating the Two-Legged Lizard climbing up the canyon wall
- Filmmaker Steven L. Austin has alleged that the idea of recreating the Spider Pit sequence had been stolen from plans by him and animator Jim Danforth for a documentary on O'Brien. Danforth had been contacted by an unnamed VFX technician working at Weta and had told this person about the recreation he was working on. When Austin saw that the 2005 DVD release had this recreation, he was so devastated it led to him scrapping the idea entirely.
- The character Jimmy from the 1933 film's script and novelization is practically absent from the final product, but he is one of the sailors who die in the pit, and can be seen on the log in the short film. While his torn sleeve seems to mend itself after the fall, it is presumable that one of the new actors in the pit scene was cast and costumed to resemble Jimmy.
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