6. King Kong: A Movie Classic1
1 You can see almost anything in movies today: People fly in the air. Monsters appear from nowhere.
Animals talk. Movies can make the impossible seem possible. How? Special effects. Many movies are
famous in film history because of their special effects. King Kong (1933) is one of these. King Kong wa
one of the first movies with special effects. King Kong led to many of the special effects (FX) technique
modern movies such as Jurassic Park and Alien.
2 Most critics agree: the dialog3 and acting in King Kong weren’t very good. However, there is
some kind of special effect in almost every scene. For 1933, this was very unusual. It looked
like an expensive movie, but it cost only $600,000 to make. (To compare, the 2005 King
Kong by Peter Jackson cost over $200 million to make.) The filmmakers made many of the
FX scenes in the original King Kong in two days. Today, similar scenes in modern films
might take two weeks to create.
3 In King Kong, a man finds a gigantic gorilla, King Kong, in Africa. He takes the gorilla to
New York City. King Kong escapes and terrorizes4 the city. FX scenes show Kong fight
with dinosaurs, a giant snake, and a flying reptile. Later in the movie, the giant gorilla
climbs to the top of the Empire State Building and holds a tiny woman. In many scenes,
King Kong was only an 18-inch model, but he looked 50 feet tall. The movie actually
frightened many audience members.
4 King Kong isn’t a perfect movie. But the story and FX scenes still affect5 audiences.
This is why it will always be a great movie classic.
1 a movie classic: a movie that is popular for a long time 2 techniques: ways of doing things
3 dialog: the speaking parts in a movie 4 terrorizes: frightens
5 affect: influence; have an effect on
10. Ray Harryhausen, Special Effects Genius
Just about everyone in the field of special effects respects Ray Harryhausen. Ray Harryhausen is a famous for his stop-
motion FX technique---turning the camera off, changing a scene, and turning the camera on again.
Ray was born in Los Angeles in 1920. He saw The Lost World in 1925 and the special effects impressed him.
In 1933, Ray saw King Kong. In the lobby, there was a collection of stills, pictures from the film. The pictures inspired Ray.
He asked the theatre manager if he could borrow them. The theatre manager said no because he didn’t own the stills,
but he gave Ray the name of the person who did ---Forest Ackerman. Ackerman loaned Ray the pictures. Ackerman
introduced Ray to science fiction and the two became friends for life.
In his teens, Ray learned a lot about special effects by himself. He did experiments with special effects in his
background. He made models and studied photography. At the age of 19, he had an idea for a film about a creature from
Jupiter. He never made the film, but he made all the sketches, or drawing, for the film and created a model of the
The First Big Project
His first big project was called Evolution. He planned to make a history of the beginning of the world. His
favorite part was making models of dinosaurs, ancient extinct reptiles. He also made a wooly mammoth ----an extinct
type of elephant-----covered with fur. Ray used fur from one of his mother’s coats to make the model. He never
completed his project, but he used the models for it. Later, he went to get jobs, and he took the models with him to
show his work.
In the 1950s, movie audiences loved science fiction. In 1953, Ray made a movie called Beast from 20,000
Fathoms. In the movie, a giant octopus destroys the Golden Gate Bridge. To save money, he made the octopus with only
six tentacles, or arms. Moviegoers didn’t notice.
Ray went on to make many important movies. He made The Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the Argonauts, and, his last
movie, Clash of the Titans. These are all movies about great legends. In the world of special effects, Ray is a legend, too.
13. the stop-motion technique
Evolution, a history of the beginning
of the world. He didn’t finish it.
He made an
octopus with only six tentacles.
The Voyage of Sinbad, Jason and the
Argonauts, Clash of the Titans
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19. The Cost of Special
special, effectsEffects; important words: cost,
Title, Year Released, Cost of Making the Movie,
Total Amount Earned
movie titles: Jurassic Park, Titanic, The Matrix, Mission to Mars, The Mummy
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21. King Kong; $459 m
Titanic; $200 m
The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King$94 m
The Mummy Returns & AI: Artificial Intelligence; The Mummy Returns
Mission to Mars & AI:
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24. How They Did It:
Secrets from FX Experts
The theater goes dark, the movie begins, and the audience is waiting expectantly.
Anything can happen, especially when a movie has great special effects. Some
moviegoers just relax and enjoy the scenes. Others wonder: “How did they do that?” How
does a person become an animal? How do people disappear in movies? Where do they
get those real-looking dinosaurs? Here are some FX secrets.
How do FX specialists turn a person into an animal? For example, in The Wolf Man (1941),
the main character, played by Lon Chaney Jr., goes outside at night. There’s a full moon.
Suddenly, his face begins to change. He grows hair and sharp teeth. Now he’s a werewolf,
a creature that is half-man, half-wolf. How did they do it? To create this effect, makeup
artists applied fake hair and teeth to the actor’s face. They did this in stages. Here’s how:
First, with the camera off, the makeup artists applied a little hair and put on slightly longer
teeth. Then the camera filmed the ctor. The camera turned off again, and the artists
put on a little more hair and even longer teeth. They repeated this until the actor’s
transition to “werewolf” was complete.
In many films, characters and objects suddenly disappear. For example, in The Wizard o f
Oz (1939), Dorothy throws water on the Wicked Witch of the West. The witch melts and
vanishes in a cloud of steam. Here’s how the FX specialists made this happen: Margaret
25. 4 Fantastic Creatures
Dinosaurs, monsters, and imaginary creatures look real and move realistically in many
special effect scenes. A good example is in Jurassic Park (1993). In one scene, a dinosaur
—a Tyrannosaurus rex—attacks a man. To make realistic dinosaurs for Jurassic Park, FX
specialists studied the work of paleontologists, people who study ancient animals. They
learned how dinosaurs really looked and moved. They built models
of dinosaurs. They made the models move with hydraulic systems—systems that use the
force of water to make machines move. They also used a remote control system called
telemetry. These two systems were programmed into a computer. The computers ran5 the
models. This made the dinosaurs’ movements seem realistic because they looked the
same every time the creatures moved. Some moviegoers are curious about FX secrets;
others are not. Either way, good special effects help filmmakers tell stories with
imagination, and they enable audiences to experience fantasy.
Hamilton, the witch, was actually standing on a small elevator in this scene. It was built
into the floor of the set. Her clothes were nailed to the floor. They stayed in place as
Hamilton went below the floor on the elevator. Her clothes contained pieces of dry ice
(CO2). Water mixed with CO2 makes steam, so the witch looked like she was disappearing
in a cloud.
26. a creature that is half-man, half-wolf
people who study ancient animals
systems that use the force of water to make machines move
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30. how FX specialists make
things and people change
how FX specialists make
things and people disappear
how FX specialists make
a man becomes a werewolf in The Wolf Man
a witch “melts” in The Wizard of Oz
making the dinosaurs for Jurassic Park
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31. half-man, half-wolf
She’s standing on an elevator with her clothes nailed to the floor. They stay in
place as she goes down the elevator.
dry ice mixed with water
they learned by studying the work of paleontologists
The computers made the dinosaurs move.
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