So this entry in the Kong project is the one I am (or was) least familiar with; that is I don’t remember seeing this as a child. But it feels familiar somehow, like I should have seen it. It has a “played in syndication for the majority of the 70s on a local UHF station” kind of feel to it. And that probably comes from the similar type of animation that was being picked up by those 70s local UHF stations at my peak “watch cartoons for hours on end even if I saw the same episode over and over again” period of my life. But more on that in a bit.
The King Kong Show is a Japanese anime style program that was produced by Rankin & Bass. You know the team that brought you Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer and The Hobbit TV special and a large number of other beloved but deeply, deeply weird animation and stop-motion programming that entertained and more than likely scarred you at an early age. It ran for three seasons on ABC for a total of 25 episodes between the years 1966 to 1969. It was also the first anime series produced in Japan for an American audience. So that’s neat.
The show itself focuses on the Bond family – in particular the youngest son Bobby who is befriended by Kong – and their adventures defeating the evil mastermind Dr. Who. (So I get to write a very fan-fic title “Dr. Who meets Bond” but the actual story is not nearly as exciting as it may imply. Still taken out of context the idea of a three-way team-up/battle between King Kong, Dr. Who and Bond is ripe with imaginative possibilities…sadly just not in this show.)
As for plot it is pretty much the same routine every episode. Dr. Who (or another similar antagonist) plans a plan of world domination that usually involves the capture or control of Kong that is eventually thwarted by the power of friendship. The episode will then end with a humorous vignette that, although meant to be funny or sweet, actually makes you feel vaguely uncomfortable in a way that you really can’t put a finger on to determine exactly why.
Now I have to say that I did not watch the entire series. I only watched a handful of stories – 8 to be exact – that included the pilot and assorted others scattered throughout the run. It should be noted that every episode originally ran 30 minutes (give or take) and included two short stories separated by a comedy cartoon Tom of T.H.U.M.B. that was a spy spoof starring a tiny, bumbling agent. I did not watch any Tom of T.H.U.M.B. Look, I’m dedicated to this project…just not that much.
But I have to say 8 episodes are plenty to get the feel of the show. It is charming in its own little retro-nostalgic way, but it ends up being very repetitive and the stories are so similar that it is really hard to muster any real enthusiasm for a complete series viewing. Unless you are really into early 60s obscure Japanese-American children’s cartoons, or if you were around at this time and have an overwhelming fondness for it The King Kong Show is really just a historic novelty. It’s not bad; it’s just is sort of mediocre. That at least is my take as a grown-up in the 21st century. Things might have been very different if I had seen this as a kid.