On a movie screen in a small theater outside Wellington, New Zealand, a pissed-off 24-foot silverback gorilla is doing the sort of things pissed-off 24-foot gorillas tend to do. He’s knocking over a packed streetcar with his ass. He’s flipping an automobile like a tiddlywink. He’s hurling people through the air and — bad monkey! — biting off some poor schmuck’s head.
Director Peter Jackson studies these clips closely, laser pointer in hand, while a select group of the 500 or so digital animators working on his epic remake of King Kong wait for his feedback. In most of the shots, the giant ape is still only roughly animated, a blobby, blurry beast somewhere between the Atari 2600 Donkey Kong and the fearsome, battle-scarred behemoth he’ll eventually become. The details will be filled in later, down to the finest nostril hair, but at this point Jackson just wants to make sure the basics are right. ”He looks awkwardly stiff in the wrists,” he says, as Kong rears up and beats his chest on an icy 1930s New York City street. ”Loosen his wrists up a bit.”