A Miniature Dinosaur Celebrity | Science | Smithsonian

A Miniature Dinosaur Celebrity

King Kong's fearsome Brontosaurus found a home in an out-of-the-way Utah museum

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The decaying head of King Kong's Brontosaurus, as seen at The Dinosaur Museum. Photo by the author.

The Dinosaur Museum, tucked away a few blocks from Blanding, Utah’s main drag, is an unusual place. Intricately detailed sculptures stand next to casts of fossils, full-size paintings of skeletons and various bits of dinosauriana, mixed together to create rooms full of competing dinosaur images. But I didn’t expect to run into a minor dinosaur celebrity in the galleries. Displayed in a small glass case were the decaying remains of King Kong‘s “Brontosaurus.”

I had almost forgotten about the stop-motion dinosaur. In the original, 1933 King Kong, the sharp-toothed sauropod made a brief appearance as a terrifying, carnivorous swamp monster. Worst of all, the dinosaur was just as dangerous on land as in the water. After wrecking the expedition’s boats, the Brontosaurus shuffled after the fleeing humans and nabbed one crew member dumb enough to think you can escape a long-necked dinosaur by climbing a tree.

But that wasn’t the model’s only appearance. The same model was employed in Son of Kong, a hastily created sequel to the initial hit, released a scant nine months after the first film. And the Brontosaurus was made to do double duty. Not only did the Brontosaurus make a brief cameo at the end of the movie, but the film’s special effects creators refashioned the model into a gnarly sea monster.

Today, this piece of Hollywood memorabilia looks even more monstrous. Time has not been kind to the dinosaur. The fabricated flesh has decayed from around the model’s mouth, eyes and neck, making the dinosaur look even more angry than it ever appeared on film. The sauropod was always meant to be scary, but it looks even more intimidating as a tattered cinema zombie.

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About Brian Switek
Brian Switek

Brian Switek is a freelance science writer specializing in evolution, paleontology, and natural history. He writes regularly for National Geographic's Phenomena blog as Laelaps.

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