DVD Movie Guide @ dvdmg.com
Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main


Peter Jackson
Peter Jackson
Writing Credits:
- Unknown -

Peter Jackson invites his fans on an unprecedented entertaining journey with this ground-breaking 2-Disc DVD release in which fans are transported onto the set of King Kong to experience the entire 6-month production process with the cast and crew.

Box Office:
$207 million.

Rated NR

Widescreen 1.78:1/16x9
English Dolby 2.0

Runtime: 216 min.
Price: $39.98
Release Date: 12/13/2005

• Introduction by Peter Jackson
• “The Making of a Shot: The T-Rex Fight” Bonus Production Diary
• 52-Page Production Memoir
• 4 Production Art Prints


Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.


[an error occurred while processing this directive]

King Kong: Peter Jackson's Production Diaries (2005)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (December 15, 2005)

Now I’ve seen everything! For movie promotion, studios often put out fluffy “making of” featurettes that air on cable. These offer some minor tidbits about the productions but they don’t tell us much since they exist just to get fannies in the seats.

Not content to wait until 2005’s King Kong remake comes out on DVD, director Peter Jackson stages a pre-emptive strike. With a two-disc set called King Kong: Peter Jackson’s Production Diaries, we get a full look at the production before the flick even hit the screens. If this is the teaser, what will they show on the movie DVD?

Diaries offers exactly what you’d expect from this kind of package. It splits into 54 separate areas that open with Day One on September 6, 2004 and conclude with Day 131 on April 8, 2005. These originally appeared on the movie’s official website, but the DVDs collect them in one convenient place.

Mostly we hear from Jackson as he chats with us from the set. However, many of the other participants address the camera throughout the Diaries. The Diaries include a huge roster of folks, so prepare for a long list!

We hear from actors Jack Black, Naomi Watts, Adrien Brody, Jamie Bell, Lobo Chan, Jed Brophy, Jason Whyte, Stephen Hall, Thomas Kretschmann, Will Wallace, Andy Serkis, Colin Hanks, Rick Porras, and Jim Dietz, VFX photography director Alex Funke, plane spotter Ngaire Woods, producer/1st AD Carolynne Cunningham, and camera operator Simon Harding.

We also get notes from director of photography Andrew Lesnie, art director Simon Bright, props maker Tony Drawbridge, standby props assistants Ben Milsom and Sarah Weinberg, senior SPFX technician Geoff Curtis, SPFX technicians Ross Anderson and Mike McDonald, supervising art director Dan Hennah, 2nd assistant camera Helen Ward and Kent Belcher, boom operator Corrin Ellingford, script supervisor Victoria Sullivan, previsualizer Richard Moore, previs supervisor Christian Rivers, and animation director Eric Leighton.

Continuing through the speakers, we find remarks from set finisher Chris Ramsey, sculpting laborer Aaron Frater, on-set production assistant Jacqui Pryor, health and safety coordinator Andy Buckley, lighting technician Richard Riwaka, Wingnut Films’ Carter Nixon, production designer Grant Major, brush hand Sean Golding, art director Joe Bleakley, stunt performers Tim Wong and Greg Lane, and grip assistant Paul Sawtell.

Who else pops up? We find VFX on-set supervisor Malcolm Angell, conceptual designer Jeremy Bennett, senior compositor Saki Mitchell, on-set until assistant Missy Rika, location/unit manager Peter Tonks, transport coordinator Jenny Morgan, drivers John “JT” Tamanui and Steve Harvey, rigging LX Mike Slater, caterer Mike Pugh, unit publicist Melissa Booth, journalists Kim Kastrup, Tony Magmusson, Carlos Gomez, Marty Duda, and Rieko Shibasaki, art department manager Chris Hennah, focus puller Dean McCarroll, 1st assistant camera Andrew Stroud and Charles Edwards, 2nd assistant cameramen Angus Ward and Stephen Allanson, camera trainee Alys Rowe, post production supervisor Pippa Anderson, clapper loader Garth Michaels, lab liaison Andy Wickens, film color grader Lynne Reed, and telecine colorist David Holden.

We’re not done yet. Diaries also includes telecine manager John Newell, 1st assistant editor David Birrell, AVID operator Jabez Olssen, digital building supervisor Chris White, carpenters Dave Moore and Ryan Esler, 2nd unit director Randy Cook, 2nd unit 1st AD Robin Murphy, Wellington Zoo team leader Suzette Nicholson, VFX senior on-set supervisor Nic Marrison, additional 2nd AD Richard Matthews, Weta Workshop supervisor Richard Taylor, dialect coach Tanya Blumstien, Weta Workshop designer/sculptor Ben Hawker, and rigger Geoff Weir.

This is getting ridiculous! More information comes from extras Tendayi Nyangoni, Richard Carrol, Anthony Dreaver, Joan Foster, Andy Johnson, Colleen Cleary, Bruce Collett, Charlie Bleakley, Trevor Cook, Dave Nisbett, Russell Thompson, Ivan Horn, Brian Ward, Tony Wyeth, Rob Doey, Elie Assaf and Jim Locke, NZ casting director Liz Mullane, extras casting coordinator Miranda Rivers, additional dresser Tammy Green, additional AD Fiona Bartlett, additional makeup Lisa Shearer, and picture vehicle technician Jaffray Sinclair.

Entering the home stretch, we learn about the shoot from set dresser Gill West-Walker, supervising set dresser Tanea Chapman, props buyer Phred Palmer, SPFX technician Darian Lumsden, SPFX assistant Sven Harens, lighting continuity Ants Ferrell, gaffer Reg Garside, construction foreman Alan Wyllie, construction supervisor Ed Mulholland, stunt coordinator Chris Anderson, stunt doubles Min Windle and Tony Marsh, Jackson’s assistant Matt Dravitzki, production manager Belindalee Hope, lighting electrician Al Baird Smith, HOD model technician Paul Van Ommen, lighting assistant Damian Seagar, motion control operator Hugh Smith, SPFX supervisor Scott Harens, and Weta Workshop miniature greens Dave Goodin.

Finally, we get details from greensperson Lucy Woolhouse, 2nd 2nd AD Skot Thomas, makeup and hair designer Peter King, makeup and hair supervisor Rick Findlater, makeup artists Michal Bigger and Susie Glass, supervising digital colorist David Cole, editor Jamie Selkirk, Weta visual effects producer Eileen Moran, 2nd unit production coordinator Ange Waller, 2nd unit 2nd AD Sarah Lowe, 2nd unit stunt coordinator Rodney (RJ) Cook, 2nd unit digital assistant Bram Tulloch, 2nd unit 1st AD Dave Norris, production sound mixer Hammond Peek, stand-in Peter Russell, aircraft consultant Gene DeMarco, Universal Pictures Marketing co-president Eddie Egan, assistant costume designer Eliza Godman, costume designer Tony Ryan, costume supervisor Carolyne Fenton, costume breakdown Tom Caddy, unit photographer Pierre Vinet, production manager Brigitte Yorke, digital assistant operator Luis Olivares, and 2nd unit 3rd AD Anna Groves. Whew!

Among the many issues examined, we get into the creation of animal dung and sanitary mud, using old-time cameras, plane spotting, dump tanks, concept art, set design and construction, and camera slates. We also learn about pre-visualization, location complications, firing guns on the set, the original movie’s creatures, effects photography on the set, press visits, set dressing, and film processing and editing. From there, we go through recreating 1930s NYC, filming in the zoo and other locations, working with extras, period vehicles, lighting continuity, stunt driving, miniatures, green screen Kong shots, makeup and hair, the “Summit Reel”, second unit photography, audio recording, aircraft, winding down the production, costumes, still photography on the set, and the conclusion of production.

A few comedic elements appear as well. We see “Gandalf” stalk the set and also get cracks about Jack Black’s height. There’s a good practical joke toward the end, and we watch “guest directors” take over the set while Jackson catches up on his sleep.

I was reluctant to watch the Diaries before I saw Kong on the big screen. I like to go into movies with as little foreknowledge as possible, and with more than three hours of footage, I worried that the Diaries would give away too many of the surprises. Granted, Jackson’s Kong is supposed to be a fairly literal remake of the 1993 original, so I don’t know how many potential surprises exist. Still, I’d have preferred to wait until after I took in the flick.

Do the Diaries seem likely to ruin anyone’s fun? I won’t be able to fully answer that question until I actually see Kong, but I’d give this a 99% “no”. We learn a ton about the production, but virtually none of it addresses story issues. We see the machinery put in place to create the film but we don’t learn what’ll actually happen in the film.

That’s a crucial distinction, and one that means the Diaries won’t ruin the flick for folks who’ve not seen it but also remain informative and interesting. Granted, if the mechanics of filmmaking don’t matter to you, I doubt you’ll get much from this. But for those of us who enjoy that sort of material, we get a treasure trove.

It’ll be interesting to see how the extras for the Kong DVD explore the film since so much behind the scenes information appears here. I assume they’ll take a more traditional documentary feel instead of the more impromptu nature of the Diaries.

That presentation works well here, though, as we feel almost like we’re along for the ride with the filmmakers. Since the Diaries look at the creation of Kong in chronological order and lack any form of retrospective insight, they capture the processes without much of a filter. Will the movie be great or will it suck? Will it live up to box office expectations or disappoint? No one knows, and the absence of that perspective offers an interesting tone to these components that doesn’t occur on most DVDs. The honest nature of the clips and the level of information presented allows the Diaries to prosper and become a great source of material.

The DVD Grades: Picture D+/ Audio C-/ Bonus C

King Kong: Peter Jackson’s Production Diaries appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.78:1 on these single-sided, single-layered DVDs; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Since I didn’t expect much from the package’s visuals, I can’t say the results were a disappointment. However, I can indicate the episodes didn’t look good.

Shot on consumer video cameras, the main problem concerned sharpness. Across the board, the programs presented soft and ill-defined visuals. Even during close-ups, the shots lacked clarity, and that problem became more pronounced with wider shots. At least this meant no jagged edges or shimmering. Source flaws also seemed absent, as I noticed nothing in that realm to interfere with the presentation.

Colors also caused concerns. They weren’t as problematic as the sharpness, but I thought the hues tended to appear murky and messy. The tones never offered much definition, as they usually seemed either too thick or too flat. Blacks were decent, and the occasional low-light shots were acceptably defined. The sharpness and colors created too many distractions for this image to merit anything above a “D+”, though.

I didn’t find much to praise when I examined the package’s Dolby Stereo 2.0 soundtrack, either. For the most part, this was a monaural mix. A few bits broadened music to the side channels and offered nice stereo imaging. Another smattering of sequences presented general environmental ambience. However, the vast majority of the Diaries remained firmly anchored in the center channel.

Given the nature of the recordings, audio quality was perfectly acceptable. Taped on the fly, speech was surprisingly clear. Those elements seemed concise and well-defined. Music was a minor presence but sounded lively and full when it appeared. Effects fared the worst, mainly because consumer video cameras don’t usually offer much range in that department. Audio from the sets lacked punch, though at least it didn’t seem distorted. This was a decent soundtrack but not exactly something to remember.

Since it exists essentially as an extra anyway, it seems odd to find supplements for the Diaries. We do get a few, though. The package opens with an Introduction by Peter Jackson. In this five-minute and 35-second snippet, he talks about how the Diaries originated and tells us a little about their creation. This clip acts as a good opening for the set.

On DVD Two, we discover The Making of a Shot: The T-Rex Fight. The 16-minute and 29-second clip exists as a “bonus production diary” that also runs during the main program, though it’s considerably more specific than the others. It includes comments from Jackson, Bennett, Rivers, Selkirk, Olssen, Funke, Moran, Weta visual effects supervisor Joe Letteri, and Weta special makeup effects supervisor Gino Acevedo, Weta pre-production R&D supervisor Matt Aitken, Weta lead animator David Clayton, Weta 2D sequence supervisor Erik Winquist, and supervising sound editor Ethan Van der Ryn.

While the body of the Diaries do little to potentially spoil Kong, “Fight” is a different beast altogether. It gives us an idea of what we’ll see in that sequence and goes through all the elements used to create it. We also get to watch the final product, at least for a few seconds of the overall battle.

That makes it enticing, as it’s the only place on these DVDs where you’ll actually see film footage – or even get a gander at Kong himself, since we never find a glimpse of the ape elsewhere. Personally, I’d prefer not to have watched this until I saw the movie, as I didn’t want to see any surprises. It’s not a terrible spoiler, though, and objectively, it’s a good little featurette that covers the scene well.

Some paper materials finish off the package. A very nice 52-page booklet includes chapter listings along with descriptions of each diary and many photos from the set. Four prints present high-quality color reproductions of concept art created for Kong. All of this comes in an oversized box meant to look like a steamer trunk. That component is a bit of a disappointment. Based on PR photos, I thought it’d be made of plastic or at least something sturdier than cardboard.

I suspect Peter Jackson’s King Kong Production Diaries will reach a limited audience because the average filmgoer just doesn’t care about this level of detail. For film buffs, however, the package offers a great collection of clips that give us a fine look at the movie’s day-to-day creation. Neither picture nor sound quality impress, but they’re acceptable for a product of this sort. The extras are also decent but unspectacular.

I’d recommend the Diaries for fans of Peter Jackson and/or his Kong remake, but I must admit the price tag causes some reservation. The Diaries retail for almost $40, and that seems like a steep price for this kind of set; something around $20 would be more appropriate in my opinion. If the material interests you, I think the package will please you, but don’t expect it to be cheap.

Viewer Film Ratings: 3.8181 Stars Number of Votes: 11
2 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.