Playmates Gets Kong Toy Deal

Playmates Toys Inc., the U.S. subsidiary of Playmates Holdings Ltd., has been appointed master toy licensee for Universal Pictures’ upcoming remake of the 1933 monster classic, King Kong. Directed by Lord of the Rings trilogy helmer Peter Jackson, the CG-intensive flick has begun shooting in New Zealand and is scheduled for release in December of 2005.

Under the worldwide licensing agreement struck with Universal Studios Consumer Products Group, Playmates Toys will create a line of detailed action figures and accessories.

Jackson is directing from a screenplay he co-wrote with longtime collaborators Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens, based the original story by Merian C. Cooper and Edgar Wallace. Walsh and Jackson are producing the film under their WingNut Films banner.

Academy Award nominee Naomi Watts (21 Grams) is set to star as Ann Darrow, a role originated by Fay Wray, who passed away last month. Darrow is a vaudeville actress who finds herself out of a job in Depression-era New York. Her luck changes when she meets Carl Denham, an entrepreneur, raconteur, adventurer and filmmaker played by Jack Black (School of Rock). Oscar winner Adrien Brody (The Pianist) steps into the role of Jack Driscoll, a New York playwright who falls in love with Darrow and becomes an unlikely hero.

Shakespearean actor Andy Serkis, who provided the performance for the CG Gollum character in two of the Lord of the Rings films, will again don a motion-capture suit to bring life to the title giant ape, which will be computer-animated. Serkis will also play the character of Lumpy the cook, who is part of the expedition to Skull Island.

Visual effects will be provided by New Zealand-based companies Weta Digital and Weta Workshop, recipients of multiple Academy Awards for their collective work on the Lord of the Rings saga. Digital elements and miniatures will supplement practical locations in creating primordial jungles and 1930s America.