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Pinball Theme Watchlist: King Kong

Last week I put together an entire article about the major motion pictures that have milestone anniversaries in the near future. At the time I looked back at the most popular films from 25, 30, 40 and even 50 years ago. Well, maybe I didn't go back far enough. You know what major film franchise just celebrated its 90th Anniversary? King Kong. 90 Years! Now that's a big anniversary. Let's take a look at whether we might see a King Kong pinball machine in the future...


The Smoke:


The smoke here obviously starts with the cover picture for this article. At the 2023 Licensing Expo that recently took place in Las Vegas from June 13th through the 15th, Stern Pinball shared a number of funny pictures of the company's patriarch, Gary Stern, interacting with the exhibits. In this picture, you can clearly see him at the King Kong booth. Is this a sneaky Easter Egg that Stern Pinball dropped into a larger post, or is this them just teasing us as they often like to do?


After that picture dropped, several people reached out to me directly to say that they've heard that Stern and even more specifically Keith Elwin is working on a King Kong pin. Even Paris Pinball Addict mentioned the Elwin Kong rumor earlier on his Facebook page this morning. Is all that rumbling on the subject just because of the recent picture, or is there something more to it? That's very hard to say.


There is a history of King Kong and pinball. One of the rarest, most sought-after pinball machines of all-time is a 1990 Data East game based on none other than King Kong himself. Only 9 units of this machine were produced. CaptNRetro did an awesome YouTube video on the Data East King Kong pin in his "The Lost Pins" series four years ago (embedded below). Remember that Data East Pinball was the precursor to today's Stern Pinball. Stern Pinball itself even specifically mentioned King Kong pinball as part of its history in a social media post back in 2016 (see below).


As I mentioned in my article about a potential Fast and the Furious pinball machine late last week, pinball machine releases are often preceded by arcade machine releases. The theory behind this is companies begin to talk to game manufacturers about licensing their intellectual property for Arcade purposes at some point, but pinball machines take a lot longer to develop than arcade games so the latter come out first.


Raw Thrills and Play Mechanix (maker of Pulp Fiction pinball) came out with a massive King Kong of Skull Island VR arcade ride / game a couple of years ago. You'll see this game at Dave and Busters arcades all over the country.


Not only is Kong in commercial arcades, only a few short months ago Zen Studios introduced the license to home arcades and consoles through its newly revamped Pinball FX virtual pinball platform.


So clearly this isn't a dead license. There's been lots of activity with King Kong.


The Fire:


I'm not sure that there is any "fire" coming from this smoke though. I have been unable to find any Trademark filings for "King Kong" pertaining to pinball, at least not "Live" ones. There is a dead King Kong pinball trademark from several years ago.


Also, most of the rumblings that I've heard about this theme have been pretty vague. No one in the know has come to me directly and said "this is definitely happening."


I personally think that King Kong would make for a pretty cool pinball machine. Stern could do it a number of different ways, from an original Munsters Premium-esque Black and White art pin based on the original movies from 90 years ago to a more modern Peter Jackson (of Lord of the Rings fame) 2005 version of Kong. The newer version was made by Univeraal Pictures and we've seen them do quite a bit of pinball licensing.


I definitely think that Kong would make a cool pinball machine. Whether or not one is actually made in the future very much remains to be seen at the moment. That's why I've added it to my "Watch List" rather than calling it a full fledged rumor. Either way it sure was fun to talk about. What do you think about King Kong as a theme? Do you think that it would make a good pin that you'd be interested in? Even better, have you heard any rumors about this? If so let me know in the comments or shoot me an e-mail with any info at knapparcade@gmail.com.


Thanks for reading everyone!


The History of Data East King Kong:



Gary Stern with Kong at Licensing Expo:



The Raw Thrills / Play Mechanix game:


The new Zen Pinball FX tables:






The "Dead" King Kong Trademark:




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