Paul and Amy, I really enjoyed this episode.
As an animator, I got a kick out of Paul being flummoxed and at a loss to explain why he enjoyed watching Kong the character so much, even though the effects techniques are relatively crude compared to today's sophisticated cgi. I think Willis O'brien and his crew are due a bit more credit than they were paid in this podcast.
To my mind "King Kong" is an incredibly significant film for a key reason. Previously, special effects were just that, tricks that were used to enhance brief sequences in a film, to bring some realism to circumstances that were too difficult or dangerous to film for real. In "King Kong" the effects are undeniably the star.
"King Kong" is the first time special effects are used to bring life to a central character of a feature length film. Willis O'brien had previously used his stop motion techniques in "The Lost World" on a variety of rampaging prehistoric critters, but Kong is different. Kong is a brilliant example of "personality animation", or animation where the character appears to be thinking and making decisions. In this film, for the first time, the barometer of special effects changes from "how realistic is this effect?" to "how engaging is this performance?". As your guest zoo employee points out, there are many things about Kong's design and performance that are not accurate to a real gorilla, but in animation we regularly speak about "realism" and "believability" as separate concepts. Kong's brilliant performance, executed by a team of unseen artisans, transcends its technique. It is engaging and believable. This is the film proved that a special effect could hold it's own as an actor, and it's the milestone that paved the way for Yoda, E.T., Roger Rabbit, Dobby, Gollum and so many more.
Keep up the good work,