Variety brings word that a live-action series detailing the origin of iconic movie monster King Kong is in the works at Disney+. According to the trade the series will be "a serialized drama that would explore Kong's origins as well as the mysteries of his home, Skull Island." Stephany Folsom, who developed Amazon Prime Video's Paper Girls adaptation, is set to write and executive produce. Filmmaker James Wan will also executive produce through his Atomic Monster banner alongside Michael Clear and Rob Hackett. Disney Branded Television will produce the series which doesn't yet have a targeted release date.
You may be reading this story and wondering, how exactly can Disney do that? Didn't Warner Bros. make the last King Kong movie? To make it simple, the rights to King Kong are very complicated but at its core a piece of the character exists within the public domain (specifically the novelization of the original 1933 feature film), allowing anyone to make anything of their choosing with the character and his setting as long as they use that as their inspiration. What makes this announcement slightly more curious however is Variety's note that the film will be based on the original feature film by Merian C. Cooper "as well as new novelizations by artist Joe DeVito produced in conjunction with Cooper's estate."
What this piece of the announcement seems to indicate is that Disney will be free to use not only pieces of the Kong movie itself (there are some minor differences in the feature film and the novelization) but also the many novels by DeVito that were published from the late 1990s into the early 2000s. This will help Disney differentiate their versions of the character and his tropical home from the many others that exist, ironically using the actual basis for the story rather than the pieces that are public domain. Legendary's MonsterVerse series also has a live-action TV series in the works, set up at Apple TV+, which will be connected to their films.
Disney's upcoming series marks the latest large piece of media that will include Kong. A sequel to 2021's Godzilla vs Kong is currently filming, though if it will include the large ape has not actually been confirmed just yet, while Netflix is also developing their own Skull Island origin series, an anime from Powerhouse Animation Studios. Now all that remains is an arms race to see whose project will be released first, and how Disney can make theirs different from the others that exist.