Kong Studio’s ‘Long Story Short’ series is about showing that truth can be stranger than fiction, and all told in the space of a single minute. The latest episode could not be more appropriate for the ape-themed animation studio, telling the story of the 80’s ape escape artist Ken Allen. A.K.A Hairy Houdini.
Kong Studio’s ‘Long Story Short’ series is about showing that truth can be stranger than fiction, and all told in the space of a single minute. The latest episode could not be more appropriate for the ape themed animation studio, telling the story of the 80’s ape escape artist Ken Allen. A.K.A Hairy Houdini.
Ken Allen was born into captivity in 1971 in San Diego Zoo. He gained worldwide attention for a series of enclosure escapes. Ken Allen’s ability to outwit his keepers became the stuff of zoo legend. Staff would spy on his enclosure to try to catch him in the act, only to find that he seemed to be aware that he was under surveillance. This forced zookeepers to go “undercover”, posing as tourists to learn Ken Allen’s escape route. The zoo spent over $40,000 making his enclosure ‘escape proof’, and yet Ken escaped again, on several occasions and proved to be a bad influence on other incarcerated animals who followed suit.
He had his own fan club named The Orang-Gang, was the subject of t-shirts and bumper stickers reading “Free Ken Allen”, and had a song penned in his honour titled – “The Ballad of Ken Allen”.
Kong’s very own Executive Producer Emma Burch came across the strange but true story, and felt it was a perfect fit for the Long Story Short series.
Emma on Hairy Houdini –
“After writing the script, it sat on the shelf for a couple of years. I explored a few different 2D animation styles to represent Ken, but they didn’t capture who Ken was for me.”
With her background in Stop motion (and directing the award-winning Being Bradford Dillman), Emma was determined to make this Kong’s first full stop motion production.
Emma continues – “I randomly discovered an animated feature called “Strike!” on Amazon Prime one Friday evening with my son and we fell in love with the charm and humour of the felt characters. When I saw Trevor Hardy named as the director on the film’s credits, I realised we were connected on LinkedIn. So, I dropped Trevor a message to say how much we enjoyed his film. Trevor and I discussed how great it would be to work together. It then dawned on me Trevor’s felt puppets were the perfect fit for Ken, so I asked if he’d be interested in collaborating.”
Trevor has over twenty years’ of experience in stop-motion animation, working in advertising, music videos and children’s television. In 2018 Trevor’s feature film debut was released. It tells the story of Mungo, a young mole who wants to become a footballer. It is the first feature film made by Trevor’s production company Pigbird.
Trevor on Hairy Houdini –
“Emma told me she loved Strike and had a project she thought would be right up my street. Well, she was not wrong, ‘Hairy Houdini’ was a total joy to make, and I loved every second of it. I could not believe my luck that this fantastic short story script had fallen on my lap and Emma and the Kong team were very happy for me to put my style and humour across it, how wonderful! I got busy creating the world and characters. It was a challenge to get it all into a single minute because the story of ‘Hairy’ is so brilliant. I really wanted people to love this cheeky brut!”
Emma says of the filmmaking process –
“Trevor kept sending us behind-the-scenes updates of the shoot from his home studio. It made me miss being on stop-motion set. Hopefully, this will be the first of many stop-motion projects from Kong Studio.”