A few months ago I posted an article about the animated gorilla figure used in Lagoon’s Haunted Shack and Terroride attractions. I have since received an update on the history of these hulking creatures from the same man, John Clowers, who has obtained his own gorilla. He says:
“The original company that created these big lugs did so back in 1933 (the same year the first King Kong premiered) and displayed one as part of a huge World’s Fair animated exhibit called 1 Million Years B.C. as shown on the attached page from Popular Mechanics, June edition 1933, the Company was Messmore & Damon, Inc. and created giant mechanical dinosaurs, mammoths and more! Later they used the 1933 gorilla molds to make some replicas for dark rides and theme parks. They made some until the early 1970s and charged $1,800.00 for one back then…
As you may notice, the earlier Gorilla’s detailed chest remained uncovered by faux fur just as I stated I thought mine looked best! So the few remaining animated gorillas by this company are actually made from the 1933 World’s Fair molds (78 years ago) the year Fay Ray and Kong created all that buzz! I’d suggest that the Lagoon gorilla might be treated to indoor restoration instead of weathering outside amongst tossed Halloween pumpkin shells. These have real historic value indeed!”
With a little more digging, I found a 1967 catalog from Messmore & Damon that lists Lagoon as one of their clients. It’s also listed in catalogs from 1968 and a This Is, Inc. catalog from 1975. It’s very likely that the displays and props for The Haunted Shack, Terroride and Dracula’s Castle were supplied by Messmore & Damon. It seems there’s also a possibility that Messmore & Damon designed the displays in Mother Goose Land so I’ll be looking into this a lot more. If you have any helpful information, please let me know by clicking the “Contact” link at the top of the page.
I recently received an email from a visitor who owns a gorilla exactly like the one used at Lagoon’s Haunted Shack and Terroride. His gorilla came from an auction of items from War Memorial Amusement Park in Arkansas. If possible, we’d like to find out at least who manufactured these gorillas. Here’s his description of the mechanical creature.
“His head moves from side to side and both arms raise and lower independently – he also rocks side to side at his hip. All that action is produced by one strong and slow geared electric motor. He stands about 100 inches tall (well over 8 feet) and was covered with the worst condition fake fur, so it was removed, but he has so much detail under that fur that he doesn’t really need it anyway.”
“I’ve only contacted one other guy who owns an identical one that was in the Palace Funhouse at Asbury Park that closed down. His was made of papier mâché, but looked exactly as these do. Mine is made of a thick fiberglass resin type material which will hold up for generations of display and animated use! I love this guy and wonder more about a possible company that may have made him? I read about Van Orkin and the Animated Display creations he made on the Laff-In-The-Dark website. Obviously, these HUGE gorillas were meant to be impressive draws to the spookhouses and were made by some company for that very purpose.”
“I do know that there is a weight inside the head that counter-balances when the Gorilla rocks side to side making his head move left to right on its own. Also, one arm raises and lowers before the other does the same. It took someone with real understanding of mechanical devices to make everything move by rods on one motor.”
Lagoon’s gorilla (nicknamed George by employees) was first part of the Haunted Shack and later used in Terroride. He was removed some time after 2007 and became a part of the Psycho Dave’s Junkyard walk-through during Frightmares until 2011. He popped up again in the Pioneer Village Scare Zone from 2014-16 and was placed in Dracula’s Castle in 2017.
If you know about the manufacturer of these gorillas or have any helpful information, please comment below or contact me and I will pass the information along.
His head moves from side to side and both arms raise & lower
independantly-he also rocks side to side at his hip. All that action is produced
by one strong and slow geared electric motor. He stands about 100 inches tall
(well over 8 feet) and was covered with the worst condition fake fur so it was
removed but, he has so much detail under that fur that he dosen't really need it His head moves from side to side and both arms raise and lower independently - he also rocks side to side at his hip. All that action is produced by one strong and slow geared electric motor. He stands about 100 inches tall (well over 8 feet) and was covered with the worst condition fake fur so it was removed, but he has so much detail under that fur that he doesn't really need it anyway.