Special effects designer Willis O’Brien had pioneered the concept of stop motion animation for the 1925 film The Lost World, but the movie that truly put the technique on the map was the original 1933 version of King Kong. Several models were built for the project, including one to bring the titular gorilla to the screen. Despite only having “limited” resources, O’Brien was able to make its movements believable, which caused viewers to become invested in the character. After the success of King Kong, other films of the period used O’Brien’s methods to bring fantasy creatures to life.
While Kong was the most memorable aspect of the film, a different revelatory effect called rear screen projection won a special achievement award. This is when live-action footage is projected against a small screen on set and was primarily used to enhance scenery while filming models. The practice was used in several movies during the 1930s and 40s, such as Mighty Joe Young.