The first film, Godzilla, is considered to be an early and influential classic in the "Giant Monster" film genre and was first released by Toho Company, LTD in 1954 and directed by Ishiro Honda. It was adapted by an American company into Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, edited and with added principal scenes featuring Raymond Burr, the film was released internationally becoming a commercial success.
The original Godzilla was greatly inspired by the commercial success of the 1952 re-release of King Kong, and the 1953 success of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms. Godzilla would go on to inspire Gorgo, Gamera, Cloverfield, and many others. The original film has also inspired many sequels along with an American reimagining and a second American reboot of the franchise. The popularity of the films has introduced the character in other media in the franchise such as television, music, literature including a series of books and comics along with video games. Its character has been one of the most recognizable symbols in Japanese popular culture worldwide and remains an important facet of Japanese films, and was the first example of the tokusatsu genre of Japanese entertainment.
The name "Godzilla" is a romanization, by the film production company Toho Company Ltd., of the original Japanese name "Gojira" — which is a combination of two Japanese words: gorira (ゴリラ) 'gorilla' and kujira (鯨, くじら) 'whale'. The word alludes to the size, power and aquatic origin of Godzilla.
- 1 Series history
- 2 Series development
- 3 Filmography
- 4 Other media
- 5 Cultural impact
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
The Godzilla series is generally broken into three eras reflecting a characteristic style and corresponding to the same eras used to classify all 'daikaiju eiga' (monster movies) in Japan. The first two eras refer to the Japanese emperor during production: the Shōwa era, and the Heisei era. The third is called the Millennium era as the emperor (Heisei) is the same but these films are considered to have a different style and storyline than the prior era.
Shōwa series (1954–1975)
The initial series of movies is named for the Shōwa period in Japan (as all of these films were produced before Emperor Hirohito's death in 1989). This Shōwa timeline spanned from 1954, with Godzilla, to 1975, with Terror of Mechagodzilla. With the exceptions of Godzilla, Godzilla Raids Again, King Kong vs. Godzilla, and Mothra vs. Godzilla, much of the Shōwa series is relatively light-hearted. Starting with Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Godzilla began evolving into a friendlier, more playful antihero (this transition was complete by Son of Godzilla, where he is shown as a good character), and as years went by, he evolved into an anthropomorphic superhero. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster was also significant for introducing Godzilla's archenemy and the main antagonist of the series, King Ghidorah. The films Son of Godzilla and All Monsters Attack were aimed at youthful audiences, featuring the appearance of Godzilla's son, Minilla. Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla was notable for introducing Godzilla's robotic arch foe and secondary villain of the movie series Mechagodzilla. The Shōwa period saw the addition of many monsters into the Godzilla continuity, two of which (Mothra and Rodan) had their own solo movies.
Heisei series (1984–1995)
The timeline was revamped in 1984 with The Return of Godzilla; this movie was created as a direct sequel to the 1954 film, and ignores the continuity of the Shōwa series. Because of this, the original Godzilla movie is considered part of the Heisei series as well as being a part of the Shōwa series. The continuity ended in 1995's Godzilla vs. Destoroyah after a run of seven films. The biological nature and science behind Godzilla became a much more discussed issue in the films, showing the increased focus on the moral aspects of genetics. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah gave the first concrete birth story for Godzilla, featuring a Godzillasaurus that was mutated by radiation into Godzilla.
Millennium series (1999–2004)
The Millennium Series is the official term for the series of Godzilla movies made after the Heisei series ended with Godzilla vs. Destoroyah. The common theme to this era is that all movies use the original Godzilla (1954) as the jumping-off point. Since the films are different, the sizes are different in some cases. Godzilla's most prominent size in this series is 55 meters (180 feet). In Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack he was 60 meters (about 196 feet), and in Godzilla: Final Wars he was 100 meters tall (about 328 feet). Godzilla was originally supposed to be 50 meters (about 164 feet) in Final Wars, but budgetary cutbacks in miniature sets forced this size change. There were five different timelines in the millennium series, spread over 6 films.
In 1956, Jewell Enterprises Inc., licensed Godzilla and produced Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. The film utilized much of the film of Godzilla, but adapted it telling the same basic story in a documentary style, narrated by an American reporter stationed in Tokyo at the time. The original Japanese dialogue was translated and overdubbed using Japanese-American actors. The new scenes with the American reporter, played by Raymond Burr, were filmed in California.
The first talk of an American Godzilla film was when director Steve Miner pitched his own take to Toho in the 1980s. "The idea was to do a Godzilla film as if it was the first one ever done, a big-budget American special FX movie." Miner said. "Our Godzilla would have been a combination of everything - man-in-suit, stop-motion and other stuff." Fred Dekker had written the screenplay. "We had a big Godzilla trying to find its baby. It's a bit of a Gorgo storyline. The big ending has Godzilla destroying San Francisco. The final Godzilla death scene was to be on Alcatraz Island." Toho and Warner Bros. were said to be very interested in Miner's take but it eventually became too expensive.
In October 1992, Sony Pictures acquired the rights from Toho to produce a trilogy of American Godzilla films, the first set to be released in the summer of 1994. In May 1993 Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio were brought on to write the script and in July 1994 Jan de Bont, director of Speed and Twister, signed on to direct. DeBont quit due to budget disputes, and director Roland Emmerich and producer Dean Devlin signed on before the release of the highly successful Independence Day. They rejected the previous script and Patrick Tatopoulos radically redesigned the titular monster. The film was released on May 19, 1998.
Godzilla was met with a negative reception from critics and fans of the franchise who deemed the film disappointing and due to the lack of enthusiasm from fans, audiences, theater owners, and licensees, the planned sequels were aborted and a weekly animated series was produced instead. The Godzilla license sat on Sony's shelf until they expired and reverted to Toho in 2003.
After the release of 2004's Godzilla: Final Wars, marking the 50th anniversary of the Godzilla film franchise, Toho declared that it would not produce another Godzilla film for another 10 years. Toho also demolished the water stage on its lot used in numerous Godzilla, kaiju and tokusatsu films. Yoshimitsu Banno, who had directed 1971's Godzilla vs. Hedorah, secured the rights from Toho to make an IMAX 3D short film production, based on a story similar to his Hedorah film. Banno was unable to see his production through to completion and the project was transferred to Legendary Pictures. In March 2010, Legendary formally announced the Godzilla project after it had acquired rights to make a Godzilla film from Toho. The film is a co-production with Warner Bros., which is also co-financing the film, and is not a sequel to the 1998 Godzilla.
Legendary originally proposed a release date in 2012, but the film remained in development into 2012, missing the release date. In January 2011, Gareth Edwards, director of the 2010 indie film Monsters, was attached to direct the new Godzilla film. Work on the script continued into 2013. In September 2012, Legendary Pictures committed to principal photography and announced a theatrical release date of May 16, 2014, nearly a decade after Toho's Godzilla: Final Wars. IMAX announced that the film will also be released in IMAX 3D on May 16, 2014. The principal cast is composed of Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Ken Watanabe, Elizabeth Olsen, Juliette Binoche, David Strathairn and Bryan Cranston. Filming began on March 18, 2013 in and around Vancouver, Canada.
Godzilla was originally an allegory for the effects of the hydrogen bomb, and the consequences that such weapons might have on earth. The radioactive contamination of the Japanese fishing boat Daigo Fukuryū Maru through the United States' Castle Bravo thermonuclear device test on Bikini Atoll, on March 1, 1954 led to much press coverage in Japan preceding the release of the first movie in 1954. The Heisei and Millennium series have largely continued this concept. Some have pointed out the parallels, conscious or unconscious, between Godzilla's relationship to Japan and that of the United States; first a terrible enemy who causes enormous destruction to the cities of Japan such as Tokyo (Godzilla, The Return of Godzilla), Osaka (Godzilla Raids Again, Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus), and Yokohama (Godzilla vs. Mothra, Ghidorah the Three Headed Monster Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack) in different films, but then becoming a good friend and defender in times of peril.
Films have been made over the last five decades, each reflecting the social and political climate in Japan.
From 1954 through 2004, there have been 28 Godzilla films produced by Toho Studios in Japan. The first was adapted into Godzilla, King of the Monsters! in the United States. A wholly American production was made in 1998 by TriStar Pictures. A new film is currently in development by Warner Bros. Pictures and Legendary Pictures in the United States to be released in 2014.
|1||Godzilla, King of the Monsters!||1956||Terry O. Morse
|None||Criterion Collection - DVD/Blu-ray|
|2||Godzilla||1998||Roland Emmerich||Baby zillas||Sony - DVD/Blu-ray|
|3||Godzilla||2014||Gareth Edwards||"Mutos"||Warner Bros.|
Italian Godzilla, aka Cozzilla
In 1976, Italian director Luigi Cozzi intended to re-release Godzilla in Italy. Facing resistance from exhibitors to showing a black and white film, Cozzi instead licensed a negative of Godzilla, King of the Monsters from Toho and created a new movie in color, adding lots of stock footage of graphic death and destruction and short scenes from newsreel footage from World War II, which he released as Godzilla in 1977. The film was colorized using Cozzi's own technique, and may have been one of the first black and white movies to be colorized. Dialogue was dubbed into Italian and new music was added. After the initial Italian run, the negative became Toho property and prints have only been exhibited in Italy. Italian firm Yamato Video at one time intended to release the colorized version on a double DVD along with the original Godzilla.
In 1985, North Korea released Pulgasari, a kaiju movie similar to Godzilla. To make the film, North Korea used kidnapped South Korean director Shin Sang-ok. The special effects department from Toho was hired to produce the special effects. Kenpachiro Satsuma, the stunt performer who played Godzilla from 1984 to 1995, portrayed Pulgasari.
In 2007, a CGI Godzilla appeared in the Japanese movie Always Zoku Sanchōme no Yūhi (Always Sunset on Third Street 2). In an imaginary sequence, Godzilla destroys part of 1954 Tokyo. The making of the sequence was kept a secret. Godzilla has been referenced and has briefly appeared in several other films. 
Godzilla also had his own series of books published by Random House during the late 1990s. The company created different series for different age groups, the Scott Ciencin series being aimed at children. Several manga have been derived from specific Godzilla films, and both Marvel and Dark Horse have published Godzilla comic book series (1977–1979 and 1987–1999, respectively). In 2011, IDW Publishing started a new series Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters rebooting the Godzilla story.
To tie-in with the 2014 film, Titan Books will be publishing a new novel in early May, 2014. The novel will tell the film's story, as well as serve as a prequel, and will be written by Greg Cox.
Blue Öyster Cult released the song "Godzilla" in 1977. The introduction to the live version (1982) directly references the first Godzilla movie "...lurking for millions of years, encased in a block of ice, evil incarnate, waiting to be melted down and to rise again."
The French death metal band Gojira is based on Godzilla's Japanese kaiju name.
The American punk band, Groovie Ghoulies released a song called 'Hats Off To You (Godzilla)' as a tribute to Godzilla. It is featured on the EP 'Freaks on Parade' released in 2002.
Label Shifty issued compilation Destroysall with 15 songs from 15 bands, ranging from hardcore punk to doom-laden death metal. Not all songs are dedicated to Godzilla, but all do appear connected to monsters from Toho studios. Fittingly, the disc was released on August 1, 2003, the 35th anniversary of the Japanese release of Destroy All Monsters.
There is also a song by metal band Sepultura that was written with Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) called 'Biotech is Godzilla'.
King Ghedorah (aka MF DOOM) released Take Me To Your Leader a Hip-Hop album featuring guests from the group Monster Island Czar another Godzilla themed rap group. These albums include multiple Godzilla samples throughout the series.
In Japan, Godzilla appeared in several episodes of Toho's live-action Zone Fighter television program in 1973. Also in Japan, Godzilla (along with a plethora of other kaiju) appeared in an animated toy show called Godzilla Island that ran from 1997-1998.
The success of the Godzilla franchise has spawned two American Saturday morning cartoons produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions: Godzilla and Godzilla: The Series (a cartoon sequel to the American film). Both series feature an investigative scientific team who call upon Godzilla as an ally. The series make several homages to the Shōwa films and several antagonist monsters have been inspired by extant Toho creations.
Godzilla is one of the most recognizable symbols of Japanese popular culture worldwide and remains an important facet of Japanese films, embodying the kaiju subset of the tokusatsu genre. He has been considered a filmographic metaphor for the United States (with the "-zilla" part of the name being used in vernacular language as a suffix to indicate something of exaggerate proportions), as well as an allegory of nuclear weapons in general. The earlier Godzilla films, especially the original Godzilla, portrayed Godzilla as a frightening, nuclear monster. Godzilla represented the fears that many Japanese held about the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the possibility of recurrence.
Much of Godzilla's popularity in the United States can be credited with TV broadcasts of the Toho Studios monster movies during the 1960s and 1970s. The American company UPA contracted with Toho to distribute its monster movies of the time, and UPA continues to hold the license today for the Godzilla films of the 1960s and 1970s. Sony currently holds some of those rights, as well as the rights to every Godzilla film produced from 1991 onward. The Blue Öyster Cult song "Godzilla" also contributed to the popularity of the movies. The creature also made an appearance in a Nike commercial, in which Godzilla (creature created at ILM) went one-on-one with NBA star Charles Barkley.
At least two prehistoric creatures from the fossil record have been named after Godzilla. Gojirasaurus quayi is a theropod dinosaur that lived in the Triassic Period; a partial skeleton was unearthed in Quay County, New Mexico. Dakosaurus andiniensis, a crocodile from the Jurassic Period, was nicknamed "Godzilla" before being scientifically classified.
In 2010 the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society named their most recently acquired scout vessel MV Gojira. The Godzilla Franchise served them with a notice to remove the name and in response the boat's name was changed in May 2011 to MV Brigitte Bardot.
- 1954 Japan Movie Association Awards – Special Effects (Godzilla)
- 1965 Japan Academy Award – Best Score (Mothra vs. Godzilla)
- 1966 Japan Academy Award – Special Effects (Invasion of Astro Monster)
- 1986 Japan Academy Award – Special Effects and Newcomer of the Year (The Return of Godzilla)
- 1986 Razzie Awards – Worst Supporting Actor and Worst New Star (The Return of Godzilla)
- 1992 Japan Academy Award – Special Effects (Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah)
- 1993 Tokyo Sports Movie Awards – Best Leading Actor (Godzilla vs. Mothra)
- 1993 Best Grossing Films Award – Golden Award and Money-Making Star Award (Godzilla vs. Mothra)
- 1993 Japan Academy Award – Best Score (Godzilla vs. Mothra)
- 1994 Japan Academy Award – Best Score (Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II)
- 1995 Best Grossing Films Award – Silver Award (Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla)
- 1996 Best Grossing Films Award – Golden Award (Godzilla vs. Destoroyah)
- 1996 Japan Academy Award – Special Effects (Godzilla vs. Destoroyah)
- 1996 MTV Movie Awards – Lifetime Achievement*
- 1998 Golden Raspberry Awards – Worst Supporting Actress and Worst Remake or Sequel (Godzilla 1998)
- 1999 Saturn Awards – Best Special Effects (Godzilla 1998)
- 2001 Saturn Awards – Best Home Video Release (Godzilla 2000)
- 2002 Best Grossing Films Award – Silver Award (Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack)
- 2004 Hollywood Walk of Fame
- 2007 Saturn Awards – Best DVD Classic Film Release (Godzilla)
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- Biotech is Godzilla
- Terrence Rafferty (May 2, 2004). "The Monster That Morphed Into a Metaphor".
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