|Godzilla film series character|
Zilla in the 1998 film.
|First appearance||Godzilla (as Godzilla)|
|Last appearance||Godzilla: Final Wars (as Zilla)|
|Created by||Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich and Patrick Tatopoulos|
Zilla (ジラ Jira), formerly known as Godzilla, is a kaiju that first appeared as the title character in TriStar Pictures 1998 film Godzilla. It was initially created as a re-imagining of Godzilla, but was later given its own identity by Toho, who own the character's trademark. It has since become a part of Toho's Godzilla franchise.
Initially, producer Shōgo Tomiyama and director Ryuhei Kitamura renamed the creature "Zilla" for its appearance in Godzilla: Final Wars. This decision was made because they felt that Emmerich's film had taken the "God" out of "Godzilla" by portraying the character as a mere animal. The name "Zilla" was chosen for the character by Tomiyama as a satirical take on counterfeit Godzilla products that use "Zilla" as a suffix. Ironically, the name "Zilla" was already being used in a joke popularized by Jay Leno in a Tonight Show monologue at the time of the 1998 movie's initial release: "Do you think atheists just call it 'Zilla'?" The "Zilla" name has since been trademarked by Toho Co. Ltd and this name change has been reflected in subsequent official products featuring the character since its official retcon in 2004 (although being first registered as "Zilla" in 2008), though "Godzilla" continues to be used as a title on products that predate the name change, such as any re-release of the 1998 film or Godzilla: The Series.
Special effects artist Patrick Tatopoulos was contacted by director Roland Emmerich and asked to create a new design for the Godzilla character. According to Tatopoulos, the only specific instructions Emmerich gave him was that it should be able to run incredibly fast. Godzilla was originally conceived by special effects director Eiji Tsubaraya, special effects designers Akira Wantanabe and Teizo Toshimitsu and director Tomoyuki Tanaka as a robust, erect-standing, plantigrade reptilian sea monster, played by an actor in a rubber-latex full-body suit. Based on the instructions Emmerich gave him, Tatopoulos reimagined it as a lean, digitigrade bipedal iguana that stood with its back and tail parallel to the ground, rendered via computer animation. The monster's distinctive facial features include a prominent lantern jaw, inspired by the fictional tiger Shere Khan from Disney's animated adaptation of The Jungle Book.
The new monster's color scheme was designed to reflect and blend in with the urban environment. At one point, it was planned to use motion capture to create the movements of the computer-generated monster, but it ended up looking too much like a man in a suit. The baby scenes utilized a combination of CGI and purpose built costumes donned by actors.
Upon pending approval for the design, at the time, Shōgo Tomiyama commented on the new look, saying "It was so different we realized we couldn't make small adjustments. That left the major question of whether to approve it or not."
Though the monster is referred to by the characters as a "he", Patrick Tatopoulos stated on a DVD audio commentary that the effects crew sculpted female genitalia into the new monster's CG model.
In the 1998 film and TV-series, Zilla is portrayed as a territorial, piscivorous, 180 foot tall mutated lizard. Atypical of Toho’s giant monster characters, Zilla is not immune to conventional weaponry, and instead relies on its cunning and athleticism to outflank its enemies. It can travel long distances over land and sea, burrow underground, and reproduce via parthenogenesis and is able to lay over 200 eggs, unlike his offspring in the animated series who was unable to reproduce. It possesses an ignitable radioactive breath weapon called "Power Breath", although its offspring could breathe a green atomic Power Breath in the animated series, in which it was pitted against a rogues gallery of original monsters, after the producers were unable to secure the rights to adapt Toho's classic monsters. It was also featured in advertisements alongside the Taco Bell chihuahua.
Zilla is featured in the 2004 film Godzilla: Final Wars where it was shown attacking Sydney. Zilla would later go on to fight and lose against Godzilla in less than twenty seconds (the shortest monster fight in the film), as Zilla is swept aside by Godzilla's tail and then set ablaze by his atomic breath (along with the Sydney Opera House). According to producer Shogo Tomiyama, this was intended "to show which Godzilla is stronger." Toho portrayed Zilla with CGI, creating a computer generated model with a 3D scan of the Trendmasters "Ultimate Godzilla" toy. Zilla would fight Godzilla again, in a slightly longer battle, in the 2013 comic series by IDW Publishing titled Godzilla: Rulers of Earth.
The design and characterization of Zilla has been negatively received. Prior to it being renamed "Zilla" in 2004 by Ryuhei Kitamura and Shogo Tomiyama for the release of Godzilla: Final Wars, film critic Richard Pusateri of G-Fan Magazine coined the acronym GINO ("Godzilla In Name Only") to distinguish it from the original Godzilla. The major points of criticism were centered around the character's radical departure from the traditional Godzilla design, how it was portrayed fleeing from the military, how it didn't breathe nuclear fire, how it laid eggs, and was killed by missiles during the film's climax. These sentiments were echoed by veteran Godzilla actors Haruo Nakajima and Kenpachiro Satsuma, and by Shusuke Kaneko, director of the 90s Gamera films. Nakajima ridiculed the character design, stating “its face looks like an iguana and its body and limbs look like a frog.” Satsuma walked out of the film, saying “it’s not Godzilla, it doesn’t have his spirit.” Kaneko opined “[Americans] seem unable to accept a creature that cannot be put down by their arms.”, and later alluded to the character in his film Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack as a monster that Americans mistook for Godzilla.
The animated version of the character was more positively received than its live action predecessor, due to having some of the characteristics of the original Godzilla, such as the ability to breathe nuclear fire. However, the negative response to both Emmerich's Godzilla as well as the Disney remake of Mighty Joe Young released that same year, had caused giant monster movies to fall out of vogue for several years after, with films such as Peter Jackson's King Kong remake being postponed until 2005. Poor merchandise sales for the film led to a cancellation of a toyline based on "Godzilla: the Series", and resulted in significant financial losses for toy manufacturer Trendsmasters, which went out of business soon after.
TriStar initially planned a trilogy of Godzilla films after acquiring the rights to the character but due to the 1998 film's poor reception which generated a lack of enthusiasm from audiences, theater owners, and licensees, the planned sequels were abandoned and TriStar's rights to Godzilla expired in May 2003. Emmerich and Devlin only went as far as to hire Tab Murphy to write an early script treatment for Godzilla 2 set in Australia. Zilla has only made two feature film appearances but was vaguely referenced in the film Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack. For the production of the video games Godzilla: Save the Earth and Godzilla: Unleashed, developer Simon Strange decided not to include Zilla due to unpopularity from fans however, after the release of the latter game, some fans questioned why Zilla was not featured in the game.
- Godzilla: The Series (1998/2000) - as Godzilla, Baby Godzilla, and Cyber-Godzilla
- Godzilla Online (CD-Rom - 1998) - as Godzilla and Baby Godzilla
- Godzilla (LCD - 1998) - as Godzilla
- Godzilla: Virtual Shakin' (LCD - 1998) - as Godzilla
- Godzilla (Pinball - 1998) - as Godzilla
- Godzilla Trading Battle (PlayStation - 1998) - as Godzilla
- Godzilla Generations (Dreamcast - 1998) - as Godzilla-USA
- M.U.G.E.N (Linux, MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows - 1999) - as USA-Godzilla
- Godzilla: The Series (Game Boy Color - 1999) - as Godzilla
- Godzilla: The Series - Monster Wars (Game Boy Color - 2000) - as Godzilla and Cyber-Godzilla
- Godzilla: Daikaiju Battle Royale (Online game - 2012) - as Zilla
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- Godzilla: Rulers of Earth (Comic - 2013/2014) - as Zilla
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