|Godzilla film series character|
Shōwa, Heisei, & Millennium incarnations of King Ghidorah
|First appearance||Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)|
|Created by||Tomoyuki Tanaka|
|Portrayed by||Shōwa era:
The 10,000 Year Old Dragon
The King of Terror
|Species||Three-headed dragon-like kaiju|
King Ghidorah (キングギドラ Kingu Gidora) is a film monster originating from Toho's Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964). Although Toho officially trademarks the character as King Ghidorah, the character was originally referred to as Ghidrah in some English markets.
Although King Ghidorah's design has remained largely consistent throughout its appearances (an armless, golden-scaled winged dragon with three heads and two tails), its origin story has varied from being an extraterrestrial planet-killing dragon, a genetically engineered monster from the future, or a guardian of ancient Japan. The character is usually portrayed as an archenemy of Godzilla and Mothra, though it has had one appearance as an ally of the latter.
Despite rumors that Ghidorah was meant to represent the threat posed by China, which had at the time of the character's creation just developed nuclear weapons, director Ishirō Honda denied the connection and stated that Ghidorah was simply a modern take on the dragon Yamata no Orochi.
The initial idea for Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster came from Tomoyuki Tanaka, who also created Godzilla. Tanaka's inspiration came from an illustration of the Lernaean Hydra in a book about Greek Mythology, and Orochi of Japanese folklore. Tanaka was enamored with the idea of Godzilla fighting a multi-headed serpent, but considered 7-8 heads to be excessive, and thus the number of heads was reduced to three.
The final version was an armless, three-headed dragon with large wings, two tails and of extraterrestrial origin. Screenwriter Shinichi Sekizawa insisted that the Ghidorah suit be fabricated using light-weight silicon-based materials in order to grant the wearer greater mobility. The final Ghidorah design was constructed by special effects artist Teizo Toshimitsu, who had initially painted it green in order to further differentiate it from Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra, but changed it to gold on the insistence of Eiji Tsuburaya, after his assistant noted that being a creature from Venus, the "gold planet", Ghidorah should be that color.
The monster suit itself was built by Akira Watanabe, and worn by Shoichi Hirose, who also played King Kong in Toho's King Kong vs. Godzilla. Hirose walked hunched over inside the Ghidorah costume, holding a metal bar for balance, while puppeteers would control its heads, tails and wings off-camera like a marionette. The monster's heads were each fitted with remotely controlled motors, which were connected to operators via a wire extending from the suit's backside.
Performing as Ghidorah proved challenging to Hirose, as he had to time his movements in a way that would not conflict with the separately operated heads and wings, as doing so would have resulted in the overhead wires tangling. Because of the suit's weight, it frequently snapped the overhead wires supporting it. Special effects were added as the creature is capable emitting destructive, lightning-like "gravity beams" from its mouths and generating hurricane-force winds from its wings.
Despite King Ghidorah's central role in the film's plot, the character was given little screen time, as Hirose had fallen out with special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya, who never forgave Hirose for accepting a Hollywood deal, and subsequently hired Susumu Utsumi to play King Ghidorah after Invasion of Astro-Monster. In that film, King Ghidorah was given a darker shade of gold, and its movements both on land and in the air were more fluid than during Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, as the special effects crew had at that point learned from the shortcomings of the previous film's depiction of the creature.
In Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, the character's ruffs of hairs surrounding its heads were replaced with horns, as it proved difficult for the special effects team to superimpose the individual strands of hair onto footage of people escaping the monster. Special effects director Koichi Kawakita had originally planned on having each of Ghidorah's heads fire differently colored beams, but this was ultimately scrapped in favor of the classic yellow color.
For Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, director Shūsuke Kaneko had originally planned on using Varan as Godzilla's principal antagonist, but was pressured by Toho chairman Isao Matsuoka to use the more recognizable and profitable King Ghidorah, as the previous film in the franchise, Godzilla x Megaguirus, which featured an original and unfamiliar antagonist, was a box office and critical failure. In order to emphasize Ghidorah's heroic role in the movie, the creature's size was greatly reduced, and was portrayed by Akira Ohashi, who moved the creature's heads as hand puppets.
Shōwa era (1964-1973)
In the debut film, Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Ghidorah is portrayed as an ancient extraterrestrial entity responsible for the destruction of the Venusian civilization, five thousand years before the film's events. His attempt to destroy Earth is thwarted by the combined efforts of Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra. Subsequent Shōwa era films would portray Ghidorah as the pawn of various alien races seeking to subjugate Earth.
Heisei era (1991-1998)
In Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), the creature's backstory is completely re-envisioned: it originates as a trio of diminutive genetically engineered creatures called "Dorats" owned by members of the 23rd century Equal Environment Earth Union, a group dedicated to equalizing the power of Earth's nations. Seeking to stop Japan's global economic dominance in their timeline by transforming the Dorats into King Ghidorah through nuclear exposure, the Earth Unionists hope to plant the Dorats on Lagos Island during the 1954 H-bomb tests there. Prior to doing so, they remove the dinosaur that would ultimately become Godzilla from the island, so that the resulting King Ghidorah would be able to attack Japan without opposition. In 1992, the Earth Unionists unleash Ghidorah onto Japan, but he is defeated by a recreated Godzilla. The wounded King Ghidorah lies dormant under the sea for two centuries before being outfitted with robotic parts by a disillusioned Earth Unionist and sent back to 1992 as Mecha-King Ghidorah in order to stop Godzilla's rampage. This version of King Ghidorah was portrayed by Hurricane Ryu.
In Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), Mecha-King Ghidorah's robotic middle head is salvaged by the United Nations Godzilla Countermeasures Center (UNGCC) and reverse engineered to create Mechagodzilla.
In Rebirth of Mothra III (1998), King Ghidorah is depicted as an extraterrestrial that landed on earth during the Cretaceous Period of the Mesozoic Era and wiped out the dinosaurs by draining them of their life energies. Ghidorah left Earth and returns in modern times to feed on humans. Mothra fails to defeat the monster and travels back to the Cretaceous in order to kill Ghidorah retroactively. Mothra defeats the younger Ghidorah, but the monster's severed tail allows it to regenerate back into its adult form in modern times. Mothra finally kills the monster by transforming into a new form: "Armor Mothra". This version of King Ghidorah was portrayed by Tsutomu Kitagawa.
Millennium era (2001)
In Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, Ghidorah is portrayed as having been one of the three Guardians of Yamato, originating 1,000 years before the events of the film. Initially an antagonist, Ghidorah was imprisoned in Mount Fuji, only to be reawakened in 2001 to halt Godzilla's destruction of Tokyo. Ghidorah is defeated, but then revived and empowered by ally Mothra. This version of King Ghidorah was portrayed by Akira Ohashi.
MonsterVerse era (2019-)
In 2014 Legendary Pictures announced that they have acquired the rights to King Ghidorah, Mothra, and Rodan from Toho to use in their MonsterVerse. King Ghidorah, along with Rodan and Mothra, were introduced into the MonsterVerse in Kong: Skull Island (2017) in a Post-credits scene depicting cave paintings of all three monsters, including Godzilla, in the footage shown to James Conrad and Mason Weaver.
In June 2017, a press released from Legendary confirmed that Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah will be featured in Godzilla: King of the Monsters. In April 2018, Jason Liles, Alan Maxson, and Richard Dorton were cast to provide the motion capture performances for King Ghidorah, with Liles performing the middle head while Maxson and Dorton will perform the side heads, while others will perform the body.
Throughout the creature's appearances, the only consistent abilities are flight and the capacity to fire "gravity beams" from its mouths. In Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, the first incarnation is shown travelling through space within a meteor capable of generating magnetic fields. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah features a robotic version - Mecha-King Ghidorah - equipped with grappling cables and a mechanical arm that can discharge electricity and is capable of lifting Godzilla.
In Rebirth of Mothra III, King Ghidorah gains energy from eating victims and can construct a dome to house its victims for future consumption. It is also portrayed as capable of firing lightning bolts from its wings and regenerating its entire body from severed body parts. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack features a version that can electrocute enemies via its teeth and can gain power by absorbing the spirits of dead monsters, allowing it to form an energy shield capable of deflecting Godzilla's atomic heat ray.
The character has been well-received and is considered to be the most famous enemy of Godzilla. WatchMojo.com listed King Ghidorah as #1 on their "Top 10 Godzilla Villains" list, and #6 on their "Top 10 Giant Movie Monsters" list, while IGN listed the creature as #2 on their "Top 10 Japanese Movie Monsters" list. Complex listed the character as #4 on its "The 15 Most Badass Kaiju Monsters of All Time" list, calling it "iconic" and "...simply looks cooler than some of the more powerful bugs, crabs, and robots."
In his review of Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Ethan Reed of Toho Kingdom praised King Ghidorah, calling it "a fantastic addition to the franchise" and "no less than pure evil, a relentless force of destruction that wipes out the life of entire planets just for the sake of it" and concluded that "King Ghidorah is not only one the best characters in the series, but one [of] the best movie villains as well." Similar views were expressed in Paste, which listed Ghidorah as #5 on its "10 Best Movie Dragons", describing it as "probably the deadliest beast in all of Godzilla lore".
Godzilla historian Steve Ryfle, however, criticized Ghidorah's design in Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah, citing its stiff movements and recycled Rodan screech, as well as noting that it did not deviate enough from Eiji Tsuburaya's original design.
Spin-off characters related to and based on King Ghidorah (although quadrupedal in appearance) were featured in other Toho films: "Desghidorah" (or "Death Ghidorah") in Rebirth of Mothra and "Keizer Ghidorah" in Godzilla: Final Wars. A post-credit scene in Kong: Skull Island depicts a cave painting of several monsters such as Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra and King Ghidorah.
- Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
- Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)
- Destroy All Monsters (1968)
- Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972)
- Terror of Mechagodzilla (1975, stock footage cameo)
- Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
- Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)
- Rebirth of Mothra III (1998)
- Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001)
- Kong: Skull Island (2017, cave drawing only)
- Godzilla: King of the Monsters (2019)
- Zone Fighter (1973)
- Godzilla Island (1997-1998)
- Courage the Cowardly Dog (1999-2002) (episodes: "Nowhere TV", and "Courage in the Big Stinkin' City")
- Godzilla: Monster of Monsters (NES - 1988)
- Godzilla / Godzilla-Kun: Kaijuu Daikessen (Game Boy - 1990)
- Godzilla 2: War of the Monsters (NES - 1991)
- Battle Soccer: Field no Hasha (SNES - 1992)
- Super Godzilla (SNES - 1993)
- Kaijū-ō Godzilla / King of the Monsters, Godzilla (Game Boy - 1993)
- Godzilla: Battle Legends (Turbo Duo - 1993)
- Godzilla: Monster War / Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters (Super Famicom - 1994)
- Godzilla Giant Monster March (Game Gear - 1995)
- Godzilla Trading Battle (PlayStation - 1998)
- Godzilla Generations: Maximum Impact (Dreamcast - 1999)
- Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee (GCN, Xbox - 2002/2003)
- Godzilla: Domination! (GBA - 2002)
- Godzilla: Save the Earth (Xbox, PS2 - 2004)
- Godzilla: Unleashed (Wii, PS2 - 2007)
- Godzilla Unleashed: Double Smash (NDS - 2007)
- Godzilla (PS3 - 2014 PS3 PS4 - 2015)
- City Shrouded in Shadow (PS4 - 2017)
- Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
- Godzilla Saves America: A Monster Showdown in 3-D! (1996)
- Godzilla 2000 (novel - 1997)
- Godzilla vs. the Robot Monsters (novel - 1998)
- Godzilla vs. the Space Monster (novel - 1998)
- Godzilla: Kingdom of Monsters (comic - 2011-2012)
- Godzilla: Gangsters & Goliaths (comic - 2011)
- Godzilla: Legends (comic - 2011-2012)
- Godzilla: The Half-Century War (comic - 2012-2013)
- Godzilla: Rulers of Earth (comic - 2013-2015)
- Godzilla: Cataclysm (comic - 2014)
- Godzilla in Hell (comic - 2015)
- Godzilla: Oblivion (comic - 2016)
- Take Me To Your Leader is the second studio album by English hip hop artist Daniel Dumile (also known as MF DOOM) and was released under the alias "King Geedorah" on June 17, 2003. The cover features a figure very similar to the appearance of King Ghidorah, and many tracks contain samples from the Godzilla films.
- Ryfle 1998, p. 116.
- Ryfle 1998, p. 357.
- Ryfle 1998, p. 359.
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- Solomon 2017, p. 102.
- Kalat 2010, p. 238.
- Verhoeven, Beatrice (April 26, 2018). "'Rampage' Breakout Star Jason Liles Joins 'Godzilla: King of Monsters' (Exclusive)". The Wrap. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
- White, James (April 26, 2018). "Rampage's Jason Liles Playing King Ghidorah In Godzilla: King Of Monsters". Empire. Retrieved April 28, 2018.
- Ryfle 1998, p. 117.
- AMC Intro for Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)
- Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah - Initial Sony 1998 VHS Release
- Solomon 2017, p. 37.
- DeSentis, John (July 4, 2010). "Godzilla Soundtrack Perfect Collection Box 6". SciFi Japan. Retrieved November 23, 2014.
- Rebirth of Mothra III (1998). Directed by Okihiro Yoneda. Toho
- "King Ghidorah Official Trademark". Toho. Retrieved September 12, 2014.
- Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964). Directed by Ishirō Honda. Toho.
- Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991). Directed by Kazuki Ōmori. Toho
- Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001). Directed by Shusuke Kaneko. Toho.
- Jess-Cooke, C. (2009), Film Sequels: Theory and Practice from Hollywood to Bollywood, Edinburgh University Press, p. 38, ISBN 0748689478
- David Milner, "Ishiro Honda Interview", Kaiju Conversations (December 1992)
- CHO Japan (2012-10-31). "1970's Godzilla FX Director - PART I - ７０年代のゴジラの特技監督 (SciFi Japan TV #06)". YouTube. Retrieved 2015-07-25.
- "Audio Commentary by David Kalat". Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster - Classic Media 2007 DVD Release. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
- Kalat 2010, p. 77.
- Kalat 2010, p. 78.
- "Yasuyuki Inoue: 1922-2012". SciFi Japan. Retrieved April 26, 2018.
- Ryfle 1998, p. 84.
- King Ghidorah character profile - Godzilla Movie Studio Tour (PC Game), 1998
- Ryfle 1998, p. 124.
- David Milner, "Shinji Nishikawa Interview", Kaiju Conversations (December 1995)
- David Milner, "Koichi Kawakita Interview", Kaiju Conversations (December 1994)
- Ed Godziszewski and Norman England, "Interview with Shusuke Kaneko", Japanese Giants, Issue #9 (June, 2002)
- Kalat 2010, p. 240.
- Kalat 2010, p. 241.
- Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965). Directed by Ishirō Honda. Toho.
- Destroy all Monsters (1968). Directed by Ishirō Honda. Toho.
- Godzilla vs. Gigan (1972). Directed by Jun Fukuda. Toho.
- "Attack King Ghidorah!". Zone Fighter. Directed by Jun Fukuda. April 30, 1973
- "King Ghidorah's Counterattack!". Zone Fighter. Directed by Jun Fukuda. May 7, 1973
- Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993). Directed by Takao Okawara. Toho
- Jeffries, Adrianne (July 26, 2014). "Gareth Edwards returns to direct 'Godzilla 2' with Rodan and Mothra". The Verge. Retrieved 2014-08-19.
- Goldberg, Matt (March 11, 2017). "'Kong: Skull Island' Post-Credits Scene Explained". Collider. Retrieved April 27, 2018.
- "Warner Bros. Pictures' and Legendary Pictures' MonsterVerse Kicks Into Gear as the Next Godzilla Feature Gets Underway". Warner Bros. (Press release). June 19, 2017.
- WatchMojo.com (September 25, 2015). "Top 10 Godzilla Villains". YouTube. Retrieved September 25, 2015.
- WatchMojo.com (August 31, 2013). "Top 10 Giant Movie Monsters". YouTube.
- Hawker, Tom (May 15, 2014). "Top 10 Japanese Movie Monsters". IGN. Retrieved May 17, 2016.
- Josh Robertson, "The 15 Most Badass Kaiju Monsters of All Time", Complex (May 18, 2014)
- Ethan Reed, "Review: Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)", Toho Kingdom (July 22, 2009)
- Curt Holman, "The 10 Best Movie Dragons", Paste (January 3, 2013)
- Ryfle 1998, p. 271.
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- Rhoads & McCorkle 2018, p. 168.
- Solomon 2017, p. 282.
- "Graphic Novel: Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah". Tohokingdom.com. Retrieved 2015-07-25.
- "Book: Godzilla Saves America: A Monster Showdown in 3-D!". Tohokingdom.com. Retrieved 2015-07-25.
- "King Geedorah "Take Me To Your Leader"". HipHop-Elements.com. Retrieved 2014-06-23.
- Kalat, David (2010). A Critical History and Filmography of Toho's Godzilla Series (2nd Edition). McFarland. ISBN 9780786447497.
- Rhoads, Sean; McCorkle, Brooke (2018). Japan's Green Monsters: Environmental Commentary in Kaiju Cinema. McFarland. ISBN 9781476663906.
- Ryfle, Steve (1998). Japan’s Favorite Mon-Star: The Unauthorized Biography of the Big G. ECW Press. ISBN 1550223488.
- Solomon, Brian (2017). Godzilla FAQ: All That's Left to Know About the King of the Monsters. Applause Theatre & Cinema Books. ISBN 9781495045684.
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