Everything you ever wanted to know about Godzilla but were afraid to ask

by Jun Hongo

Staff Writer

  • The sound effects team initially tried to create Godzilla’s distinctive shriek by using animal roars that had been tweaked through editing. They sampled all kinds of birds and mammals, but nothing seemed to be a suitable match for the reptilian noises such a monster would make. Akira Ifukube, who was responsible for composing the theme song for “Godzilla,” then proposed stepping away from using animal samples and offered an alternative solution. The composer took a string off of his contrabass and rubbed it with gloves soaked in pine tar. The eerie screech fit the menacing appearance of Godzilla perfectly. Ifukube passed away in 2006, but 2014 marks the 100th anniversary of his birth.
  • While most special-effects movies in Hollywood were shot with stop-motion animation techniques at the time, the directors of “Godzilla” opted to use human-size Godzilla costumes to reduce production costs. The prototype Godzilla suit, originally made with rubber, weighed about 150 kg. They remade it with plastic, but the suit still weighed 60 kg at the time of shooting and stuntmen found it difficult to walk with any control.
  • Although “Godzilla” first appeared on screen in November 1954, it made its debut on radio four months earlier in July. The 11-part radio drama was an earlier version of the film script by Toho Studios.
  • Special-effects master Eiji Tsuburaya was in charge of both “Godzilla” and “Ultraman,” and many of Godzilla’s costumes were reused in Ultraman’s TV episodes. One example is Jiras, which appeared in the “Ultraman” series in 1966. The crew reused a Godzilla suit, put frills around its neck and changed the color of some parts of the body. It was nothing more than Godzilla in costume, die-hard fan Kouhei Nomura says.
  • Over the years Godzilla has crushed, burned, stomped on and destroyed myriad cities in Japan. Some of the famous sites to experience his wrath include Chinatown in Yokohama, the Makuhari area in Chiba, Shibuya, Nagoya Castle, Fukuoka Tower and Suzuka Circuit in Aichi. In the film’s early years many of the buildings and cities destroyed by the monster thought it was bad luck, but that changed as Godzilla’s popularity grew. For example, the owners of Twin 21 Towers in Osaka reportedly said they felt “honored” to have their buildings crushed by Godzilla during the 1989 film “Godzilla vs. Biollante.” Shibaura, where The Japan Times office is located, was one of the first areas to be flattened after Godzilla destroyed the district in the original movie in 1954.
  • Actor Akira Takarada, who appeared in the original “Godzilla” movie in 1954, is going to appear in a cameo in the new U.S. reboot of the series this year. He has also appeared in other “Godzilla” films, including the final Japan-made “Godzilla: Final Wars,” which was released in 2004.
  • Godzilla has been featured in pachinko games, a series of toy figures, TV games and comic books. Although it does not have its own theme park, a 9-meter Godzilla slide can be found at Kurihama Flower Park in Yokosuka, Kanagawa Prefecture.
  • It is widely known that Godzilla is a portmanteau of gorilla and kujira (whale). Today, however, it symbolizes something giant and overwhelming. Some famous slang or product names that uses the suffix “zilla” to reflect their gargantuan size include Mozilla, the open-source freeware community that spawned the Firefox web browser, “bridezilla” (a woman obsessed with planning the details of her wedding) and Pizza-La, a delivery pizza chain based in Tokyo.
  • Much of the 2014 “Godzilla” movie remains under wraps, but reports say the script was heavily rewritten after the nuclear crisis broke out in Fukushima in 2011. Whether the final story line avoids referring to the incident or tackles the issue head-on remains to be seen. Actor Ken Watanabe, who appears in the film, was quoted by Sankei Sports as saying that the script “takes over” the spirit of Japan’s original series.
  • Alejandro Rodríguez

    I think that it is a bad idea to take away the nuclear elements since Godzilla was born precisely because of that. He was an allegory for the nuclear bombs that hit Japan during WWII, and that is why the original 1954 movie is so genius.