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The first film, Godzilla, was first released in 1954. In 1956, 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 a American remake 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.
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.
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 Gojira, to 1975, with Terror of Mechagodzilla. With the exceptions of Gojira, Godzilla Raids Again, King Kong vs. Godzilla, and Mothra vs. Godzilla, much of the Showa series is relatively light-hearted. Starting with Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster, Godzilla began evolving into a more human and 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.
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 Showa series. The continuity ended in 1995's Godzilla vs. Destoroyah after a run of seven films. The "new" Godzilla was portrayed as much more of an animal than the latter Shōwa films, or as a destructive force as he began. The biological nature and science behind Godzilla became a much more discussed issue in the films, showing the increased focus of the moral focus on genetics. Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah gave the first concrete birth story for Godzilla, featuring a Godzillasaurus that was mutated by radiation into Godzilla.
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 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.
The first talk of an American version of Godzilla 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, Toho allowed Sony Pictures to make a trilogy of English-language Godzilla films, with the first film to be released in 1994. In May 1993 Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio were brought on to write a 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 finally scheduled for release on May 19, 1998.
Godzilla was met with mostly negative reviews and negative reaction from the fan base. Having grossed $375 million worldwide, though, the studio moved ahead with a spin-off animated series. Tab Murphy wrote a treatment, but Emmerich and Devlin left the production in March 1999 due to budget disputes. The original deal was to make a sequel within five years of release of a film, but after sitting on their property, considering a reboot, Sony's rights to make a Godzilla 2 expired in May 2003.
After the release of 2004's Godzilla: Final Wars, marking the 50th anniversary of the Godzilla film franchise, Toho announced that it would not produce any films featuring the Godzilla character for ten years. Toho demolished the water stage on its lot used in numerous Godzilla films to stage water scenes. Director 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 remake of the Godzilla vs. Hedorah story. Banno was unable to find backers to produce the film. Banno met American producer Brian Rogers, and the two planned to work together on the project. Rogers approached Legendary Pictures in 2009, and the project became a plan to produce a feature film instead.
In March 2010, Legendary formally announced the project after it had acquired rights to make a Godzilla film from Toho, with a tentative release date of 2012. The project is to be co-produced with Warner Bros., who will co-finance the project. (Sony's TriStar Pictures will not be involved because their rights expired in 2003.) The planned film's producers Dan Lin, Roy Lee, and Brian Rogers and executive producers Yoshimitsu Banno, Kenji Okuhira, and Doug Davison will work with Legendary's Thomas Tull and Jon Jashni. Legendary said their film would not be a sequel to the 1998 Godzilla, but a reboot to the franchise.
Legendary first promoted the planned new film at the San Diego Comic-Con International fan convention in July 2010. Legendary commissioned a new conceptual artwork of Godzilla, consistent with the Japanese design of the monster. The artwork was used in an augmented reality display produced by Talking Dog Studios. Every visitor to the convention was given a T-shirt illustrated with the concept art. When viewed by webcam at the Legendary Pictures booth, the image on-screen would spout radioactive breath and the distinctive Godzilla roar could be heard.
Gareth Edwards, who directed Monsters, was attached in January 2011 to direct the new Godzilla film. When Edwards' signing was announced, it was also announced that David Callaham's first draft was rejected. In July 2011, David S. Goyer was attached to write the film's screenplay. On November 9, 2011, Max Borenstein was hired to finish and rewrite Goyer's script.
At a session during the 2012 Comic-Con in July 2012, Legendary presented both a poster for the film and a teaser trailer. The teaser trailer included a depiction of Godzilla faithful to the Toho monster, including its roar, and a "gigantic centipede-like monster." Director Edwards described the tone of the film. "We're just going to take it really seriously. I've wanted to see this movie this way all my life. Imagine if this really happened – as crazy as it sounds – what would it really be like?"
The film is slated for a May 16, 2014, 3D theatrical release.
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, 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.
|#||Official Toho title|
(alternate English titles)
|Year||Director||Effects director||Monster co-star(s)||Godzilla|
|Current US licences/media|
(Godzilla, King of the Monsters!, Gojira)
|1954||Ishiro Honda||Eiji Tsuburaya||None||Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka||Criterion Collection - DVD/Blu-ray|
|2||Godzilla Raids Again|
(Gigantis, the Fire Monster)
|1955||Motoyoshi Oda||Eiji Tsuburaya||Anguirus||Haruo Nakajima||Classic Media - DVD|
|3||King Kong vs. Godzilla||1962||Ishiro Honda||Eiji Tsuburaya||King Kong, Oodako (Giant Octopus), Giant Lizard||Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka||Universal - DVD|
|4||Mothra vs. Godzilla|
(Godzilla vs. the Thing, Godzilla vs. Mothra)
|1964||Ishiro Honda||Eiji Tsuburaya||Mothra||Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka||Classic Media - DVD|
|5||Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster|
(Ghidrah, the Three-Headed Monster)
|1964||Ishiro Honda||Eiji Tsuburaya||King Ghidorah, Mothra, Rodan||Haruo Nakajima, Katsumi Tezuka||Classic Media - DVD|
|6||Invasion of Astro-Monster|
(Monster Zero, Godzilla vs. Monster Zero)
|1965||Ishiro Honda||Eiji Tsuburaya||King Ghidorah, Rodan||Haruo Nakajima||Classic Media - DVD|
|7||Godzilla vs. the Sea Monster|
(Ebirah, Horror of the Deep)
|1966||Jun Fukuda||Sadamasa Arikawa, under the supervision of Eiji Tsuburaya||Ebirah, Mothra, Giant Condor||Haruo Nakajima||Sony - DVD|
|8||Son of Godzilla||1967||Jun Fukuda||Sadamasa Arikawa, under the supervision of Eiji Tsuburaya||Kamacuras, Kumonga, Minilla||Yu Sekida, Haruo Nakajima, Seiji Onaka||Sony - DVD|
|9||Destroy All Monsters||1968||Ishiro Honda||Sadamasa Arikawa, under the supervision of Eiji Tsuburaya||Anguirus, Baragon, Gorosaurus, King Ghidorah, Kumonga, Manda, Minilla, Mothra, Rodan, Varan||Haruo Nakajima||Media Blasters - DVD / Blu-ray|
|10||All Monsters Attack|
|1969||Ishiro Honda||Ishiro Honda||Gabara, Kamacuras, Minilla, (In Stock Footage: Gorosaurus, Kumonga, Anguirus, Ebirah, Manda, Giant Condor)||Haruo Nakajima||Classic Media - DVD|
|11||Godzilla vs. Hedorah|
(Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster)
|1971||Yoshimitsu Banno||Teruyoshi Nakano||Hedorah||Haruo Nakajima||Sony - DVD|
|12||Godzilla vs. Gigan|
(Godzilla on Monster Island)
|1972||Jun Fukuda||Teruyoshi Nakano||Anguirus, Gigan, King Ghidorah, (In Stock Footage: Rodan, Gorosaurus, Kamacuras, Kumonga, Minilla, Mothra)||Haruo Nakajima||Sony - DVD|
|13||Godzilla vs. Megalon||1973||Jun Fukuda||Teruyoshi Nakano||Gigan, Jet Jaguar, Megalon, Anguirus (In Stock Footage: Rodan)||Shinji Takagi||Media Blasters - DVD|
|14||Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla|
(Godzilla vs. Cosmic Monster, Godzilla vs. Bionic Monster)
|1974||Jun Fukuda||Teruyoshi Nakano||Anguirus, King Caesar, Mechagodzilla (In Stock Footage: King Ghidorah)||Isao Zushi||Sony - DVD|
|15||Terror of Mechagodzilla|
(The Terror of Godzilla)
|1975||Ishiro Honda||Teruyoshi Nakano||Mechagodzilla, Titanosaurus (In Stock Footage: King Ghidorah, Manda, Rodan)||Toru Kawai||Classic Media - DVD|
|16||The Return of Godzilla|
|1984||Koji Hashimoto||Teruyoshi Nakano||Shokirus (Giant Sea Louse)||Kenpachiro Satsuma||Lakeshore Entertainment - VHS|
|17||Godzilla vs. Biollante||1989||Kazuki Omori||Koichi Kawakita||Biollante||Kenpachiro Satsuma||Miramax Home Entertainment - VHS|
|18||Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah||1991||Kazuki Omori||Koichi Kawakita||Dorat, Godzillasaurus, King Ghidorah, Mecha-King Ghidorah||Kenpachiro Satsuma||Sony - DVD|
|19||Godzilla and Mothra: The Battle for Earth|
(Godzilla vs. Mothra: Battle for The Earth)
|1992||Takao Okawara||Koichi Kawakita||Battra, Mothra||Kenpachiro Satsuma||Sony - DVD|
|20||Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II||1993||Takao Okawara||Koichi Kawakita||Baby Godzilla, Rodan, Fire Rodan, Mechagodzilla, Super Mechagodzilla||Kenpachiro Satsuma||Sony - DVD|
|21||Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla||1994||Kensho Yamashita||Koichi Kawakita||Mothra, Fairy Mothra, Little Godzilla, Moguera, SpaceGodzilla (In Stock Footage: Battra, Biollante)||Kenpachiro Satsuma||Sony - DVD|
|22||Godzilla vs. Destoroyah||1995||Koji Hashimoto||Teruyoshi Nakano||Destoroyah, Godzilla Junior||Kenpachiro Satsuma||Sony - DVD|
|23||Godzilla 2000: Millennium|
|1999||Takao Okawara||Kenji Suzuki||Orga||Tsutomu Kitagawa||Sony - DVD|
|24||Godzilla vs. Megaguirus|
(Godzilla x Megaguirus)
|2000||Masaaki Tezuka||Kenji Suzuki||Meganulon, Meganula, Megaguirus||Tsutomu Kitagawa||Sony - DVD|
|25||Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack|
|2001||Shusuke Kaneko||Makoto Kamiya||Baragon, King Ghidorah, Mothra||Mizuho Yoshida||Sony - DVD|
|26||Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla|
(Godzilla x Mechagodzilla)
|2002||Masaaki Tezuka||Yûichi Kikuchi||Mechagodzilla (In Stock Footage: Mothra, Gaira)||Tsutomu Kitagawa||Sony - DVD|
|27||Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.|
(Godzilla x Mothra x Mechagodzilla: Tokyo SOS)
|2003||Masaaki Tezuka||Eiichi Asada||Kamoebas, Mechagodzilla, Mothra||Tsutomu Kitagawa||Sony - DVD|
|28||Godzilla: Final Wars||2004||Ryuhei Kitamura||Eiichi Asada||Anguirus, Ebirah, Gigan, Hedorah, Monster X/Keizer Ghidorah, Kamacuras, King Caesar, Kumonga, Manda, Minilla, Mothra, Rodan, Zilla, (In Stock Footage: Varan, Baragon, Gezora, Gaira, Titanosaurus, Megaguirus)||Tsutomu Kitagawa||Sony - DVD|
In 1998, TriStar Pictures released an American remake co-written/directed by Roland Emmerich, director of Independence Day and 2012, and produced/co-written by Dean Devlin. The film was a box office success but was met with mostly negative reviews from critics and negative reactions from fans of the series. A sequel was planned but never produced and Sony's rights to Godzilla expired in 2003. Legendary Pictures acquired Godzilla franchise rights from Toho in 2010 and will produce a new film, to be directed by Gareth Edwards, for release in May 2014. (See above.)
|1||Godzilla||1998||Roland Emmerich||Baby Godzillas||Sony - DVD/Blu-ray|
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.
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.
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.
|1||Zone Fighter||1973||King Ghidorah, Gigan||Unknown|
|2||Godzilla||1978||Godzooky, Fire Bird, Earth Eater, Stone Creatures, Megavolt Monsters, Seaweed Monster, Energy Beast, Colossus, Horror, Chimera, Minotaur, Magnetic Monster, Breeder Beast, Great Watchuka, Diplodocus, Time Dragon, Giant Squid, Giant Fly, Axor, Power Dragon, Giant Octopus, Cyborg Whale, Giant Bee, Giant Dragonfly, Giant Ant, Giant Beetle, Giant Black Widow, Moon Lode, Magma Lizard, Macro-Crab, Macro-Electric Eel, Macro-Manta, Macro-Sea Horse, Golden Guardians||Classic Media - DVD|
|3||Godzilla Island||1997||Godzilla Junior, Mothra, Battra, Rodan, King Ghidorah, Mecha-King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla, Anguirus, Gigan, Hedorah, SpaceGodzilla, Destoroyah, Baragon, King Caesar, Moguera, Megalon, Gorosaurus, Kamacuras, Jet Jaguar, Dogora||Unknown|
|4||Godzilla: The Series||1998||Crustaceous Rex, Giant Squids, Nanotech Creature, El Gusano, Cyber-Flies, Huge Rat, Cryptocleidus, Reptilians, Crackler, Queen Bee, Quetzalcoatl, Ice Borers, Loch Ness Monster, Giant Albino Yeti/Robo-Yeti, King Cobra, Termite Queen, Giant Bat, Cyber-Godzilla, Chameleon, Bacillus, Giant Mutant Widow Spider, Techno-Sentient, Silver Hydra, D.N.A. Mimic, Lizard Slayers, Swamp Beast, Fire Monster, Norzzug, Giant Mutant Hummingbirds, Medusa, Giant Gila Monster, Megapede/Giant Cicada, Giant Centipede, Ts-eh-Go, Armillaria, Shrewster, Skeetera, D.R.A.G.M.A.s (Democratic Resurgence Against a Global Mechanized Armageddon), Mutant Jellyfish, Komodithrax, Giant Turtle, Thorny Devil, Giant Armadillo, Desert Lizard, Desert Rat, Deep-Dweller, Rhinosaurus, Giant Water Beetle, Flying Gigan||Sony - DVD|
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 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.
(*) In 1996, after his then-final appearance in Godzilla vs. Destoroyah, Godzilla received an award for Lifetime Achievement at the MTV Movie Awards. Creator and producer Shōgo Tomiyama accepted on his behalf via satellite but was joined by "Godzilla" himself.
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