Zilla (Toho)

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Godzilla film series character
Zilla 1998.jpg
AliasGodzilla - USA[1]
First appearanceGodzilla (as Godzilla)
Last appearanceGodzilla: Final Wars (as Zilla)
Created byDean Devlin, Roland Emmerich and Patrick Tatopoulos
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Godzilla film series character
Zilla 1998.jpg
AliasGodzilla - USA[1]
First appearanceGodzilla (as Godzilla)
Last appearanceGodzilla: Final Wars (as Zilla)
Created byDean Devlin, Roland Emmerich and Patrick Tatopoulos

Zilla (ジラ Jira), formerly known as Godzilla,[2][3][4] is a movie monster that first appeared as the title character in the 1998 Roland Emmerich film, Godzilla. It was initially created as a reimagining of the original Godzilla character, but has since been given its own identity by Toho, who own the character's trademark, and has become a part of the Toho Godzilla universe.


For its appearance in Godzilla: Final Wars producer Shōgo Tomiyama (who took charge of the franchise following the death of Godzilla's creator Tomoyuki Tanaka) and Final Wars director Ryuhei Kitamura renamed the creature "Zilla."[5] At the film's Hollywood premiere, they stated their reason for changing the character's name was because they'd felt that the Hollywood remake had taken the "God" out of "Godzilla" by portraying the monster as a mere animal. The "Zilla" name and design has since been trademarked by Toho Co. Ltd[4][6][7] and this name change has been reflected in subsequent official products, though "Godzilla" continues to be used as a title on products that predate the name change.

Character overview and development[edit]

Zilla's character design draws inspiration from iguanas.

Special effects artist Patrick Tatopoulos was contacted by director Roland Emmerich and asked to create a new design for Godzilla. According to Tatopoulos, the only specific instructions Emmerich gave him was that it should be able to run incredibly fast.[8] Godzilla was originally conceived by Toho special effects directors Eiji Tsubaraya and Akira Watanabe as a robust, erect-standing, plantigrade reptilian sea monster and played by an actor in a monster costume; Tatopoulos reimagined it as a lean, digitigrade bipedal iguana that stood with its back and tail parallel to the ground and rendered via computer animation.[9] 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.[10] Zilla’s color scheme was designed to reflect and blend in with the urban environment.[8] 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.[11] Upon pending approval for the design, at the time, Shogo Tomiyama commented on Zilla's look, "It was so different we realized we couldn't make small adjustments. That left the major question of whether to approve it or not."[12] Though the monster is erroneously referred to in the film as a "he," it is actually a female, complete with feminine genitalia sculpted into its CG model.[13]

Zilla is portrayed in the films as a territorial, piscivorous, 60[14]-90[15] m (197–295 ft) tall, 500 ton 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. It used a flammable sonic "power breath" in the film, but could breathe a green atomic flame in the animated series, in which it was pitted against a rogues gallery of original monsters such as "El Gusano" and "the Crackler", after the producers were unable to secure the rights to adapt Toho's classic monsters.[16] It was also featured in advertisements alongside the Taco Bell chihuahua.[17]



Zilla as it appears in Godzilla: The Series. The cartoon had a more positive reception than the movie it was based on.

The design and characterization of Zilla has been negatively received.[18] Prior to it being renamed, Godzilla fans distinguished it from the Japanese version by the acronym GINO ("Godzilla In Name Only"), which was coined by critic Richard Pusateri in G-Fan Magazine.[19] Major points of criticism were of its lack of resemblance to the original character, and of how it ran from the military and was killed by missiles.[20] 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.”[21] Satsuma walked out of the film, saying “it’s not Godzilla, it doesn’t have his spirit.”[22] Kaneko opined “[Americans] seem unable to accept a creature that cannot be put down by their arms.”,[23] 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.[24]

The animated version of the character was more positively received than its live action predecessor, due to having some of the characteristics of the Japanese Godzilla such the ability to breathe nuclear fire.[25][26] However, the negative response to both Emmerich's Godzilla and the 1998 remake of Mighty Joe Young 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.[27] Upon acquiring the license to produce another American Godzilla remake, Legendary Pictures announced it would make their Godzilla closer in style to the original 1954 film rather than the 1998 film.[28]


  1. ^ Godzilla Generations 1998 Sega Dreamcast game
  2. ^ "Official Documentation showing "GODZILLA" TradeMark from 1998 is cancelled". Legal Force. Retrieved May 8, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Official Documentation showing the "GODZILLA" Logo TradeMark from 1998 to be abandoned". Legal Force. Retrieved May 8, 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Official Documentation showing "ZILLA" to be active, registered, and in effect". Legal Force. Retrieved May 8, 2013. 
  5. ^ http://web.archive.org/web/20050203181104/http://www.pennyblood.com/godzilla2.html
  6. ^ "ZILLA - Trademark Details". Justia Trademarks. Retrieved May 8, 2013. 
  7. ^ "Trade Mark Serial No. 76669021". Acute IP. Retrieved May 8, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Rickitt, Richard (2006). Designing Movie Creatures and Characters: Behind the Scenes With the Movie Masters. Focal Press. pp. 74–76. ISBN 0-240-80846-0. 
  9. ^ http://www.theasc.com/magazine/jun98/godzilla/art1/pg1.htm
  10. ^ http://blogs.amctv.com/movie-blog/2013/04/story-notes-trivia-godzilla.php
  11. ^ Rickitt, Richard (2000). Special Effects: The History and Technique. Billboard Books. p. 174. ISBN 0-8230-7733-0. 
  12. ^ http://articles.latimes.com/1998/jul/13/entertainment/ca-3197
  13. ^ Patrick Tatopoulos, Godzilla 1998 DVD commentary
  14. ^ "GODZILLA [1998]". Retrieved 2007-06-06. 
  15. ^ "Zilla". Toho Kingdom. Retrieved May 8, 2013. 
  16. ^ http://www.scifijapan.com/articles/2006/03/28/godzilla-the-series/
  17. ^ http://www.tvacres.com/adanimals_tacobell.htm
  18. ^ http://www.nuketown.com/movies/reviews/cloverfield
  19. ^ http://www.scifijapan.com/articles/staff-contributors/#RichardPusateri
  20. ^ ”It Came from Japan!” Animal Planet documentary, 2005
  21. ^ http://www.historyvortex.org/GCon98Interview.html
  22. ^ Japan's Favorite Mon-star: The Unauthorized Biography of "The Big G” – Steve Ryfle, page 344
  23. ^ http://expressindia.indianexpress.com/news/ie/daily/19980711/19250874.html
  24. ^ http://www.godzillatemple.com/movie25.htm
  25. ^ http://blogcritics.org/dvd-review-godzilla-the-series-monster/
  26. ^ http://japancinema.net/2013/06/05/godzilla-the-series-review-2/
  27. ^ http://www.sonic-cinema.com/film_reviews_individual/133/king-kong
  28. ^ http://variety.com/2010/film/news/legendary-pictures-dances-geek-to-geek-1118021862/