Zilla (Toho)

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Godzilla film series character
Zilla 1998.jpg
Zilla, as it appears in its debut film
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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"American Godzilla" redirects here. For the 1998 film, see Godzilla (1998 film). For the 2014 film, see Godzilla (2014 film).
Godzilla film series character
Zilla 1998.jpg
Zilla, as it appears in its debut film
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 re-imagining of the original Godzilla character, but was later given its own identity by Toho, who own the character's trademark. It has since become a part of the Toho Godzilla franchise.


In its 1998 debut, a minor Japanese character identifies the monster as a legendary sea-dragon called "Gojira" (as a reference to the character's Japanese name.) Later in the film an American reporter character mispronounces the name as "Godzilla."

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 name "Zilla" was chosen for the character by Tomiyama as a satirical take on counterfeit Godzilla products that use "Zilla" as a suffix.[6] The "Zilla" name and design has since been trademarked by Toho Co. Ltd[4][7][8] and this name change has been reflected in subsequent official products since its official retcon in 2004, though "Godzilla" continues to be used as a title on products that predate the name change, such as any home media re-release of the 1998 film or its cartoon television sequel, Godzilla: The Series.

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 the Godzilla character. According to Tatopoulos, the only specific instructions Emmerich gave him was that it should be able to run incredibly fast.[9] 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 and rendered via computer animation.[10] Zilla's roar was created by mixing a sped-up and pitched Showa-era Godzilla roar with the rumble of an elephant. 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.[11]

The new monster’s color scheme was designed to reflect and blend in with the urban environment.[9] 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.[12] The baby scenes utilized a combination of CGI and purpose built costumes donned by actors.[13]

Upon pending approval for the design, at the time, Shogo 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."[14]

Though the monster is referred to by the characters as a "he," Patrick Tatopoulis stated on a DVD audio commentary the effects crew sculpted female genitalia into the new monster's CG model.[15]

Zilla is portrayed in the films as a territorial, piscivorous, 60[16]-90[17] 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 its offspring 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.[18] It was also featured in advertisements alongside the Taco Bell chihuahua.[19]

Zilla would go on to fight and lose against Godzilla in the 2004 film Godzilla: Final Wars. In less than twenty seconds (the shortest monster fight in the film), Zilla is swept aside by Godzilla's tail and then set ablaze by its atomic breath (along with the Sydney Opera House.)[20] According to producer Shogo Tomiyama, this was intended "to show which Godzilla is stronger." [21]


Video games


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.[22] Prior to it being renamed "Zilla" in 2004 by Ryuhei Kitamura and Shogo Tomiyama for the release of Godzilla: Final Wars,[23] film critic Richard Pusateri of G-Fan Magazine coined the acronym GINO ("Godzilla In Name Only") to distinguish it from the Japanese Godzilla.[24] 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 fire, and was killed by missiles during the film's climax.[25] 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.”[26] Satsuma walked out of the film, saying “it’s not Godzilla, it doesn’t have his spirit.”[27] Kaneko opined “[Americans] seem unable to accept a creature that cannot be put down by their arms.”,[28] 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.[29]

The animated version of the character was more positively received than its live action predecessor, due to having some of the characteristics of the Toho-produced Godzilla, such as the ability to breathe nuclear fire.[30][31] 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.[32] 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.[33] The 2014 Godzilla had a much larger positive response from fans, praising it for its design being faithful to the original Godzilla, its indestructability, and it fighting the Military, and that it could breath fire again.


  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. ^ "Ryuhei Ktamura & Shogo Tomiyama interview - Godzilla Final Wars premiere - PennyBlood.com". Web.archive.org. February 3, 2005. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  6. ^ https://web.archive.org/web/20051024093918/http://www.monsterzero.us/editorials/editorials.php?catID=Nws&subCatID=15&contentID=524
  7. ^ "ZILLA - Trademark Details". Justia Trademarks. Retrieved May 8, 2013. 
  8. ^ "Trade Mark Serial No. 76669021". Acute IP. Retrieved May 8, 2013. 
  9. ^ 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. 
  10. ^ "Godzilla Lives! - page 1". Theasc.com. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  11. ^ amctv.com (April 30, 2013). "Story Notes for Godzilla". Blogs.amctv.com. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  12. ^ Rickitt, Richard (2000). Special Effects: The History and Technique. Billboard Books. p. 174. ISBN 0-8230-7733-0. 
  13. ^ http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=it2oxGrYa98
  14. ^ "'Godzilla' Returns Home Something of a Stranger - Los Angeles Times". Articles.latimes.com. July 13, 1998. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  15. ^ Patrick Tatopoulos; Godzilla 1998 Region 1 DVD special features, "Special FX Supervisor Commentary" (Scene 14: "He's pregnant.")
  16. ^ "GODZILLA [1998]". Retrieved June 6, 2007. 
  17. ^ "Zilla". Toho Kingdom. Retrieved May 8, 2013. 
  18. ^ "The Ultimate Guide to GODZILLA: THE SERIES « SciFi Japan". Scifijapan.com. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  19. ^ "Advertising > Animal Mascots > Gidget the Dog (Taco Bell)". Tv Acres. July 21, 2009. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  20. ^ Godzilla: Final Wars R1 DVD - Chapter 18: Pretender to the Throne
  21. ^ http://www.henshinonline.com/archive.html GODZILLA FINAL WARS INTERVIEW: SHOGO TOMIYAMA
  22. ^ "Cloverfield: The monster movie Godzilla should have been". Nuketown. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Godzilla Stomps into Los Angeles". Pennyblood.com. February 3, 2005. Retrieved March 18, 2014. 
  24. ^ "Staff & Contributors « SciFi Japan". Scifijapan.com. May 18, 1998. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  25. ^ ”It Came from Japan!” Animal Planet documentary, 2005
  26. ^ "An Online Interview With Satsuma and Nakajima". Historyvortex.org. June 1, 2002. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  27. ^ Japan's Favorite Mon-star: The Unauthorized Biography of "The Big G” – Steve Ryfle, page 344
  28. ^ "The US version". Expressindia.indianexpress.com. July 11, 1998. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  29. ^ "Barry's Temple of Godzilla - Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: All Monsters Attack". Godzillatemple.com. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  30. ^ Paprocki, Matt (April 20, 2009). "DVD Review: Godzilla – The Series Monster Wars Trilogy". Blogcritics. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  31. ^ "Godzilla: The Series – Review". Japan Cinema. June 5, 2013. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  32. ^ "King Kong::film review". sonic-cinema.com. Retrieved January 22, 2014. 
  33. ^ Marc Graser Senior Editor @marcgraser (July 17, 2010). "Legendary Pictures dances geek to geek". Variety. Retrieved January 22, 2014.