July 11, 2015

GODZILLA (1978)

GODZILLA
(NBC, TV Tokyo, September 9, 1978-December 8, 1979)


Hanna-Barbera Productions, Toho Co. Ltd.

MAIN CAST:
Ted Cassidy – Godzilla
Jeff David – Captain Carl Majors
Al Eisenmann – Pete
Hilly Hicks – Brock
Brenda Thompson – Dr. Quinn Darien
Don Messick - Godzuki

            In 1954, Toho Studios needed a picture. The project they had originally counted on fell through, and it was tasked to young producer Tomoyuki Tanaka to fill the void. That year, an American thermonuclear device test on Bikini Atoll had a higher yield than anticipated and a Japanese fishing boat, the Lucky Dragon 5, was caught in the fallout. The resulting radiation sickness in the crew, island natives and military personnel created a fear of the unpredictability of nuclear weapons; not to mention stirring up memories of Hiroshima and Nagasaki from a decade prior. From these fears, an idea began to form.

The beast rises and attacks New York.

Inspired by the success of Warner Bros.’ 1953 film The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms, it was decided to make a picture about a prehistoric monster that represented the destructive power of nuclear weapons, as well as having been awoken by them from a deep hibernation. Eiji Tsuburaya served as the special effects artist and went through several designs before settling on a mixture of a Tyrannosaurus Rex, an Iguanodon and a Stegosaurus, while also giving the creature the fire-breathing abilities of a dragon known as atomic breath.

Godzilla rises from the sea.

Tsuburaya originally wanted to do the monster using stop-motion animation after being impressed with the method’s use in King Kong, but the tight deadline and budget it was decided an actor in a latex suit would be the way to go. Developed by art director Akira Watanabe, the suit’s skin was texturized to represent the scars seen on survivors of the Hiroshima bombing and given a gray color with white bone protrusions. The sound of the creature’s roar was created by composer Akira Ifukube by rubbing a resin coated glove along a strong of contrabass and then slowing down the playback. Toho held a contest to name the creature, and settled on Gojira; a combination of the Japanese words “gorira” (gorilla) and “kujira” (whale), describing his massive size and strength and the fact he lived in the water.

Atomic breath!

Gojira was released on November 3, 1954. It was written by Ishiro Honda and Takeo Murata, and directed by Honda. To save expenses, the film was shot in black in white rather than color, which in the end helped to enhance the special effects. It became the eighth best-attended film in Japan that year, although it was heavily criticized for exploiting the nuclear tragedies Japan suffered. In 1955, the film was released to American theaters catering to Japanese-American neighborhoods. In 1956, Jewell Enterprises acquired the rights to the movie and heavily edited it. Certain scenes were removed and new footage starring Raymond Burr as a reporter investigating the monster directed by Terry O. Morse were incorporated into the story. The English-dubbed version became known as Godzilla, King of the Monsters! and became a success with the American public; opening a new interest in imported Japanese productions.

No matter who wins, the insurance companies lose.

In the meantime, Toho, quick to capitalize on the original’s success, released its second film, Gojira no Gayakushu (or Godzilla’s Counterattack, also known as Godzilla Raids Again in America) in 1955. It was the first in the Godzilla series to feature the titular monster fighting against another monster. Toho would continue releasing more movies in the series up through 1975 for a total of 15 installments. Throughout the course of the films, Godzilla would be portrayed as a villain against humanity, but would also sometimes be an ally against a bigger threat alongside the humans (although, he could turn on his allies at any moment for any reason). Godzilla’s appearance would also change between pictures, his suit being recreated from scratch every time. It wouldn’t be until the series resumed in 1984 that the suit’s design would become consistent.

Godzilla gives a monster a dose of bad breath.

As the movies continued to be successful with American audiences, Toho teamed-up with Hanna-Barbera Productions to bring the franchise to Saturday morning television. Developed by Dick Robbins and Duane Poole, the series played on Godzilla (Ted Cassidy) being a heroic figure, often fighting against various other monsters to save humanity and the world. Godzilla’s atomic breath was altered to resemble typical fire, and he was given the additional ability of laser eyes. Godzilla’s size also varied constantly throughout the run, sometimes within a single episode which, ironically, also occurred during the film series (although that was on a movie-to-movie basis). As in most other media outside the movies, Godzilla was given a green skin color.

Dr. Darien, Brock, Capt. Majors, Pete and Godzuki.

Godzilla was an ally to a team of scientists aboard a hydrofoil research vessel called the Calico. The team consisted of Captain Carl Majors (Jeff David), Dr. Quinn Darien (Brenda Thompson), her nephew Pete (Al Eisenmann) and her assistant Brock (Hilly Hicks). Also with the crew was Godzuki (Don Messick), the smaller, cowardly cousin of Godzilla who served as the show’s comic relief. He could barely fly with his tiny wings and any attempt to breathe fire usually resulted in smoke and a coughing fit. Godzilla could be summoned by the team using a special communicator or Godzuki could call him. 

The Godzilla Power Hour title card.

The series ran on NBC in America and TV Tokyo in Japan beginning on September 9, 1978. Despite only having two seasons of 13 episodes produced, the series ran continuously through 1981 and was often paired up with other programs to form a packaged programming block. From its debut through October 28, the program was part of The Godzilla Power Hour which paired it with Jana of the Jungle. On November 4 through September 1, 1979, the name was changed to The Godzilla Super 90 when reruns of Johnny Quest were added to make the block a full 90 minutes.

Godzilla carries the Calico to safety.

For the second season, Hanna-Barbera planned to pair the show up with The Shmoo and The Thing to create the block Godzilla Meets the Shmoo and the Thing, but those plans fell apart. Instead, Godzilla was run independently while The New Fred and Barney Show was attached to the other two programs as Fred and Barney Meet the Shmoo. On December 8, 1979, the final Godzilla episode and its reruns were paired up with The Super Globetrotters to form The Godzilla/Globetrotters Adventure Hour. On September 27, 1980, Globetrotters was swapped out for Dynomutt, Dog Wonder to become The Godzilla/Dynomutt Hour until Dynomutt was swapped out for Hong Kong Phooey on November 22 to create The Godzilla/Hong Kong Phooey Hour. On May 23, 1981, Godzilla once again ran independently until it was ultimately replaced in NBC’s line-up by new series The Smurfs.

The VHS for Godzilla.

Two episodes received a limited released on VHS. In 2006, Sony Wonder released the first 8 episodes of season 1 on DVD in Godzilla: the Original Animated Series Volume 1 and Volume 2. In 2007, Classic Media released the final 5 episodes in Volume 3. The series has also been made available to view on streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

Custom title card for the Cartoon Network parody short.

In 1999, Cartoon Network produced a short in response to the Y2K bug scare, Godzilla vs. the Y2K Bug, in which the Calico was attacked by a personification of the bug and failure to update the microchip in their device left the crew unable to summon Godzilla for help. Dr, Darien was repurposed as music expert Dr. Gale Melody for the Harvey Birdman, Attorney at Law episode “Shoyu Weenie” voiced by Grey DeLisle.


EPISODE GUIDE:
Season 1:
“The Fire Bird” (9/9/78) – A fiery bird wants to lay its eggs in the Arctic, and the team must stop it before it melts all the ice.

“The Earth Eater” (9/16/78) – The team must save San Francisco from a creature eating out all the earth beneath the city.

“Attack of the Stone Creature” (9/23/78) – A pyramid investigation turns deadly when stone creatures built to guard it come to life and attack the team.

“The Megavolt Monster” (9/30/78) – The team has to rescue ships in the Pacific under attack by an electrical creature.

“The Seaweed Monster” (10/7/78) – A seaweed monster arises and sets it sight on a small island.

“The Energy Beast” (10/14/78) – After Godzilla stops a monster, the monster transforms into Godzilla and destroys anything electrical.

“The Colossus of Atlantis” (10/21/78) – The team ends up trapped in the lost city of Atlantis and have to destroy the giant robot guarding it to free its populace.

“The Horror of the Forgotten Island” (10/28/78) – The team ends up stranded on an island inhabited by a cyclops, but Godzilla can’t penetrate a force field to get to them.

“Island of Lost Ships” (11/4/78) – Pete and Godzooky have to rescue the others from Sirens before their island disappears at sunset for the next 1,000 years.

“The Magnetic Terror” (11/11/78) – The team must stop a monster from reaching the South Pole and destroying the world.

“The Breeder Beast” (11/18/78) – A creature attacks Washington, DC, and is made up of an explosive material that could level the entire city.

“The Sub-Zero Terror” (11/25/78) – Godzilla has to rescue the team in the Himalayas from the Abominable Snowman.

“The Time Dragons” (12/2/78) – The team ends up transported and stranded back in prehistoric times.

Season 2:
“Calico Clones” (9/15/79) – The team encounters a mad scientist who plans to clone them and use them to steal oil from a rig.

“Micro Godzilla” (9/22/79) – A pink fog shrinks Godzilla and causes a fly to become giant-sized and attack Godzuki and Brock.

“Ghost Ship” (9/29/79) – The team finds a U-Boat from WWI complete with its entire crew before it ends up attacked by a giant octopus.

“The Beast of Storm Island” (10/6/79) – The team ends up stranded on an island and some of them enslaved by Axor along with its inhabitants.

“The City in the Clouds” (10/13/79) – The team ends up on a cloud city and the inhabitants want Godzilla to have him destroy the dragon they’re trying to escape.

“The Cyborg Whale” (10/20/79) – Brock and Pete are stuck in a prototype sub that goes haywire and heads straight for Honolulu.

“Valley of the Giants” (10/27/79) – The team runs aground in a valley of giant insects and ends up trapped in a cave after a cave in.

“Moonlode” (11/3/79) – A monster from the moon comes to Earth and begins affecting the water currents globally.

“The Golden Guardians” (11/10/79) – The team encounters a hostile city that worships gold statues that come to life and turn Godzilla into one of them.

“The Macro-Beasts” (11/17/79) – The team discovers a volcano oozing a strange liquid that turns sea animals into giants.

“Pacific Peril” (11/24/79) – The team investigates a new island that appears in the Pacific only to end up trapped in its volcano with giant lizards.

“Island of Doom” (12/1/79) – Godzilla must save the team from an island inhabited by a terrorist organization before their nuclear reactor suffers a meltdown.

“The Deadly Asteroid” (12/8/79) – Ice aliens plan to use an asteroid to destroy the Earth and capture the entire team except for Pete.

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