|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 made an actor in a latex suit 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 string 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.
|That's a spicy meat-a ball!|
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.|
Godzilla ran on NBC in America and TV Tokyo in Japan beginning on September 9, 1978. It was written by Tom Swale, Don Heckman, David Villaire, Doug Booth, Martha Humphreys, Glenn Leopold, Ted Pedersen, David Wise, Kathleen Barnes, Bob Johnson, Ray Pakrer and Bob Stitzel, with music by Hoyt Curtin and Will Schaefer. 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 Jonny 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 New 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 Thing (and later 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 replaced with 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. In 2023, Mondo released a limited-edition statute based on Godzilla’s design from the show in time for its 45th anniversary.
|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.
Originally posted in 2015. Updated in 2023.