Godzilla: Facts And Trivia About The King Of All Kaiju

Entertainment | November 3, 2020

Godzilla as seen in 'Godzilla vs. Hedorah; (1971). Source: IMDB

In 1954, Godzilla first walked out of the Pacific Ocean to attack Japan and this big, bad kaiju hasn't stopped since. Sure, Godzilla has changed over the years --he's gotten bigger, he's had babies, and he's even had run-ins with King Kong. Directed by Ishirō Honda for Toho Studios, the first film in the long-running Godzilla series gave the world one of its most enduring creatures, but over the next 30 years the creature grew, he adopted a little monster, he made friends like Mothra and Rodan, and he made enemies like King Ghidorah and Mechagodzilla. As cool as all of those creatures are, everyone knows that the real star is the King of Kaiju, Godzilla.

Go Go Godzilla

source: Toho Studios

While we know him as Godzilla in the states, in Japan the King of the Monsters is known as Gojira. This is a portmanteau of the Japanese words gorira, meaning gorilla, and kujira, meaning whale. No one knows exactly where the idea of the "gorilla-whale" came from, although it may have been the nickname of a stagehand at Toho. Director Ishiro Honda explained:

There was a big— I mean huge — fellow working in Toho's publicity department and other employees would say 'That guy's as big as a gorilla'. 'No he's almost as big as a kujira.' Over time, the two mixed and he was named 'Gojira.'

Honda's claim has never been substantiated, and Honda's widow has gone so far as to say that her husband and the character's other creators Tomoyuki Tanaka and Eiji Tsubaraya would have taken considerable time to think of the name. She continued:

The backstage boys at Toho loved to joke around with tall stories, but I don't believe that one.

Godzilla's design is based on different dinosaurs

source: Wikipedia

The design for Godzilla jettisons the gorilla-whale mindset of the character's name for something much more horrifying. Created by Teizo Toshimitsu and Akira Watanabe, Godzilla is based on different elements of a Tyrannosaurus, Iguanodon, and a Stegosaurus. Initially, the filmmakers wanted to use stop motion to bring Big G to life, but settled on created multiple suits that weighed more than 200 pounds a piece, making the filming of 1954's Godzilla an endurance test for the two actors who took turns in the suit.

The sound of Godzilla was created by a composer suffering from radiation poisoning

source: Toho Studios

Akira Ifukube began his professional life as a member of the Imperial Japanese Army who studied the elasticity and vibratory strength of wood, but after he was exposed to x-rays without protection he wound up in the hospital on the brink of death. This experience formed the basis for much of Ifukube's work for the rest of his life.

When Toho studios cames to Ifukube with the script for Godzilla he immediately understood the story of a creature woken up by the birth of nuclear destruction, and he crafted a bombastic score to fit the film, he also helped craft Godzilla's mighty roar.

Ifukube felt that an unnatural creature like Godzilla should have an unnatural voice, so he found a nearly destroyed contrabass (essentially a double bass) in Toho studios, detuned the E string and ran his hands up and down its neck. Sound technician Ichiro Minawa took recordings of Ifukube's work and played them at various speeds while mixing them with animal noises and echo effects in order to make the creatures first big roar.

Godzilla Originally Used Gender-Neutral Pronouns

source: Toho Studios

When Godzilla was first dreamt up in the 1950s it's likely that no one sat down and wrote out an origin story for Monster Zero-One, and in the original Japanese scripts the monster was consistently referred to as not a "he" or a "she," but an "it." In films like Son of Godzilla and Roland Emmerich's 1998 Godzilla, the creature is presented as having a son and having the ability to lay eggs. So what's the deal here? The most cynical answer is that whoever's working on a Godzilla movie at any given time just decides that Godzilla is a mother/father/asexual layer of eggs, but even some of the team at Toho who thought about stuff like this isn't even sure of Godzilla's sexual nature. Haruo Nakajima, who wore the Godzilla suit in films from 1954 - 1972, said in 2004 that he didn't know the creature's gender. On the other hand, according to Wikizilla, both Tomoyuki Tanaka (a co-creator of Godzilla) and Jun Fukuda (a director of four Godzilla films) have stated that Godzilla is male. 

In official English-dubbed versions of the Japanese movies, the monster is called a "he," and the title "King of the Monsters" seems to indicate maleness as well.

Godzilla is big, but how big?

source: Toho Studios

It's obvious to anyone who's watched one of the many films in the Godzilla franchise that the great gorilla-whale is larger than your average sea creature, but how big is he? Graphic designer Noger Chen has tracked the size of Godzilla over its more than 60 year reign and things have really changed. Between 1954 and 1975 Godzilla has been about 50 meters or 164 feet tall, but in 1984 that's when the characters starts to grow. That year Godzilla jumped up to 262 feet, and in the '90s he shot up to 328 feet high. Since then its size has fluctuated throughout the decades, but he's remained big big big.

Japanese and American versions of Godzilla are vastly different

source: Toho Studios

Godzilla's initial appearance in 1954 is an allegory for Japan following World War II. The country was dealing with the fallout of atomic destruction and Godzilla was a metaphor for nuclear weapons. The initial films in the series carry the message that weapons of mass destruction can't be controlled, and even when they're used as a last resort the amount of damage they can do is incalculable. It's a somber film that focuses on the destruction created by man, and as blunt as the metaphor is it's a strong one.

When Godzilla (1954) came to America two years later about 40 minutes of footage was removed from the film, and much of the messages and dialogue about nuclear weapons was completely removed, turning the film into a much less allegorical film and more into a monster powered smash 'em up. 

Godzilla has friends all over the world

source: Toho Studios

Godzilla the only big monster in Japanese films, it's actually one of many Kaiju meaning "strange creature" or as westerners know it "giant monster." Godzilla is easily the most popular Kaiju but it's not the only one. Many of the Godzilla films feature monstrous antagonists, but some of them are more popular than others.

Mother is easily Godzilla's most popular enemy. The giant moth-creature can create hurricane speed winds with its wings and it shoots a kind of energy beam that's never really been explained. After fighting Godzilla in 1964's aptly titled Mothra vs. Godzilla the two creatures team up to take on some of the more villainous Kaiju.

In 1956, Rodan, a giant prehistoric Pteranodon flew onto the screen in its own film, but in 1964 it crossed paths with Godzilla in Ghidorah, the Three-headed Monster where it used its sonic boom wind blasts and chest spikes to tram up with Godzilla and Mother to fight Ghidorah, a a three-headed dragon who shoots lasers from its mouth.

Godzilla's son, Minilla, first appeared in 1967's Son of Godzilla. This kawaii kaiju may not be Godzilla's actual child, it was adopted by Godzilla after it was nearly eaten by two giant mantises. This creature is a super super super cute version of its adoptive parent, and it was largely aimed at young children.

In 1974, Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla introduced, you guessed it, Mechagodzilla, a mechanized version of our beloved deep sea nuclear creature who serves as one of the main antagonists of the series.

These are just a few of the kaiju that Godzilla battles and works with. Thanks to 2019's Godzilla: King of the Monsters there are about 50 creatures in Godzilla's world that we have to contend with including King Kong (Yes, that King Kong), King Caesar, and SpaceGodzilla.

Tags: Godzilla | Japan | Monsters | Science Fiction

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Jacob Shelton


Jacob Shelton is a Los Angeles based writer. For some reason this was the most difficult thing he’s written all day, and here’s the kicker – his girlfriend wrote the funny part of that last sentence. As for the rest of the bio? That’s pure Jacob, baby. He’s obsessed with the ways in which singular, transgressive acts have shaped the broader strokes of history, and he believes in alternate dimensions, which means that he’s great at a dinner party. When he’s not writing about culture, pop or otherwise, he’s adding to his found photograph collection and eavesdropping on strangers in public.