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An exclusive video interview with NECA Toys Production Manager Stefan Folkins. Conducted 7/19/2019 at San Diego Comic-Con.
***Note: My filming was not the best in this interview due to my gimbal acting weird. Also, there are a couple of spots where the audio sounds muffled. No real info was lost so no worries!***Interviews // July 21, 2019
A few months ago I had the great honor of interviewing costume-design legend Keizo Murase in the actual studio at which many of the classic Toho monsters were created. We had an amazing two-hour conversation ranging over kaiju history and covering dozens of stories, and I am looking forward to getting the video translated and posted for fans in the West to enjoy. Chris Mirjanhangir set up the interview in conjunction with Daisuke Sato, who was also the mastermind behind Howl from Beyond the Fog, a Kickstarter-funded tokusatsu short film set in ancient Japan and featuring a cast of puppets—and a film which will soon premiere at G-Fest! After interviewing Mr. Murase, I got to talking with Mr. Sato (who we also interviewed here on TK in the past), and he casually mentioned that he was the one who assembled the Godzilla costume in Godzilla Final Wars, which was designed by Shinichi Wakasa. I was flabbergasted and asked if it would be possible to interview Mr. Sato personally as well, and he graciously agreed. That interview took place on June 22, 2019.
For now, I just want to give the highlights of that interview, and also invite any G-Fest attendees to go check out Howl from Beyond the Fog. Daisuke Sato is a super nice guy (and he speaks English!), so I hope his film will get a lot of attention at this year’s G-Fest.
I met Mr. Sato at Burger Mania, one of the best hamburger restaurants in Tokyo (my recommendation) before moving to a nearby café so that I could audio-record more easily, given that Burger Mania was a bit noisy (unfortunately recording in the café may not have been much better, as my mic picked up way too much background noise). Nevertheless, we still had a nice time over tea and/or coffee chatting about Sato’s history of making monster costumes. Our conversation went this way and that way, but Sato was really patient with my multitude of questions.
Here I want to especially focus on Daisuke Sato’s experiences making Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (2001), Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), and Gamera the Brave (2006), though he also worked on the sets for The Great Yokai War (2005), and worked on the TV show Gransazers (for which he made gloves for the human costumes, as well as cannons and legs for some of the robots), plus Ultraman Mebius & Ultraman Brothers (2006) and other monster-related projects, as well as Samurai Commando: Mission 1549 (2005), for which he made some of the prop firearms.
Daisuke Sato got his start working on GMK while he was still a student at the now-defunct Tokyo Eizou Geijutsu Gakuin. His role on GMK was relatively small. He made a wall of life-size Godzilla scales which were used for a scene in which Godzilla emerges from the water and can briefly be glimpsed through the rush of liquid (Sato showed me the scene, but it was hard to catch his work). Sato was also the man behind the puppet in one shot in which Godzilla was under water. A puppet was utilized for that scene in particular shots, and Sato was the performer, turning Godzilla’s head threateningly!
The other Godzilla film that Sato worked on was Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), on which he had a much larger role. Comparing the two films, Sato recalled that when shooting for GMK, the crew did about ten shots each day, but for GFW they did 16 shots every day (split into two shooting crews). However, according to Sato, GFW was the less stressful as they got off at six each day, but on GMK they might go much longer into the evening, which was exhausting.
On Godzilla: Final Wars, Sato had an incredible opportunity: he was the man put in charge of assembling the suit designed by Shinichi Wakasa. This windfall did not just plop into his lap, though; Sato personally requested the duty from special make-up man Rikiya Soh, who granted his request. Sato was in charge of assembling three suits, which he did in three months. Those suits included the main suit, a heavier armored suit for scenes in which the monster was taking fire and explosions, and an action suit that was lighter and allowed the actor freer movement for active scenes.
Sato also has memories of eating at the studio café with some of the actors and staff, and recalls that the actors playing the Xiliens would eat in full costume. (Unfortunately, apparently they did not stay in character while at lunch. Still, the image of Xiliens eating lunch together at a café is priceless.)
Soon after GFW, Sato would then work on Gamera the Brave (2006), creating the front carapace of the main suit as well as a cheaper Zedus head created specifically to be destroyed in the climactic fight. The original Zedus head was quite expensive and detailed, and thus the second head was commissioned. Asked whether he felt any regret that his monster head had been destroyed, he said, no, since that was its purpose all along.
Outside of creating parts of the costumes for Gamera and Zedus, Sato was also in charge of costume maintenance, fixing any wear and tear that the costumes might take in the course of filming. However, at least one time damage to one of the suits came not from on-screen monster action, but from an unexpected source: Sato himself! One day, Sato was exhausted after a long day and was trying to load up the costume of the older Gamera that appears in the flashback at the beginning of the movie. Due to his fatigue, Sato accidentally let the costume fall and smash against the floor, damaging the monster. This was before they had shot any of the scenes featuring the beast! Luckily, Sato was skilled enough to fix the costume himself, albeit perhaps with a bit of egg on his face.
Sato also made performance suits of Ultraman for promotional events related to the 2005 film Ultraman in which he built up the musculature first and then added armor over the top. Sato disparaged these suits in our interview, though, claiming that due to his lack of talent they were heavier than they should have been. These would not be the only promotional suits Sato would make, however, as he would go on to create more hero suits for Gotochi Hero.
Sato’s most recent project is the ambitious Howl from Beyond the Fog, which was successfully Kickstarted some time ago in November 2017, and on which he worked beside monster effects legend Keizo Murase, who created so many of the classic Toho monster costumes of old. Howl from Beyond the Fog was partially inspired by Ray Bradbury’s The Fog Horn (upon which Sato also created a fan film years ago, which was later tragically lost due to a hard drive crash). However, unlike The Fog Horn, Howl from Beyond the Fog takes place in ancient Japan. The main characters are a young boy named Izana and a beautiful blind woman named Takiri, who shares a bond with the monster of the film, an equally blind (and in this case, aged) monster called Nebula. (The monster was originally named Amenosagiri, after the Japanese myth, but a child asking about the monster’s name at a convention in France inspired Sato to change the name to something simpler. Nebula has the classic kaiju name aesthetic, ending in “la”, but also sports a double-meaning, since the word “nebula” comes from a Latin term for “fog.)
Howl from Beyond the Fog is a story done completely in puppets so that Sato could have more control over the shoot and was influenced by a puppet TV dramatization of The Romance of the Three Kingdoms made in the early 1980s (when asked, Sato admitted he had never watched the more recent Thunderbolt Fantasy, and thus was not influenced by that series). According to Sato, almost all the shots are composite shots, and when asked what was most difficult in making the movie, he said “everything!” Still, despite all the hardships, it seemed obvious Sato was excited about the movie, and he said his favorite scene was when Nebula destroys the town.
When I asked Sato if he has a message for fans of tokusatsu, he spoke about how while mainstream movies have moved on to CGI, independent films can still do the more traditional suitmation effects, and he hopes that both kinds of films can be made in the future (if I understood him correctly—my recording is hard to hear, with too much background noise).
I was hoping there would be a chance to get my hands on the movie on DVD or Blu-Ray, but as of this time the DVD/Blu-Ray will only be available to Kickstarter backers. In the future there may be more opportunities to see the film, but for now fans will have to be content to watch the movie at conventions such as G-Fest and the Atami Kaiju Movie Festival in November, 2019.
If you are attending either festival, please consider giving the movie a view. The story is a celebration of classic tokusatsu with a unique aesthetic and a fantastic pedigree. I am so envious because I wish I could go to G-Fest and see the film myself!Interviews // July 12, 2019
An interview with Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019) actor Justice Smith, who played Tim Goodman in the film. Conducted by phone on May 3rd, 2019, and transcribed by Jeremy Williams.
Justice Smith: Hey Chris, how’s it going?
Chris Mirjahangir: Hey, congratulations on breaking the video game curse for films. This is the best one I’ve ever seen.
Smith: Oh wow, that’s so good to hear, thank you, man.
Mirjahangir: I’m someone who only has a shadow of knowledge of Pokemon. So it’s something I can enjoy.
Smith: Alright, because that’s what we wanted, that’s awesome.
Mirjahangir: You’re a big Pokemon fan?
Smith: Yeah, I’m a big Pokemon fan. I have all the original cards, I had the games, the video games. I had Pokemon Gold and Pokemon Crystal. I watched the anime, I was a huge fan and it had an impact on me and my childhood.
Mirjahangir: Do you keep current and watch the current ones they put out?
Smith: I haven’t seen the current ones, no, I stopped after like generation three. But I do play Pokemon Go now and I plan on getting the new Pokemon Sword and Shield when it comes out on the Switch. Just cuz, I’m… It’s kind of consumed my life now that it’s a part of my career. So it’s kind of like made me get back into it.
Mirjahangir: Pokemon Go I think was the one that was responsible for people losing weight.
Smith: Yeah. I mean, yeah, they’re still doing it. I still see people, like grown men too, like out about fighting at the gyms and stuff.
Mirjahangir: We got a park nearby where a whole bunch of them would be, right. And I looked around and there are people with strollers like almost walking into a pond.
Smith: *laughs* Yeah.
Mirjahangir: But you’re also like an anime fan as well right, do you have any favorites?
Smith: Yeah I love Death Note, I love this one anime Darker than Black, I really like Devilman Crybaby. I like… Those are really dark ones. I like the Miyazaki films as well.
Mirjahangir: What about Dragon Ball?
Smith: My older brother was into Dragon Ball. Um, so I tried to get into it, but I never was never into it. But I did like playing the Dragon Ball games. I also like One Piece, I was a fan of.
Mirjahangir: Assassination Classroom was good, I heard.
Smith: Oh, I haven’t seen that one yet, I’ve heard that one is good, too.
Mirjahangir: So back to the movie, you have a lot of dialogue with Ryan Reynolds. You know ‘cuz you have to kind of have to bounce off to match for the animations of Pikachu. What was that process like?
Smith: So, we had like a week of rehearsals before we started shooting where we found our dynamic. And he wore a motion capture helmet. And kind of just went throughout the whole script, and changed what wasn’t working, and did all this stuff. And then Ryan went away to go record in a booth. And I had to remember what he did and recreate my side of that, um, on set. But the short time I actually did get to work with him was… I mean, just the nicest dude, hilarious and it was cool to see that he’s not just funny on camera. He’s just like that, he just likes to make people laugh and he’s really authentic, too, which is refreshing.
Mirjahangir: When filming scenes with Pikachu, how did you keep your eye line correct and get your reaction time perfect?
Smith: We had a reader that we casted, who would improvise with me and say Ryan’s lines. And then Matt would kind of help us keep timing and also help us keep it loose. And then Ryan, once we shot everything, would go back and dub Pikachu’s voice and make sure it was in line with what I had shot on the day. So it was just both of us collaborating to make it seem like we were in the same room.
Mirjahangir: So this is like the start I guess of an expanded universe, are you signed on for more or?
Smith: I mean I would love for there to be a sequel, you know there’s eight hundred and seven Pokemon I believe. So we definitely have a lot of content. *laughs*
Mirjahangir: Yeah, were there ones you wanted to see in, but they didn’t make it?
Smith: I mean without spoiling which Pokemon are in the movie and which ones or not, yes, the short answer is yes.
Mirjahangir: Are there ones you’re gonna try and push for if there is a sequel?
Smith: Yeah, I’ll try to get the ones I want in the sequel.
Mirjahangir: Yeah, I saw a little bit of Paper Towns. You had like a scene where you were singing the Pokemon theme song. Did you even have to memorize it?
Mirjahangir: Or was it just burned into your brain.
Smith: Well it was burned into my brain and also, funny enough, that song was originally supposed to be Miley Cyrus’ “Party in the U.S.A.” But we had to cut it and we had to change it to a different song, and as cast, we were trying to come up with what song we should sing. And I suggested the Pokemon theme song, and that’s the song we ended up doing in the movie. And then here I am years later, leading the first live action Pokemon movie. Which is a crazy coincidence.
Mirjahangir: Did you audition for this or did they call directly, how did it work?
Smith: Well, I had a meeting with Rob and he kind of showed me his vision for the film, and then they flew me out to London to audition. There were other people they were considering as well. But as soon as I saw his vision, I just knew that I had to be a part of it.Interviews // June 28, 2019
An interview with Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (2019) director Rob Letterman. Conducted by phone on May 3rd, 2019, and transcribed by Jeremy Williams.
Chris Mirjahangir: How did you come onto the project? Was it in development or were you there in the beginning?
Rob Letterman: It was in development, so Legendary Pictures and the Pokemon Company were already sort of set on making Detective Pikachu a live action movie. The game was also in development so it was kinda of a parallel track. So that was already happening when I got the call.
Mirjahangir: How long did it take you to work on the story and everything before getting ready to shoot?
Letterman: I first engaged like at the end of 2016. And then we started shooting in 2018. So I was on it for like a while. Like it was a lot of development, a lot of not just writing on the script but also just like developing the Pokemon characters in advance. You know we put a full year of work into the designs of all the Pokemon. Working hand in hand with the Pokemon Company to get all the characters right. And have that all set and locked in before we started shooting.
Mirjahangir: Was it Legendary you worked with or was it also Legendary and Toho and Warner Bros? Like a big group effort?
Letterman: It was a big group effort between Legendary and the Pokemon Company during the development and production phase. That was all integrated together and all the different divisions of the Pokemon Company, and you know for sure Toho and Warner Bros. during the whole marketing and distribution. And getting the word out, like everyone just sort of went big on this. It’s pretty amazing and humbling to see it.
Mirjahangir: Were you a fan of the series and everything, the games and stuff going in?
Letterman: Well I’m slightly older, so I just missed it. But my kids are huge fans, so I as a parent, I went deep on Pokemon. My kids love the cards, the toys, the games. The T.V. show was just hitting Netflix so they binge watched that and all the movies. You know I watched the Pokemon First Movie with my kids and you know, so, I was inundated with it via my children.
Mirjahangir: Did you try playing the games as well to try and get a feel for it?
Letterman: I played the games, my son and I play Pokken DX. He always chooses Mewtwo, I always lose. I mean it’s crazy. We’ve gone to the Pokemon world championship when it was in Anaheim. And you know it was, it’s fun as a parent to like connect on anything with your kids. So it’s great.
Mirjahangir: Well this is suppose to… If I remember correctly, this is gonna be part of like an expanded universe. Are you in talks for another one?
Letterman: I mean I would love to do another one, you know I’m very superstitious so I don’t want to jinx anything. The first movie has to work before that happens. But yeah, if we’re lucky enough to be able to do another one, I would jump at the chance.
Mirjahangir: How did you decide which Pokemon would go into the movie and were there ones you wanted to put in but you couldn’t?
Letterman: Well there’s… I mean a hundred I wanted to put in, but I couldn’t for budgetary reasons. We just we just ran out of money. But uh, you know the ones that are in there are a combination of them, because it’s based on the Detective Pikachu game, there’s a certain set of Pokemon that are inherent in that. Like Ludicolo and the Aipom are baked into the game. And then beyond that, I wanted to get a lot of the first generation Pokemon characters so that you know there’s a nostalgia factor for people in their twenty’s and thirty’s who grew up on it. And you know having the Pokemon that they remember and love being represented in the movie, and then you know just working with the Pokemon Company and all the original creators on kind of narrowing down the list and working with Eric, our visual effects supervisor, on which characters we could best represent in photo real live action. You know, just kinda combing through the list that way and it was a combination of all those things.
Mirjahangir: Ryan Reynolds having him play Pikachu. I’m curious because you know he does a lot of, you know there’s a lot of jokes in there. Some jokes work, some don’t. You have a test audience to see what’s working. And I’m curious like what his process was cuz I saw he was on set for what, three days running lines?
Letterman: Yeah, he was on set for three days and so the pivotal scenes that you know we thought we would need him there for just to get the chemistry between him and Justice right. But before all that, we rehearsed quite a bit and Ryan, you know, he scrubbed through the script to make sure that Pikachu’s dialogue was fitting with, you know, his ideas. So he played a part, um, in just the script stage. Then Justice and I worked with him, we kind of workshopped for two days in L.A., the script, and just try to you know land the characters and the chemistry that way. And see, you know, improv and let Ryan riff and let Justice riff and then I took all that and reworked the script so it reflected those workshop days. And then we had a… he was there a week before we started shooting and we did a full stage play with the… He had a facial capture helmet rig thing on. And then we just kind of went through the whole movie, let them act it out like as a stage play. With Justice, Ryan, Katherine Newton, and a mime. Um, and so by the time we had those days on set while we were shooting we had… there was a lot of work that lead up to getting to that moment.
Mirjahangir: The stage play aspect I think would be a great Blu-Ray extra *laughs* just to see it.
Letterman: You’re right, I don’t know why we…
Mirjahangir: Just to see it that way would be great.
Letterman: Someone’s got to dig it up! You’re so right, it should be in there. It would need to be like edited into something, but uh, the whole movie is, there’s a version of the whole movie with those guys just sitting in chairs, walking around, a weird mime performance, Ryan with a crazy thing on his head. It’s a strange version of the movie. *laughs* That exists.
Mirjahangir: Can you request that, like you know what, let’s make this available for everybody.
Letterman: Probably, but we’ll see how the movie does.
Mirjahangir: That would be great.
Letterman: If it’s worthwhile, maybe we’ll dig it up.
Mirjahangir: How many versions of Pikachu were there in the design process? How long did he take to get right?
Letterman: He took about a year to get right. There’s a lot that went into Pikachu designing. Oh my gosh, fur, no fur, short fur, long fur, different fur. You know all the slight variations of the color yellow. I mean endless work, I mean there’s what people probably never know is that there is a skeleton with muscles on it, a skin on the muscles. You know, the fur is every hair of Pikachu is interacting with every other hair and you know the eyes have like really sophisticated computer simulation with light that refracts, all real world physics are happening in there. It’s a really really sophisticated CGI character that took a full year to develop. And this is before we start shooting.
Mirjahangir: Oh yeah I mean it looks great, yeah, oh wow! So did you hone it kind of a little more in post just to kinda…
Letterman: A little bit but we had to nail it.
Letterman: Otherwise, the performance from the actors would be, if it was off by a millimeter it would just, the whole thing would fall apart.Interviews // June 23, 2019
An interview conducted by Toho Kingdom staff with Japanese artist Shinji Nishikawa, known for his work on the Godzilla series from the late ’80s into the early 2000s. The interview took place through e-mail beginning January 11th, 2018 and concluded later that year in November. A majority of the questions are one-offs, with the theme of the interview initially being about “lost projects,” though some of Nishikawa’s other works outside of Toho are briefly discussed as well. Translations by Noah Oskow and Joshua Sudomerski, and special thanks to Matt Frank for helping get this interview together!
Toho Kingdom: When did you first become interested in drawing professionally?
Shinji Nishikawa: I enrolled in university and joined a manga research group. In this circle there were many special effects fans, and a year prior to the release of The Return of Godzilla (1984), screenings of Toho special effects movies were being rerun in various parts of Japan as part of the “Godzilla Revival Festival”. Being in such an environment, I also became interested in Japanese special effects again. In my third year of university, I had gotten into manga and movies so much that graduating became difficult, so my father told me that I could “make a book as a condition to allow me to drop out of college.” So I made the doujinshi called “Godzilla Legend”. This book gained a reputation and soon offers from publishers arrived, and this opened the way for me to become a professional cartoonist.
TK: How did you become affiliated with Toho?
Nishikawa: Toho was planning a film adaptation of a novel called Toi Umi kara Kita Coo, and director Koichi Kawakita who had received the consultation was looking for a person who could draw “a cute child dinosaur”. Mr. Kazuo Sakutani, who had a close friendship with director Kawakita, introduced “Godzilla Legend” to him and mentioned me. In February 1989, I brought a picture of dinosaurs and “Godzilla Legend” to the shooting of Gunhed (1989), and this was the first time I met director Kawakita. Although the film adaptation of Toi Umi kara Kita Coo was cancelled, a few months later, there was a call from director Kawakita and I was asked to design Biollante.
TK: What Toho project did you enjoy working on the most?
Nishikawa: That’s a difficult question. The most exciting to work on was Godzilla vs. Biollante (1989), as I participated on the development of a Godzilla movie for the first time, but because I was brought in during the middle of development, it wasn’t as satisfying. For Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991), as I was able to draw many designs from the start, this one had the most sense of fulfillment. In terms of what I “enjoyed” the most, I rather liked working on the “Millennium Series,” where we increased our new staff, and where I started receiving production planning consolation with the directors.
TK: Which monster design of yours would you say is your favorite?
Nishikawa: I think that Biollante is good in the sense that I could present a new form that I had never seen before. However, as I was able to help the senior designer and modeling, I’d say “Kiryu” is my favorite character as I had the most control over the design overall.
TK: What are some of your favorite monsters in general?
Nishikawa: There are too many that I cannot narrow it down, but… basically I like the standard “dinosaur type” monsters such as Godzilla, Anguirus, or Varan, but monsters that deviate from traditional living things such as Hedorah or Gigan are also cool.
TK: What was it like seeing Biollante being brought to life in a movie?
Nishikawa: When I first saw the models for Biollante at the studio, I was deeply impressed by the size and realism of the molding. Compared to the impact of the real thing, I felt that the short ten minutes or so it appeared on-screen was not enough to really demonstrate its appeal. Still, some of those cuts had a real impact, and were really wonderful.
TK: In your Godzilla art book [Shinji Nishikawa: Drawing Book of Godzilla], you mention how Bagan was originally going to transform into three different forms. Do you remember any other story details of this early outline?
Nishikawa: I drew the three forms which were initially described in the plot, after which director Kawakita told me that I should “freely draw as many drafts images” as I liked, and I went about drawing quite a few different designs. The thing that most influenced me was being asked to use the head of the dinosaur Styracosaurus as a motif in my drawings.
TK: In an interview, [director] Kazuki Omori said how Mothra vs. Bagan would have been the start of a new series of monster movies. Did you hear of any details about where the series would have headed, or what monsters could have appeared?
Nishikawa: I don’t believe there were any concrete plans for a series after that. However, because the story of Mothra vs. Bagan began in Singapore, movies from that period onward might have taken place in other countries as well.
※ The story for Mothra vs. Bagan included scenarios in Japan, Singapore, Nepal, Malaysia, India, and Thailand.
TK: Did you submit a story outline for Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah (1991)?
Nishikawa: No. But after receiving the synopsis, I made some suggestions and pointed out problems.
TK: In your Toho art book [Shinji Nishikawa: Drawing Book of Godzilla], you have a sketch of Meganulon from 1991. What movie was it considered for, and what role would it have played?
Nishikawa: I hadn’t made it based on any concrete assumptions regarding any movies. With King Ghidorah having been resurrected, we thought we were going to have a policy of bringing back monsters of the past rather than creating new ones. Rather than simply putting these monsters into the films exactly as they had been portrayed originally, I drew Meganulon with the intention of having him be a monster we knew from the past but whose appearance was like something we had never seen before, hoping to thus combine the appeal of newness with that of nostalgia.
※ The concept artwork for the 1991 Meganulon bears a heavy resemblance to the Meganula from Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000), a movie Nishikawa also contributed concept art to.
TK: Did you submit a story outline for Godzilla vs. Mothra (1992)?
Nishikawa: While this isn’t the storyline itself per se, I did put forward some ideas, like how Godzilla and Mothra fighting only by themselves would be limiting, and how the mechanics on the human side would fight.
※ When asked, Nishikawa stated that he did not submit story outlines for Mothra vs. Bagan or Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla (1994).
TK: How did you enjoy working on Ultra Special Tactics Squad Go!?
Nishikawa: I found it interesting in that the design orientation in regards to the Ultra Monsters was so different from that of the Toho monsters. As it’s a story that involves Ultra Q and Ultraman, I attempted to create designs that would not feel out of place amongst those of the kaiju designed by Toru Narita.
※ Fantasy Tokusatsu Series: Ultra Special Tactics Squad Go! (Japanese title: 空想特撮シリーズウルトラ作戦 科特隊出撃せよ!) is a 1992 video game released for the PC-9800 series in Japan, with Toru Narita being a notable Ultra series monster designer.
TK: Which monsters did you design for Ultra Special Tactics Squad Go!?
Nishikawa: I designed all the monsters, though the combining monster Mido & Ronga was designed by a modeler.
TK: Is Reborn Birugamera based off of one of your designs for Bagan?
Nishikawa: The way his neck protrudes and the shape of his shell are some of the aspects of his design that I drew based on those I had made from when I worked on Bagan.
※ “Reborn Birugamera” (再生ビルガメラー – Saisei Birugamera) is a boss monster from the game. In his 2019 art book Shinji Nishikawa Design Works, Nishikawa would reiterate how the Ultra monster was based off of a concept he made for Bagan, its silhouette being like that of a beetle.
TK: In your draft for Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), was your version of Mechagodzilla a combining machine?
Nishikawa: Before we decided upon “Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla,” I had put forth a project called Mecha-King Ghidorah’s Counterattack. This was based on an idea about how Mecha-King Ghidorah, raised from the seafloor, could be brought back to life as a combining machine. Besides my first drawings of Mechagodzilla, they were all drawn and designed as combining mechas.
TK: Was Rodan included in your story outline for Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993)?
Nishikawa: Rodan did not appear.
TK: In an interview, Koichi Kawakita mentioned the name of an outline called Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla: Metallic Battle. Was this your outline?
Nishikawa: I think different.
※ Koichi Kawakita’s interview can be found in the Japanese book, Heisei Godzilla Perfection. In it, Kawakita refers to Toho monster/mecha designer Kunio Aoi as the writer for this draft. Aoi has denied this claim, however.
TK: What were some of your inspirations when designing Kumasogami from Yamato Takeru (1994)?
Nishikawa: I wasn’t specifically referencing anything in particular with that design. Toho tokusatsu don’t tend to have many humanoid monsters, so I thought that creating him with the simple image of a titan made of lava would help to create some differentiation between it and the Godzilla series.
TK: In your art book [Shinji Nishikawa: Drawing Book of Godzilla], you have a salamander monster and a jellyfish monster in the section for Yamato Takeru (1994). Were these early designs for Kaishin Muba?
Nishikawa: In the story within the draft script, the salamander was to appear in the first half of the story, meaning he was a monster who was scheduled to appear earlier than Kumosagami.
TK: Did you hear any story details about Yamato Takeru II?
Nishikawa: I don’t know about the second film, but I heard for “3” they wanted to introduce Godzilla into the trilogy.
TK: In the book Godzilla vs. Destoroyah Completion, it talks about your story outline called Godzilla vs. Baraguirus. Did you make any sketches for Baragon or Baraguirus?
Nishikawa: I don’t think I drew any.
※ Also in the same book is one of Nishikawa’s sketches for a Heisei version of Anguirus. This version of the monster was originally suggested by Nishikawa to appear in a story draft for Godzilla vs. Godzilla, with Ghost Godzilla possessing Anguirus as opposed to Little Godzilla and taking on a new monstrous form.
TK: Do you mind sharing more details about “Baraguirus”, such as what caused Anguirus and Baragon fuse, or how the story ended?
Nishikawa: Since we talked about how we wanted to use a quadruped monster that hadn’t yet appeared in the Heisei Series, we also thought about how we wanted to have Moguera fight underground, and I came up with Baraguirus as a subterranean monster to fulfill that role. Although he possesses both of the special characteristics of Anguirus and Baragon, it’s not as though he was born from an amalgamation of the two of them.
TK: Did you make any sketches for the new monster created by Ghost Godzilla and Anguirus fusing? And did it have a name?
TK: How was your experience working on the Heisei Mothra series?
Nishikawa: Because I was working the TV anime series YAT Anshin! Uchuu Ryokou on the NHK network at the time, I wasn’t as involved as I had been with Godzilla. Because Mothra was a monster whose design hadn’t seen many changes up until that point, it was quite fun thinking up variations on her design. Also, since Dagahra was the sort of oceanic kaiju who hadn’t appeared in the Heisei Godzilla Series, I had a lot of fun drawing out its designs as well.
TK: What were some of your inspirations when designing Grand Ghidorah from Rebirth of Mothra III (1998)?
Nishikawa: Since he’s said to be a Ghidorah who has been living since the age of the dinosaurs, I had this image of him being quite aged. Our nickname for Grand Ghidorah was “Grand(father) Ghidorah.” I designed him with transforming wings that were well suited for flight, and rather than having him be monochromatic, I added black specks to his scales, but unfortunately these weren’t carried through in his molding.
TK: How did you become involved in the development of the PC game, Godzilla Movie Studio Tour?
Nishikawa: It was fun for me to draw in that cute super-deformed style. I was also quite happy when they included the partially animated pieces for the map screen that I had gone ahead and made by myself.
※ The animated “map screen” is a bonus program included with Godzilla Movie Studio Tour, with objects that can be interacted with via clicking. This includes Mothra Larva wiggling her tail, SpaceGodzilla summoning numerous crystals from the ground, a heat maser tank blasting Mothra Larva, King Ghidorah’s heads and tails moving while cackling, Mothra’s egg bobbing in the water, an MBT-92 firing at Godzilla’s face, and Godzilla momentarily glowing like Burning Godzilla.
TK: In the game, there is a monster called Dogolas. Was that a monster created for the game, or was it meant to appear in a movie?
Nishikawa: I don’t remember exactly, but I think it was a monster made for the game.
TK: Did you submit any story outlines for the “Millennium Series” like you did for the “VS Series”?
Nishikawa: For the “Millennium Series”, I wrote drafts for Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000) and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), but I don’t remember whether or not I submitted them.
TK: In your art book [Shinji Nishikawa: Drawing Book of Godzilla], you had a [Godzilla] skeleton on the moon from an early outline for Godzilla vs. Megaguirus (2000). How did the skeleton end up on the moon?
Nishikawa: I had drawn that based on a request from our producer, Shogo Tomiyama. He said it had come about as an idea from scriptwriter Wataru Mimura back during Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999), but it seems Mimura hadn’t thought up any further plot for it beyond just that one image.
TK: You created many designs for Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). What was your experience working on that movie?
Nishikawa: Because we had designers with strong, individualistic personalities like Yasushi Nirasawa, Katsuya Terada, and others taking part, I ended up not being able to change much of the original monsters I was in charge of. Thinking back on it all now, there are some monsters for whom I think “maybe it would have been good to change them just a bit more?”
※ Nishikawa was responsible for creating concept art of Anguirus, Rodan, King Caesar, Hedorah, Manda, Minilla, Kumonga, Kamacuras, and Ebirah. Katsuya Terada, a character designer who worked on The Legend of Zelda for the NES among other games, made concepts for Monster X and Keizer Ghidorah. Lastly, Yasushi Nirasawa is a fellow veteran artist of the Godzilla series who made concepts for Gigan, the Xiliens, and the Xilien Mothership.
TK: How do you feel about the translation from your work to the suits used in the films? Do you have a favorite?
Nishikawa: My favorites are the Kiryu version of Mechagodzilla as well as Armor Mothra, who were both molded quite faithfully to the designs. For Biollante, there are some parts that are different from my design diagrams, but I still think it turned out well. Megaguirus is quite different though, isn’t it?
TK: When it came to redesigning older monsters, did you have to follow strict guidelines?
Nishikawa: There were no strict guidelines. However, I was careful not to change the way they looked too much.
Nishikawa: All the characters in these shows were brand-new, so I was able to work with a good deal of freedom. They were fun, with so many different types of characters showing up.
TK: Out of all the movies you worked on, which monster was the most difficult to design?
Nishikawa: There aren’t any monsters that I would call especially difficult, but Mecha-King Ghidorah took some effort.
TK: What are some of your favorite designs that went unused from any of the projects you worked on?
Nishikawa: There were a few I quite liked from Bagan’s designs. I also drew most of Orga’s designs, so there were some of those I felt favorable towards.
TK: How did you enjoy working with Bandai on “Chogokin Tamashii MIX Mechagodzilla“?
Nishikawa: I had fun on that project since my contact person from Bandai had a lot of love for Mechagodzilla.
※ The aforementioned figure was based on Noriyoshi Ohrai’s poster for Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993), with the design in question originating from concept artwork by Nishikawa.
TK: [By the way, we] wanted to let you know that we spoke to the designer of the new Mechagodzilla that appeared in Ready Player One (2018). The name of the designer is Jared Krichevsky, and he was sent the work of Noriyoshi Ohrai to use as a base for his Mechagodzilla design. When Jared was given the 1993 “Heisei VS Series” poster, he was told to “make Mechagodzilla like this.” We thought you might like to know!
Nishikawa: Thank you for the interesting information about Mechagodzilla’s design. In an interview I had that was put in the Japanese brochure for Ready Player One (2018), I wrote that “I think that Mechagodzilla is based on the Ohrai poster,” but I’m glad to hear confirmation of this.
TK: Which of the doujinshi that you made is your favorite?
Nishikawa: The first “Godzilla Legend” is my favorite.
TK: How can fans buy some of your doujinshi, such as your Godzilla side stories and “Lady Franken”?
Nishikawa: Nowadays they’re all out of stock, so buying them might prove difficult. I’ve been mulling over a new issue for “Lady Franken,” so I’d like to put that one out there again with the new issue attached.
TK: Some of your Godzilla manga were released in “Godzilla Crazy Age”. However, there are other stories you have made that were published in TV Magazine and “Whole Godzilla Movie”, as well as “Godzilla Legend” and “Making of Godzilla Legend”. Are there any other Godzilla manga you have released in the past? If so, what are they called?
Nishikawa: From Rippu Shobo Publishing Co.’s “Godzilla vs. Biollante Encyclopedia” to “Godzilla vs. Destoroyah Encyclopedia,” I drew a Godzilla movie digest manga, a work called “Road to Canossa” in a volume from an anthology called “Godzilla Comic Counterattack” from Takarajimasha, a making-of manga about Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II (1993) as well as a manga called “Vindication of Kano” in NTT Media Scope’s “Roar of Godzilla,” and a manga named “Kiriko Kokiroko” in Keibunsha’s “Godzilla Magazine Vol.8.” This summer I put out a doujinshi called “New Generation Godzilla Legend.”
TK: Regarding your manga “Monster King Godzilla,” how many chapters did you release?
Nishikawa: I drew these three times for a monthly publication. They haven’t been compiled into a single release.
TK: What are your thoughts on Shin Godzilla (2016)?
Nishikawa: Compared to the Godzilla movies from back when I was involved in the series, it gives off this feeling of having been made within the context of a sort of unrestrained freedom. While I do think that there are parts of it that would be difficult to grasp for those without an understanding of the specific make-up of Japanese politics, as we have Legendary’s Godzilla (2014) which was made to appeal to the whole world, I’m glad that something like Shin Godzilla (2016) can exist alongside it.
TK: What are your thoughts on the “AniGoji” series? (Planet of the Monsters, Monster Apocalypse, etc.)
Nishikawa: The theory behind these films is quite divorced from that of already existing Godzilla movies or other kajiu films, but in a world where Legendary’s Godzilla (2014) and Shin Godzilla (2016) exist, I think it’s good to have a sort of distinctiveness. I evaluate these films as bringing forth a new way of communicating the themes inherent in the “Kaiju” concept.
TK: When did you first start joining exhibitions related to Toho? And what inspired you to join them?
Nishikawa: I think it was around 2014 that the reevaluation of Godzilla and the the proliferation of these exhibitions began. I’m not completely sure what spurred all that on, but someone I knew from reconstruction and support activities from after the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami was planning an “Akira Ifukube 100th Anniversary Concert,” and the poster I drew for that concert was what lead me to the paintbrush art style I currently employ.
TK: How have your experiences at these exhibitions been?
Nishikawa: I was able to really feel valued, not only as “the designer of Godzilla,” but also as an illustrator and as an artist. I was also able to feel how popular the Heisei works are, as well the continuing alternation of generations of Godzilla fans.
SHINJI NISHIKAWA (西川伸司) – Since the conclusion of this interview, Nishikawa has published his latest art book Shinji Nishikawa Design Works, released a new doujinshi titled New Generation Godzilla Legend, and worked as a monster designer for the 2018 anime SSSS.GRIDMAN. He also runs a blog, which he updates occasionally.Interviews // June 2, 2019
Hey everyone! Included in today’s huge Godzilla: King of the Monsters update:
-Exclusive interview with Director Michael Dougherty
-Exclusive interview with O’Shea Jackson Jr.
-Exclusive Interview with Ken Watanabe
-Press conference audio with:
-Millie Bobby Brown, O’Shea Jackson Jr., Thomas Middleditch
-Kyle Chandler and Bradley Cooper
-Michael Dougherty and Ken Watanabe
***SPOILERS GALORE IN THE INTERVIEWS!*** If you are someone who has seen the film in an advance screening, go ahead and check out the content. If not, wait until after you’ve seen the movie. You’ll be glad you did!
Interview: Michael Dougherty
The file is just under 10MB with a length of around 10 minutes. Click to download.
-The interview begins with a brief recap of the Akira Ifukube question being asked at SDCC which was also mentioned in the interview with O’Shea Jackson Jr.
-At approx 8:33, Mike alludes to the possibility of a MonsterVerse TV show
-Small edits to the interview were made for flow
All audio interviews recorded at:
The London Hotel
West Hollywood, California
Press Conference Audio Interviews
Click the images to download the audio files.
All press conference interviews recorded at:
The London Hotel
West Hollywood, California
O’Shea Jackson Jr.
-Small edits to the interview were made for flow
-I missed an Easter Egg in the film which I had recognized while I viewed it yet slipped my mind during the interview
-Small edits were made for flow
-The gimbal I used to record started acting up so I had to adjust while filming
All video interviews filmed at:
The London Hotel
West Hollywood, California
5/19/2019Interviews // May 28, 2019
Nicholas Driscoll: Let’s just jump right into this! Since I last interviewed you, I think you’ve been pretty busy! Could you update us, especially on the books or other things you have been doing that might interest the Toho aficionados who read the site?
John LeMay: Thanks for interviewing me again, hopefully folks don’t start getting sick of me! I have two new books of interest out: Terror of the Lost Tokusatsu Films and Kong Unmade: The Lost Films of Skull Island.
Driscoll: Maybe could you tell us a bit more about how you have revised some of your books? For example, if I already bought the paperback version of one of your previous books, why should I buy the updated version?
LeMay: I started out with a publisher that did my layouts for me with my first few books (history titles on New Mexico starting in 2008). The Big Book of Japanese Giant Monster Movies Vol. 1 was the first title I self-published (in 2016) and did the layout myself. It was very rudimentary, I even forgot to include page numbers in one of the versions! So I updated Vol. 1 and 2 to where they have much nicer layouts, plus tons of new reviews and trivia in each. My favorite aspect of the redesign is that the titles are listed in Japanese in the footers. Or in other words, in the footer on the section for Destroy All Monsters you will see 怪獣総進撃 and so on. Japanese books often have little headers or footers in English so I thought it would be fun to do the same thing. Also, the revised version of Vol. 1 added in reviews for over 25 films not covered in the first version. There’s some rare stuff in there, even reviews for Jumborg Ace and Giant (1974) to list just one. Similarly, Vol. 2 also has 25 new reviews in it—I added in Thunder of Gigantic Serpent (as a Bonus Review) specifically because a high schooler actually wrote me a letter in the mail the old fashioned way requesting its inclusion which I thought was pretty cool.
Driscoll: Can you tell us about Terror of the Lost Tokusatsu Films and why kaiju lovers might get a kick out of it?
LeMay: A wise fan told me that books that don’t feature Godzilla typically don’t sell well, and unfortunately so far that has been true of that book. But, if you’re a true Toho or Japanese sci-fi fan it is a book that you would enjoy. To me, in addition to being a book on unmade Japanese sci-fi films—the ones without any giant monsters—it’s sort of a love letter to Toho’s mutant and horror films. To be frank, as far as lost films and projects go, probably only a little over 100 pages is devoted to those, not enough to be a “feature length” book in my opinion. That’s why it also features pretty extensive reviews and production overviews of completed movies like Toho and Daiei’s Invisible Man films. Toho’s Horror of the Wolf (1973) is covered as are Blue Christmas (1978) and Tokyo Blackout (1987). Though they aren’t technically lost, they were never released in the U.S. so in that sense are lost to non-Japanese speaking fans. For most fans the interest will lie in the following unproduced Toho scripts: Frankenstein vs. the Human Vapor (1963), The Flying Battleship (1966), The Human Torch (1974) and Invisible Man vs. the Human Torch (1975). That’s not all of them, just the better known ones. So there’s a lot of interesting stuff packed into the book if you care to explore beyond just giant monsters.
Driscoll: What are some of the most surprising things you found out when researching that book?
LeMay: Shinichi Sekizawa’s script for Frankenstein vs. the Human Vapor really surprised me in how wild it was. There’s literally a scene where the Human Vapor and Frankenstein jump out of a commercial airplane together! If I wasn’t mistaken, Frankenstein was wearing a parachute in that scene. Sekizawa’s take on the monster was that of an actual intelligent being, not a dumb brute, which really surprised me. Similarly, his Flying Battleship script was also great, very James Bondish. And when reading the climax, some of the maneuvers between the battleships are similar enough to those in Latitude Zero (1969) that I’m positive Sekizawa used them there when Flying Battleship was dropped. I loved the scripts for Human Torch and Invisible Man vs. Human Torch (that wasn’t a sequel to the former, but a second evolution of the concept). Invisible Man vs. the Human Torch is a crime thriller with super-humans thrown in. Since it was a crime thriller I listened to Marvin Gaye’s Trouble Man soundtrack as I translated it which really matched the script’s atmosphere and made it come alive for me. I would love to see someone do a better translation of it, but what I read was still pretty fantastic.
Driscoll: What about the spaghetti westerns book you did? Could you tell us about that one just a bit?
LeMay: Yes, in addition to Japanese genre films I love Spaghetti Westerns like Companeros and Once Upon a Time in the West. However, a lot of them are really terrible! For instance, there’s one called White Comanche where William Shatner plays twin brothers—one good and one bad. It’s hilarious. So I wrote Deadly Spaghetti: The Goodest, the Baddest and the Ugliest Italian Westerns Ever Made, a scathing critique of the lesser Spaghettis. It was actually inspired by the book There Goes Tokyo by Mike Grant. It’s a book that pokes fun at Godzilla movies. Even though I never viewed G-films as laughable I loved Grant’s book and it made me want to do the same for Spaghetti Westerns. I got Mike’s blessing before I did, and he even wrote a great foreword for me on it. As an aside, I also looked into possibly doing a “Lost Spaghetti’s” book, but there just wasn’t enough material (the only one I found was an unmade sequel to The Good, the Bad and the Ugly).
Driscoll: Your most recent book is Kong Unmade: The Lost Films of Skull Island. Could you tell us a bit about the concept for this book? By the way, I love how the cover is made to mimic the look of the old Ian Thorne books!
LeMay: Originally that was going to be a general guide/review book for movies tangent to King Kong about giant apes or just apes on the loose in general (like Gorilla at Large and so on). I eventually realized there probably weren’t enough of those to make a very thick book so I figured I’d include an Appendix on unmade giant ape movies. I was shocked to find there was a ton of material out there on unmade King Kong sequels and remakes. Therefore I switched the focus to lost films and just made the guide and review into an Appendix. So I got the best of both worlds.
As to the lost films information, the bulk of it comes straight from the Merian C. Cooper papers at Brigham Young University, so it’s totally legit. The New Adventures of King Kong, Tarzan vs. King Kong and even Space Kong (a remake of King Kong which reimagined Skull Island as an alien planet) are all real! Then there are a lot of tangential projects like Baboon: A Tale About a Yeti which Willis O’Brien cooked up. It didn’t feature King Kong, but would have featured Carl Denham searching for a Yeti so it’s still tied to King Kong.
Yes, the design is a tribute to the old Crestwood House Ian Thorne books which I loved as a kid. The cover image I used is from an uncompleted 1934 film, The Lost Island, which I felt matched the look of the Crestwood books. The Lost Island originated from a studio that no longer exists. So really, no studio today owns that image. As to interior images, the great thing about King Kong compared to Toho and Godzilla is that the rights are a little easier to navigate for fan projects, ironically, because legal rights to just who owns Kong is incredibly, incredibly complicated. You’re on very shaky ground if you cite fair use when it comes to using Toho images or characters, but with Kong you can basically get away with it—hence this book actually has photos and illustrations on the inside. Some of them are exclusive (and are used with permission) including a whole sketchbook for Kid Kong—an axed animated series focusing on the baby ape from King Kong Lives from Filmation. The Kid Kong project developer, Rob Lamb, let me publish them and as far as I know most of those haven’t been published anywhere that I know. So that was a pretty big exclusive and I’m very grateful to him.
Driscoll: You also cover some Toho films in your Kong book—did you find out anything interesting?
LeMay: So, before anyone assumes that I just cut and pasted my chapters on Continuation: King Kong vs. Godzilla and King Kong vs. Ebirah from The Lost Films into Kong Unmade, that is NOT the case. I actually went back and did a smoother translation of Continuation and found some really awesome details that I missed, so you will see new information in Kong Unmade even if you have The Lost Films. A big detail that I missed in Continuation was the fact that Godzilla doesn’t just show up in Kyushu, but he actually bursts out of an erupting Mt. Aso to battle Kong! Also, Kong Unmade features a whole chapter on the unmade Heisei King Kong vs. Godzilla, something I didn’t even do in The Lost Films.
Driscoll: What are some of your future projects you have coming up that we can look forward to?
LeMay: Well, ironically, in my attempts to better The Lost Films for a future 2nd edition, it led to the creation of two brand new books. One of the things I was doing was beefing up the Appendix that dealt with the developmental process of finished films. I ended up expanding on some of those to the point that they became chapters of their own rather than Appendix entries. However, I eventually realized that some of these really weren’t ever lost films. I was just having fun tracking the changes. Researching the development of Atragon, which is based off of a novel from 1899, was when it really hit me that this could be its own book. I had also planned on adding in writer bios on Shinichi Sekizawa and his cohorts into the next Lost Films. Instead, I decided to do a whole book on the writing and development process. It’s called Writing Japanese Monsters. As a good example of the type of information that you can expect, did you know that in the original script for Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster that a yakuza character (to tentatively be played by Yoshio Tsuchiya) is the character possessed by a Venusian spirit? There is no Princess Salno in the first draft! Or, did you know Mechagodzilla was meant to be disguised as Godzilla yet again in the original draft of Terror of Mechagodzilla? Or wilder still, that Godzilla and Kiryu almost fought underwater in Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S.? Fun stuff like that. Hopefully it will be out by Christmas. The other book is Editing Japanese Monsters. It covers the many alternate cuts of Japanese monster movies from Japan, the U.S. and even Germany and other countries. Everything from “Cozzilla” to Command from the Dark (the German Monster Zero) to the Italian edit of Catastrophe 1999 is covered. I’m already 600 pages into that one and there’s still lots more to go!
Driscoll: Thank you so much for your time!
No, thank you! I enjoy reading Toho Kingdom and am always happy to contribute to the site in any way I can. Thanks for all the hard work and research you all do also—your Cutting Room is one of the best resources I have. Please keep those great translations coming!Interviews // May 27, 2019
Hey everyone! Below is a 10 question interview I did with Jakks Pacific about their Godzilla King of the Monsters toyline (with some burning questions asked and answered)! Enjoy!
How did it come about that Jakks Pacific came to work on the Godzilla King of the Monsters line?
We have several Godzilla fans on the Jakks team, some of whom have worked on Godzilla toys for the last movie, and this is a property we were interested in for a while. We regularly work with Legendary Films and Warner Brothers and were just very persistent and passionate about our desire to do more than the 24” Godzilla that Jakks produced for Godzilla (2014). That figure was awesome, so it had to be a part of this line, but we wanted to offer more.
There are variations of the sets that I’ve reviewed and some of the releases vary in packaging/paint applications for King Ghidorah. For example, the Rodan set I got for review had one building while there are sets with two buildings included.
As sometimes happens with movie based product, we started development very late and had a very small product development window. We try to hit every detail on the first attempt, but when we can improve, we do. So, yes the product that arrived to retail shelves first was a little different. Additional paint deco was added to Ghidorah on the wings and heads of both the Monster Match Up smaller figure and the Monster Pack six inch figure. An additional set of buildings was added to both the Rodan and Ghidorah Monster Pack six inch figures. We know it is not ideal to do this, but also want people to understand that we want to provide the best value for the price.
Why are there no 20 inch figures of the other monsters outside of Godzilla?
The short answer to this is scale. Ghidorah is massive. If we were to make it in scale with Godzilla and Godzilla is 12 inches tall and 20 inches long, the product, packaging and price will all significantly increase. At the same time, we didn’t want to have too many of the same monsters in a bunch of different sizes. It just felt right to have the King of the Monsters be the biggest one.
The giant Godzilla had a little bit of a retooling done and a darker look for the mold yet the backplates are the same from the 2014 design. Why is this? In addition, why is it only available at Wal-Mart.com?
Similar to the above, the answer is that we wanted to make improvements from the first time around. The tooling is the same. We did adjust some of the colors. As far as distribution, Jakks partnered with Walmart for our Godzilla King of the Monsters line as a whole. Retail space is of course very tight and the 24” figure takes up a lot of shelf space. It just wasn’t feasible to have this on shelf. If you remember, Walmart didn’t have the 24” for the last movie either for the same reasons. However we did want to release it for those fans that missed it the last time and/or wanted and updated version.
Why is this line a Wal-Mart exclusive and not a more general release at include stores like Target?
Jakks felt like Walmart was the best partner for this brand. They share our excitement and enthusiasm for Godzilla and they wanted to support the brand in a big way for the year. We are very pleased to be partnering with Walmart on the program and achieving the broadest distribution of the full line.
In the 3 inch sets, there are different paint color schemes for Godzilla. What was the thinking behind this?
For the Monster Match Ups, we wanted to represent all four of the key monsters from the movie. Of course, most fans want to have Godzilla first and matching Godzilla up with Ghidorah, Rodan, and Mothra seemed to make the most sense. Of course some fans may be interested in only having one of the monsters and some will want them all. We didn’t want the fan who wants them all to end up with the same Godzilla three times. Then of course our design team has to make some decisions regarding what is the best means to differentiate Godzilla with paint. From there we took some liberties with regard to other decos of Godzilla which have been seen and were popular from previous Godzilla toys.
The Godzilla/Mothra set seems to be hard to find. Will there be another printing of this set or is it a one and done printing?
There really isn’t a chase component to the Monster Match Up figures, so this is likely just something that will resolve itself over time. Sometimes one character sells faster than another and it is not until most or all of the figures sell through that another master carton of product is available on shelf. Ultimately Walmart.com will be another resource to get all the items, although at the time I write this it looks like they need to get back in stock on a few items as well.
In the film, King Ghidorah doesn’t have a claw on his wing yet on the toy, it does. When in production on the film did you receive final toy designs and the production started?
It is absolutely true that the development timeline for a toy and for a movie are not in line. The director may still be tinkering with fine details of the film now while we needed to finalize our designs last July.
In both the 6 and 3 inch set, King Ghidorah has a lot of trouble standing on his own unless the wings are folded all the way up. Should there be a second printing of these figures, will adjustments be made to the design?
As I mentioned, we always review our lines to see if there are ways to improve them. This is likely a physics and center of gravity challenge. We have a limited ability to adjust the product stance based on where the articulation points are and the size and weight of the figure and its wings. We will look into this further, but I can’t promise we can solve it 100% that all poses will result in the figure standing perfectly.
Which monster was the most difficult to design for the line? Easiest?
Each monster has its own unique challenges and opportunities from a design standpoint. The first of course is that we are trying to keep them all in at least a relative scale when they vary in size in the movie. Scale is important to the story telling, but if we went to true scale, Mothra would be significantly smaller than Ghidorah and not have the same value as a toy. As far as specific details, getting the colors right on Rodan and Ghidorah were tough. There isn’t necessarily a true, base color to work from. The lighting and shading of the characters in the movie varies, so Rodan can go from a muted red to almost a dark black. We want the base colors of both to look good. Then we added the decoration to the wings both so it doesn’t look too flat but also shows the detail in the sculpt. Mothra has very colorful wings and we wanted to execute those as best we could so we used a different process which also makes the wings more flat. Godzilla of course is the one everyone wants to work on and make sure to get correct. The simplest of details can become complicated because we are trying to be as perfect as we can within the limits we have for the size of the figure. All in all, Jakks is really excited for everyone to see the line that many people on our design, engineering, and packaging teams have been working on for the last a year. The passion of the Godzilla fans is a fun thing to be a part of we hope Jakks can enhance your enjoyment of the Godzilla franchise in some small way. Everything we have seen of the movie is spectacular and we are certain you all will not be disappointed this summer.Interviews // May 3, 2019
On September 6th, 2017 I was lucky enough to be invited onto the set of “Godzilla: King of the Monsters” in Atlanta, Georgia. (See right – Photo taken on the set of the Monarch Arctic Base.) Unlike the set visit for Kong: Skull Island, this was a solo trip. Included in this piece are audio interviews with O’Shea Jackson Jr., who plays Chief Warrant Officer Barnes, along with Producer Alex Garcia and Executive Producer/co-writer Zach Shields.
I do want to stress that there ARE plot points and spoilers in this piece and I would suggest that if you are wanting to go into the movie with the freshest mind possible, turn back now. Wait until the movie comes out on the 31st of May and then come back and check out this piece.
**Both audio interviews have edits (some obvious and some not) for the sake of flow.**
The set visit began with watching O’Shea Jackson Jr. and the rest of G-Team aboard the mock Osprey aircraft. Giant screens on either side had a cloud effect on both sides as hydraulics moved the Osprey (really just a tube set with windows meant to look like the Osprey). If you’ve seen that shot online from Mike Dougherty’s Twitter account (see below), that is the Osprey from the set. Below are my notes from watching filming.
Shake test wth O’shea jr. Big blue screen. Orange x’s. Set on hydraulics. Part of airplane. Looks like set from Rodan scene in Mexico. Soldiers flying away in storm caused by Rodan bursting out of volcano. Large led screens have cloud effect on them on loop. They are mounted high up and surround the set.
Osprey crashes into water. Prior to this, Oshea radios for mid air evac. Flying away from Isla de Mona.
INTERVIEW: O’Shea Jackson Jr. (Chief Warrant Officer Barnes)
This interview took place between setups during filming on the Osprey. Topics covered are his character, getting the part, his history of being a Godzilla fan, and his influences.
*correction: I state in the interview that Zone Fighter is considered to be canon. This is more of a grey area because Zone Fighter’s canonicity is still up in the air, though Japanese publications still like to include the show when mentioning the later Showa era movies and monsters.*
Click the image below to download the audio file.
Total Runtime 21:04
I’m going to preface this section by saying that right now, these notes will make NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. They’re recorded as I saw them and I was trying to get as much information as I could without being able to take photos. These are aimed squarely at those who are fans of set design and/or curious about every single possible detail in the film. Until you have seen the movie, ignore these and come back to them later if you so desire.
Click the images to download the audio files.
Total Runtime: 16:35
INTERVIEW: Producer Alex Garcia and co-writer and Executive Producer Zach Shields
In the last interview of the day, I was driven by van into an offsite “art room”-for lack of a better term-with Alex and Zach. It was a big room with concept art hung around the room-a lot of it really awesome looking! A couple of maquettes were in the room as well. A sort of Smaug-styled early King Ghidorah and on the other side of the room, a sort of feathered, eagle-faced version of Rodan. Topics include a quick rundown of the film, changes in the design and the Monsterverse after Godzilla vs. Kong.
*correction: When discussing the Godzilla Marvel comic series, I mistakenly state that Godzilla battled the Helicarrier when I meant the Behemoth airship.*
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INTERVIEW: Mike Dougherty
This interview took place in Mike’s trailer during a quick break from filming. Due to audio issues, it had to be transcribed. Topics covered are how he got the job, Easter eggs, and his love for the franchise.
Interview transcribed by Jeremy Williams with editing by Chris Mirjahangir.
Chris Mirjahangir: Alright, so first question is, how did you get the call? Because you were doing writing first, but how did you get the call to even be a writer?
Mike Dougherty: No, they asked me to direct it first.
Mirjahangir: Oh ok, that was announced later then.
Dougherty: Yeah, it was just announced later.
Dougherty: Yeah I had finished Krampus, it was I think March 2016, somewhere in there, Spring. Gareth had just departed the project and Legendary had asked if I would be interested in taking over, and I very quickly said yes.
Mirjahangir: So, you’re a fan straight from the get-go.
Dougherty: From the beginning, I mean I have been watching Godzilla since I was born, that was mid 70’s, and so he was really just coming into his own in America, so I grew up on a very steady diet of the original movies coupled with the Hanna-Barbera cartoon. So every Saturday morning I started with the Godzilla cartoon. And then my local station piggybacked the old movies after the cartoon. And then that was followed by old black and white monster movies, followed by kung fu movies. So Saturday was a very potent education as far as Godzilla goes.
Mirjahangir: So basically the whole Showa era.
Dougherty: Yeah completely, and then I just grew up with him from there, and continued watching them into the Millennium (Series), you know.
Mirjahangir: Was it one of those things like you’re a fan of and then your friends are like what the hell are you watching that for?
Dougherty: No, my friends, I mean I would get my friends into it. I mean the entertainment options were way more limited back then than they are now. So watching Godzilla movies on a Saturday afternoon was a great way to spend the day and so I just sort of preached the gospel of Godzilla and brought my friends into it. And I also I grew up with one of my first toys was the old Shogun Warriors Godzilla.
Mirjahangir: I have one of those.
Dougherty: Which is why I have the Rodan behind you.
(Mike points to the Shogun Warriors Rodan toy on his desk)
But, so he was just everything.
Mirjahangir: Yeah I remember the Shogun (Godzilla) one and how the fist would fly off.
Mirjahangir: While you’re playing with it and it would punch you in the face.
Dougherty: Yeah exactly, yeah it was one of my favorites.
Mirjahangir: Were there other Toho monsters that you wanted to bring in, or was it always these Godzilla, then Rodan, Mothra, and King Ghidorah?
Dougherty: Well, they’re the kind of the crown jewels.
Mirjahangir: Yeah the big five (MechaGodzilla included but not in the film).
Dougherty: Yeah, you know it’s like, it’s the Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman of the Godzilla universe. And I have a love for many of the other creatures too. I love Mechagodzilla, for example. But these are the ones that just make sense; these are the ones that everybody wants to see on the big screen. They’re the icons of that universe.
Mirjahangir: Were there other ones that you were kind of trying to eek in a little bit?
Dougherty: I wanted to sneak in some Easter egg references to others, but even that is a complicated rights issue.
Mirjahangir: Yeah Toho can kind of be very…
Dougherty: They’re just, just very… they’re rightfully very protective of their characters.
Mirjahangir: So for this film, are you going to include any of the cues? Not like a full suite.
Dougherty: I would like to, that’s also under discussion and consideration. I would love to, I think the music and the character go hand in hand. It’s like, you don’t make a Jaws movie without the Jaws theme, you don’t make a Star Wars or Bond film without those themes. So fingers crossed we can at the very least have a tip of the hat.
Mirjahangir: Do you own the soundtracks?
Dougherty: No, well I own some of them, but yeah it’s still always going to be a complicated rights issue.
Mirjahangir: Yeah, but it’s one that when it comes in at the right time, that’s where you have the audience.
Mirjahangir: That’s fanboy tears, that’s everything.
Dougherty: Yeah, there will be plenty of fanboy tears, I promise you.
Mirjahangir: When you were picking them (the monsters to be in the film), you have Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah. Were you deciding like this one is gonna be an ally with Godzilla, or are they all gonna be enemies?
Dougherty: I mean, I think the lines are all pretty clearly drawn, the only rogue… the wildcard is Rodan. He’s the one that I think his loyalties can sometimes falter. Um, but I think we even acknowledge that fact. You know Mothra for the most part is an ally, King Ghidorah for the most part is always the antagonist. So we pretty much stick to what I think is expected of them.
Mirjahangir: So you did tweet out a picture of the Oxygen Destroyer.
Mirjahangir: Does that come to play in the film, or is that just like…
Mirjahangir: Alright I was like alright, cuz I thought you were just like paying homage to it or something.
Dougherty: It, it plays a role.
Mirjahangir: Ok, yeah.
Dougherty: Definitively… yes.
Mirjahangir: So now practical effects.
Mirjahangir: I saw you had Tom Woodruff, who I’ve seen around Monsterpalooza and everything. He’s part of it. Did you reach out to other people at Toho like Shinichi Wakasa to bring in?
Dougherty: It was, it’s not just Tom, it was a team effort. We had Tom Woodruff, we also had his former colleagues at Legacy Effects. Which was previously Stan Winston’s company. We also had two of my creature designers from Krampus onboard, Miguel Ortega and Tran Ma. It was, I pretty much grabbed the most talented creature designers I knew and sort of assembled a new team and everyone sort of had a crack at a different creature. So Tom and A.D.I., they cracked Rodan… for the most part. Legacy took on Ghidorah and Mothra.
Mirjahangir: What guidelines did you give them?
Dougherty: To look at the original creatures and distill those silhouettes and those key traits into something more modern, but while still also turning to… The two biggest influences were the original designs and nature. So if you’re taking a crack at Rodan, you don’t want to just look at dinosaurs and Pteradons, you want to look at vultures and eagles and the hawks and other birds of prey. Because what we know about flying dinosaurs now is different than we knew back in the 60’s. We now know that dinosaurs and birds are very closely related. So it only makes sense that Rodan might have certain bird-like traits, or body language, for example. Ghidorah, you know we want to create an iconic Asian style dragon, but the scales of that creature can’t look like Godzilla’s; they can’t just be the scales from the old movies. So I had them look at scales from every different kind of reptile imaginable. You know, alligators and cobras and monitor lizards, Komodo dragons, so it was really fun. That was like one of my favorite parts of the process, trying to distill the look of these iconic creatures that we know and love into something that we would believe now. Mothra being the biggest challenge, because you can’t just take a moth and blow it up and call it Mothra. It’s like there are distinct traits that she has, but there are also so many different varieties of moths out there. It was a matter of looking at all of them across the board and trying to figure out, ok, what bits and pieces can we take from all these different kinds of moths to create something that is beautiful and elegant and feminine, but also intimidating and powerful.
Mirjahangir: Did you keep their sounds and roars?
Mirjahangir: Did you bring Eric Aadahl back from the first one?
Dougherty: Yeah, but Eric and his partner Ethan actually. E squared is their company.
Dougherty: So they worked on the first film and same rules applied, I sent them every variation of King Ghidorah’s roar, every variation of Rodan.
Dougherty: Same thing with Mothra and said, ok this is where you start, so then I want the same musicality, the same melody, and essence of these roars translated and updated to something more contemporary. There are so many variations.
Dougherty: And emotional states, so yeah it will be an ongoing process. But I had them even for our previz animation, they layered in certain sounds, and then on set at the soundboard where I was playing different roars depending on the creature that was.
Mirjahangir: So you have Godzilla fighting Kong in the next one.
Dougherty: I don’t. *laughs*
Mirjahangir: No well I’m just saying in the Monsterverse you know, generally.
Mirjahangir: Is it fair to say that one of the enemies or at least a few of them may perish in this film?
Dougherty: Maybe. *laughs*
Mirjahangir: Good enough, that’s fine.
Dougherty: No spoilers. *laughing*
Mirjahangir: Yeah alright, so with Thomas Tull being a massive Godzilla fan… how active was he with helping shape the story and picking the monsters and everything?
Dougherty: I’ve known Thomas for a very long time now, we’ve done three movies going on four movies together now. So he’s a very close collaborator and every chance we had, we would get together and pow wow and kick ideas around. But he was also really respectful in letting me go off and have my time to shape the story and the characters. And then do a proper presentation, a pitch presentation with the artwork and everything else. But yeah, I mean we still text back and forth.
Mirjahangir: Does he um… I mean how big of a fan would you say he is, does he have a big collection?
Dougherty: Yeah, he’s a very big fan, I mean he dreamt of doing a Godzilla film and a Kong film probably as long as I have.
Dougherty: And so fate happened to bring us together, and here we are.
Mirjahangir: So you have Haruo Nakajima and Yoshimitsu Banno who passed away this year.
Mirjahangir: Will you have any sort of homages or anything in like the end credits or…
Dougherty: We’ll see. I’d like to. I think it’s appropriate.
Mirjahangir: How long did it take you to kind of compose the story, crack the story, whatever it is?
Dougherty: It was a process. I mean, I started with like a one-two page treatment. It was very rough, just the basic beats and a very rough sketch of the characters. And then from there we did a writer’s room. My writing partner Zack Shields and I ran a writer’s room. We brought in a group of other writers and then continued to build on that treatment. And then it took about a full year to really to get the script in place and into a proper shape. And then um, you know it’s an ongoing process, we’re still, we’re everyday adding lines. Even in the scene we’re shooting today. Always looking for any opportunity to just make it a little bit better if possible. So the writing process never ends, it’s, you know, you write it once on the page, you write it again when you shoot it, and the again in post. So it’s an ongoing process. But it took about a year to get just the script together.
Mirjahangir: And then you had Max Borenstein working on it for a little bit, is he still active?
Dougherty: He was working on an old draft of the script. And then we pretty much started over from scratch.
Mirjahangir: So what year did you begin everything? You said 2015?
Dougherty: Spring 2016.
Mirjahangir: So the monsters, you know, Rodan, Mothra, they all kind of had their own sort of personalities.
Mirjahangir: You know Rodan, if you look at Ghidorah (1964 film) he’s kind of a prankster and stuff. Will those kind of continue on? Not from those original personalities, but they’ll be individual, they’re not just monsters smashing stuff?
Dougherty: Yeah, no it’s very important to me. I always refer to them as characters, you know. So whether it’s the previz animators or even how the actors think of them. They are characters, that is why they’re on the call sheet. You know, so they have to have distinct personalities and traits and quirks. You know, I think Ghidorah is gonna have a very cruel personality, but there is a sense of humor and mischief. It’s not a comedy by any means, but there’s a certain sense of curiosity. Because in my mind he’s like Rip van Winkle. You know, he wakes up and he doesn’t recognize any of this world. You know, so he’s never seen a jet before, he’s never seen a tank, a ship, human beings with guns. And so there is a certain part of our world that he is curious about and puzzled by. You know, so that has to come across. You know, it’s like Rodan is a very protective, almost divine presence, you know. So it’s important to me that they’re not just treated as monsters. They are just very large animals with a distinct thought process.
Mirjahangir: So no Mothra twins or anything, kind of got rid of that?
Dougherty: There might.
Mirjahangir: Ok, I saw two identical twins kids there, two boys and I’m like hmm.
Mirjahangir: On the set, but I guess one of them is the stunt kid.
Dougherty: Oh, one’s the stunt kid, yeah, yeah.
Mirjahangir: I saw them sitting together and was like, wait a minute.
Dougherty: I’m not gonna turn the Mothra twins to boys, yeah, I would never do that.
Mirjahangir: Ok, so do you see really far ahead down the line, like thinking, ok this probably won’t make it. But this would be really good for an extended cut?
Dougherty: No, not yet, I mean that all depends on where the dust settles with the cut. You just never know, like something that you think could be in the movie ends up on the cutting room floor and vice versa.
Mirjahangir: Yeah, but then it would be just like if I could have a request? Just pile on the deleted scenes. Kong got like four minutes.
Dougherty: Well you know fingers crossed that we don’t really have many.
Mirjahangir: In updating them (the monsters), assuming you went everything Showa and just kind of ignored the 90’s for design or whatever you wanted to.
Dougherty: No, we looked at everything.
Dougherty: Looked at everything across the board. I mean there’s good and bad things about every era.
Mirjahangir: What would you say is the bad thing about say the 90’s versions?
Dougherty: I’m not gonna say anything bad. There are positive aspects of every era. There are bits and pieces of influences that we looked at and carefully thought about including. And what you’ll see is hopefully something that you’ll enjoy and pays proper tribute to the character.Interviews // March 21, 2019
A followup to the interview with Steven DeKnight (Pacific Rim Uprising, Daredevil, Spartacus) from March 2018, this interview covers not only Steven’s earliest Godzilla memories but he also gives a real in-depth look at creating Pacific Rim Uprising and big budget Hollywood films in general. This interview is a real must listen for aspiring film makers and those curious about the film making process.
The file is about 35MB with a length of 38 minutes.
Interview conducted November 14th, 2018 at Steven DeKnight’s office in Hollywood, California.
Special thanks to Brook Worley for securing the interview!
Original article image from Collider.Interviews // December 23, 2018