Latest Blog - News Articles

  • Author: Thomas FairchildBanner: Thomas Fairchild

    An otherworldly threat descends upon the Earth and only a beast of legend possesses the power to stop it. Who will win in this clash of titans: King of the Monsters or Queen of the Swarm?

    K.W.C. // September 20, 2019
  • During a long hike in the mountains, two friends come face-to-face with the most tenacious monster in the world…

    ANGUIRUS!

    They weren’t always friends

    When Godzilla and Anguirus first met, the rivalry between them was fierce. Ultimately, Godzilla emerged the victor after crunching poor Anguirus’s neck and setting his carcass on fire in front of Osaka Castle. Years later, Godzilla and Anguirus would rise to fight again but this time not as enemies but friends. What prompted this alliance? How did these two monsters go from being bloodthirsty rivals to forging a friendship that would last generations?

    Likely the same way Mark and I became friends.

    Recently, my best friend Mark Monson came up to visit, and we shot a short film together. I’ve been thinking about doing an Anguirus Sightings video for months. It was one of the most requested videos I received and I had the perfect location in mind. There’s just one small problem: It was at the top of a mountain and getting there wasn’t easy. Enter Mark. He wanted to climb up the mountain in question. Right then—unbeknownst to Mark at the time—the Anguirus Sightings video was greenlit.

    Doing an Anguirus Sightings video with Mark felt like it was meant to be given our colorful history. We weren’t always friends. We were once rivals, kind of like Godzilla and Anguirus (although I never tried biting him or setting him on fire). But that changed over time. Gradually, we learned to trust one another and accept the differences that defined us as human beings. We became close friends.

    Today he’s family.

    As a Godzilla fan, I couldn’t help but cast my friends and family in monster roles. Mark was the Anguirus to my Godzilla. The parallels keep getting better, don’t they? Like Anguirus, Mark is stubborn, relentless, loyal, and brave. I’d trust him with my life even if we were marching into battle against a giant three-headed space dragon.

    How did Godzilla and Anguirus become friends? I’d imagine they worked out their differences the same way humans do through communication, empathy, and mutual respect. By the late 1960s, Godzilla had changed; he was no longer the ruthless creature that Anguirus fought in 1955’s Godzilla Raids Again. Technically, neither was Anguirus; the one Godzilla befriended was a different specimen than the one he first fought and subsequently killed. But given how Godzilla and the new Anguirus are highly aggressive and territorial, I’d imagine their first encounter was uncivil. But make no mistake, Godzilla was a changed monster; he was smarter, empathetic, and humane. Aside from what he did to the first Anguirus and Mothra, Godzilla rarely killed other monsters. What ended up happening is he would encounter several monsters that started out as his enemies but then over time, like Anguirus, they became his friends. In many ways, the progressive themes of trust and friendship of the Showa Era films inspired me

    at a young age. It seems like they helped play a role in shaping my friendship with Mark and for that I’m grateful.

    I hope you enjoyed this Sightings video. We had so much fun making it. It was a rough hike and climb, but we came through like we always do.

    Monster Sightings: Anguirus Video

    Thomas Fairchild and Mark Monson

    General // August 5, 2019
  • “Everyone, deep in their hearts, is waiting for the end of the world to come.” – Haruko Murakami, 1Q84

    When the last dice has been cast, how will it all end? Humans have pondered this question since before we had words to speak. Will our doom be delivered to us in the form of a burning meteor? What if a terrible outbreak sentenced our collective species to an early grave? What if we destroyed ourselves in a nuclear holocaust? Some cultures believe Armageddon is preordained and the fate of destruction is the emergence of an eternal rebirth. Nobody knows for certain. Personally, I think the end will come on the golden wings of a three-headed space dragon.

    Monster Sightings: GHIDORAH is the third installment in a series of short films designed to make the viewer feel like they’re witnessing a kaiju attack firsthand. In this blog entry, I will be breaking down how key scenes were shot using a combination of stop motion, computer graphics, and compositing techniques. I have no compunction about keeping my techniques a secret; my goal is to help you make your dream monster movie a reality.

    If you’re just here to watch a fun little short, then please enjoy the show. If you’re an avid filmmaker or you’re curious about how I made this little flick, read on.

    Prep: Advice for Beginners

    Firstly, know your capabilities. Are you a beginner? If so, don’t sweat it. Start small. It’s nice dreaming about doing a ten-minute video or, Godzilla-willing, a dream feature length project. But every second of your idea will require considerable time and effort. So, I suggest you make your first project a ten-second video. Run a series of tests to make sure you have the basics down. Build up from there.

    To make your film, you need equipment. Chief among your tools of trade will be your camera. But not all cameras are equal. They vary in terms of quality and usefulness. To determine what camera is right for you, it’s good to do as much research on this subject as humanely possible. Most of us start on a shoestring budget, so you’ll need to choose your first camera wisely.

    Since the objective is to make a monster film, you’ll need to work with monsters. Don’t worry, they’re not as bad as you think. All the monsters I’ve worked with are humble and professional (except Rodan). Are you interested in doing stop motion? Great, consider investing in high-quality action figures with excellent articulation. S.H. MonsterArts, Revoltech, and NECA make superb figurines. If stop motion is not your thing, there are software programs that can help you design computer generated characters. Blender is a good place to start. Maybe you want to

    take things into your own hands by donning a rubber suit. I’ve done that and it’s fun/exhausting. Shop around. Touch base with any local costume shops. Consult local talent if you need help in designing a costume, or make your own monster suit. Doing the latter opens the doors to other possibilities. What if instead of designing your own Godzilla suit, you made a completely new monster.

    What about a film set? Find space. For my stop motion projects, I designed a green screen set. Other artists have more traditional sets full of miniatures and materials that are easily attainable. You can build a set yourself or buy one. Be prepared to improvise. If you want to add an element of ‘realism’ to your production, shoot on location. Find a city near you and make your day-off a filming day.

    Storyboard

    Storyboard

    Storyboarding is a godsend. Writing a script is essential, especially if you’re working with actors. But when it comes to planning VFX-heavy scenes? Storyboarding goes a long way in visualizing the story you want to tell. It not only shows you what your film could be, but what it might become.

    Now we get to one of the most underappreciated jobs in the film industry: editing. Once you have the right computer and video editing software, consider investing in Adobe After Effects (AAE). Adobe has a plan where for only $30 a month you have unlimited access to all their products. There are hundreds of tutorials that can help you master AAE and doing so would be in your best interests. It’s unimaginable how versatile AAE is. If you have money to spare, consider buying exclusive VFX content from Red Giant, ActionVFX, and Video Copilot.

    Stop Motion, VFX, and Ghidorah

    Green Screen Studio

    Green Screen Studio

    Composite shots are my forte. Incorporating stop motion characters into real world settings enhances the overall scope. If executed correctly, it can elevate any film regardless of its budget. Through trial and error, I’ve designed an effective green screen studio. Lighting the green screen and your subject is your top priority. For maximum efficiency, make sure you have overhead lighting. It does wonders. Speaking of lighting, fluorescent lights are the right way to

    go. Lighting equipment may not be cheap but they are a must-have for any and all green screen endeavors.

    Helpful tip: There is an app called Green Screener. If you don’t want to use a light meter, the Green Screener app makes for a fine replacement. I highly recommend it.

    Camera, Tripod, and Watch

    For video recordings, I use my iPhone X. Its camera capabilities are topnotch and the quality is easily comparable to camcorders that cost tens of thousands of dollars. I’ve used it to film weddings, tutorials, and interviews. For better results, I utilize the ProCamera app for maximum efficiency. When it comes to doing stop motion, it’s best to take photos in high-resolution. I’ll go into more detail on the nuts and bolts soon enough. One caveat about using your smartphone for video productions is how the focus might be offset by constant motion. Luckily, there are ways to counteract this.

    Tripod

    Tripod

    I cannot stress the importance of a good tripod. You want a multipurpose tripod that is simplistic, strong, flexible, and durable. Mine has a special little gadget designed to hold my iPhone X steady, with an adjustable top.

    If you’re doing stop motion, I’d strongly advise you to have a camera clicker. Pushing your recording device to take a still might shake or distort the camera, compromising your shot. This is why I use the ProCamera feature on my Apple Watch. With one push of the button, I have my shot, and I’m free to continue without missing a beat.

    Putty at Work

    Putty at Work

    Stop Motion and Working with Ghidorah

    Lights, camera, and—be patient. Hours of hard work and labor can result in only a few seconds of screen time. Commit to your vision and follow through with a can-do attitude, and you will create something stunning.

    My subject was S.H. MonsterArts’ King Ghidorah Special Color Version. Its attention to detail is magnificent and its articulation met my high expectations. During the pre-production phase, I researched different ways to utilize Ghidorah in the art of stop motion; however, I didn’t find anything useful. Fortunately, I developed techniques on my own that were effective and acquired the necessary materials that helped spur the process. I’m happy to share my findings with you.

    I used a Camera Tripod to hold Ghidorah up in a flight position. There are alternative ways to pull this off. Use your imagination. Ghidorah and the tripod were held in place by putty. It’s important to keep your subject as still as possible, so that when you move, say, their arms and legs, their entire body doesn’t shuffle out of place. During the editing phase, I keyed out the tripod using After Effects. When it comes to opening and closing mouths, I use a special little tool. ‘Slow and steady wins the race,’ is a very apt saying when it comes to creating art.

    Ghidorah has dozens of articulation positions to shape. I used anywhere between six-to-twelve points of articulation (e.g., heads, wings, tails, mouths, etc.), and it came out rather well. See for yourself.

    Stop Motion

    Stop Motion

    VFX

    Everything at this point hinges on the editing phase. First, I merge ALL the images into one comp. Inside that comp is where we take care of the green screen. If I can’t incorporate Ghidorah into my footage then my efforts will be in vain. To chroma key out the green screen, Red Giant’s Smooth Cleaner and Primatte Keyer are excellent assets. If you don’t use Red Giant, don’t fret; After Effects has its own chroma key plug-ins. After removing the green background, my next job is to trim the images down (to two-frames per second should suffice, but there are exceptions depending on what looks right). If everything checks out, I’ll go about adjusting the lighting, color scheme, and brightness level of the subject before working out its position, size, and motion. If everything is not ok, I’ll go back to the very beginning and reshoot. It’s not fun having to do everything all over again but the ends do justify the means.

    For me personally, this is where the fun begins. In the scene we’ll be analyzing, Ghidorah is flying over a devastated city. The following screen captures will show the gradual process of mixing together our stop motion subject with the original footage and interlacing visual effects. Here we go!

    Original footage

    Original footage

    Sky has changed in order to further sell the sense of dread. Burn marks, building damage, and a humongous impact crater have been added

    Sky has changed in order to further sell the sense of dread. Burn marks, building damage, and a humongous impact crater have been added.

    The insertion of the asteroid and its eerie glow was a necessity. Various fire effects and embers were added to sell the apocalyptic feel.

    The insertion of the asteroid and its eerie glow was a necessity. Various fire effects and embers were added to sell the apocalyptic feel.

    A flash of lightning and a complementing crater glow adds a further feeling of depth and dread.

    A flash of lightning and a complementing crater glow adds a further feeling of depth and dread.

    Our star joins the scene at last. I’m happy to say Ghidorah reported for filming on time. He’s a professional!

    Our star joins the scene at last. I’m happy to say Ghidorah reported for filming on time. He’s a professional!

    Billowing smoke and falling ash joins the fray. The falling ash further sells the widespread destruction.

    Billowing smoke and falling ash joins the fray. The falling ash further sells the widespread destruction.

    In order to help blend KG and the apocalyptic environment together, various layers of smoke are added in conjunction with color palette tweaks.

    In order to help blend KG and the apocalyptic environment together, various layers of smoke are added in conjunction with color palette tweaks.

    Using Red Giant’s Particular plug-in, I’m able to whip up a dark storm that swirls around Ghidorah. ProductionCrate lightning effects, fractural noise glow, and wiggling the opacity of KG shadow on and off enhances the scene.

    Using Red Giant’s Particular plug-in, I’m able to whip up a dark storm that swirls around Ghidorah. ProductionCrate lightning effects, fractural noise glow, and wiggling the opacity of KG shadow on and off enhances the scene.

     

    Final Touches: Sound Design, Score, and Cuts

    Congratulations on completing the VFX phase. All your hard work is close to paying off. But the time has come to do something many filmmakers hate doing, and that’s leaving footage on the cutting room floor. I recommend showing your film to a group of trusted confidants, people whose opinions you take seriously. Their feedback has worth so long as it’s honest and constructive. If all they’re doing is telling you what you want to hear (e.g., massaging your ego), find a more neutral group to listen to. I’ve worked thousands of hours on numerous VFX sequences. And despite the amount of pride I have for my accomplishments, I will trim a scene or cut it out completely if it doesn’t belong. Be prepared to do this. The time to be objective is nigh. When your sound design work is completed, don’t be afraid to cut out anything else that hinders the movie. Follow through on your instincts. If it’s a problem that is preventable,

    prevent it. Filmmakers will always see their movies as being incomplete works of art. But you can do your future self a solid favor by cutting out things you know you’ll regret to see again someday.

    To sell the visuals, you need to make your film as much of an immersive experience as possible, and this can only be achieved through sound design and, if your film needs it, a rhythmic score to add feeling to the story. Whether you’re experienced or inexperienced in doing sound design, the first thing that matters is approaching it with an open mind. Since the beginning you’ve likely been imagining what your film will sound like. If the sound effects are as good as you imagined, then bring your plan to fruition. There is more to sound design than adding to the eyepopping visuals. Visual effects and sound design make wonderful companions. But sound is crucial in many other sectors. If your film has actors with speaking roles, the dialogue needs to be crisp and discernable.

    My film didn’t need a score because King Ghidorah’s actions and sound effects moved the story forward. In my personal opinion, Ghidorah’s unique sound functions as a score in itself. Regardless, I’ve used original scores in my projects before. And as much as I’d love to throw in a track from one of Akira Ifukube’s many classics, the truth is I don’t want my film to be taken down due to copyright infringement. That’s why I use companies like PremiumBeat. For $49, I’m free to use original songs for as many projects as I want.

    Good sound design is invaluable not just for the reasons we can think of, but for the reasons we can’t think of. You’ll never know how important sound design is to your work until you hear it bring your motion picture to life for the first time.

    Final Thoughts

    There are a growing number of talented filmmakers in the online kaiju community. We’re seeing a resurgence in studio monster movies that will inspire generations of new artists. It is a good time to be a Godzilla fan. We are now, more than ever, in a prime position to share our passion for the movies and characters we love. I’m having the time of my life making Godzilla movies.

    All else I have to say is welcome constructive feedback. Vow to grow as a filmmaker and storyteller. Connect with your audience. Take pride in what you do and you will go a long way. Thank you.

    Be Seeing You

    Be Seeing You

    General // July 16, 2019
  • ‘Twas the night of winter solstice when Gamera arrived

    In a far-off land where only the strong survived.

    The wind was howling like a mad siren,

    Only to be drowned out by the roar of a Titan.

    From the darkness, a living mountain of flesh emerged;

    Stronger than any force on Earth, its atomic power surged.

    What Gamera saw coming was truly scary,

    He knew of this creature, its battles legendary!

    Not wanting to die without putting up a fight,

    Gamera unleashed a burning blast of light;

    But when the smoke cleared and the flames receded,

    Gamera beheld something he didn’t know he needed.

    In his claws was a gift that contained a surprise,

    A gift Gamera would be playing with ’til the next sunrise;

    Gamera was speechless; he didn’t know what to say;

    It seemed all Godzilla wanted was a friend on this winter solstice day.

    General // December 22, 2018
  • My worst fear is being lost. It’s like having your mind broken down to your most vulnerable, primitive state. As your will to live is stretched to its limits, your hope threatens to become the first casualty. Making matters worse, your paranoia leads a vicious mutiny against reason and logic. The truth is you’re trapped, and you might not know it until it’s too late.

    In nature, moths have a peculiar fondness for bright lights, which usually ends in disaster for the curious insect. ‘Like a moth to a flame,’ is a phrase that poignantly warns one from pursuing a destructive path. It’s a nice saying. Unlike the poor moth that doesn’t know any better, a human being is quite capable of discerning right from wrong and, in doing so, can avert disaster. But what if a person can’t? What if they’re lost and the fire is burning closer? What if, like a moth, we’re the ones instinctively drawn to the fire?

    Unless someone—or something—intervenes.

    Mothra is a character I’ve come to appreciate the more I grow as a person. This should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with the character, because Mothra represents growth. Unlike her more destructive kaiju brethren, Mothra holds a unique place in the kaiju mythos by being a divinely inspired monster. She embodies light, rebirth, wisdom, and forgiveness. What I especially like about Mothra is how she defies conventionalism. She’s a monster that is loved—not feared—by her followers. How can that be? Doesn’t that challenge what a monster is? Yes, and that is what makes Mothra unique.

    Ishiro Honda, who helped pioneer the kaiju genre as we know it, once said, “Monsters are tragic beings. They are born too tall, too strong, too heavy. They are not evil by choice.”

    For decades, we’ve empathized with creatures who have, for better or ill, been demonized for the crime of not being human. This stems from a long-standing belief that humans have are the sole arbiters of morality. Mothra challenges this notion. And in doing so, she becomes a messenger, one that lights a path in the dark.

    I’ve always been a sucker for behind-the-scenes content. So, if you’ve seen my film, Monster Sightings: Mothra Video, and you were wondering how I made it read on. If you have any questions, send me an email or drop me a comment on the video’s YouTube page.

    Making this film was fun and challenging. I wanted to do this legendary character justice, and I hope I didn’t disappoint. As a filmmaker, I have one rule when I begin every new project: do something new. My first Monster Sightings video was one big scene. For this film, I wanted to film multiple scenes in a more natural environment. Since Mothra is a good monster, I thought I’d make Mother Nature the antagonist. With the air unbreathable and a wall of burning death closing in, my protagonist could use all the help he could get. While they don’t exactly make an appearance, the presence of the Shobijin are felt through Akira Ifukube’s classic melody Sacred Springs.

    I filmed everything on my iPhone X, using the ProCam app, which allowed me to record in higher resolutions. This was crucial because not everything was shot as a video. Several key scenes were initially still images. With the higher resolution in play, I could revise the image in post-production to my liking. It’s easier to do visual effects on a still photograph than a moving picture. But what if you don’t want an entire movie full of still shots and images? Not to worry! Just add ‘camera movement’ in post-production. Red Giant has many nifty tools to help you do this.

    Let’s take a look at some before-and-after screen comparisons.

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    For the opening scene, I wanted to have my cake and eat it, too. I tried striking a colorful balance between something dreadful (e.g., forest fire) and something hopeful (e.g., Mothra’s symbol). Speaking of Mothra’s symbol, during the making of this scene, I joked to my wife, “Think of it as the monster equivalent to Batman’s signal. Only instead of calling Batman for help, you’re calling for a giant moth. I don’t know which is better.”

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    The beautiful flame effects are compliments of ActionVFX. Highly recommended!

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video

    Cool fact: Mothra’s cocoon here is a prop. It’s an additional accessory to Revoltech’s Mothra release. All I did was carefully ‘cut’ its edges out in Adobe After Effects and then composited it into my scene. Add in a series of nifty effects to sell it and presto!

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Initially, Mothra’s fairy moths had a more extended role. That didn’t turn out so well. Regardless, I liked how this turned out. I love how they served as guides for our protagonist to follow out of harm’s way. For those wondering, yes, this is the Revoltech Mothra.

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    During pre-production, this was the first scene I imagined doing. I was excited to do it! This is how I made it work: I flipped up the wing of my S.H. MonsterArts Mothra action figure while recording in front of my green screen studio. Then in post-production, I erased the green screen—using Red Giant’s fantastic software—and, well, see for yourself!

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    For this shot, I moved my S.H. MonsterArts Mothra in front of a green screen. I composited it over a still image of the footage and then, when the time was right, switched it to the live-action footage just in time for it to pan over after her.

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video

    This was a blink-and-you-will-totally-miss-it moment. So, here you go. And yes, Mothra would make a great firefighter.

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Monster Sightings: Mothra Video - Background

    Here’s my secret: the second image is a still of Mothra resting in front of my green screen. After removing the green screen, I made three duplicates: 1 of Mothra’s wingless body (I cut those out), 1 of Mothra’s left wing, and 1 of Mothra’s right wing. I combined them together and then added motion to the wings to simulate flight.

    Be on the lookout for the next Monster Sightings video! Who do you want to see next? Help decide by sounding off in the comments section.

    General // August 15, 2018
  • You’re in a city teeming with thousands of strangers. It’s a safe bet you won’t see any of these people again, not that you would remember them even if you did. As the city’s ambiance plays out like a disorganized orchestra and the allure of an Italian restaurant slowly reels you in, you’re suddenly snapped out of your daily routine by a violent force of nature. You don’t know what it is or where it came from. There’s only one thing you do know: the city is no longer safe.

    Behind the fan video:

    My friend and I were coming down from the top of the Space Needle, with a great view of the Puget Sound in our periphery, when I had an idea that I think is typical in this kaiju-loving fandom. It first started with a question: What would happen if a giant monster suddenly attacked? What would I do? Well, I’d film it, of course! I pulled out my phone and recorded the footage that I would use lateras the backdrop for my short film.

    I’ve been wanting to make a short Rodan film for quite some time now. In my initial effort, I tried using my Revoltech Rodan action figure. The idea was to have the audience follow Rodan around as he soared above an unsuspecting city at supersonic speed. I was ultimately unsatisfied with how everything turned out, mostly due to inexperience, so I went back to the drawing board.As much as I liked my Revoltech Rodan, which is based on the superb 1956 design, it wasn’t meeting my expectations. Fortunately, Bandai Tamashii Nations’ SH MonsterArts had a nifty Fire Rodan in its lineup, so I went with that model. It wasn’t easy recasting Rodan. Revoltech Rodan’s attorney means business. There were talks of strikes, lawsuits, and a boycott of my YouTube channel. Serious stuff, I know. But cooler heads prevailed.

    With principle photography shot and my ‘actor’ secured, I constructed my own little green screen studio. And, well, I ran into my next problem. Unlike most of the other SH MonsterArts characters, Fire Rodan proved difficult when it came to doing stop motion. He just wouldn’t cooperate. I was also using a ship model prop that was released with the Bandai Tamashii Nations Gipsy Danger (who I will definitely be using in a future project). It didn’t jive so well with the green screen lighting. No problem! I improvised. I took many pictures of Rodan in different poses before going through the painstaking process of photoshopping each one. It was totally worth it!

    Finally, my creature was ready to be unleashed on Seattle. With excellent stock footage from ActionVFX and Video Copilot at my disposal, I could make Rodan’s attack look more surreal.

    Before and After Shot

    Everything is synchronized. This shot depicts the miracles of movie magic well. Original footage is on the right side…

    Before and After Shot

    …and vice-a-versa, original footage is on the left.

    Make no mistake, there will be more videos in the near future. I really like the idea of everyday people suddenly finding themselves in the presence of these rampaging monsters. And if you pause the video roughly 2 seconds in, you’ll get a small taste of what’s in store for the future of my Monster Sighting series.

    If you want to see what monster is next, be sure to like and subscribe. If you have any suggestions or ideas, please send them my way, I’d love to hear from you. To any filmmakers out there reading this who have similar projects in mind, I encourage you to go for it. Despite messing up several times, I’m convinced that with a little dedication, passion, and perseverance, you, too, can make something that is larger than life.

    Now take a deep breath, close your eyes, and imagine what would happen to you if your favorite giant monster suddenly attacked. What would you do?

    Before and After Shot

    Fun to look at before and after.

    Before and After Shot

    This shows that I made the frame not only shake but spin wildly out of control (which means the poor sap in the elevator had a very bad landing).

    Be on the lookout for the next Monster Sightings video! Who do you want to see next? Help decide by sounding off in the comments section.

    General // June 6, 2018
  • Around this time last year I was very blessed to meet the awesome Akira Takarada while visiting Dallas Comic Con a local comic book convention, and cover that event for Toho Kingdom by writing an article detailing the convention for my fellow Godzilla fans. In concluding that article I wrote that I hopped to see them follow up their success with Mr. Takarada by adding more Godzilla or Kaiju related guests. My expectations were blown away when this year’s convention, (renamed to Fan Expo Dallas 2015) added the most impressive lineup of Godzilla related celebrities I’ve ever been blessed to see invade my home town with the lineup of Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, Tsutomu Kitagawa, and Shinji Nishikawa!

    Haruo Nakajima is the man who created the icon that is Godzilla. He portrayed the character from its inception in 1954 to 1972’s Godzilla vs. Gigan. He also portrayed many of Toho’s classic kaiju beyond Godzilla, such as Rodan, Gaira, and Varan. Kenpachiro Satsuma began his suit acting career by performing as Hedorah against Haruo Nakajima’s Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Hedorah (1971) and would go on to embody Godzilla for the entire Heisei series from The Return of Godzilla (1984) to the concluding Godzilla vs. Destoroyah (1995). Tsutomu Kitagawa portrayed King Ghidorah in Rebirth of Mothra III (1998) before he inherited the title of Godzilla from Kenpachiro Satsuma in Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999). Tsutomu Kitagawa would play Godzilla through the whole course of the Millennium series up to its concluding chapter of Godzilla: Final Wars (2004). Shinji Nishikawa is a manga artist whose incredible artistic prowess lead to him becoming Toho’s monster designer for several of their Godzilla films including Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999), Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (2002), and Godzilla: Final Wars (2004).

    Obviously being a big G-Fan I was ecstatic when I learned of these legends coming to my home town! I immediately made plans to attend the convention and cover it as best as I can for you readers.

    The convention was held in the Dallas Convention Center from May 29th to May 31th 2015. As you can see the Dallas Convention Center was a great location for this event. There was a very large number of people attending but never did the center feel overcrowded or claustrophobic.

    Easily one of the best draws of any convention is the exhibition hall where dealers and artists are set up. Usually the vendors tend to carry a lot of merchandise related to the celebrity guests and this year was no exception.

    Finding Godzilla related merchandise has always been a bit of a challenge in my home town of Dallas. Fortunately conventions such as these tend to be gold mines for Texan Godzilla fans.

    From the pictures above you can tell that a lot of the current American mainstays in Godzilla products such as NECA’s various Godzilla and Pacific Rim figures were available for purchase as were a couple of Japanese produced collectables such as Bandai Japan’s figures.

    As you can see there was a lot of great Godzilla related goods that fans could buy from the vendors and if you’re a local Texan who collects Godzilla goods I’d highly recommend visiting Fan Expo Dallas.

    Set up right next to all these dealers was the Artist Ally and this year there was an added bonus for Godzilla fans! The fan favorite artist of IDW’s excellent Godzilla: Rulers of Earth series Matt Frank was there!


    (Photo provided by Matt Frank)

    I was able to hang out with and help Matt with his table and I have to say it was a blast! Not only is Matt a awesome guy to hang out with but working at his table also offered a great venue for getting to meet with other fellow Godzilla fans. The best part of any convention is getting to meet with likeminded people and for someone like me who was fairly isolated in my Godzilla fandom growing up, I can’t express just how much fun it is to meet other Godzilla fans both local and those who came from out of state or town. I would recommend any Godzilla fan attend Fan Expo Dallas simply for this experience alone.


    (Photo provided by Matt Frank)

    As you can see in the above photo Matt Frank was a big hit with the Godzilla fans at the convention and spent the weekend drawing commissions, signing copies of Rulers of Earth and even hosting his own panel!


    (Photo provided by Matt Frank)

    Matt was also fortunate enough to eat dinner with Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, Tsutomu Kitagawa, and Shinji Nishikawa! Matt was also very kind in sending over this photo he took at the dinner with these legends for this article!

    I wanted to be sure to mention every possible aspect of the convention that could appeal to any Godzilla fan from collectables to fellow fans and now that I’ve done that I’m ready to write about meeting the icons that I know you’re all here to read about!

    I attended the convention all three days and I decided to meet Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, Tsutomu Kitagawa, and Shinji Nishikawa on Friday evening. I waited in line with other Godzilla fans for our chance to meet our heroes.

    The guests were lined up in the order of Shinji Nishikawa, Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, and Tsutomu Kitagawa. They had a lot of great items for purchase that you could get signed. From posters to photos of the actors wearing their iconic suits. Shinji Nishikawa was taking commissions and had some incredible art books and manga of his own work available for purchase. Here you can see Haruo Nakajima signing a book I bought filled with photos of his entire suit acting career.

    I really can’t describe how incredible it was to meet these legends. I’ve grown up watching their work, reading about their struggles to produce terrific performances under incredibly dangerous circumstances, and seeing photos of them. Getting to meet them and shake their hands is an experience that I cannot describe in words. Every Godzilla fan owes it to themselves to have this incredible experience wither it be at Fan Expo Dallas or G-Fest in Chicago. Whatever the time and place if you have the opportunity to meet these icons I cannot recommend it enough.

    The photo above was taken on Saturday and as you can see Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, Tsutomu Kitagawa, and Shinji Nishikawa continued to be a huge hit throughout the entire weekend of the convention. On Sunday Nakajima, Satsuma, Kitagawa, and Nishikawa hosted Q&A panels. I attended both of them and I recorded them for your viewing pleasure. I have been to a lot of Q&A panels over the course of many conventions but I have never enjoyed a panel as much as I did the two I attended on Sunday. Since I filmed both of them I won’t spend too much time writing about them because that would not be doing them justice. I encourage you to watch both of these panels which I will provide the links for at the end of this article.

    Nishikawa’s panel was the first of the two panels. Throughout the panel Nishikawa drew a series of chibi renditions of the Showa Godzilla and his kaiju brethren. Watching Nishikawa at work was amazing. He is an incredible artist and as soon as you watch his panel you’ll know what I’m talking about! Words simply cannot do his drawing skills justice.

    The Q&A panel for Haruo Nakajima, Kenpachiro Satsuma, and Tsutomu Kitagawa was just as incredible as meeting them on Friday night was! Hearing these three legends talk and describe their work and experiences was simply amazing. Their friendly exchange between the audience and themselves was tremendous and everyone present had an incredible time.

    Following the Q&A panel Nakajima, Satsuma, and Kitagawa posed for pictures with a terrific Godzilla cosplayer! This was big hit with the crowd and lots of photos were taken of the actors striking their iconic poses.

    Finally the trio returned to their autograph stand to continue to meet with fans as the convention drew to a close. I returned to their autograph stand one last time to pick up a second book and say my goodbyes. As I visited them for the final time I was able to shake their hands and thank them. All of them were incredible kind and gracious. They all seemed genuinely pleased to see me and smiled at me as I shook their hands. I know I’m sounding like a broken record at this point but I cannot describe how incredible this experience was and I’ll be darned if I’m not feeling emotional writing this article. In summary I cannot recommend this enough. Fan Expo Dallas is a yearly event and although the plans for next year’s convention have not been announced I will be stunned if they can top what they accomplished for Godzilla fans this year. I not only want to thank Fan Expo Dallas for a once in a life time experience, but I want to recommend it for all Texan Godzilla fans. Even if you live outside of Texas and these legends return next year I strongly urge you to make the trip down to Dallas. You will not regret it!

    Panel videos:

    General // June 16, 2015
  • I’ve been both a Godzilla fan for most of my life and a native Texan for all of it. While I was able to find a few like minded G Fans, and Godzilla related merchandise would show up in local comic book and toy stores from time to time, there was never any Godzilla related events to attend in Texas for most of my life. However as I grew older and became more involved in online communities I began to learn of events that appealed to my love of science fiction in general.

    I learned of and attended my first local comic convention in the summer of 2012 in the appropriately named Dallas Comic Con and I was hooked from then on. Dallas Comic Con is one of three events in the Dallas area that run every year. Sci-Fi Expo runs during the beginning of the year and as its name suggests is focused on the science fiction side of fandom. Dallas Comic Con is run during the summer and features a healthy dose of comic book guests. Finally Fan Days run during the fall and tends to feature Horror related guests. I’ve attended many of these events had have always enjoyed them, particularly the guests who have ranged from William Shatner, Stan Lee, and Christopher Lloyd.

    The summer of 2014 saw the return of Godzilla to the big screen and with his return Dallas Comic Con added their first big Godzilla related guest since I have been attending, Akira Takarada. Godzilla like any popular franchise has had some presence in Dallas Comic Con namely due to the various vendors who sell Godzilla related merchandise, but with the exception of Marvel Godzilla King of the Monsters comic series artist Herb Trimpe, Takarada was their first guest who had participated in any capacity with the Toho Godzilla series.

    With this exciting addition to their guests and my recent position on the Toho Kingdom Staff I thought this would be a great opportunity to cover Dallas Comic Con for Toho Kingdom and hopefully expose local G-Fans to this event by specifically focusing on the Godzilla related aspects of this convention.

    The convention ran for a total of three days, with Takarada giving and audience question and answer session on the second day. With that in mind I decided to spend my first day at the convention in the vendor area.

    There was a good deal of Godzilla related merchandise available for G-Fans to buy from most of the various vendors. While there were a lot of the American mainstays in the form of Trendmasters and Bandai Creations figures, there were several vendors selling Godzilla collectables from Japan.

    Besides the rarer Japanese collectables I also saw several vintage American items including the Shogun Warriors Godzilla, the Trendmasters Ultimate Godzilla, and the newest Godzilla 2014 figures including the sought after Jakks Pacific Giant Sized Godzilla figure.

    For me personally this was the first opportunity I’ve had so see most of these highly regarded collectables in person, and G-Fans with a full wallet and a desire for these items would do quite well to visit here.

    The second day of the convention was the day I got to meet Akira Takarada. With Mr. Takarada being the first Dallas Comic Con Guest to have been involved with the Godzilla series there was a substantial amount of G-Fans eager to meet Mr. Takarada.

    The above picture was taken while I was in line to get Mr. Takarada’s autograph. There were a lot of Godzilla fans present and it was a lot of fun getting to talk with like minded fans. This social aspect of conventions has always been one of the best parts of any conventions and easily worth visiting a convention for.

    Guests who sought Mr. Takarada’s autograph could bring one of their own items for Mr. Takarada, to sign, or pick from the many items available at his table. These included publicity photographs for his films including Godzilla (1954) and Invasion of Astro-Monster(1965), a blank white poster, or a poster for either “Gojira” or the Japanese re-release poster for “Godzilla King of the Monsters”. I decided to pick the original Japanese poster for Gojira for Mr. Takarada to sign.

    Obviously this was an awesome moment for me as a Godzilla fan! Mr. Takarada was in the very first Godzilla movie I ever saw, Godzilla Vs. Monster Zero, and meeting him in person was a wonderful experience! Mr. Takarada despite not speaking a lot of English was very warm and friendly with all his fans. As the picture above shows, he took photos with anyone who came for autographs and who wanted a photo with him.

    Pretty soon after receiving my autograph, Mr. Takarada went to begin his question and answer session. A fellow G-Fan and I were able to follow Mr. Takarada to the hall for his Q&A session, and on the way I spoke to a person who I believe was part of Mr. Takarada’s group and one of his helpers. He informed me that they were quite surprised to see how many Godzilla fans came out to meet Mr. Takarada which is pretty awesome.

    I won’t go into great detail on the Q&A session because I filmed the whole event! I will put the link at the end of this article for you to watch and I highly recommend that you do. Despite some translation mishaps, Mr. Takarada was both a funny and energetic presence, who entertained us all with his tales of behind the scenes events, including his fear that the Gojira suit would bit him upon first seeing it, his feelings on Godzilla as a tragic character, and his desire to be in the sequel to Legendary’s Godzilla film.

    All in all this summer’s Dallas Comic Con had a lot to offer G-Fans. Not nearly as much as purely Godzilla or Kaiju dedicated events like G-Fest, but more then I have normally seen offered to Texan Godzilla fans. Seeing the return of Godzilla to the pop culture fore front and how well Mr. Takarada’s visit went I hope that we see Dallas Comic Con add more Godzilla or Kaiju celebrities to their future events.

    General // June 4, 2014
  • Looking for the latest Godzilla 2014 trailer? How about all the Godzilla 2014 trailers and TV spots? This blog compiles the video adverts for the Legendary Pictures/Warner Bros. Godzilla (2014) film that is out in the US on May 16, 2014. It includes both the theatrical trailers along with the TV spots. It is ordered chronologically, from latest to earliest. Trailers are presented in their full 1080p resolution, offering the highest level of quality available online.

    Title: Asia Trailer (with Mandarin subtitles)
    Released: April 28, 2014

     

    Title: Nature Has An Order TV Spot
    Released: April 18, 2014 

     

    Title: Extended Look TV Spot
    Released: April 5, 2014 

     

    Title: Whatever It Takes TV Spot
    Released: April 3, 2014 

     

    Title: I Can’t Believe This is Happening TV Spot
    Released: April 2, 2014 

     

    Title: It Can’t Be Stopped TV Spot
    Released: April 1, 2014 

     

    Title: Official Main Trailer
    Released: February 25, 2014 

     

    Title: Official Teaser Trailer
    Released: December 10, 2013 

     

    Title: Official Teaser Trailer (with Introduction Title Card)
    Released: December 10, 2013 

    Note: A different version of the launch trailer. Preceding the trailer is a title card with the production date info along with audio information. This version is also MUCH higher in visual quality than the previous version. Also to note is that because the source file is a 2 audio channel video, Vimeo’s limitations allow the playing of only one audio track. The speech at the start of the trailer and other sound effects will be missing thus creating somewhat of an “alternate version” of the launch trailer.

     

    We will work to add more trailers in high definition as they become available. Looking for something more on Godzilla (2014)? Check out our news rundown, October 2012 up to the film’s release in May 2014. It covers the film from pre-production, casting, script changes and finally to promotion.

    Directed by Gareth Edwards, the movie is the second American produced Godzilla movie and also the first since last decade’s Godzilla: Final Wars (2004).

    General // May 13, 2014
  • For years, fans have used their Godzilla series figures expand their imagination using home video cameras still cameras to create brilliant pieces of art in the form of short films and photography. These forms of expression have been spread across the internet for a long time… until now.

    This fan Godzilla videos and photos 2013 editorial will be the home to YOUR photos/short films that you have created using your Godzilla series figures this year. YOUR work, on the world’s biggest Godzilla website for all to see and enjoy!

    Rules

    • Nothing dirty/racist/homophobic/violent (gory stuff with blood etc) etc.
    • All submissions subject to approval
    • No Toho licensed music in the videos
    • Only ONE photo/video embed code per person so choose your BEST OF THE BEST photo/video
    • Submission by embed code ONLY. If you have a link to more of your work, please provide it
    • Each submission will receive name credit so please include that in your email
    • MUST be Toho/Godzilla related

    This is NOT a contest. This is for you to show off your creativity!

    Email me your submissions at: chris_55_tk@hotmail.com

    Submissions

    Now onto the photos and videos submissions. Each of these will have a time stamp for when they were initially submitted. Note that these are not correlated to when they were published on the site, though.

    July 1, 2013: Sean O’Leary

    “Moguera Family Reunion”

    July 2, 2013: “asb”

    “There goes that pagoda again.”

    July 2, 2013: Alexandre Sousa

    Stop motion video:

    July 9, 2013: Hesperia Productions

    Godzilla vs. Knifehead video:

    July 9, 2013: CMDM Studios

    Godzilla rampaging downtown:

    July 29, 2013: Sean Whighan

    Sean has submitted some cool shots of Godzilla figures in various poses from the films, taking particular attention to detail for The Return of Godzilla (1984). His complete Flicker album of the various photos can be found here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/maulfan/sets/

    Fan Godzilla Videos and Photos 2013: Sean Whighan

    Fan Godzilla Videos and Photos 2013: Sean Whighan

    Note that the cover photo for this article uses an image by Sean Whigham as well.

    September 5, 2013: Hesperia Productions

    Here it is, Godzilla vs. Pacific Rim

    October 24, 2013: ‘leventa24’

    “It’s not much, but I thought I’d give a shot to submitting a picture.”

    November 17, 2013: Steven, ‘GreenAiden555’

    Here is a diorama I made.

    Article first posted September 5th, 2013.

    General // November 17, 2013
  • G-Fest: an annual convention all about Godzilla and really all Japanese kaiju. With merchants, theater movie screenings, art displays, costume contests, Godzilla video game tournaments and celebrities, its a bit of a kaiju fan wonderland. Although it has, many years ago, been held in Los Angeles, it is typically located in the Chicago area.

    Godzilla fan and friend John Drooney was gracious enough to record this wonderful G-Fest XIX video tour. Now I have never had the pleasure of experiencing G-Fest for myself. Sadly, that’s not going to change this year either, as I am unable to attend. So this video is all the more special to me in particular.

    After watching the video, I was able to, perhaps through the mystical vibe that was captured, feel the pride and joy of the fandom that is dedicated to Godzilla. Thank you John for this wonderful gift. Also, may my brothers and sisters in the Godzilla fandom enjoy their time this year at G-Fest.

     

    About G-Fest

    Founded by J. D. Lees and John Rocco Roberto, G-Fest is an annual convention for kaiju, with an emphasis on Japanese monsters. It’s an offshoot, of sorts, of the fanzine G-Fan. The very first G-Fest happened way back in 1994 in Illinois, although it became much more organized the following year. It continued to take place in Illinois up until G-Fest ’99, when it moved to California. The convention’s stint there was short lived, though. By 2001 it had moved back to Illinois, which is where it continues to reside. From 2001 through 2004, it was also well known for hosting the American theatrical premieres of the Millennium Godzilla films. This tradition stopped with Godzilla: Final Wars (2004), which actually had its worldwide premiere in Los Angeles, California at the Grauman’s Chinese Theatre.

    For more information on G-Fest, including details on how to attend yourself, visit G-Fan.com.

    General // June 6, 2013
  • Haruo Nakajima: the first man behind the Godzilla suit, Rodan suit, Gaira suit, extra in classic films such as Seven Samurai (1954), a part in Submersion of Japan (1973)… and all around partier. This video was filmed by Brad Thompson (Baradagi) who was with us (August Ragone, Jason Varney, Dave Chapple, Mr. Nakajima’s daughter, Sonoe, and myself) for the Monsterpalooza convention in April 2011.

    The convention lasted from April 8-10.

    Mr. Nakajima’s plane didn’t leave until April 12th, so we spent the day doing various photo ops, having lunch, and shopping (check out Mr. Nakajima’s cool blue hat!).  Around 3pm or so we hit a Starbucks in Burbank and had our drinks outside. Ke$sha’s “Tic Toc” song came on and Mr. Nakajima really liked the beat and, entertainer that he is, started dancing for a laugh (he succeeded!).

    So without further ado, the Haruo Nakajima dance:

    It’s a fun video and I hope you all enjoy it as a gift from Brad Thompson and myself this Christmas.

     

    About Monsterpalooza

    Monsterpalooza is a convention that started in 2008, originally in New Jersey. It moved to California, though, for its 2009 event and has been there ever since. The three day expos takes place at the Marriott Burbank. While the show does feature dealers and rare merchandise, it also looks to honor the special effects work that goes into horror, monster and other productions. The expo showcases both celebrities, like Haruo Nakajima, and also the creations of those in the FX industry to give the show a bit of a unique feel. This includes the impressive Abominable Snowman by Pat Magee that was on display at the 2011 festival this year. Not everything is monster related, though. For example, Jordu Schell’s incredible Peter Cushing bust was also present, honoring his role as Grand Moff Tarkin in Star Wars.

    For more information on the show, including where and when the next one will take place, be sure to visit http://www.monsterpalooza.com/.

    General // December 23, 2011