Barnaby Legg on Godzilla Encounter

Chris Mirjahangir: The following is an interview with Barnaby Legg, the creator of the "Godzilla Encounter" experience at the San Diego Comic Con (SDCC) this past summer. Also accompanying this interview are three set pieces that have never been released until now.

These three mock newspapers pictured above, created just for the Godzilla Encounter and given as exclusives to Godzilla fans via Toho Kingdom, show a storied progression of Godzilla spanning three film series.

For those who didn't get a chance to attend the event, here is a video walkthrough filmed and edited by site contributor Michal Shipman.

Now, with that out of the way, I would like to get down to the heart of this interview and ask how did the Godzilla Encounter project come about?

Barnaby Legg: Legendary wanted to give a gift to the fans this year at Comic-Con, and share their passion for the Godzilla franchise. They reached out to FIVE33 to come up with a fan event that would bring the legacy of this iconic character to life, and provide a tribute to nearly six decades of Godzilla fandom.

Mirjahangir: From conception to completion, how long did it take?

Legg: As you can imagine, the project went through many phases of development, but all told took approximately three months from concept to final build.

Mirjahangir: There were some spectacular props on display from the films themselves, including the original Oxygen Destroyer prop from Godzilla (1954) and the Godzilla suit from Godzilla 2000: Millennium (1999) that is pictured on the left.

However, a lot of items in the Encounter were also from private collectors and were new/rare to the general public. How did you go about collecting them?

Legg: We reached out to a lot of different sources in assembling the collection of collectibles, props, memorabilia and comic books featured in the Godzilla Encounter. These included Private collectors both in the States and in Japan, toy manufacturers, artists, and Godzilla fans within Legendary!

Mirjahangir: There seemed to be some confusion as to the actual design of Godzilla where fans were convinced that a statue on display, the full body one is seen on the right although there was also a head piece statue, was the actual design of Godzilla for the new film. Care to clear up that confusion?

Legg: No confusion. This was an item that was on loan to us by a collector from a previous version. This has nothing to do with the upcoming film.

Mirjahangir: Take us through the creation of the Godzilla Encounter phone app and how it would work with the Encounter exhibit?

Legg: We wanted to develop an app that would not only enhance the physical experience of the event, but also open up that experience to people around the world. The geiger counter allowed fans to scan their area for the atomic signature of Godzilla, and fans who made it to San Diego could actually track down the event itself via increasing levels of "radiation". And then the translator and photo share functions enabled fans to interact with our augmented reality signs on and unlock many of the secrets revealed within the event itself. The digital team did some amazing work to ensure fans all over the world could participate in the Godzilla Encounter.

Mirjahangir: There was a display with quite a large amount of Godzilla comics, seen in the image on the left.

The display included comics from Marvel, Dark Horse, mangas like the Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla one from Shogakukan, and the recent IDW Publishing publications with artist Matt Frank's work prominently featured. Is it safe to say that Matt has a few fans at Legendary?

Legg: We really wanted to reflect and pay tribute to the entire legacy of comic book art that Godzilla has inspired, without singling out any single artist, but undoubtedly Matt's work for IDW has been fantastic — his covers have been some of my favourite Godzilla images featured in comics recently.

Mirjahangir: In the Encounter there was a sign that read "Master of Monsters" which I can assume was a nod to the book Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monsters by author August Ragone on renowned Toho special effects director Eiji Tsubaraya. How much of an influence on the Encounter was the book?

Legg: Many members of the team have that book! It's a stunning collection of photography, and such a thrill to see such amazing behind-the scenes-photography of those magical films. It was definitely an influence on the Encounter, in so far as it detailed the legacy of Eiji Tsuburaya's limitless imagination, and the history of Suitmation as a filmmaking technique

Mirjahangir: The actors in the Godzilla Encounter playing rescue workers, patrons eating at the sushi bar, and the guide never broke character. How many rehearsals did the actors go through to get down the timing for their performances?

Legg: The actors were brilliant. They did such a great job. While I am not sure of the number of rehearsals, I can say that they came ready to work and that their presence and talent were integral to the overall success of the Encounter.

Mirjahangir: The elevator that you are ushered into breaks down on the 25th floor. Is there any significance to the number?

Legg: You know, I was in such a state of panic at that point, I really hadn't noticed what floor it broke down on! I was too busy focusing on making it out alive...

Mirjahangir: Since cameras were not allowed past the actual exhibit, could you take us through the rest of the experience?

Legg: The second half of the event is really something that is better experienced than described, but suffice to say fans were ushered through a visceral, kinetic, up-close-and-personal encounter with Godzilla that they were lucky to survive! The Encounter comprised set pieces from the 2014 movie, and a whole range of visual and audio effects which were created specifically for this fan event.

Mirjahangir: Any last words for fans that went to the Godzilla Encounter?

Legg: Just a huge thank you! This was a Godzilla event created by fans for the fans, and we were thrilled by the reaction of everyone who made it down to the Godzilla Encounter. It looks like you guys had as much fun experiencing it as we had creating it.

Mirjahangir: In closing, would like to Legendary Pictures, Barnaby Legg and Adam Fenton for the exclusive interview and content!

Found below are more pictures from the event, which I took personally during my trips through Godzilla Encounter:



Barnaby Legg is Director of Transmedia Strategy for Legendary Entertainment. Working through FIVE33, which was acquired by Legendary Pictures, Legg was tapped to create a fan oriented event around the upcoming 2014 Godzilla film from the company. The result was Godzilla Encounter, located in San Diego near that year's Comic-Con in July of 2013.

Date: 09/13/2013
Interviewer: Chris Mirjahangir


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