Godzilla vs. Godzilla vs. Godzilla: the animated history of the King of the Monsters.
by Michelle "Ms. Geek" Klein-Hass
Shin-Gojira, Hideaki Anno's re-envisioning of the King of the Monsters, is headed for Japanese theaters very soon. While Japanese audiences await the film, Anno and his myriad partners have been busily creating tie-ins between the gigantic radioactive beast and other stalwarts of J-Pop culture, most notably Neon Genesis Evangelion. However, the weirdest crossover yet is about to happen: Shin-Gojira's appearance on the long-running anime series Crayon Shin-chan.
This will be the first time that Godzilla has appeared in a Japanese-made anime. However, here on the other side of the Pacific, Godzilla has torn it up in two series made for American Saturday Morning cartoon TV. The first was a co-production between Hanna-Barbera and Toho, Ltd, and aired between 1978 and 1981. The second was Godzilla: The Series, a tie in with the 1988 movie produced by Sony Pictures. Adelaide Productions, Centropolis TV and Columbia Tri-Star TV produced the series, which ran from 1998 to 2000.
This first animated Godzilla series was a co-production between Hanna-Barbera and Toho, Ltd. It actually aired on Japanese television, on the TV Tokyo network. It was done in a very traditional Saturday Morning style, with limited drawings, limited movement, and not a great deal of shading.
The series revolved around the science ship Calico, obviously modeled on Jacques Cousteau's legendary ship the Calypso. A team of both adults and kids live aboard the good ship Calico, including Godzilla's own "cowardly cousin" Godzooky. Joe Barbera claimed he came up with the idea of this excitable, juvenile creature that blows smoke rings instead of breathing fire, but fans of the live-action Kaiju movies will remember that Godzilla had a cute, chibi "son" named alternately Minilla and Minya. Yes, Minilla actually breathed cute little smoke rings too. But instead of looking more like a baby dragon, Minilla was actually designed to look a bit more like a juvenile human. It's quite obvious that Barbera stretched the truth a bit about Godzooky when you look at them together.
While the H-B series only consists of two seasons, the animated cartoon series was popular enough to be repeated through the 1981 TV season. Here's an episode of the series, "The Earth Eater."
Godzilla: The Series (1998-2000)
Think what you will about the 1998 motion picture, the first American live-action movie to feature the King of the Monsters, but Godzilla: The Series was actually a pretty serviceable animated series on its own merits. The series is actually about a new Godzilla, hatched from an egg found under Penn Station.
The iguana-esque design of the 1998 Godzilla lent itself nicely to animation, and the art style was less cartoony and more American comic book influenced. Like the Hanna-Barbera series, it was about Godzilla battling the monster of the week. Unlike the Hanna-Barbera series, the main character, Nick Tatopoulos, directly controls Godzilla thanks to the creature having "imprinted" on him as his parent by being present at his hatching.
Here's an episode of Godzilla: The Series, "The New Family." It's an origin story for this new, heroic Godzilla creature.
A little bit of interesting trivia: Toho retconned the 1998 Godzilla as a separate kaiju creature called Zilla. In the live-action Kaiju Eiga film Final Wars, Godzilla faced Zilla...and made quick work of him.