Big Wow '14: The Art of Kaiju & Master of Monster

Godzilla fever was strong at Big Wow '14 with some very special guests, art, events, and panels about Big-G and the people who have been able to make him a big part of their careers. First up was The Art of Kaiju & Master of Monster panel with Kaiju expert August Ragone and artist Bob Eggleton talking about Godzilla and monster movies. August is an expert in all things Kaiju and author of the book Eiji Tsuburaya: Master of Monster. Bog Eggleton is an amazing Hugo award winning artist who has produced some of the greatest Godzilla art ever seen. There were lots of interesting things they talked about, so here's a bunch of it from the panel, along with photos of Godzilla art by Bob Eggleton from the show floor.

-Bob Eggleton got hooked on Godzilla by going to small mom & pop theaters that showed Godzilla movies when he was young. He began drawing lots of Godzilla and monsters. He would collect the magazine Monster World, a subsidiary publication of Famous Monsters of Filmland, and now he is doing covers for Famous Monsters. He has also some art for Dark horse's and IDW's Godzilla comics.

-Bob Eggleton had a one second or less scene in 2002's Godzilla Against MechaGodzilla. He was one of the people in a screaming, running crowd. Filming the scene was kind of an awful experience, though, because of how hot is was. The weather was 101 degrees, but since it was a Spring environment in the movie, everyone had to wear jackets and long pants. His jacket literally fell apart during the 10-hour shoot that only amounted to maybe 10 seconds in the movie.

-August Ragone talked about how the Japanese view Godzilla, and it's very surprising. Godzilla is a big cultural icon that crosses generations, but not in Japan. The Japanese consider Godzilla passť and kids in Japan do not know who Godzilla is, so the Japanese media had to educate them whenever a new movie opens. Most Godzilla fans in Japan are men 40 and up, but mostly in their 50s - 60s. The 2014 movie doesn't open until July in Japan, but Toho is hoping that the American movie will bring interest in Godzilla back to Japan. (Editor's note: This is kind of insane. To me, this seems like it would almost be comparable to if kids in America didn't know who Batman was.)

-When Bob first watched the film Monsters in 2010, he had hoped that director Gareth Edwards would be picked for the Godzilla movie. And it happened!

-August had seen Godzilla and monster movies when he was younger in drive-ins. The first Godzilla movie that he saw was Godzilla Vs. The Thing, according to his mom. He loved Godzilla, but what really melted his brain was Ultraman.

-Godzilla movies got saturated on TV and August's favorite day of the week was Tuesday. After school he would run to get the new TV Guide to see when the next monster and Godzilla movies would play. When Bob was young He would spend Saturday afternoons watching Godzilla movies instead of going out and playing.

-Godzilla Raids Again was originally released in the U.S. by Warner Bros. as Gigantis the Fire Monster. George Takei and Keye Luke actually did most of the English dub of most of the characters, just by altering their voices. They had to fill lip flaps with words so there is the infamous scene of a guy saying, "Ah, banana oil." The movie was overly-narrated, too, with everything that happened on screen being narrated. It was basically an audio book.

-Because of the bad handling and dubbing of Japanese Kaiju films, August did some experimenting at film festivals by showing Japanese monster movies with their original Japanese audio to people who were not hardcore Kaiju fans. In 1995-96, Gamera was popular because of MST3K, so when Gamera: Guardian of the Universe came out, the people in the audience were expecting to make fun of the movie. August was with them and said that those people didn't know what they were in for. The audience started with the jokes and whatnot, but once the movie got to one of the first scenes with the fishermen running for their lives in the pouring rain and being snatched away by an unknown monster, they stopped giggling. For the rest of the movie The audience stopped talking and just watched the movie and ended up cheering for it at the end. This is what a big difference seeing a movie in the original language and with the original performances can make.

-The 2014 Godzilla seems to borrow a lot from 1999's Gamera 3: Revenge of Iris. (Editor's note: The '90s Gamera trilogy is really awesome. You should watch it if you haven't seen it yet.)

-There will be a new Gamera movie coming out next year for Gamera's 50th anniversary. This will be a reboot for another possible series of Gamera movies.

-New World Pictures was going to turn Godzilla 1985 into a comedy, but Raymond Burr refused to have it happen and stood his ground. There is a little leftover in the from the original dubbing script.

-Anchor Bay had the rights to release the New World catalog and released most of them. They had Godzilla 1985 and was bombarded with letters to release it. They wanted to release it with the full treatment with the original cut with a Japanese commentary, but Toho said no. Anchor Bay is standing firm with their grandfathered rights from New World, though. This is why Godzilla 1985 has never been released on DVD.

-Classic Media was able to get the original Godzilla and wanted to do video rights through Criterion, but again Toho refused. Toho was eager to release Kurosawa's films, but not Godzilla.

-Producer Henry G. Saperstein bought the rights for Gojira, Godzilla Vs. The Thing, Monster 0, and War of the Gargantuas. He had a long grandfather clause to approve licenses for Godzilla in the U.S. On his dying bed, he approved releasing the movies on DVD and Toho was furious. Classic Media bought United Pictures of America, Saperstein's company, but had to renegotiate everything so they could release the movies on DVD.

-The original camera negatives of old Godzilla movies were lost or no one knew where they ended up. The Terror of MechaGodzilla was severely cut down to get it to a G rating in the U.S., which was the only print to have been known to exist for a ling time. The original cut was finally found in a vault in New York City.

-For Criterion's release of Godzilla, Criterion couldn't get the original camera negative as Toho didn't have it. Toho had sold it long ago, but the print disappeared and no one knew where it was. Criterion was able to find a private collector with an uncut 16mm fine grain print.

-King Kong Vs. Godzilla had to be reassembled from different sources because the original negative was cut down from 96 minutes to 60 minutes.

-Toho retired Godzilla with the release of Final Wars. Final Wars bombed, so Toho decided to license out Godzilla instead of making their own. In the 2014 movie, Godzilla is actually contracted to be hired as an actor and the entire Japanese box office will belong to Toho. Because of how bad the 1998 movie was, Toho took a watch dogs stance on the new film.

-Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster is a surrealistic movie from director Yoshimitsu Banno. Because of how the movie turned out, he was told he would never direct another picture again. He wanted to do a sequel of Godzilla Vs. The Smog Monster, and got the rights from Toho to do it through an American company, which eventually resulted in this new 2014 Godzilla of which he is a co-producer of.

-Many news websites picked up on a story of Japan complaining about the 2014 Godzilla being too big and fat, but it's a completely fake story. Even in the interview of special features for the Blu-ray release of the 2014 Godzilla, August was asked what he thinks of the stories coming out of Japan that Godzilla was too fat, which he said isn't true. So even the people working for Legendary on the Godzilla movie bought into the fake story.

-The Godzilla in Giant All Out Monsters Attack was supposed to learn forward like a dinosaur, but they couldn't get the wires to hold the actor, so he's just standing straight up and looks like he has a pot belly. The head was also supposed to go down like a reptile, but the head broke so Toho had to make due.

- Shawn - 6/21/14 - Photos by Heidi.