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Feature Article
Strange New Worlds  Issue 13 - April/May 1994

People Beware!
A brief history of Godzilla and Japanese monster models and toys
by David Milner

Godzilla
Godzilla
27 in. x 41 in.

In 1954, Toho Company Limited’s Godzilla - King of the Monsters! broke Japanese attendance records set just months before by Akira Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai (Blu-ray ). Quickly following up on this success, Toho released Godzilla Raids Again, Rodan , and other giant monster movies. But surprisingly, no Godzilla toys or monster models appeared until a decade later.

In 1964, Marusan Shoten Limited marketed a wire-controlled brown plastic model kit of Godzilla. This toy walked on rollers attached to the bottom of its feet and tail. The kit was based on the bulky Godzilla costume seen in King Kong vs. Godzilla, but it was not a very good likeness. The Aurora Corporation also released a model kit based on the same costume. Constructed, for some reason, of pink plastic, it was not mobile like its Japanese cousin. But it more closely resembled the "Kong Godzilla."

In 1966, Marusan Shoten followed up its Godzilla model kit with two new monster toys. They released a kit similar to their walking Kong Godzilla, this one based on Baragon, the brown quadrupedal dinosaur that was pitted against an enormous version of the Frankenstein monster in Frankenstein Conquers the World. Marusan Shoten also released a wire-controlled Godzilla toy made of tin featuring soft vinyl figures of Godzilla, Mothra, Baragon, and Ebirah (the huge lobster seen in Godzilla versus the Sea Monster. Few parts of the vinyl figures were moveable, but the tin toy was fairly sophisticated. It had rollers on the bottom of its feet and tail; its mouth opened and closed; its arms moved up and down; and it occasionally let out a brief roar.

Meanwhile, that same year in America, Aurora followed up its Godzilla model with "Godzilla’s Go Cart," a plastic kit of Godzilla driving in a go cart. The kit included goggles and a crash helmet for Godzilla to wear. It also included a sign reading "people beware" for kids to hang from the mouth of a skeletal fish attached to the front of the go cart.

Marusan Shoten went on to produce a wire-controlled Baragon tin toy and wire-controlled plastic model kits of Ebirah and a nameless "giant gorilla." The company also manufactured soft vinyl figures of a "giant gorilla," Gorosaurus (the tyrannosaur-like dinosaur that was pitted against King Kong in King Kong Escapes), MechaniKong (the giant robot seen in King Kong Escapes), and Minya, the Son of Godzilla. However, after releasing a plastic model kit of the Moonlight SY-3, the spaceship used to help fend off invading aliens from outer space in Destroy All Monsters , Marusan Shoten went out of business.

In 1969, Aurora released an updated version of its first Godzilla model kit. This time they manufactured it of dark green plastic instead of pink. It included many "glow in the dark" parts.

Around the same time, Bullmark Inc. marketed soft vinyl figures of Minya and Gaborah (the monster in Godzilla’s Revenge that could send electricity coursing through the bodies of his adversaries). These figures are similar to the ones produced by Marusan Shoten and complement them very well.

Shortly afterward, Bullmark reissued some of Marusan Shoten’s soft vinyl figures and introduced new ones of Rodan, Ghidrah - The Three-Headed Monster, Angilas, the ankylosaur-like dinosaur that was pitted against Godzilla in Godzilla Raids Again, and other monsters. Most of these were fair likenesses, but the figures of Varan - The Unbelievable and Ganime, the giant crab seen in Yog - Monster from Space, lacked enough detail to be easily recognized.

Over the course of the next few years, Bullmark released soft vinyl figures of almost all the remaining monsters that appeared in the Godzilla films produced before the series was put on hiatus in 1975. Also, the company distributed wire-controlled plastic model kits of Godzilla and Gigan (the bird-like giant robot that was introduced in Godzilla vs. Gigan). They also released a wire-controlled Gigan tin toy and two different plastic figures of MechaGodzilla (the robot created by invading aliens from outer space in Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla) that shot missiles from their chests.

During the same period, the Bandai Corporation came out with wind-up model kits of Godzilla, Ghidrah, MechaGodzilla, Baragon and Mogera (the giant robot seen in The Mysterians). These were made of green plastic, and, like the wire-controlled toys, they had rollers on the bottom of their feet and tail.

In 1975, Aurora manufactured a "monsters of the movies" line of snap-together plastic kits that included models of both Ghidrah and Rodan. These were not very good resemblances, but since they did not require glue for assembly, a few of their parts could be moved after they had been put together.

Godzilla vs The Thing movie poster
Vintage Godzilla
movie posters

In 1977, Mattel Inc. marketed a large plastic Godzilla toy as part of its "shogun warriors" series. Though not very elaborate, its featured moveable legs and arms, an ejectable hand, and a strip of plastic with flames drawn on it to stick out from its mouth. Concurrently, Bullmark released several different Japanese monster die-cast metal toys. These had secret compartments and could shoot missiles.

In 1978, the Popy Corporation introduced wire-controlled Godzilla and MechaGodzilla toys and soft vinyl figures of Godzilla, Ghidrah, Rodan, and a few other monsters. The wire-controlled plastic toys, are comparable to those produced by Marusan Shoten and Bullmark, but the vinyl figures were better likenesses than any of the ones manufactured by either company.

Shortly afterward, Mattel followed up its Godzilla toy with a large plastic Rodan toy that was part of the "world’s greatest monsters" line. Though even less sophisticated than the Godzilla toy, it could "squawk."

During the early 1980s, giant monster "garage kits" became popular in Japan. At first, these limited quantity kits were put out only by private individuals, but soon companies such as Billiken Incorporated, the Kaiyodo Corporation, Tsukuda Incorporated, and Volks Incorporated also began marketing them.

In 1983, Yamakatsu Incorporated produced a variety of Japanese monster soft vinyl figures and plastic model kits. The vinyl figures were similar to those manufactured by Popy, but the models were very different from the ones sold by Marusan Shoten, Bullmark, and Bandai. Much smaller, they were more detailed and could not move.

Also in 1983, Bandai introduced remote-controlled Godzilla and MechaGodzilla toys and a "real hobby" series of rubber kits that included models of Godzilla and Gamera (the giant flying turtle seen in eight different films produced by the Daiei Motion Picture Company Limited). These kits provided much better likenesses of the monsters than any previously released Japanese monster model or toy. These well-rendered toys became very sought-after items.

For the Japanese release of the film Godzilla 1985, the Takara Company Limited distributed the "Combat Joe Costume Godzilla." Designed to fit a G.I. Joe doll, it included two different heads. One was similar to that of the Godzilla suit used in Godzilla vs. Mothra and the other based on the head of Godzilla suit used in Destroy All Monsters. Around the same time, Bandai manufactured plastic kits, soft vinyl figures of Godzilla, MechaGodzilla, and Ghidrah, and large figures of Godzilla, Mothra, and Ghidrah. The three models were even more detailed than those produced by Yamakatsu. The vinyl figures were almost as well done.

In 1986, Billiken came out with a wind-up Godzilla tin toy. Despite it not being wire-controlled, it was very similar to the tin toys released by both Marusan Shoten and Bullmark.

Over the course of the next few years, Bandai marketed over a dozen Japanese monster soft vinyl figures. Among them were figures of Gamera, Gaos (the giant vampire bat seen in Gamera vs. Gaos) and a few of the other monsters that appeared in the Gamera films. Bandai distributed large figures of Godzilla, Mothra, and MechaGhidrah (the cyborg used to counter Godzilla in Godzilla vs. Ghidrah). These figures are smaller than Bandai’s 1985 Godzilla, Ghidrah, and Mothra figures and the likenesses are less realistic.

In 1992, the Tokyo Marui Corporation manufactured the "R/C Godzilla," a remote-controlled toy. It resembled the Godzilla suit created for Godzilla - King of the Monsters! very well. It walks and swings its tail, opens and closes its mouth, turns its head from side to side, and roars. Bandai marketed a plastic model kit of Godzilla and soft vinyl figures of Godzilla, Mothra, and Battra (the "battle Mothra" introduced in the new Godzilla vs. Mothra). The figures were comparable to those previously distributed by Bandai, but the model was not quite up to the standards of the company’s earlier plastic kits.

When Jurassic Park came out, Horizon Hobbies and Toys, Inc. released a large soft vinyl figure of Godzilla. Though a fairly good likeness of the Godzilla suit produced for Godzilla vs. Ghidrah, its proportions were somewhat off. Over the next few months, Bandai marketed soft vinyl figures of Gorosaurus, Hedorah, the monster created by pollution in Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster, and a few other monsters. Surprisingly, among them was a figure of King Kong licensed from Ted Turner.

At the end of 1993, Bandai distributed soft vinyl figures of the four monsters seen in the new Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla: Godzilla, MechaGodzilla, Rodan, and "baby Godzilla." The company also came out with a plastic model kit of MechaGodzilla and a battery-operated Godzilla and MechaGodzilla toys.

At present, the Toho Company Limited, which now owns the Daiei Motion Picture Company Limited, is preparing to shoot both Godzilla vs. Space Godzilla and Giant Monster Air Battle - Gamera. TriStar Pictures, Inc. is finishing the script for its first Godzilla film. Given this, I expect to soon see more Japanese monster models and toys in production than ever before. l

See chronological list of Godzilla Movies

Godzilla Bibliography:

Publications Devoted Exclusively to Japanese Monsters:

FUTURE NEWS
5619 Pilgrim Road
Baltimore, Md. 21214

G-FAN
Box 3468,
Steinbach, Manitoba,
Canada ROA 2AO

JAPANESE GIANTS
5727 North Oketo
Chicago, Ill. 60631

KAIJU REVIEW -
THE JOURNAL OF JAPANESE MONSTER CULTURE
Suite 5F, 301 East 64th Street
New York, N.Y. 10021

MONSTER ATTACK TEAM -
THE JAPANESE MONSTER, SUPERHERO & FANTASY FANZINE
P.O. Box 800875
Houston, Tx. 77280-0875

QUESTNEWS
Suite 150, 12440 Moorpark Street, Studio City, Ca. 91604

Publications that Regularly Run Articles about Japanese Monsters:

ASIAN TRASH CINEMA
P.O. Box 5367
Kingwood, Tx. 77325

CULT MOVIES
Suite 152, 6201 Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood, Ca. 90028

THE DINOSAUR TIMES
19 West 21st Street
New York, N.Y. 10010

ORIENTAL CINEMA
P.O. Box 576
Fremont, Ca. 94537-0576

SENTAI - THE JOURNAL OF ASIAN SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY
Suite 204, 7272 Wurzbach,
San Antonio, Tx. 78240

ISSUE 13:
2nd Anniversary issue
Is It Advertising or Is it Art?
Japanese monster models
Godzilla Movies list
A Fan by Any Other Name
TV Science Fiction for Kids
Science Fiction Book Reviews
Ye Olde Collectibles

SNW Issue 14
SNW Issue 13
SNW Issue 12
SNW Issue 11
SNW Issue 10
SNW Issue 09
SNW Issue 08
SNW Issue 04

 

STRANGE NEW WORLDS was published from 1992 through 1994, fourteen issues in all. 

Copyright 1994 by Strange New Worlds. No portion of this publication may be reproduced without prior express written consent of the Publisher. All rights reserved. All materials are believed accurate, but we cannot assume responsibility for their accuracy or application. We do not endorse any products or services advertised in this publication.

 

Godzilla Videogames:

Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters Melee
for GameCube

Godzilla: Domination
for GameBoy Advance

Godzilla: Destroy All Monsters
for Xbox
 

Godzilla 2
Gameboy Color

 

 

 

 

 


An Unauthorized Guide to Godzilla Collectibles

by Sean Linkenback

 

 

More Godzilla Items
(from Amazon.com):

bulletGodzilla Soundtracks
bulletGodzilla Books
bulletGodzilla DVDs
bulletGodzilla VHS
bulletGodzilla Videogames

 

 

 

 

 

Find Posters
Thousands in stock!

 

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