Friday, August 26, 2011

Gojira Vs. The City Planner

Hey, It's Godzilla, or Gojira as he's known in the Land of the Rising Sun.

I've always been a fan of Godzilla movies. Well written dramas with Oscar™ winning actors are fine, but every now and then you just want to watch a guy in a dinosaur suit fight a big moth on a string.

I've read that Toho studios is planning a new Godzilla movie and that for the first time he will be an all CGI creation, rather than the traditional man in a suit. I don't think I like that idea. The rubber suit and the intricate model work is part of the charm of these movies and I think it's a mistake to abandon them. Ah, but what do I know? You young kids get off my lawn!

The very first Godzilla movie was actually quite serious and somber and commented on the legacy of the atomic bombings of Japan. As the series progressed though, things got quite a bit sillier as it devolved into pitting Godzilla against ridiculous looking monsters in slapstick battles.

I think Godzilla movies were the first to teach me of the evils of pan & scan. When I was a kid and watched Godzilla movies on TV I noticed that the battles often seemed poorly framed and hard to follow, and much of the action took place off-screen. I wasn't imagining it; most of the films were shot in 2.35/1 aspect ratio, meaning the image was 2.35 times as wide as it was tall. When the movies were shown on TV, they were usually chopped down to 1.33/1 in order to fit the home screen. That means we were missing almost half the picture! No wonder they looked bad!

Do yourself a favor and check out the original Japanese language versions of the films if you can. They're presented in their proper 2.35/1 aspect ratio and are much more coherent than the appalling Americanized versions, with their atrocious dubbing and crude editing (that quite often changed the plot!). 

Godzilla went through quite a few looks over the years, as Toho studios built a new suit for just about every movie. All of the suits featured a lumpy, striated texture. I tried to recreate this texture in my version of Godzilla, but it just didn't work out. He ended up looking more like a watermelon than a giant lizard, plus it just looked too dense and complicated. So I scrapped that plan and went with a more simplified and cartoony texture.

This is a vector drawing, drawn all in InDesign. I'm experimenting with blurred vectors again, trying to make the background and foreground buildings look out of focus.

This illustration went through quite a lengthy gestation period, and ended up looking quite different from my initial tries. At the top is my original vector version of Godzilla. He's looking pretty stiff and uninspired, and quite honestly doesn't look much like any movie version of Godzilla. I got fed up and shelved the drawing for several months.

Much later I decided to try it again. The second version has a bit more energy, but he still doesn't look much like Big G. In fact that nose looks more like a pig snout! Once again I shelved the drawing and moved on to other things.

The problem with these is that I was trying to be a big shot and draw him from memory, and I failed miserably. 

Once I finally admitted to myself that I really didn't know what Godzilla looked like and used some actual photo reference, things improved quite a bit. Here's the sketch I used for the final illustration. Finally he's starting to look like himself! That's today's lesson, kids. Don't be afraid to use photo reference.


  1. I will have to show this post to my husband, the resident Godzilla fan. I love the movies for all reasons you described. Wonder what the hubs would think of the CGI version? Your artwork is fantastic!! I cannot believe the difference in the character before and after you used a reference photo. Lesson learned.

  2. Thanks, Dawn!

    Gamera went through a similar evolution in his movies. The first one was fairly serious, but in subsequent ones he became "a friend to children."


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