In the first fifty years of his illustrious career, Godzilla starred in 28 films (29 if you count 1998’s American Godzilla; he doesn’t ). He’s returning to reclaim his title as King of the Monsters in his 60th year, with a new major motion picture after a ten year hiatus. But while I assume we’re all wrapping up our four week Godzilla-thon rewatch all of the films, let’s also make time to remember his role as public figure outside of the films…and as a pitchman. This year, in addition to trailers for the new film, you may have seen him advertising Snickers and Fiat. (Of course, he’s always been willing to advertise Godzilla merchandise both in Japan and America.) But when you drive to the theater this weekend in your Fiat, your pockets stuffed with Snickers, why don’t you wow your friends with Godzilla preferred shoe and soft drink choices.
In 1985, for the American release of Toho’s 1984 reboot, New World Pictures made a product placement and promotion deal with Dr. Pepper. This meant the creation of a couple of television ads with an almost nauseatingly bad Godzilla suit.
They also created this lovely music video for “I Was Afraid to Love You,” released as the “Love Theme to Godzilla 1985” despite not being featured in the movie at all. The music video does an admirable job of taking a commercial jingle about the complex emotions involved in surrendering yourself to Dr. Pepper and painting it as a song about humanity’s complex relationship with Godzilla (while still finding time to include some of the new footage from the American version of the film featuring the Pentagon’s prominently displayed Dr. Pepper vending machine).
Years after Godzilla’s dalliance with Dr. Pepper, the King of the Monsters met the Round Mound of Rebound for a titanic pick-up game at the behest of Nike (the 90s, folks!).
In a less commercial vein, independent animator Marv Newland took it upon himself to imagine a match that fans everywhere were surely crying out for in this 1969 short.
Animators love Godzilla as much as anybody, and even setting aside the fact that his roar is pretty much the default “monster roar” sound effect in cartoons, he’s been so frequently referenced, paid homage, and parodied in animation that you could probably spend the rest of the week tracking down Godzilla appearances in western animation. In fact, you can start with catching up with the 26 episodes of Hanna-Barbera’s Godzilla, which introduced sub-Minilla footnote Godzooky.
Of his many cartoon appearances, one of my favorites has always been Tokyo Grows from Pinky and the Brain, which features not only Godzilla himself but also Dr. Serizawa and Yamane and a terrific running gag about the Raymond Burr scenes in Godzilla, King of the Monsters!
Animator turned live-action director Tim Burton has an abiding love for Godzilla, so it’s only natural that when Pee-Wee Herman races through a film studio in Burton’s debut feature, Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure (1985), he encounters a Japanese film crew shooting a full-blown Godzilla epic (fighting Ghidorah!) of the sort that was certainly never made in Hollywood.
In a weird bit of synchronicity, audiences got another glimpse of Godzilla in an American comedy in Once Crazy Summer (1986), when Bobcat Goldthwait gets stuck in a Godzilla suit and crashes the presentation of a new restaurant chain.
Fans were abuzz in 2007 when Godzilla made a surprise cameo appearance in the opening of Always – Sunset on Third Street 2. The sequel to 2005’s manga adaptation Always – Sunset on Third Street, a nostalgic comedy of the laughter and tears variety set in post-war Japan, Always 2 is set in the 1950s and opens with a fantasy sequence depicting Godzilla’s attack on Japan, complete with the famous Ifukube theme music.
To wrap up this journey into Godzilla’s public persona outside of the films, let’s look back at a time when the MTV Movie Awards Lifetime Achievement Award really (okay, not really) meant something. In 1996, Godzilla was the recipient of MTV’s fifth lifetime achievement award thanks to…well, I’ll let Patrick Stewart explain the obvious:
Please, tell us your favorite extracurricular Godzilla appearance (probably a Simpsons joke, right?) in the comments.
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