Godzilla King of the Monsters
The Godzilla (ゴジラ, Gojira) franchise is a Japanese media franchise created and owned by Toho, centered on the fictional kaiju character Godzilla. It is recognized by Guinness World Records to be the longest continuously running movie franchise, having been in ongoing production from 1954 to the present day, with several hiatuses of varying lengths. The film franchise consists of 36 films, 32 produced by Toho and four Hollywood films: one film produced by TriStar Pictures and three films produced by Legendary Pictures.
The first film, Godzilla, was directed by Ishirō Honda and released by Toho in 1954 and became an influential classic of the genre. It featured political and social undertones relevant to Japan at the time. The original introduced an acclaimed music score by Akira Ifukube, which was reused in many of the later films. The original also introduced the work of special effects master Eiji Tsuburaya, who used miniatures and “suitmation” to convey the large scale of the monster and its destruction. For its North American release, the film was reworked as an adaptation and released in 1956 as Godzilla, King of the Monsters!. The adaptation featured new footage with Raymond Burr edited together with the original Japanese footage.
Toho was inspired to make the original Godzilla after the commercial success of the 1952 re-release of King Kong and the success of The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953) the first live-action film to feature a giant monster awakened following an atomic bomb detonation . The success of the Godzilla series itself would go on to inspire other monster films worldwide. The popularity of the films has led to the franchise expanding to other media, such as television, music, literature and video games. Godzilla has been one of the most recognizable symbols in Japanese pop culture worldwide, remains a well-known facet of Japanese films and was one of the first examples of the popular kaiju and tokusatsu subgenres in Japanese entertainment.
The tone and themes vary per film. Several of the films have political themes, others have dark tones, complex internal mythology, or are simple action movies featuring aliens or other monsters, while others have simpler themes accessible to children. Godzilla’s role varies from purely a destructive force to an ally of humans, or a protector of Japanese values, or a hero to children. The name Godzilla is a romanization of the original Japanese name Gojira—which is a combination of two Japanese words: gorira (ゴリラ), “gorilla”, and kujira (クジラ), “whale”. The word alludes to the size, power and aquatic origin of Godzilla. As developed by Toho, the monster is an offshoot of the combination of radioactivity and ancient dinosaur-like creatures, indestructible and possessing special powers (see Godzilla characteristics).