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A monstrous Monday Mélange

Jim Hill

Jim's musings on the history of and rumors about movies, TV shows, books and theme parks including Disneyland, Walt Disney World. Universal Orlando and Universal Studios Hollywood.

A monstrous Monday Mélange

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You know, Disney-related stuff sometimes pops up in the damnedest places.

Case in point: "Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla II." This past Saturday, after we'd completed our first official work session on the Disneyland history CD project, Jeff Lange treated me to a showing of Columbia / Tristar's new DVD version of this 1993 Toho Pictures release.

Copyright 2005 Columbia / Tristar Home Entertainment

And -- as you might have expected -- "Godzilla vs. MechaGodzilla" was your typical Japanese monster movie. With a totally ridiculous story, low tech special effects, piss-poor dubbing and ... Oh, yeah. Every 15 minutes or so, some guy in a rubber suit would knock over a few more balsa wood buildings.

The film's plot (if you want to call it that) basically dealt with the discovery of this enormous egg. Which -- when it finally hatched out -- was revealed to contain an infant Godzillasaurus.

Copyright 2005 Columbia / Tristar Home Entertainment

Godzilla and Rodan (You know? That giant flying pteranodon-like thing?) somehow get wind of the hatching of this egg. These two creatures then begin to hone in on Baby Godzilla's location and -- in the process -- tear up several major metropolitan areas.

So -- in order to save the surrounding cities -- the Japanese government decides to move Baby Godzilla. So they pack the creature up in some steel re-enforced shipping crate and then -- via helicopter -- have him hauled away.

Copyright 2005 Columbia / Tristar Home Entertainment

Unfortunately, Rodan ...

Copyright 2005 Columbia / Tristar Home Entertainment

... encounters the helicopter en route. First the giant pteranodon flies by at supersonic speed, causing the copter to explode.

Copyright 2005 Columbia / Tristar Home Entertainment

Rodan then catches the shipping crate in his claws ...

Copyright 2005 Columbia / Tristar Home Entertainment

... and flies off over Tokyo.

Copyright 2005 Columbia / Tristar Home Entertainment

"AH, but what part of Tokyo does Rodan fly over?," you ask. Well ... Would you believe Tokyo Disneyland?

 Copyright 2005 Columbia / Tristar Home Entertainment

Strange but true, folks. But for at least five seconds or so, this enormous pteranodon is flying over the 'Kingdom of Dreams and Magic." If you look closely at the photo below, you can clearly see Cinderella Castle, the park's World Bazaar area as well as Tomorrowland being somewhat obscured by Rodan's great wing span.

                                              Copyright 2005 Columbia / Tristar Home Entertainment

Mind you, this wouldn't have been the first time that Rodan -- or Godzilla, for that matter -- would have found themselves in a theme park setting. Japanese tourists who have been Sanrio Puroland's "Monster Planet of Godzilla" attraction. That 3D movie with moving seats and smellizer technology that put you right in the middle of the action as Big G, Mothra and Rodan tear up Tokyo.

But -- if you want to talk about the big one that got away -- you really have to talk about the miniature version of Mt. Fuji that the Imagineers had once wanted to build behind the Japanese pavilion in Epcot's World Showcase area. In one version of the plan, this scaled-down cultural icon was to have housed a bullet train ride.

Ah, but not just any bullet train ride. If these guys at WDI had their way, this thrill ride would have started out with a high-speed trip under Tokyo Harbor. Where -- as you peered through the thick clear acrylic tube that allegedly housed the train as it zoomed beneath the water -- you would have seen Godzilla suddenly rising up from the ocean's depths.

From then on ... The bullet train's engineer is just supposedly trying to get his passengers to safety. But each time our train arrives at a new station, Godzilla's either just finished destroying the place and/or the Japanese military have just set up a defensive position and are now trying to repel the beast. So there's no way that we can get off.

According to the Imagineers that I've spoken with about this proposed World Showcase addition, this thrill ride's climax was supposed have come when Big G picked up a section of the track and actually placed it in his mouth! The next thing these Epcot visitors would know, their bullet train is zooming around a full-scale recreation of Godzilla's head. As the creature's eyes flashed, his mouth roared and -- more importantly -- his enormous teeth threatened to crush the very vehicle that they were riding in.

Sounds like a pretty amazing attraction, don't you think? Particularly for World Showcase area. Which (as you already know) has far too many films and not nearly enough thrill rides. So why didn't this proposed Epcot addition ever make it off the drawing board?

I've actually heard two versions of this story. One version has it that Toho Pictures happily awarded the Walt Disney Company the rights to use their Godzilla character in a theme park setting. The only problem was that WDI was never able to find a major Japanese corporation that was willing to underwrite the huge construction costs of this proposed attraction.

The other version of this story that I've heard has the Imagineers initially pushing forward with the development of this bullet train ride without first getting Toho Pictures' permission to use the Godzilla character. Only to find out later that the Japanese film studio had already cut a deal with Sony/Tristar to make an American version of a "Godzilla" movie. Which meant that Big G was now unavailable to work for Disney.

Now that may seem somewhat stupid. To actually start work on a project and plan on making use of a character without first having the permission of the company that actually owns that character.

Well, if it's any consolation, the Imagineers weren't the only ones who ever did this. The animators who worked at Pixar Animation Studios also planned on making use of Godzilla in one of that studio's animated features. Only to have Toho Pictures suddenly put the kibosh on Big G making an appearance in that movie.

Don't believe me? Okay. Let me refresh your memory. It's about 10 minutes into "Monsters, Inc." And Mike & Sulley are walking to work. As they reach a street corner and wait for the "Stalk" / "Don't Stalk" light to change, Sulley suddenly notices that there's this impossibly tall monster standing next to him.

How big is this monster? So big that all we can see are his curved claws and green scaly feet & ankles.

Copyright 2001 Walt Disney Company / Pixar Animation Studios

Anyway ... Sulley good-naturedly calls out to the mostly off-screen monster.

SULLEY: Hey, Ted! Good morning!

The mostly off-screen Ted -- clucking like a chicken -- greets Sulley in return. As the light changes, Ted quickly walks out of frame. With that, Sulley turns to Mike and says:

SULLEY: See that, Mikey? Ted's walking to work.

MIKE: Big deal. Guy takes five steps and he's there.

Which -- all by itself -- is a pretty funny gag. But if things had gone the way that the film's writers had originally wanted this joke to play out, this moment in "Monsters, Inc." would have gotten a much bigger laugh. Why for? Because -- when Sulley cried out "Hey, Ted! Good morning!" -- you were supposed to hear Godzilla's distinctive roar (Which -- FYI -- is actually made by dragging a wet leather glove over the strings of a bass fiddle) in response.

But -- just like what supposedly happened with the Imagineers and their Mt. Fuji / bullet train ride -- the guys from Pixar (well after they'd begun animating "Monsters, Inc.") reportedly approached Toho Pictures for permission to use Godzilla's roar in this Pete Docter film. Only to have the Japanese movie studio say "No."

Which is why Ted now clucks. It's the guys at Pixar's somewhat pointed way of saying that Toho Pictures was too chicken to let them use Godzilla's roar in "Monsters, Inc."

Anywho ... There's a trio of stories that show the somewhat tenuous connection between "The King of the Monsters" and the Magic Kingdom. And -- given that Godzilla & Disneyland are both celebrating their 50th anniversaries this year -- I thought that it was only appropriate to pay tribute to the monster & the mouse this Monday.

Your thoughts?

P.S. If you feel the need for even more Godzilla-related fun on this dreary Monday morning, then Jeff Lange suggests that you follow this link over to Daikaiju Enterprises, Ltd. Where you can learn all about this year's G-Fest event. Which is THE place to be if you're a serious Godzilla fan.

Hmmn ... Is there really such a thing as a serious Godzilla fan? Wow. I hope not ...

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  • This comment might be a few too many years late for the article [or at least, the new format!], but I thin it's still worth saying.

    While I love the idea of a ride in Japan, I'm not too keen on many American stereotypes of the Japanese, which include, but are not limited to: WWII, Godzilla, overly cutesy culture, samurai, and anime [Japanese animation] as a way of life.  WhileGodzilla was, indeed, a big part of Japanese cinematic history, I don't think it would have been too tactful on the part of the Imagineers to enforce the stereityoe further.  In my opinion, it would be like using "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom" as a basis for a ride based on Indian culture.

    Perhaps I'm taking this too seriously....?

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