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Remembering "Monster Planet of Godzilla," that theme park attraction which put you toe-to-toe with the Tokyo terror

Jim Hill

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Remembering "Monster Planet of Godzilla," that theme park attraction which put you toe-to-toe with the Tokyo terror

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You know it's going to happen, don't you?

Given that "Godzilla" has been projected to earn as much as $75 million over its opening weekend, you can bet that -- come Monday morning -- some theme park fan, as they're telling their friends & family about this Legendary Pictures production, will then say "Wow! Wouldn't be great if someone built a Godzilla ride?"

Well, as it turns out, 20 years ago, someone did actually did build a "King of the Monsters" -themed attraction. "Monster Planet of Godzilla" opened at Sanrio Puroland in March of 1994. And then ... Well ...

Look, let me blunt here. Even by Japanese standards, "Monster Planet of Godzilla" was pretty weird. This was a 4D attraction whose key special effect was smell. And -- yes -- there were lots & lots of meetings about what Godzilla should smell like.

But -- for me -- what always seemed a trifle bizarre about "Monster Planet of Godzilla" was that it was build inside of Sanrio Puroland, Which is this indoor theme park in the Tama City section of Tokyo.

"And what's so bizarre about that?," you ask. Well, Sanrio Puroland celebrates Hello Kitty. So in order to make "Monster Planet of Godzilla" look like it sort of belonged inside of this indoor theme park, the makers of this attraction had to find a way to shoehorn this cute little cat character into their simulator attraction.

The center image above shows Megumi
Odaka with the Hello Kitty walk-around
character in the pre-show film for
"Monster Planet of Godzilla"

Which is why -- during the pre-show of "Monster Planet of Godzilla" -- Megumi Odaka (i.e., a Godzilla veteran who'd been recruited to serve as the hostess of this Sanrio Puroland attraction) actually turns to someone dressed in a Hello Kitty walk-around character costume and says "General Hello Kitty, what do you think?"

Yep. General Hello Kitty. Because -- according to the storyline of this simulator attraction -- the United Nations is sending a spaceship called "Earth" to the far-off forest planet that Godzilla, Rodan and Mothra now call home. And Hello Kitty is somehow an officer at the UN.

Anyway ... The purpose of this off-world mission is to kill off all the kaiju. But -- of course -- as happens with most theme park attractions, something goes horribly wrong. And just before Godzilla stomps spaceship "Earth" into shrapnel, a second spaceship shows up. Unfortunately, as this second vessel attempts to rescue "Earth," it kicks off a freak time distortion which then sends this trio of kaiju back to modern-day Tokyo. Where Godzilla, Rodan & Mothra then lay waste to a neighborhood which is supposedly just down the street from Sanrio Puroland. (See? I told you that "Monster Planet of Godzilla" was weird.)

Anyway ... Though the story of this 5 minute-long simulator attraction may sound kind of strange, I can assure that "Monster Planet of Godzilla" 's production values were top notch. An effects team from Toho (i.e., the studio that produced all of the Japanese "Godzilla" films) spent a solid month shooting this 3D ride film. And the Godzilla suit that was used in the making of "Monster Planet of Godzilla" was the exact same suit that was used in the making of 1993's "Godzilla vs. Mecha-Godzilla II ." And then when you fold in Akira Ifukube's music (He wrote the score for nine other "Godzilla" films, including the 1954 classic which kicked off this series) and you've got an authentic looking & sounding kaiju movie.

Then when you factor in the programming work that Trey Stokes did with "Monster Planet of Godzilla" 's motion base (Trey is the guy who designed the motion simulation / supervised the ride film for Universal Studios Florida's "Funtastic World of Hanna-Barbera" attraction) and you had a  pretty solid piece of theater-style fun. A 70 mm 3D encounter with "The King of the Monsters."

Which isn't to say that "Monster Planet of Godzilla" was an entirely trouble-free production. Like I mentioned earlier, given that scent was a key component of this 4D attraction, there were lots & lots of discussions about how to best make use of this smellizer technology.

Long story short: Sanrio Puroland executives didn't want anything in this simulator attraction that could possibly scare this theme park's younger patrons. Which meant that "Monster Planet of Godzilla" couldn't replicate the smell of gunfire or explosions. The only thing that Sanrio Puroland officials would concede on was -- when Godzilla knocked down the Tokyo Station building -- the odor of dust could then quickly be released in the theater.

And as for the scent of Godzilla ... Well, given that this behemoth spends most of his time underwater, the "Monster Planet of Godzilla" production team came up with a pretty funky odor for "The King of the Monster." As I understand it, this scent was inspired by the way alligators smell. And Sanrio Puroland execs reportedly got one whiff of the sample scent and said "There's no way that our Guests are going to experience that odor while they're inside of our theme park."

In the end, the "Monster Planet of Godzilla" production team delivered a top quality product. But because this 4D simulator attraction was situated inside of a theme park that celebrated Hello Kitty, it never really got the traction that this 70mm virtual ride deserved.

In the end, "Monster Planet of Godzilla" hung on just down the street from Kitty's House 'til the mid-2000s. Which was when this 4D simulator attraction was rebranded as the "Time Machine of Dreams." Which -- the way I hear it -- makes use of a far sweeter array of scents to take Sanrio Puroland patrons on an aroma-filled adventure.

As for "Monster Planet of Godzilla," I've been told that an edited version of this ride film was included as an extra feature on the "Godzilla Perfect Collection DVD" set which Toho released back in 2004 ("What was cut out of the DVD version of 4D simulator attraction ?," you ask. Would you believe that it's all of the Hello Kitty stuff that Sanrio executives initially insisted  be included as part of "Monster Planet of Godzilla" pre-show?).

And every so often, the ride film for this 4D simulator attraction pops up on YouTube. Mind you, Toho's lawyers are pretty vigilant when it comes to keeping this piece of their intellectual property out of the public domain. But that said, there is some footage online right now that shows some shots from "Monster Planet of Godzilla."

And you have to admit that -- if you were seeing these images up-close on a 70mm screen and, with every one of Godzilla's footfalls, your chair would bounce up and down -- you have to admit that this sounds like a pretty fun theme park experience. Even with that creepy Hello Kitty walk-around character being shoehorned into this ride film's pre-show.

So I have to assume that -- at some point -- there was a JHM reader who made their way to Sanrio Puroland and then experienced "Monster Planet of Godzilla." So what are your memories of this 4D adventure? And do you think that -- were this motion simulator attraction to have been presented at any other theme park -- it would have then gone on to greater acclaim / attracted a wider audience?

Your thoughts?

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