In 1992, it was announced that Tristar Pictures was in negotiations for the rights to Godzilla . Now, this wasn't the first time an american company had tried to obtain rights and get funding to do an American Godzilla movie. In the early 80's, there was an attempt to create a 3D Godzilla remake. An artist named Stout was hired to redesign him, and he made ol' Goji something to be reckoned with (as in 'lightning quick and razor sharp'). This seemed to be the echo reverberating throughout all attempts to create an American Godzilla . People didn't want the old lumbering 'stand and get hit' Godzilla . They wanted to see a quick and agile beast, who still retained the majesticness that fans saw in the Toho Godzilla .
That project never got fully off the ground (although there were storyboards and even a model of the creature created for the film). That was the most successful attempt to date, out of several tries. So Godzilla fans noticed, but weren't holding their breaths in 1992.
In 1994, that all changed. Tristar announced that an agreement had been reached, and there would indeed, be a full blown, big budget, american Godzilla movie.
Tristar even went as far as to create a nifty teaser trailer, that was eventually shown with Men In Black almost a year before Godzilla was to open. With the original tag line "Guess Who's Coming to Town?", and the updated one "Size Does Matter" (which went along with a huge blitz marketing campaign, which posted giant screens and posters all over famous buildings and landmarks stating different aspects of his size), fans were drooling all over the place.
Fortunately, I had a mop.
Allow me, if you will, a brief history into the actual production of the film.
Originally slated to direct was Jan DeBont of Speed fame (having just come off that movie). Even Stan "The Man" Winston was slated for the special effects. An artist named Richard Delgado was given the task of redesigning the behemoth for American audiences. He even designed an opponent, as required by the original script written by Rossio and Elliot, the duo who wrote Disney's Aladdin . The design was rather... underwhelming. Delgado didn't do anything major to Godzilla . He simply slimmed him down, which would be possible with CGI effects. He changed the shape of his legs, to reflect more dinosaurian ancestry. That's it. He didn't so much redesign Godzilla , so much as he simply said "this is how the Toho Godzilla would look like in CG".
But Tristar was satisfied with it. What they weren't happy about, though, was DeBont's requested 130 million dollar budget. Jurassic Park was just coming off a 93 million dollar budget, but almost a billion dollar take world wide, so the 100 million dollar movie was just starting to come into fashion. But Tristar wouldn't have it, and DeBont went on to film Twister (contrary to a rumor going around, Twister was not derived from an early Godzilla script). Tristar pictures had asked Centropolis's Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich three times to take the project. By the third time, Centro was flying high with Independence Day . No offense to Centropolis, but it seemed that Tristar was determined to get the "Flavor of the Month" when it came to picking out a production team. But Centropolis eventually said "yes".
They decided to create their own story, but used a few elements from the original script (giving due credit, of course). So the stage was set, and many fans were already picking sides, based on Independence Day Some thought it would rock, some pointing out shortcomings in ID4 and automatically assuming they would be present in Godzilla , thus predispositioning themselves to not liking it.
Sony/Tristar began their marketing blitzkrieg. But attempted to keep the uttmost secrecy about the design. But who was designing the beast? Centropolis' own, Patrick Tatopoulos.
One thing becomes apparent in all the major american designs: The "streamlined and razor sharp" aspects.
So Sony put Centropolis on a majorly tight schedule, allowing for less than a year for the post production, on a project that was breaking new grounds effects wise. Centropolis had to farm out CG work to at least 3 other studios, in addition to their own in-house Centropolis FX (who, among other movies, did the effects in Flubber and Stuart Little ).
They managed to get the movie printed with barely two weeks left until opening. This left no time for test screening, a factor often attributed to the uproar surrounding this movie.
On May 20, 1998, Godzilla opened across the United States. (In many places, the first showings were May 19th, and there was a free gift including some movie cell reproductions, of which I was one of the lucky ones to go then. )
During the Memorial Day weekend, Godzilla took in 74 million dollars. While still a good opening, Sony was extremely disappointed by the take. They were apparently unsure if fans would like the redesign, and the movie in general, and were hoping that the advertising would net them a hefty sum before word of mouth killed it.
Well, apparently Sony was right about the word of mouth. Godzilla did go on to make 138 million in the US box office, but everybody was sure it would be the moneymaker of the summer, yet it didn't even surpass Deep Impact, which opened two weeks before it.
Centropolis did go over the original projected 90 million dollar budget, but still kept it less than DeBont wanted, and this was a couple of years later, when the higher budget was more industry acceptable. Here's a few quick stats on the movie:
- Godzilla made $375,800,000 dollars worldwide, and occupied the number 40 spot of alltime highest grossing films, worldwide.
- The final Centropolis budget for Godzilla topped out at about $119 million. Sony spent nearly $50 million for advertising. Godzilla had hundreds of major tie-ins, including three major toy companies, Taco Bell, Kentucky Fried Chicken, Kirin Beer (in Japan), and many, many more.
- If you want to see what DeBont's Godzilla would have looked like, watch AMC (American Movie Classics) whenever Stan Winston hosts a monster movie marathon. They always have his mock up in the set behind him (it looks very humanoid, with short arms, and the head looks like the Godzilla 1985 creature).
- Godzilla was shunned from the Academy Awards completely, despite the invention and usage of movie effects technology that hadn't existed before this movie.
Centropolis and Sony have since parted ways, and although there is supposedly a script for a sequel in the works (if not already finished by this time), Sony hasn't announced a production team for the project.