In honor of his 50 years of cinema history, Godzilla received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 11:30 a.m. today, in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre. The half-hour ceremony was hosted by Johnny Grant, the honorary mayor of Hollywood; also present were Los Angeles City Councilman Michael Antonovich and film producer Shogo Tomiyama.
The sidewalk outside the theatre was blocked off to allow access for the press only; the area was filled with television cameras from both domestic and foreign outlets. Pedestrians were diverted onto the right lane of Hollywood Blvd, which was sectioned off with metal blockades to protect onlookers from traffic.
Of course, the hundreds of fans who showed up, blocking sidewalk traffic, were there to see Godzilla, and they were not disappointed, but they did have to wait for the mon-star to appear. In the meantime, fans could content themselves with a man-in-a-suit Mecha-Godzilla, who politely posed for pictures nearby.
Johnny Grant kicked off the ceremony by reciting some basic film facts about Godzilla’s on-screen history, although he admitted that most in the crowd probably knew far more on the subject than he.
Then loudspeakers piped in Akira Ifukube’s famous Godzilla theme music, accompanied by the monster’s familiar roar, while Godzilla himself stalked out and posed menacingly for the cameras.
The exhibition Godzilla suit was a big improvement over the one last seen in Los Angeles back in 1996. Modeled after Godzilla’s appearance in the latest films, the suit was less flabby and more closely matched the actual costumes used in the films.
Ironically, the man-inside-the-suit seemed to be about the shortest person in the ceremony. If you were not an early bird who got a ringside seat up front, it was difficult to see Godzilla at first, until he took a place up on the podium beside Johnny Grant.
Then Mr. Grant turned the microphone over to producer Shogo Tomiyama, the Japanese producer in charge of the recent Godzilla films. Tomiyama made the following remarks:
“We are really happy the Japanese-born Godzilla is honored in America. He should be feeling like a Japanese kid allowed to play…major league baseball,” Tomiyama joked, referring to Hideki Matsui, the New York Yankees player, nicknamed “Godzilla,” who made a cameo in 2002’s GODZILLA AGAINST MECHAGODZILLA. Tomiyama continued, “I thank the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce…for giving [Godzilla] the star. I would also like to thank Mr. Michael Antonovitch for the resolution [proclaiming] Godzilla Month.”
The producer went on to thank the American Cinematheque for its 50th anniversary Godzilla film festival held back in July; also mentioned were J.D. Lees (editor of G-FAN magazine) and Steve Ryfle (author of JAPAN’S FAVORITE MON-STAR). Finally, the producer thanked “all Godzilla fans in North America for their enthusiastic support. Without them, Godzilla and I would not be here.”
Tomiyama then went on to credit producer Tomoyuki Tanaka, director Ishiro Honda, and effects director Eija Tsuburaya for creating Godzilla back in 1954. “Since then, Godzilla has been loved by people around the world as the representative of Japanese cinema, especially here in the States,” the producer said. “Many people loved Godzilla, and many directors grew up watching his movies.
One of the biggest charms of Godzilla is that you feel empathy with him when you watch his films,” he continued. “Godzilla was born as the result of H-Bomb explosions. Godzilla destroys cities, but at the same time he [criticizes] destruction by mankind, as you can understand from his genesis.”
Next, city councilman Michael Antonovich presented Godzilla with a copy of the resolution he helped pass, proclaiming November Godzilla Month in Los Angeles. Stepping back to the microphone, Johnny Grant went a step further: in honor of the day’s ceremony and upcoming evening’s world premier of GODZILLA: FINAL WARS at Grauman’s Chinese Theatre, Grant proclaimed that “Godzilla Day in Los Angeles.”
No doubt, many American movie fans will scratch their heads over the propriety of awarding a Hollywood star to Godzilla, a character often associated with bad dubbing and cheap special effects, at least in the minds of Western viewers. However, one of the things Hollywood rewards is success, and success can be measured not only in ticket sales but also in longevity. 50 years of movies (not to mention toys, games, and collectibles) have made the character an instantly recognizable icon of not only of Japanese cinema in particular but also of science fiction cinema in general.
Godzilla is a triumph of pop entertainment: his films are sometimes good, sometimes bad, but almost always fun. On occasion they have served as serious metaphors, reflecting the concerns of Japanese society; more often, they have simply served as colorful entertainments, filled with action and special effects that delight the eye even if they are not totally convincing. In a sense, he is the Japanese equivalent of comic book superhero characters like Batman and Superman, whose films require a willing suspension of disbelief if they are to be enjoyed.
FINAL WARS is the 28th film in the Godzilla series. Toho, the studio that makes the films, claims that this will be the last – a piece of news that is not welcome to Godzilla fans. Still they can take hope from the final words of producer Tomiyama:
“This year, GODZILLA: FINAL WARS is the last Godzilla film. But…as long as Godzilla keeps [entertaining] people, Godzilla will be resurrected by a new generation of filmmakers in the future.”