Wednesday, July 2, 2014

60 Years of Godzilla - Godzilla: A Hanna-Barbera Production

Godzilla gets animated.

"Up from the depths / 30 stories high / Breathing fire / His head in the sky / Godzilla! Godzilla! Godzilla! / And Godzooky!"

So goes the theme song for famed animation studio Hanna-Barbera's cartoon addition to the Godzilla lore, a cartoon they got permission to make from Godzilla's Japanese home base of Toho Studios with the aid of American producer Henry G. Saperstein, who had worked with Toho on Frankenstein Conquers the World, The War of the Gargantuas, Invasion of Astro-Monster, and Terror of MechaGodzilla.

Two seasons of this animated series were produced, for a total of twenty-six half hour episodes that aired in various programming blocks over the course of three years, from 1978 to 1981. Sometimes Godzilla aired on its own, but it was usually paired with another cartoon. Godzilla and Jana of the Jungle made up The Godzilla Power Hour. Later, Jonny Quest was added to the line-up, making The Godzilla Super 90. Other hour blocks were made with Godzilla and the Super Globetrotters cartoon, Godzilla and the Dynomutt cartoon, and what surely must have been the best of all iterations, The Godzilla/Hong Kong Phooey Hour.

Toho's live action show Zone Fighter had featured Godzilla in some episodes, showing up to help a family of heroic, humanoid extraterrestrials that had relocated to Earth fight off alien and kaiju threats. Similarly, Hanna-Barbera's cartoon has Godzilla associating with a group of human characters and helping them fight off danger in every episode.

The humans are the crew of a ship called the Calico - Captain Carl Majors, scientist Quinn Darian, her assistant Brock, and Quinn's young nephew, Pete. The hi-tech, hydrofoil-equipped ship travels the world so its crew can investigate strange phenomenon. They have no specific area of expertise, they'll look into any event that catches their interest, or that they're requested to investigate, all in the name of scientific research. The crew also has vehicles for any occasion - a Jeep, a mini-sub, a helicopter. They can check out things by land, sea, or air.

It's never explained within the show itself, but the backstory devised for the show tells that during the Calico's travels, the ship's crew came across a young dinosaur-like creature that was stuck in some corral. They rescued the little monster, which turned out to be of the same species as Godzilla, although this one also has small wings on its arms that allow it to fly.

This creature is Godzooky, essentially the Godzilla precursor to Scooby Doo's puppy nephew Scrappy Doo.

Seeing the humans' act of kindness to Godzooky, Godzilla knows the crew of the Calico can be trusted and pledges his allegiance to them. Somehow man and beast are able to work out an arrangement where Godzilla will show up whenever the Calico needs his help, no matter where they are in the world. All they have to do is press a button on a small device that emits a sonic frequency and Godzilla will rise from the sea nearby. In situations where the device can't be used, Godzilla will also show up in response to Godzooky's cries.

This situation is already well established by the time the cartoon's first episode begins, and Pete and Godzooky have a "boy and his dog" type of relationship. Godzooky is the kid's loyal companion.

Godzilla is recognizable in his animated form, although some alterations have been made to the character. Hanna-Barbera apparently couldn't get or didn't want the sound clip of Godzilla's iconic roar, instead he just has a typical animalistic growl that was provided by Ted Cassidy, a voice actor who also took on some live action roles, most notably playing Lurch on The Addams Family in '64 - '66. There is also no reference to Godzilla's powers coming from radiation, he doesn't blast the usual blue atomic breath from his mouth, instead he simply blasts fire like your typical dragon. He also, very oddly, has the added power of being able to shoot lazers from his eyes.

The live action equivalent to Godzooky, Godzilla's son Minya (a.k.a. Minira or Minilla), had trouble firing atomic breath from his mouth, he could usually only muster atomic rings. Godzooky has a similar issue, but since the atomic element has been dropped in this cartoon, what he breathes out are regular smoke rings.

Traveling the globe, the crew of the Calico run into dire situations and have to call on Godzilla in every episode - of course, there wouldn't be a show if they didn't. Most of the episodes feature Godzilla battling monsters of a size close to his own, and these fights take up a large portion of the show. There's not much at all to an episode Godzilla: the crew of the Calico investigates something, runs into trouble, calls on Godzilla, Godzilla fights, and there's a happy ending.

The threats the Calico and Godzilla face over the course of the series include revived creatures from prehistoric periods, mutants, sea monsters, mythological and mystical beasts, aliens, robots, giant insects, a mad scientist, and even terrorists. There are no recurring threats, nothing like the villainous Dr. Who that King Kong repeatedly had to deal with in his cartoon in the 1960s. Here, there's a new problem in every episode and it's neutralized by the end.

Hanna-Barbera's Godzilla wasn't a great show, but it is entertaining, each individual episode a fun and action packed half hour diversion for kids of all ages.


  1. I've often wondered if Godzooky is the Big G's 'adopted son' or more of a 'nephew' of sorts... in any case, it's clear that Godzooky is not the same species as Godzilla. I actually think that he has more in common with Varan. (If I make a bumper sticker that claims "Godzooky was a baby Varan" would anybody get the references? Would anybody care?) I doubt that the series creators had that in mind, of course, but it does kind of work in the overall Godzillaverse.

    1. People may not get it, but it would be a cool bumper sticker to have. Thanks for the comment!

      - Cody