Sound stage 9 on the Toho Studios lot is famous among
Godzilla fans as the location of the "tokusatsu" or special production. The
largest sound stage in Asia, it was constructed to accommodate the filming
of Godzilla 1985 and has since served as the site for most of the
major special effects scenes of the movies which followed in the Godzilla
series. Because of the secret nature of many of the special techniques
and the curiosity among fans they generate, sound stage 9 is off limits
to all but the most privileged guests. The following are some of the
things a visitor might see upon sneaking into sound stage 9:
1) The director's chair, where sits the man who exercises supervision
and control of the special photography as well as formulation of the production
plan. An assistant stands by with the movie's master plan in case a check
2) Cameramen film kaiju scenes at high speed so the motion will be slowed
down when projected.
3) Nowadays, composition of scenes and shots is rechecked on video.
4) Animation of Ghidorah's heads, tails, and wings is accomplished by
piano wires, carefully painted to match the background and manipulated through
an overhead brace by technicians off to the side.
5) When Ghidorah is called on to move, every available hand pitches in.
6) This special switch is used to electrically set of a series of gunpowder
explosions in the sequence and at the speed desired.
7) A smaller model of Ghidorah is suspended from a crane to be used in
long distance flying scenes.
8) Many scenes showing destruction inflicted by Godzilla's tail make use
of a articulated tail wielded by a powerful assistant director.
9) Security guards are employed to keep unauthorized reporters and curious
fans from entering the set. Because of strict requirements for lighting and
air movement, as well as the need for intense concentration by all the actors
and technicians, the stage must be closed to visitors.
10) The Godzilla suit stands by, usually supported by a wood frame.
11) A lightweight Godzilla dummy made of styrofoam is used to set up Godzilla's
position in a shot and check the lighting. This saves lugging the heavy suit
around or requiring the Godzilla actor to waste his strength unnecessarily.
12) A cable and pneumatic animated Godzilla torso used for head and upper
body shots can give a wider range of action and expression than the suitmation
14) Sky painting on a backdrop replaces the real thing. It's rare
for T oho to shoot against the sky but it is done for extreme low angle
shots that would otherwise reveal the stage's ceiling and for scenes involving
15) Giant fan is used to simulate wind from Ghidorah's wings, etc.
16) Visiting cat.
17) Location for Ghidorah standby suit.
18) Monster suit actors are constantly working out and practicing martial
arts to keep in shape for their taxing scenes.
19) Special effects area; gun powder specialists standby on call for when
their talents will be required.
20) Special plastic arts area; artists standby to make emergency repairs
to kaiju suits or to craft special items needed in a hurry.
21) Because the monster suits are so heavy, the wires that animate the
tails and other appendages frequently break. An emergency replacement is
always kept on hand.
22) Delays on a movie set are extremely costly, so an extra set of all
bulbs, electrical, and technical equipment is kept available.
23) Only God can make a tree, but Toho technicians can create a credible
facsimile. In the special props area, artists create natural features such
as rocks and shrubbery and also the "meka", military hardware both of the
present and of the future. Keeping the mechanical devices in operating condition
is another important job. Considering the number of people involved in tokusatsu
scenes, imagine the planning and coordination necessary to produce a high
quality movie on time and on budget.
Article © 1994/2003