Spotlight : August 1998

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Through the fall of 1997, weeks of filming the 1/6-scale Godzilla ensued inside the cavernous stage. "Volker and I directed those shots for Roland who was very busy with live action and post-production work," Tatopoulos stated. "Jake, Gino, and Gabe puppeteered the face while Guy, Dave Kindlon, and Marilee

"The Godzilla that is on the screen now is exactly the one that I was thinking of when I created the original concept."

Canaga operated the body." Getting the creature to act required a series of on-set rehearsals by Tatopoulos' key team. "The challenge was to set up a system that allowed us to replay and edit the motion of the creature," he recalled. "First, we would execute an action extremely slowly and record that movement in the computer; then we would replay that motion in whatever speed we wanted. It was a great tool for us to create a bank of motion data that we could regularly call on." Hydraulic controls and computer recording devices were protected from the constantly rain-soaked set in an adjacent covered booth.

Originally, the 1/6-scale creation was only going to feature Godzilla's head, but Tatopoulos convinced Emmerich to build the entire torso and hands. "It was capable of doing anything you could imagine a creature like that could do, including all directional movements, breathing, facial expressions -- everything except moving fingers," Tatopoulos said. Due to time and budgetary constraints, he had to sacrifice the creature's finger articulation, though they were positionable. The 1/6-scale Godzilla was ultimately used for closeups of the character's eyes, open mouth, and shots of it chomping on a miniature truck; however, the final shots in the film failed to approach its potential. "The creature could so completely come alive, but Roland and Centropolis created a CGI choreography that had a different type of motion," Tatopoulos noted. "Also, the character of Godzilla is so big, it had to be shot at a very fast frame rate, so we were limited in the ultimate speed that the hydraulic creature could achieve on film."

Looking back on his 18 months of work on GODZILLA, Tatopoulos felt that it was a rewarding experience, and not just for what he achieved on the movie. "When I put the shop together, with key production coordinator Oana Bogdan, it was the

most exciting time on this project for me," Tatopoulos reflected. "Nine years ago I was in Greece reading movie magazines about people like Craig Reardon, and this year he worked every day in my shop on GODZILLA. I hope I can work with him and all of the others who worked on GODZILLA again in the future; I was very proud of all of them."

After the film premiered in May, 1998, Tatopoulos was realistic when reflecting on his accomplishments in GODZILLA. "I knew that I was not going to be able to please everyone in the world with my Godzilla design, but I hoped that even the hardcore fans wouldn't be too disappointed," he stated. "Back in the beginning when Toho Studios - the fathers of GODZILLA - approved of my designs, that was the biggest moment for me. The Godzilla that is on the screen now is exactly the one that I was thinking of when I created the original concept."

All GODZILLA images courtesy of Patrick Tatopoulos. Special Thanks to Szu Wang for getting the author on the set! Extra special thanks to Cassandra Heredia at Tatopoulos Design.

Author Scott Essman recently completed a video documentary about legendary makeup effects artist Dick Smith. He has also created a similar video about "Planet of the Apes" master, John Chambers. Please write to him at

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