G-Fest XII report (Mania.com)
Date: Monday, July 11, 2005
This past weekend, July 8-10, fans of Godzilla and related daikaiju (giant monsters) gathered yet again just outside Chicago to discuss, support and celebrate their passion at what is increasingly one of the most significant and enjoyable conventions in science fiction fandom.
Special guest Yoshikazu Ishii is a leading participant in what is no doubt the key element of the twelfth G-Fest, having held the post of assistant director of the controversial 50th anniversary Godzilla film GODZILLA: FINAL WARS, which Toho Studios has announced as the behemoth's last movie (Despite this, Godzilla's return to the screen is already in the works. Read on.). Ishii gave some insight into working at Toho, gave G-Fest credit for getting him lots of work back home in Japan, and said what we're all thinking: FINAL WARS is not so final. He also presented a bit of the Making-Of featurette to be included in the Toho DVD release of the film, and talked a great deal about the production. Amiable host Robert Scott "M-11" Field, who was on hand to act as translator throughout the convention for those of us whose Japanese is a little rusty, talked about how Toho makes huge amounts of money because they own a lot of real estate, and Godzilla movies are a small sideline, which may explain a lot of their decisions.
Another special guest was Yoshimitsu Banno, who introduced his film GODZILLA VS. HEDORAH at the nearby Pickwick Theater opening night. Mr. Banno revealed his plans for his Godzillas 3-D IMAX film, which would be a sequel to HEDORAH in many ways. In his scenario, explorers looking for an Amazonian "moonlight rainbow" waterfall find tiny creatures attacking plantlife. The menace is Hedorah, updated to "Deathorah". Godzilla shows up to fight the tiny critters, who combine to form one big one. Deathorah, losing in such natural surroundings, flees to a more polluted one - New York City! The monsters visit the 9/11 Memorial, fight at the Statue of Liberty, stomp down Broadway, etc. Deathorah is losing again, so for some unknown reason runs back to South America. Godzilla flies in pursuit. That's right, FLIES. Banno wants to reprise his famous (and embarrassing for most fans) stunt of having Godzilla flying (if he can get the idea past Toho), which delighted some fans while worrying others.
The Pickwick Theater was packed to capacity (estimates run to 1,100 viewers) Saturday night for a screening of GODZILLA: FINAL WARS itself, one of the film's first showings in the USA. The turnout overloaded the vintage theater's A/C system and sent the staff scrambling to fill popcorn orders. The audience was crowded but generally well behaved, appreciative and enthusiastic. That enthusiasm boiled over throughout the film itself, which was even better - and far goofier - than expected. The general impression was that of a home run (with some strong dissenting opinions), with even the film's most outrageous moments greeted with huge applause and laughter.
The convention's genial, family friendly atmosphere was enhanced by fine art, costume and model contests, a special room set aside for childrens' activities, a GODZILLA: SAVE THE EARTH video game tournament, constant video presentations in both a special room and on the hotel's in-house channel, and a wide range of panel discussions and exhibits of production and advertising art. And of course, a dealer's room allowed for the purchase of a wide variety of daikaiju merchandise, though many agreed that manufacturers that produce licensed products using Godzilla and other characters would do well to take a greater part in the proceedings, as some of the more interesting recent releases were nowhere to be found. For example, though American Greetings was represented with one of their artisans discussing their upcoming licensing plans, none of their licensed Godzilla products was available. Perhaps a priority for G-Fest XIII would be to find a way of involving Toho and other companies in the same way the presence of such companies is felt at major comics and anime conventions, without losing the homey flavor G-Fest is famous for.
(© 2005 Brian Thomas) Brian Thomas is the author of the massive book VideoHound's DRAGON: ASIAN ACTION & CULT FLICKS, available now!
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