The G-Lord of Sculpture Cometh!
by Orlando G Acosta
Some time ago news came out that resounded dread to my frail ears. News that, after Tri Stars’ disastrous bastardization of a franchise near and dear to my heart back in ’98, the powers that be in Hollywood were revving up to give it one more go. The Memories crept back into my brain: Rounding up some friends, heading to the Cineramadome in Hollywood, and somehow stomaching the films disgraceful attempt ruin Ishiro Honda’s creation. Of course I am referring to Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich’s “spit in your face” rendition of what they considered ‘Godzilla’
You, dear reader, can imagine the skepticism bestowed upon me when hearing of the task Legendary Pictures was about to undertake. I immediately began scouring cyber space for any information, speculation, leaks…anything I could find. I started reading about who the players were going to be and different story ideas for our beloved Kaiju. With my exhaustive searching I came across images of a beast worthy of the G-name. I mean, this Godzilla was truly Godly. Muscular, lean, hunched over a bit, ready to take on any Kaiju that dared cross paths with him. This design blew me away. It gave me renewed hope that if someone outside of the eastern isle can come up with this then perhaps my memories of the old American Iguana will be forever erased. Yay! No more therapy sessions!
Upon more research I discovered that this design was the creation of one Hector Arce and really not at all tied to the new G-ressurection. This was the work of a guy who, like me, was a huge Godzilla fan. But unlike me, he has a gift to be able to breathe life through sculpture. So I went a little deeper and found Hector’s website: http://hectorarcesculpture.daportfolio.com. To my very pleasant surprise, this guy not only made a kick ass Godzilla but an even kickier ass Biollante to battle him. Of course, Godzilla vs’ Biollante being one of the more obscure G-films on this side of the ocean, I was blown away that someone else out there was as big of a Biollante fan as me. As you can see by the pictures, this is no straight port of the plant creature that had a little girls spirit in it. Hector of course had to design a Biollante worthy and able to hold its own against his ripped up G-beast!
Hector was gracious enough to take time away from his craft to answer a few questions about him, his designs…and a few other surprises. I thank him kindly for his time and efforts in preserving Godzilla for all us G-fans the world over.
Anyways, without further a due :
Orlando: Please tell us a little about yourself Hector.
Hector: I’m a Sculptor/Concept Artist from Long Beach, CA. I’ve been an artist since I can remember, taking up sculpting in college.
H: I’ve been Sculpting for 5 years and sculpting professionally for 3 years
H: Well at the time I had only been sculpting for a year (I sculpted the Godzilla design you speak of 4 years ago). I wanted to push myself and create something that would seem totally out of my realm of expertise and experience. The way I see it you learn the most when you dive into something and are forced to teach yourself how to get around all pit falls of creating something like this, especially since I decided to make it 2 feet tall haha.
Godzilla has always been something I loved since I was a kid. When the project at school came up to sculpt one of our favorite “heroes” Godzilla was an obvious choice for me. I always loved the way the Godzilla from the movie 1985 looked so that was my main inspiration behind the design. From there I just wanted to update him and give him an edger/darker look and make him a little more over the top. The main goal was to make him look like he could throw down in a fight and look a bit more mobile than how he’s usually depicted.
H: I wanted to Convey a since of power and rage with the design, if I remember correctly it was meant to be part of a set with Biollante. It was supposed to be a sort of a battle display for the El Camino College student art show. My main goal with that piece was to get him to look like he was ready for a fight.
H: Thank you! Biollante was part of a project I was assigned at school. I was in advanced sculpting at the time in Mr. Russ McMillians class at El Camino College and he gave me an assignment to make something about 3 feet in height. He told me to work with another student in the class at the time and lucky for me the other student was also a Godzilla fan. So we decided on redesigning Biollante and having it part of a battle with my redesigned Godzilla. The sculpture is huge, so at the time I sculpted it with fellow classmate Ernie Galvez. All I wanted to do was to update the character and add my own twist to it. I’m a firm believer in keeping true to the source material and I wanted to make sure it was still recognizable. I mean the original Biollante design is beautiful and a very intense and complex sculpture/suit. So I just wanted to change a few things here and there and just have fun with it.
O: Well you definately had some fun with it because your Biollante came across quite edgy and menacing looking, as is your Godzilla design. I see quite an evolution and progression from their original designs to yours, without straying to the radical like the giant Iguana Devlin and Emerich came up with. Do you feel a sense of responsibility to keeping things ‘true to source’ and does it matter if one doesn’t?
H: I believe that when you’re redesigning something that people have grown up with and love and have formed an emotional attachment to you have a responsibility to not step all over that. If your goal is to completely change what made the original special then what’s the point of still calling it by that characters name? At that point the artist should just come up with his or her’s own story and just call it a new character. When I go about redesigning something I make sure that I stay true to the main things that remind us of that character, so that when you see it you know that’s Godzilla or that’s Ghidora, while still showing people something new. As an artist we always want to leave our mark on things, and I did that with my redesigns, but I feel I do not have the right to go and fully change something that is loved by so many. Of course every artist has a different opinion about this, and I respect those willing to take risks, but as I mentioned above there’s always a limitation to what you can do with pre-existing characters. You can’t just put Spider-Man in a robot suit that shoots missiles and completely change his look and still call him Spider-Man, that’s how I see it at least. And that’s why to me as a fan, Iguana Zilla never felt like Godzilla to me, it was an awesome design, it just wasn’t Godzilla.
H: My favorite Godzilla incarnation comes from the movie Godzilla, Mothra, Ghidora All Out Monster Attack (boy that’s a mouth full) Directed by the Gamera director Shûsuke Kaneko. I absolutely loved his take on Godzilla. Pretty much he made Godzilla a bad ass again. He was ruthless and showed no remorse for his enemies. I loved the way Kaneko designed Godzilla as well, those empty white eyes just added a great deal of evil and gave Godzilla a very sinister look. I also loved his use of wide angle shots; I had never seen that used so creatively in a Godzilla Movie before, those shots were truly breath taking. I also enjoyed how much of a jerk Godzilla was, for example that scene where he’s just kicking Baragon when he’s on the floor then just blows him up with the atomic blast was brutal and kinda hilarious at the same time. Love that movie so much.
O: I think my earliest memories of Godzilla is actually watching King Kong vs’ Godzilla when I was a wee lad and wondering how the hell this ape bested a far more superior creature, only then to spend the rest of my life obsessed with Godzilla and kind of resenting King Kong. What are your earliest childhood memories of Godzilla?
H: I remember when I was about 5 years old my parents took me to Kmart for some shopping. We were strolling down the aisles and I noticed a VHS cover that caught my attention. It was the cover for Godzilla vs The Sea Monster. I had no idea what Godzilla was at the time, I just thought, in my kid brain that it was awesome looking. I pointed it out to my dad and he went on a whole rant about what Godzilla was and he bought the movie for me. I remember watching it late at night with my mom and getting scared but loving the fights and all that. I remember being so impressed and at awe that he shot blue “fire” out of his mouth, I had never seen a dinosaur do that before. After that I was hooked and proceeded to bug my parents almost on a daily basis to buy me more movies. To this day I own every single one on VHS.
H: Legendary Pictures is an awesome studio. The guys over there definitely know what they are doing and from what I’ve seen with the type of movies that they make, they really respect the source material and take it seriously. I have full confidence that it’s going to be the Godzilla reboot we’ve all been waiting for. So really I’d say I’m more excited than fearful about their reboot, they’re a great studio and I’m sure they’ll make a great film. Just look at their track record, this is the studio that gave us all the new Dark Knight movies, 300, the only studio that had the guts to take on Watchmen and actually do it right, so yeah I’m not worried, it’s in great hands.
O: What can you tell us about your involvement with Legendary Pictures? How did that come to be?
H: I can’t really share anything about my involvement with Legendary, other than that I’ve done some work for them and they’re a great studio to be involved with. The producers over there really get what the fans want and really respect the source material of all their movies. Great people over there, and I can only express how happy I am to do work for them.
O:Fair enough. What are your hopes and fears for the Legendary Pictures G-film?
H: No fears, just excitement. I’m sure it’s going to be awesome. Ask anyone who was in Hall H at last summer’s comic con and they’ll tell you the same. The teaser brought chills to everyone in the room; it’s going to be insane.
O: Of course the man in a rubber suit technique is not something Legendary Pictures is toying with. Do you feel total CGI can do Godzilla justice or is a Kaiju film not a Kaiju film if there aren’t guys in big rubber suits?
H: Yeah, of course it can, I love the big ole Kaiju suits as much as anyone, but they are extremely limited. A fully CGI Godzilla will actually be able to move like a real animal, he won’t be hindered by a suit being too heavy. Done right, any kaiju film would look amazing in CGI; I honestly think that’s the next step. I don’t think kaiju movies are necessarily defined by the rubber suits; they are defined by the cool designs and monsters in it. CGI can only help; you could do a mixture of both, still have the guy in the suit, but animate some things that just aren’t possible to do in a rubber suit. Either way, I think we’re seeing a rebirth of the kaiju genre, especially with Pacific Rim coming out and I think it’s great that they’re being exposed to a whole new generation of kids.
O: And of course I must ask, what is your favorite Godzilla film?
H: This is a tough one, I like so many. I’ll do my top 3.
2. Godzilla 1985
3. Godzilla, Mothra, Ghidora All Out Monster Attack.
O: Top three sounds good. I’d swap out Godzilla vs’ Biollante for GMK personally. And since I had mentioned King Kong earlier. Should there be a rematch between Godzilla and King Kong?
H: Haha, depends on which King Kong you’re talking about…American King Kong is about what 25-30 feet tall, while Godzilla is what about 300ft? I’m pretty sure King Kong wouldn’t stand a chance; Godzilla would probably just step on him. Now if it’s the giant Japanese version of Kong then, sure that’d be kinda cool, but I still don’t see how Kong could win…Atomic blast would probably take him out pretty quickly, with all that fur and all.
O: What do you think of a Godzilla vs’ Gamera flick? Who would your money be on?
H: Godzilla vs Gamera would be awesome! It’s a long time coming in my opinion, and needs to happen, in the old school rubber suit way. You already had the Gamera director do his take on Godzilla, it just seems to make perfect sense. I’m surprised it hasn’t happened before. They’re both pretty tough; it’d be like the Yankee’s vs the Yankees in my opinion. But Godzilla is the king of monsters right? I’d have to put my money on him.
O: True true. Maybe Gamera AND King Kong vs’ Godzilla. I am going to break out my stop motion app on my phone. Any last words of wisdom? What does Godzilla represent to you?
H: Keep doing what you believe in, even if others don’t believe in you at first. As long as you’re sure it’s what you want to do then just keep moving forward. There’ll always be hurdles along the way, and that’s a part of life, the goal is to get past those and be happy. Godzilla to me has such a powerful story; a lot of people seem to overlook how serious he was treated when he was first introduced to the world in Gojira. It was all out of a result of the fear of nuclear war and the repercussions and affects that radiation had on living things. Godzilla was the embodiment of an atomic blast. He was a physical representation of the terror people felt at the time. And if you think about it, it’s such a powerful message. It wasn’t just about a giant monster stomping around and being misunderstood, it was all the rage and pain that was caused by the war, that’s what Godzilla represents to me. He’s a force of nature that can’t be stopped.