The Zilla Name Change

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Copyright Icon Zilla and GODZILLA 1998 T-Shirt Comparison
The Zilla Name Change is a series of legal events that occurred between 2002 and 2005 where the TriStar-created character Zilla had its official name changed by Toho.

These events include the cancellation and abandonment of the "GODZILLA" 1998 Trademark[1] and logo,[2] as well as the "BABY GODZILLA" 1998 copyright icon,[3] Sony's expiring of the rights to the Godzilla franchise and monsters in late 2002, which was just after the cancellation of Godzilla: The Series, and Toho's confirmation of the name change in two Godzilla: Final Wars interviews from 2004[4] and 2005,[5] respectively.


Penny Blood Shogo Tomiyama and Ryuhei Kitamura Interview

SHOGO TOMIYAMA: Godzilla doesn’t want to destroy human bodies. He wants to destroy human civilization. It’s true that originally Godzilla did come to Japan to eat livestock, but Toho Pictures soon realized that they’d have to reconsider how Godzilla existed if they were going to expand the film into a series. The company needed to decide whether Godzilla was a living breathing creature, or something else. The decision was made to make Godzilla something else. He was much more than just a large creature that went around eating livestock.

PENNY BLOOD: So you’re saying he’s God-like?

SHOGO TOMIYAMA: Closer to that, yes. Godzilla is closer to being a God. He’s not just a living animal or a monster.

PENNY BLOOD: That’s why the Japanese refer to Godzilla as a “kaiju” instead of a monster? He’s more of a mystical creature. Then would you consider Godzilla to be a good or bad God?

SHOGO TOMIYAMA: The fact is that humans cannot control or judge the Gods. They have their own will. They have their own way. In Japan there are many Gods. There is a God of Destruction. He totally destroys everything and then there is a rebirth. Something new and fresh can begin. Godzilla is closer to being that kind of God.

PENNY BLOOD: You were quoted as saying, “that you renamed Hollywood’s 1998 version of the monster ‘Zilla’ because they took the God out of Godzilla.” When I read that quote, I interpreted it to be a slam against Hollywood’s Godzilla (1998.) I’m getting the impression now that your statement was referring to the “spiritual interpretation” of Godzilla in Japan verses Hollywood’s “monster interpretation.” It really wasn’t meant as a putdown. Is that correct?

SHOGO TOMIYAMA: Yes, because Hollywood’s Godzilla is just a normal monster. He’s not a God. Hollywood treated Godzilla as a live monster or live animal. They shot him down with missiles and all that.


— The conversation between Shogo Tomiyama (the man in charge of the Godzilla franchise) and interviewer Penny Blood,[4] showing that Toho did in fact rename the monster.

On December 9, 2004, an interview was posted on (now called where Penny Blood asked Shogo Tomiyama and Ryuhei Kitamura several questions in typical interview form while in Godzilla: Final Wars' opening in the United States. One of them is if they had actually renamed Zilla, who was going to appear in Godzilla: Final Wars. They said that they did in fact rename him. The full interview can be seen via captures with the Internet WayBack Machine.[4]

Henshin!Online Shogo Tomiyama Interview

HENSHIN!ONLINE: Whose idea was it to include the American Godzilla?


HENSHIN!ONLINE: You've probably been asked that question a lot during this press junket...

SHOGO TOMIYAMA: It's been a very popular topic today. Mr. Kitamura asked me if it was possible for us to use the American Godzilla in FINAL WARS, so I checked our contract with Sony Pictures and found out we could use it. [Toho fully owns the character and likeness of the American Godzilla while Sony retains all materials (digital, props, suits, animatronics, etc) used to make the monster for the 1998 US movie] Since this was the 50th anniversary film, I thought "Why not include the American Godzilla?" There is some special meaning to having him in this film-but mostly, we just wanted to show which Godzilla is stronger.''


— The conversation between Shogo Tomiyama (the man in charge of the Godzilla franchise) and Henshin!Online,[5] showing Toho always owned Zilla and they could do whatever they wanted with it.

In an interview with Henshin!Online ( posted on February 17, 2005, Shogo Tomiyama stated that Toho fully owns the character and likeness of the American Godzilla while Sony retains all materials (digital, props, suits, animatronics, etc.) used to make the monster for the 1998 film.[5] This proves that Toho could do anything they wanted with Zilla from the start, including renaming it or slightly altering its appearance, and that Sony only truly owns the film and animated series, but not the character or its design in any way.[5]

Sponichi Interview

An interview by the Japanese website "Sponichi" released on August 26, 2004 contained some information on why Zilla was renamed to "Zilla," and was translated to English by Monster Zero News.[6]

The production staff makes sure the rights to use Godzilla are exclusive to Toho. In America there are imitation products on the market that have the name"Zilla."Producer Tomiyama has the ability to get rid of these products if he chooses to. Tomiyama thinks that the American Godzilla is a representation of these imitation products therefore he named the American Godzilla in FINAL WARS simply "Zilla". The significance of this perfectly suits this kaiju who has had the word "God" taken out from the name "Godzilla".

"I want to compete with America. I want to overwhelm the American Godzilla (which is a symbol of CG) with the Japanese technique of suitmation,"says Kitamura. In the movie, Godzilla is made from a suit, and Zilla is made from CG. "I’m putting in the movie what people all over the world want...Zilla. I want to reach the height of the series and return Godzilla back to being strong and cool again. There are times also when Godzilla behaves affectionately and humorously which I think will make Roland Emmerich laugh if he sees this movie," Kitamura says with confidence. FINAL WARS opens December 4th.

Zilla's Copyright Icon

Copyright Icon Zilla and GODZILLA 1998 T-Shirt Comparison

Zilla 2004-present's copyright icon's art comes from official artwork used for official "Godzilla 1998" T-shirts[7][8] and stickers,[9] meaning that they are undoubtedly the exact same character, at least in design.

A similar case is Godzilla's copyright icon--the Marvel Godzilla is used to represent the entire Godzilla character,[10] and "Godzilla 1998" represents Zilla in its copyright icon.

Matt Frank's Clarification

And for the record, Toho makes zero distinction between 'Zilla' and 'Godzilla 1998' except for title alone. Ever since 2004, Toho's official stance has been that any future incarnations of the character be referred to hereafter as 'Zilla.' „ 

Matt Frank explaining in a comment in his Godzilla: Rulers of Earth Issue 2 deviation on DeviantART.[11]

On May 9th, 2013, Matt Frank, a close friend of Toho's (and creator of Godzilla: Rulers of Earth), commented about the name change and confirmed that "Toho makes zero distinction between 'Zilla' and 'Godzilla 1998', except for title alone", meaning that the 1998 film is officially recognized by Toho as GODZILLA, but the creature from the movie is not, and it is recognized by Toho as ZILLA™.

Zilla Name Change Official Matt Frank DeviantART

The comment also means that the 2004 Zilla is an incarnation of the 1998 creature, and not a different monster or character in any way, shape, or form.

Chris Mowry's Interview

IDW: In Godzilla: Rulers of Earth, you're introducing an extremely controversial monster; can you explain who Zilla is, and what your take on the monster will be?

CHRIS MOWRY: Zilla, a.k.a. "The American Godzilla," first appeared in the 1998 film "Godzilla." You know, THAT one. Well, in what could only be a way to rinse that bad taste out of fans' mouths, in 2004's "Godzilla: Final Wars," the two finally met and that fight lasted maybe ten seconds. Since he's considered one of Toho's creatures, we really wanted to bring him into his first comic book appearance.


— The conversation between Chris Mowry and an IDW interviewer on the topic of Zilla's addition to the comic.[12]

On Thursday, May 23, 2013, IDW interviewed Chris Mowry, the main writer of the Godzilla: Rulers of Earth comic series. In the interview, Mowry stated that Zilla was first introduced in the 1998 American film and returned in Final Wars, and he wanted Zilla to appear in his first comic appearance.

Toho Does Not Recognize the 1998 Creature as "Godzilla"

According to Toho's official website (and Matt Frank's comment), they do not say that the 1998 creature is called "Godzilla," and only say that the movie is called "GODZILLA" (Because one company, Toho in this case, cannot change the title of a movie made by another company, TriStar in this case, even though Toho owns the rights to Godzilla. Movie titles aren't character Trademarks, so they can't be changed like character names can.[13] There is also an absence of media including the 1998 creature or his son or multiple offspring since 2005 (the cancellation of the 1998 "GODZILLA" Trademark), except for DVD and Blu-Ray re-releases of the 1998 film, which say that the "'GODZILLA' character and design are copyrights of Toho, and that they are used with permission." This means Sony is using the real Godzilla's trademark with Toho's permission for their 1998 film simply because of the film's unfortunate titling plus the monster being referred to as 'Godzilla' in the film.[1]

In addition, according to the above mentioned interview with Shogo Tomiyama and Ryuhei Kitamura, they explicitly said that they renamed the monster, not that they introduced a new one using Patrick Tatopolous' design of the 1998 monster. There is also an article by the same person, Penny Blood, where Ryuhei gives a reason to have renamed Zilla, and it was because the character took the "God out of Godzilla."[14]

Empire Magazine Article

In Empire Magazine's April 2014 issue based mostly around the 2014 film, Zilla 1998 is explicitly called by Zilla. The first time the 1998 character is explicitly called Zilla is in the "Size Matters - How Godzilla Has Grown Over The Years" size comparison image. Zilla is listed alongside the Showa, Millennium, Hanna-Barbera, Heisei, and Legendary Godzillas but under the name "Sony 'Zilla' [1998]". The second instance is in the Roland Emmerich interview under the "Why, Monster" section, where the magazine states that the character has been "striped of its 'God' prefix and left with just 'Zilla' for future Toho appearances."


Also See


This is a list of references for The Zilla Name Change. These citations are used to identify the reliable sources on which this article is based. These references appear inside articles in the form of superscript numbers, which look like this: [1]

  1. 1.0 1.1 Official Documentation from Trademarkia Showing the 1998 GODZILLA TradeMark has been cancelled 12/31/2005
  2. Official Documentation from Trademarkia Showing the 1998 GODZILLA Logo to have been Cancelled and Abandoned 4/20/2002
  3. Official Documentation from Trademarkia Showing the 1998 BABY GODZILLA Logo to have been Cancelled and Abandoned 4/27/2002
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Interview of Shogo Toriyama and Ryuhei Katamura, the men who renamed Zilla
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 Henshin!Online Archive (Look for the Zilla picture under the "GODZILLA FINAL WARS INTERVIEW: SHOGO TOMIYAMA" heading, around two-thirds down the page)
  6. GFW Update: Godzilla vs Zilla
  7. 27 Jul 2014 capture of a GODZILLA T-shirt eBay auction at
  8. 27 Jul 2014 capture of GODZILLA T-shirt eBay auction ended at
  9. Godzilla '98 stickers - Peanut Butter and Awesome
  10. Godzilla's copyright icon uses the likeness of Marvel's Godzilla to represent the entirety of the Godzilla character
  11. Matt Frank (Kaijusamurai) comments on the Zilla Name Change
  12. Godzilla: Rulers of Earth Interview with Chris Mowry
  13. Toho's GODZILLA 1998 page in Japanese and Toho's GODZILLA 1998 page in English, showing they do not ever say the CREATURE's name is "Godzilla"
  14. The article that shows that Ryuhei did rename Zilla (Look under the "Monster Alert!" section)
  15. Zilla -, the Kaiju Wiki and Tokusatsu Encyclopedia - NOTE: This is a translated page by Google Translate. Zilla is referred to as "Zillah" as of March 13, 2014.
  16. Baby Zilla -, the Kaiju Wiki and Tokusatsu Encyclopedia - NOTE: This is a translated page by Google Translate. Zilla is referred to as "Zillah" as of March 13, 2014.
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