The Scrapped Godzilla IMAX Short That Led To The MonsterVerse

05 -03-2024

Like any long-running series, there are many projects in the "Godzilla' franchise that were never realized. It is hard to think of a more significant scrapped Godzilla project than "Godzilla 3D". The short film was being developed in the early 2000s and was aimed at American audiences. The project never materialized, but the development indirectly led to creation of MonsterVerse, which began with "Godzilla", in 2014, and continues to this day.

So, how do we go from theatrically-released short film to blockbuster-sized, American-produced theatrical feature? The journey is messy and a bit heartbreaking for fans as well as one of the most original directors in the franchise. Yoshimitsu Banno, the director of 1971's 'Godzilla Vs. Hedorah', is to be credited. It remains one of franchise's strangest entries, but also its most acclaimed. This big-budget film is the story of Banno, who wanted to take the camera again to tell the tale of Godzilla and Smog Monster.

Banno wanted to make a "Godzilla Vs. Hedorah 2" for years but never got around to it. Toho put an end to the Godzilla franchise after "Godzilla: Final Wars", which was released with poor results in 2004. Banno saw an opportunity when he formed Advanced Audiovisual Productions. Banno, in an interview for Godzilla Fans Universe 2013, explained that:

I first began to produce a Godzilla IMAX movie with a running time of 40 minutes, after obtaining the TOHO permission to use 'Godzilla and 'Hedorah.' The commitment from Legendary Pictures allowed this project to become a major theatrical film.

Godzilla 3D: A Brief History

Banno's short film plan, which was to be around 40 minutes in length, evolved into a full-length film when Legendary Pictures joined as financial supporter/producer. How did Legendary become involved? How did Banno's initial plans differ from the final film by Gareth Edwards? Let's take a look at a condensed version.

Sci-Fi Japan ran down the development of this short in 2007. Banno signed a contract with Toho in the early 2000s that allowed him to produce a short "Godzilla". Toho agreed to not finance the movie, leaving Banno and other creatives partners with that responsibility. Toho was to approve the storyline, the character design, and all other aspects of the movie. They would also be responsible for the distribution in Japan. AAP will handle the sales in other parts of the world.

Banno had a first film idea titled, "Godzilla Vs. Deathla to the Max" with the original story completed in 2003. Deathla is a development of Hedorah. This would be the film that Banno had never made. At this point, the budget was estimated to be around $9 million.

In the years that followed, the story was revised several times. At one stage the battle was moved from New York after 9/11 to Las Vegas. Next, the film was called "Godzilla 3D to the Max." AAP and Whitecat Productions partnered in 2005. A website was created to help attract investors. In 2007, investors were still needed for the project, but its budget was now around $25 million.

Legendary Pictures is Godzilla 3D's downfall

Kerner Research was on board to produce "Godzilla 3-D". The title "to the Max", which had been dropped, became official in June 2007. They hailed what they thought was a very ambitious film, though the movie would only be 40 minutes.
"Godzilla 3-D will be designed to take full advantage of the composition, staging, and dynamic editing of original three dimensional photography. The film will also incorporate updated creature technology along with cutting edge motion capture and 3-D CGI animation to bring a more fluid and realistic energy to Godzilla. This will create more subtle facial moves and will allow the filmmakers to expand and enhance Godzilla's character."

Yet, the project was still in need of financial backers. That eventually led Banno and his team to Legendary Pictures, the company behind such hits as "300" and "The Dark Knight." But this is where Banno's movie as he envisioned it sort of fell apart. Legendary was interested in "Godzilla," but they wanted to produce a feature-length film. In March 2010, it was announced that the company had reached an agreement with Toho to develop a new entry in the franchise, which was to be distributed by Warner Bros.

Banno was credited as an executive producer on 2014's "Godzilla" but it in no way represented what he had in mind while developing his short. "Godzilla 3-D" was dead, and Banno's story ideas were bandoned along the way. What's interesting is that, as late as 2013, Banno was still intent on revisiting his contributions to the franchise. "I am planning the sequel of 'Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster' now," the filmmaker said in that same 2013 interview with Godzilla Fans Universe.

The MonsterVerse gives Godzilla new life

Yoshimitsu Banno passed away in 2017 and never got to see his dream of a "Godzilla vs. Hedorah" sequel realized. But he did, in a roundabout way, help to revive the franchise in a very meaningful way. Gareth Edwards' "Godzilla" may not have resembled Banno's vision, but it was very successful, pulling in $529 million worldwide against a $160 million budget. Yes, the movie proved divisive as it focused a lot on human POV to showcase the monster action, but it was a hit nonetheless. It also, without a doubt, was received far better than America's first attempt at "Godzilla" in 1998,

which was both a critical and commercial disaster.

While Edwards didn't stay with the franchise, moving on to make "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" instead, Legendary and Warner Bros. kept their partnership with Toho alive, releasing several other films over the years including 2017's "Kong: Skull Island," 2018's "Godzilla: King of the Monsters," 2021's "Godzilla vs. Kong," and the Apple TV+ series "Monarch: Legacy of Monsters." Dubbed the MonsterVerse, the franchise had pulled in nearly $2 billion at the box office to date, with "Godzilla x Kong: The New Empire" on the way this year.

Meanwhile, Toho has had success with homegrown entries as well. 2016's "Shin Godzilla" was a massive critical success and a commercial hit in Japan. But it was last year's "Godzilla Minus One" that proved to be one of the most heralded entries in the 70-year history of the franchise, finding huge success at the box office in North America en route to an Oscar nomination for visual effects.
It's the most prosperous time in history for "Godzilla" and it might not have happened if Banno hadn't so aggressively pursued that short film that never came to pass. And if "Godzilla 3-D" had been made, who knows? Maybe the MonsterVerse would've never come to be. For better or worse, Banno helped change the franchise forever.

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