July 7, 2015
Eiji Tsuburaya’s 114th Birthday
The lights dim. Cameras start to roll. A film crew silently watches. Suddenly! From behind a hand-built skyline, a towering beast appears! Shaking off a layer of dust, the massive foam-and-rubber monster leans back to act out an amazing roar (the sound effect will be added in later). Then, stomping towards the camera, the giant moves closer, and closer, until…”Cut!”
Seen this film before? This live action genre, known as “Tokusatsu” (特撮) in Japanese, is unmistakable in its style, and still evident in many modern beast-based thrillers. In today’s Doodle, we spotlight one of Tokusatsu’s kings, Eiji Tsuburaya, the quiet pioneer who created Ultraman, co-created Godzilla, and brought Tokusatsu to the global cinematic mainstream. Doodler Jennifer Hom led us through the inspiration behind the interactive Doodle:
Who was Tsuburaya, and what drew you to create this tribute to him?
“Director Eiji Tsuburaya is best known for the famous characters he brought to life, like Ultraman. After many years in the ‘monster business,’ he set up his own practical effects studio, Tsuburaya Productions, which we were lucky enough to visit for this project! Having grown up as a film fan, I’ve always had a deep love for Tokusatsu, so I was eager to find a way to bring attention to Tsuburaya’s art. It’s fascinating to me how long-lasting the results of his work has been – it’s easy to see remnants of the Tokusatsu style in Guillermo del Toro’s Pacific Rim, Evangelion, and even the Power Rangers.”
The main set of Tsuburaya Productions, awaiting its monsters...
Back up a second...you visited Tsuburaya’s studio?
“Yes! We wanted to witness the studio’s production in person to be able to create an authentic filmmaking experience within our Doodle. Their construction process is incredible: all of their costumes and props are made by hand, in a secret studio. The workspace felt organized and messy at the same time, with each member having their own system behind which materials lived where. And there was a palpable respect for the tradition and legacy that they’re upholding through their craft.”
Tell us about the Doodle itself!
“Post-visit, I was resolved to make a Doodle that could show how fun, fast, and totally chaotic the Tokusatsu filmmaking process can be. This guided one of many, many rounds of brainstorming.”
Initial sketches and notes focused on ways to best capture the frenzy of Tsuburaya’s production style.
“While several of ideas revolved around a game format, I thought it would be more interesting and engaging to recreate the filmmaking experience from scratch – what better way to get an appreciation for the creative challenges Tsuburaya the director had to face?”
Early game-like ideas, like this sketch, eventually evolved into the filmmaking experience
One style exploration leaned towards a more dramatic Tokusatsu feel.
“After deciding to focus on the filmmaking process, we went to work defining the look of the monsters themselves and building out the quick tasks the user had to complete. Above all, we wanted to make sure the beasts were both charming and Googley, and that the mini-challenges were appropriately fun and frantic!”
Monster iterations were created within a Googley framework!
The mini-challenges illustrate the wide range of jobs necessary to create a Tokusatsu movie.
Doodlers Jennifer Hom & Mark Holmes on set, wearing masks to protect them from the special effects dust kicked up by monsters
Doodlers: Jennifer Hom, Mark Holmes, Olivia When
Animators: Sophia Foster-Dimino, Tony Papesh
Additional Art: Alyssa Winans
Engineers: Corrie Scalisi, Jonathan Shneier, Kris Hom
Producer: Gregory Capuano
Local Googler: Shun Ikeda
Music: Jesse Harlin