Tomoyuki Tanaka

Written by Barney Buckley

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The actual creation of Godzilla was a combined collaboration of many talented people but in technical terms there is only one actual father of Godzilla. His name is Tomoyuki Tanaka. In fact Godzilla was the brainchild of this man without whom Japan and Japan’s Kaiju cinema likely would never have had this particular phenomenon.

Tomoyuki Tanaka was born on April 26, 1910 on the outskirts of Osaka in Yamanashi Prefecture and he was born into a wealthy family. It was when he was a very young boy that he fell love with silent movies and he would literally go out of his way walking miles just to go see a silent film in the theater at the local theater and spent afternoons just watching these adventures. Along he would also watch ninja stories and tragedies as well.

When he was just 14 years old he saw his very first American film and it was called “The Covered Wagon” which came out in 1923 and it was directed by James Cruze. This particular store was an early Western about the plight of settlers on the Oregon Trail and Mr. Tomoyuki Tanaka was so impressed by this particular film and its vivid cinematography that it did remain his top favorite film of all time. There was a particular point in time in his life that his parents literally disowned him for paying a little too much attention to his passions and that is film and acting over his own studies. Mr. Tomoyuki Tanaka went to Kansai University and he studied economics but his real dream and passion had always been for the stage and film acting. While he was at the University Tomoyuki Tanaka did in fact hook up with a drama troupe and he later joined the Shingeki which is comprised of modern drama and is also a Western-style theater founded in the early 1900s that broke away from Kabuki and other traditional Japanese dramas this particular theater was completely different than anything else in Japan.

Mr. Tanaka realized he only had average dramatic skills he then turned to producing and directing place in the 1930s. Tomoyuki Tanaka entered the film industry in 1941 he was hired by the Taisho Film Company this was a small Tokyo outfit that it indeed acquire by the Toho company the following year. From this particular point on his rise was very meteoric another interesting fact about Tomoyuki Tanaka is the fact that when he worked for the total company he did work in total literature department just briefly and Tomoyuki Tanaka was groomed by studio chief Iwao Mori to actually become what he had done until his death in 1997 and that was to become the producer of the Toho company.

The very first movie that Tomoyuki Tanaka would actually produce was a war drama and it was called “Until the Day of Victory” which came out in 1944, and soon after that it would follow with a handful of films before the end of World War II. After the war it would be from 1945 to 1948 that Tomoyuki Tanaka would make at least a half-dozen movies and this would include the movie “Those Who Make Tomorrow” this was codirected by Akira Kurosawa and that was done in 1946. The next film that he would actually produce would be “Over the Silvery Peaks this is also called “Snow Trail came in 1947 this particular movie was controversial prounion propaganda type film that was sanctioned by the Allies to bolster Japan’s labor movement, and the latter was another film that was a melodrama about bank robbers who escaped into the Japanese Alps or Japan Alps in this particular film did feature early appearances by superstar Toshiro Mifune and Godzilla star Takashi Shimura and this particular film of the very first though that had a musical score by the infamous musical composer Akira Ifukube.

By 1948 Tomoyuki Tanaka was among a group of producers and actors as well as other employees who left the Toho Company to protest the purging of 1200 supposedly communist workers and its crumbling relationships with the labor unions. For the next few years Tomoyuki Tanaka will work with the Society of Film Artists that by two directors that were exiled and their names were Kajiro Yamamoto and Akira Kurosawa who had eventually left the Toho Company. In 1952 Tomoyuki Tanaka would eventually return to the Toho Company as he was back by his old friend Iwao Mori. It would be to use later that he would actually create a monster!

It would seem that Tomoyuki Tanaka would give his directors free reign during the moviemaking process with the Toho Company special-effects films where Tanaka’s domain and he may pivotal decisions concerning the scripts as well as the marketing of these films. Tomoyuki Tanaka would introduce what is called a monster versus monster type movie and it was called Gigantis: the Fire Monster. He also capitalized on Russia’s 1957 launch of the Sputnik satellite and the ensuing interest in space travel with the movie called The Mysterians and that famous and classic film done by Ishiro Honda called Battle in Outer Space. Tomoyuki Tanaka also produce films like The H-Man, The Human Vapor, and the Secret of the Teligian.

Not here something a little bit interesting about Tomoyuki Tanaka as we go into talking about how Rodan came to be. Rodan originated as get this a dream so by doing this Tomoyuki Tanaka goes ahead and hires a professional sci-fi novelist Takahashi Kuronuma to pen an original story which the screenplay was based on. It seems that Tomoyuki Tanaka was particularly fond of writers who commission their stories other examples of this would be the film Godzilla, The Mysterians, Battle in Outer Space, Mothra and finally Attack Other Mushroom People.

It seems that Tomoyuki Tanaka wanted to keep Toho ahead of its competitors in special-effects, filmmaking, and his influence over the genre was all-encompassing. He also produce other types of films that included the works by director Akira Kurosawa this would include the film Yojimbo, Sanjuro, High and Low these would be three films that he would produce with our Akira Kurosawa. Tomoyuki Tanaka also was very adamant about exporting his films and traveling abroad and helping arrange and coproduce other films of foreign capitals as well as incorporating American actors by doing this this would increase the overseas marketability of his feature films.

It was during Tomoyuki Tanaka’s career that he would run into a few miscues in his long career it was his idea to make a Godzilla film but make Godzilla a hero and to increase his appeal to children and this would be a move that he would later regret. He believes that this particular character change would have been responsible for his decline and it was obviously a mistake as he told people magazine in 1985. But he would atone for it years later when he does in fact resurrect the beast as an infernal villain in the movie The Return of Godzilla which came out in 1984. He was also adamant and very serious about making a monster a serious threat once again.

Colleagues and friends were classified Tomoyuki Tanaka as a workaholic and a ferocious reader of newspapers and magazines from which he often gets his crazy ideals for films. Here is a little crazy thing that happened to Mr. Tanaka that he went to see Mr. Masumi Fujimoto who is a high-ranking Toho producer to get some project authorization Mr. Fujimoto glanced at the proposal and went straight to bed. This is what Mr. Tomoyuki Tanaka did. Mr. Tanaka waited patiently in the corner of the room and Mr. Fujimoto woke up several hours later and found Mr. Tanaka still sitting there in the corner. Mr. Fujimoto mentions to have “What in the World Are You Doing? I can’t even take a leak!” Then Mr. Tanaka answered “I will move it to you okay that project.” What persistence!”

Mr. Tanaka remained active in the movie business in his later years holding the title of executive producer on all of the 1990s Godzilla movies however his frail health for Santa hand most of the actual production chores over to his successor producer Shogo Tomiyama who in comparison, is grossly lacking in original ideals and tends to throw everything but the proverbial kitchen sink into the monster films, hoping to please everyone usually failing the latter days Godzillas were among the most successful domestic films in Japan which included these two films both Godzilla versus Mothra 1992 and Godzilla versus destroyed in 1995 they in fact top years box office charts concluding that Tomoyuki Tanaka’s long string of monster box office hits that begun for decades before.

Mr. Tomoyuki Tanaka died of a stroke at the age of 86 on April 2, 1997 in Tokyo just 16 months after Godzilla perished in Godzilla versus destroyed which came out in 1995. It was during the last few years of his life that Tomoyuki Tanaka was reportedly eager to see his monster child remade in grand style and a big-budget Hollywood movie. His dream in fact came my true year later right after his death but although TriStar pictures Godzilla 1998 was dedicated to Tomoyuki Tanaka’s memory perhaps it was better that he never saw the picture in the first place which fell short of its own vision and spirit it did not have the spirit of the Japanese Godzilla and there was so much hate based around this particular film that is a good thing that he did pass away because he would be rolling in his grave right now!


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