Just before the release of the King of the Monsters’ latest CG slugfest, a team of practical effects geniuses take the kaiju back to his roots.

In many ways, it’s a great time to be a Godzilla fan. 2016’s Shin Godzilla did a better job than any previous installment of presenting the kaiju as a legitimately terrifying force of destructive nature, the 2017-2018 trilogy of Japanese-animated Godzilla movies marked the screen icon’s first foray into anime, and the soon-to-be-released Godzilla: King of the Monsters looks like it’s finally going to “let them fight” by keeping its focus on spectacular giant monster battles.

However, for a certain type of Godzilla fan, these are dark times, because even though the franchise started out as a practical effects extravaganza, Godzilla himself is now, like most special effects, CG. But if you’re craving the OG Godzilla, the one that came to life not with computer expertise but with an intricate physical creation of the creature and scale-copy of the cityscapes he rampages in, we’ve got just the thing.

Toho, Godzilla’s original creators, recently decided to go old-school and produce their first practical-effects Godzilla video footage since Godzilla: Final Wars, which came out 15 years ago.

Yes, they spruced things up in post-production with some CG flourishes, but Godzilla himself is played by a man in a suit, and not just any suit, but a recreation of the original Godzilla design from his debut film in 1954.

The one-minute video, which doubles as an ad for Suntory’s Boss canned coffee, took 114 takes and 38 hours to film, with 105 crew members working on tasks including building 90 scale-model buildings for Godzilla to smash, all of which were designed to fit in with the 1950s Tokyo skyline.

▼ A behind-the-scenes look at the making of the video

But actually, the real star of the video isn’t Godzilla, but rather the spirit of Haruo Nakajima, the actor who portrayed Godzilla in a dozen films, including the 1954 original. While Nakajima’s job might seem more like play than work, it turns out that being Godzilla is like being Pikachu, in that it’s a much harder job than it looks like at first glance.

Yes, Nakajima got paid to stomp around and wreck model cities, but he had to do it all while wearing suits that could weigh as much as 100 kilograms (220 pounds) and got up to temperatures of 60 degrees Celsius (140 degrees Fahrenheit) on the inside. What’s more, working in the pre-Internet era meant that even most Godzilla fans had no idea who Nakajima was, since all of the actor’s his best movie moments occur when he’s wearing a full-body kaiju costume. And yet, Nakajima put his heart and soul into every performance, and in recognition of his legacy Toho and Suntory’s video salutes him as the atomic fire-breathing embodiment of the stoic work ethic and unceasing craftsmanship that Japanese society holds up as among the highest of virtues.

Sadly, Nakajima passed away in 2017, so that’s not him wearing the suit in the new video, but an actor portraying the legend in his younger days. Still, this summer, as you’re watching Godzilla rumble with other kaiju in King of the Monsters in all their shiny, modern CG glory, take a moment to reflect on how none of those giant monsters would be here without the guy who played one of the most famous movie characters of all time, and lived his life without most audiences ever seeing his face.

Top image: YouTube/サントリー公式チャンネル (SUNTORY)
Insert images: Suntory
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