Godzilla is an institution. Ever since he first roared onto the silver screen in 1954, this atomic-breath spewing kaiju has starred in over 32 films and launched a massive kaiju empire. Godzilla is a timeless character, and the franchise shows no signs of slowing down with Godzilla vs. Kong expected to hit theaters in 2021. Netflix has also announced that a new Godzilla anime, entitled Godzilla: Singular Point, will hit the service next year.
This Netflix show is far from the only time that Godzilla has moved from the big screen to the small screen. Since the character's inception, many different studios in both Japan and the US have tried many different ways to bring Godzilla into the medium of television.
Produced by the legendary Hanna-Barbera studio, Godzilla was an animated series that ran from 1978 until 1981 in both America and Japan. In the US, the show was packaged with several others in a block that NBC gave many different names over its run. These names included The Godzilla Power Hour, The Godzilla Super 90 and The Godzilla/Globetrotters Adventure Hour.
The series followed a group of scientists on a floating research vessel called the Calico. Aboard this vessel is Dr. Quinn Darien and her young nephew Pete Darien as well as Pete's best friend, the infamous Godzooky. Godzooky is Godzilla's cowardly nephew, effectively the Scrappy-Doo to Godzilla's Scooby-Doo (though Godzooky technically predates Scrappy by a year). Godzooky can't breathe fire like his relative. When he tries, only small rings of smoke come out. However, Godzooky can fly using his tiny little wings.
Each episode involved the team investigating a strange or mythical creature that was causing trouble somewhere in the world. If things got too tough, the Calico was able to activate a beacon that could signal to and summon Godzilla. In some cases, Godzooky would also call out to Godzilla for help. The show features all of the tropes you expect from a Hanna-Barbera show, and vastly deviated from Godzilla's accepted continuity. In interviews, Joseph Barbera said that this was because network standards and practices wouldn't allow them to include things like Godzilla stepping on cars or breathing fire at people.
Godzilla: The Series
Running from 1998 to 2000, Godzilla: The Series was a sequel to the 1998 American Godzilla movie. The studio had planned to make two sequels to the 1998 movie, but when Godzilla flopped at the box office, this series was created as a replacement for the canceled sequels.
The series follows the Humanitarian Environmental Analysis Team (H.E.A.T.) as they battle various monstrous threats around the world. They are aided in this fight by Godzilla. However, this Godzilla isn't the original, but rather one of the eggs left by the Godzilla in the 1998 film. Despite being hit with an aerial bombardment, one of the eggs somehow survived intact. This egg is found by Dr. Nick Tatopoulos (the character played by Matthew Broderick in the movie). As he recovers the egg, it hatches, revealing a baby Godzilla. The baby instantly imprints on Dr. Tatopoulos, presuming him to be its father.
While working with H.E.A.T. and defeating the other monsters, Dr. Tatopoulos tries to protect Godzilla from various people and governments who would seek to destroy or capture the creature. This version was closer to the original source material than Hanna-Barbera's attempt, and it features all the action you would expect from a late '90s Fox cartoon.
Running between 1997 and 1998, Godzilla Island was a collection of 256 episodes, each just three minutes long. The most striking thing about this series is its visual style. Rather than using monster suits or animation, all of the kaiju are played by Bandai action figures wiggled and controlled by unseen hands.
The show is set in 2097. In this timeline, all of the world's kaiju live on an island in the Pacific ocean, dubbed Godzilla island. This island is managed by the G-Guard. The leader of the G-Guard, Commander Besuke Jinguji, watches and monitors the kaiju from a base in the center of the island.
One day, a UFO lands on Earth. This UFO contains a Xilian alien called Zagres. She is a servant of the Giant Dark Emperor and has one goal, to completely take over the Earth, starting with Godzilla island. However, as Zagres commands her ship to attack, another UFO appears and stops it. This UFO is piloted by Torema, who says she has come to protect Earth from the Xilian invasion. So, the G-Guard and Torema set out to defeat Zagres. Over 22 story arcs, the kaiju of Godzilla island fight Zagres' kaiju army and try to save the world from the invasion. This show is known for featuring loads of kaiju, including obscure fan favorites like Jet Jaguar!
Once a week between October 1st and December 24th, 1992, TV Tokyo broadcast Adventure! Godzilland. This was an educational children's series designed to promote the then-upcoming film Godzilla vs. Mothra. At its core, Adventure! Godzilland was a trivia show. But it also featured interviews with the cast, short chibi-style animations and some musical numbers. The most famous of which was Godzilla So-Fa-Mi-Re-Do, which doubled as an aerobic workout. This song was released as a single and ended up on the soundtrack to Godzilla vs Mothra.
Adventure! Godzilland proved so popular that Toho would relaunch the series the following year, this time to promote Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II. Entitled Adventure! Godzilland 2, this series was very similar to the previous one, but it had a slightly higher budget and a slightly revised cast of characters. This franchise also received four OVAs, called Get Going! Godzilland. These OVAs were educational chibi cartoons, focused on teaching kids basic math and language.