From The Simpsons To Shrek 2: A History Of Godzilla In Pop Culture

Image for From The Simpsons To Shrek 2: A History Of Godzilla In Pop Culture

Godzilla is everywhere. If he’s not on your computer screens (Mozilla Firefox) or your TV screens (reality show Bridezillas), he’s stomping around your local metropolis, kicking over the fire hydrants and waking up the children. He’s also firmly engrained in popular culture, getting hat-tipped all the way from Armageddon and back, as this surprisingly long list proves...

Seth Green and Matthew Senreich’s stop-motion Adult Swim comedy uses claymation, kids toys and old action figures to pop pop-culture bubbles in an enjoyably jerky fashion, and Godzilla is one of their favourite foils. At times, he can be a blundering brat who’s bad in bed, or one of many miniature lizard creatures rollerblading in formation around an ice rink, but he’s definitely a regular performer, and definitely an idiot (regularly).

Cult comedy show Mystery Science Theater 3000 – or ‘MST3K’ for short – had a very simple premise: a man and his robot sidekicks are imprisoned on a space station by an evil scientist and forced to watch a selection of bad movies as part of a psychological experiment. The screenings frequently preceded by short public-domain educational films, newsreels or serial dramas. Then, basically, a trio of funny folk take the mick out of terrible old movies, and you get to watch. Needless to say, Godzilla makes more than a few appearances.

In almost every one of the 222 Roseanne episodes made, there is not one but two Godzillas to be found. The easiest-to-spot looms above the fireplace (or in later seasons, sits on a shelf). This was a set-dressing gag that extended to studio stablemate Home Improvement, where the plastic pal was also seen but not as often. When the rating-smashing show finally wrapped up, Roseanne Barr, the star of proceedings, kept the fireside figurine.

Sometimes, you need a hero, and sometimes, that hero comes in the form of a 30-storey gingerbread man with a silly voice and sweets on his chest. And it’s when one of these chest sweets gets knocked onto the floor that Mongo lets rip a roar worthy of Toho’s finest. It almost drowns out Jennifer Saunders' cover of Bonnie Tyler’s ‘Holding Out For A Hero’, which makes the kaiju’s clarion call all the more wonderful.

The Pokémon universe’s loving homage to Godzilla is Tyranitar, one of the strongest creatures in the game. A large green reptile who sets off earthquakes when enraged, it’s even been known to turn into a metal version of itself, which might will definitely remind some people everyone of Mechagodzilla.

Given that The Brain’s impossible dream of taking over the world is so impossible, and that the genetically-mutated mouse is so determined to explore every possible avenue to make it happen, Pinky’s growth to building-squishing heights was bound to happen eventually. Arguably, the gigantic Godzilla suit was inevitable too. Later, Brain turns into a Garganubrain himself, with a view to “defeating” Pinky and having the world bow down before him. What The Brain didn’t account for was the appearance of the actual Godzilla – as “Gollyzilla” in the Animaniac universe – or, as ever, Pinky’s stupidity. “Hello, I am a rampaging monster. Narf!”

Applying reason to South Park is like applying peanut butter to your forehead: pointless. Marvel, then, at the preposterocity of Barbra Streisand transforming into a gargantuan robot dinosaur version of Barbra Streisand. The robo-beastemoth is known as ‘Mecha-Streisand’, and Mecha-Streisand fires missiles from her Mecha-breasts, because... because... well, she’s Mecha-Streisand - what do you want from us? She is ultimately defeated by The Cure’s Robert Smith, who turns himself into a Mothra-alike giant moth monster to do so, thereby explaining 'The Caterpillar' in the process.

On December 10, 2000, a Malcolm In The Middle episode called High School Play aired. In it, Hal and Dewey build a gigantic Lego city, only to have mum Lois storm in and accidentally tear down all their brick work. Needless to say, the director slowed down the footage and distorted her voice to make it extra Godzilla-y, an effect helped by the electricity pylons – read 'fairy lights' – she takes down with her. Fourteen years later, Bryan Cranston would have something else to do with The King Of Monsters...

If you’re not a fan of ribaldry, do not click play. If you dislike fanciful descriptions of certain parts of the human anatomy or the sight of Dave Chappelle having sex with an active volcano, do not click play. Basically, unless you’re exceptionally brave, do not click play. If you do click play, know that you’ve expanded your knowledge of Godzilla-related nonsense beyond the call of duty, and we salute you for it.

The 2013 edition of your favourite city-planning simulator comes with a variety of disasters available to plague your perfectly-crafted conurbation, such as flooding, hurricanes and giant lizards that breathe fire. Their official term for such reptiles is not Godzilla, but to all intents and purposes, it’s Godzilla – even if it’s red and yellow and eats garbage. Unlike the real thing.

Rugrats In Paris: The Movie is the second feature-length Rugrats film, and, as you’d expect from a movie involving a tumble of toddlers tearing about Paris, it centres on a giant robot lizard that climbs the Eiffel Tower. Reptar is the name of the metal beast and it’s roaming France’s capital after something goes rather wrong at EuroReptarland, the amusement park it usually calls home. Somehow the kids end up controlling it and carnage ensues. Gone are the days when Reptar was just a mascot for children’s cereal, it seems.

If it weren’t for the future star power of Demi Moore and John Cusack, this mid-‘80s teenager-titillating romantic comedy would have faded into total obscurity. But also helping it rise from the swamp of forgettable cinema is this enjoyably bonkers scene featuring Bobcat Goldthwait in a Godzilla suit smashing up a model village after someone tosses a lit cigar in his mouth. The name of Goldthwait’s character is Egg Stork, which tells you pretty much all you need to know about the film otherwise.

When E. Honda (sumo wrestler) and Zangief (Russian wrestler) actually manage to, well, wrestle in the cinematic adaptation of the beat-‘em-up gaming series Street Fighter, it’s quite the sight. This is down to director-cum-screenwriter Steven E. de Souza (of Die Hard, Die Hard 2, Commando, The Running Man, 48 Hours, Beverley Hills Cop 3, Judge Dredd, The Flintstones and Hudson Hawk fame) deciding to make the brawl a Godzilla pastiche, something we still can’t get our heads around, two decades after the fact.

You might expect an athlete with the nickname "Chuck" – and, as it happens, “Sir Charles” and "The Round Mound of Rebound" – to appear in ads for Converse Chuck Taylors, but no! Multimillionaire ‘90s basketball player Charles “Chuck” Barkley stuck with Nike for his shoe sponsorship gigs, ending up in an ad with a man in a rubber suit. Turns out Godzilla is crap at dunking. When you think about it, that's not surprising given those big scaly fists of his.

Toho Co., Ltd. is notoriously protective of its properties, with anyone attempting to cash in on Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Mechagodzilla or Rodan facing the legal equivalent of all five mega-monsters combined. This has left it wide open for parody, which explains a delightfully meta gag halfway through Goldmember offering a great fourth wall-breaking moment from Heroes’ very own Masi Oka. What it doesn’t explain is Fat Bastard, but then nothing explains Fat Bastard.

When you put Pee-wee Herman in the middle of the Warner Bros. lot, you have to expect something a little silly: Pee-wee dressing up as a nun; Pee-wee riding his bike through several sets; Pee-wee interrupting a Tarzan movie; Pee-wee crashing someone’s boat; Pee-wee crashing into Godzilla. It is the natural and inevitable result of Pee-wee's very existence in such a film-crammed space.

There’s a French metal band called Gojira out there, and a rather twee musical ensemble called Ballboy have released a song with the title ‘Godzilla Vs. The Island Of Manhattan (With You And I Somewhere In-Between)’, but the one song everyone thinks of when they think of Godzilla songs – aside from the dangerously catchy Hanna-Barbera cartoon theme – is Blue Öyster Cult’s ‘Godzilla’. All together now, “Oh no, there goes Tokyo... go go Godzilla!”

The ninth incarnation of the Hanna-Barbera Saturday morning cartoon franchise, What’s New, Scooby Doo? begs the question: “What’s new, Scooby-Doo?” You’d hope Shaggy & Scooby-Doo Get a Clue!, the series that followed it, had the answer. But before that a robot dog, as seen in this particular episode, Big Appetite In Little Tokyo, definitely counts as something new. It also features a 30-foot version of Shaggy known only as “30-Foot Shaggy”, designed as a direct Godzilla parody. It’s scary, but probably not in the way the creators intended. At least it wasn't Scrappy Doo. That would be truly horrific.

During Tim Burton’s B-movie blasterpiece Mars Attacks!, a clip of the film Godzilla Vs. Biollante is shown, and because it’s so damn weird, it’s deserves a mention here. You can read more about the 1989 cult classic over in this direction, but just as a teaser: the enemy Biollante was the brain child of a dentist called Shinichiro Kobayashi who sent in his script idea after Toho asked the public for suggestions. Oh, and Biollante is part-plant, part-human... the ultimate foe. You can see why it would appeal to Burton's sense of the weird, and fit with his chlorophyll-rich Martian madmen.

The Simpsons Godzilla References

Matt Groening is a HUGE Godzilla nut, and with 550-plus episodes in the bag, more than a few mentions of the world’s friendliest destruction service have made it onto the neverending show. In the Season 7 episode Treehouse Of Horror VI, there’s a segment called ‘Attack Of The 50-Foot Eyesores’ where the giant Lard Lad statue is Godzilla-fried by a bolt of lightning and goes on to wreak mayhem about Springfield wielding his massive doughnut. In Season 10, there are two episodes that feature the creature: Mayored To The Mob, where Godzilla is seen signing posters at the Bi-Mon-Sci-Fi-Con, and Thirty Minutes Over Tokyo, where Gamera, Rodan, Mothra and Godzilla interrupt The Simpsons’ flight home.

In Season 11, one of Homer’s ideas for his college homecoming float is “Godzilla Vs. Superman”, which he presents to Lisa as a doodle. Lisa replies with, “I think Godzilla is bigger than Superman.” Most recently, in Season 20’s Wedding For Disaster, Homer calls Marge “Bridezilla” and Marge calls Homer “King Wrong", leading Maggie to imagine her mother as a large reptile and Homer as a aggressive ape.

If you're a genetically-engineered monster programmed to head to the nearest large urban centre and cause destruction, it's hard when you find yourself on a small Hawaiian island with no major cities. Experiment 626, or Stitch as he becomes known, deals with this hardship by building a small city out of books and toys and rampaging through it like the giant monster he definitely isn't (jump to 1:07 for that). It's more adorable than terrifying, but we appreciate the effort he went to in order to cause havoc.

The story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one son who had no choice but to keep them all together has many obsessions: banana stands, chicken impressions and The Blue Man Group to name but three. Another one of Mitch Hurwitz's running gags concerns The Lizard King himself, as the horrible howls heard above prove. There's also an elaborate gag in a third season episode that sees David Cross in a mole suit smash up a model village as a group of a Japanese investors stare on, aghast. Then Michael Cera rocks up wearing a rocket pack and things really get out of hand - just the way Godzilla likes it.

Crank The Second took the original Crank and made what was already quite off-the-chain infinitely off-the-chainer. This is a film that sees Jason Statham electricify himself on a regular basis, and ends with him on fire, swearing at the camera. All this insanity can mean the totally unexplained fantasy sequence in the middle of the film slips between the cracks in your brain - but we're here to help. Enjoy, then, this three-minute mobster mash-up, where a grotesque version of The Stath does battle with an equally big-headed baddie and NOTHING MAKES SENSE.

A relatively subtle one, this, as there are no scaled monsters or clearly discernable roars, but when Simon Skinner (Timothy Dalton) and Nicholas Angle Angel (Simon Pegg) face off at Sanford's model village, the sound design definitely feeds into the Toho esthetique. The water spraying over them as they scrap helps with the mood, and everyone remembers that Godzilla movie where King Ghidorah has all three of his heads skewered by a church spire, right?

futurama godzilla

Then, of course, there's The Simpsons' sci-fi sibling, which in one episode has loveable out-of-time delivery boy Philip J. Fry attempt a holophoner opera - a holophoner is a musical instrument that produces both sound and images, by the by - but fail kinda-sorta horribly. Godzilla appears, and everyone looks like they got dressed in a bin using the contents of said bin (which would have been fine if Zoidberg was involved, but hey).

Do you like to chew it, chew it? Well, do you? This is the question that the early '00s reboot of the "classic" Chewitsaurus Chewit adverts asked, taking the jawesome giant that once littered '80s TV sets - a man in a rubbery suit, chewing rubber - and turning it into a cartoon. Set to the tune of Reel 2 Real's 'I Like To Move It', it has the sugar-obsessed shantungosaurus skating about a city on a pair of red double decker buses, and everyone seems to be loving it. It's a HUGE HULKING MONSTER, SMASHING UP YOUR STUFF! Oh, it's eating some sweets? Ace.