SDCC 2019: Interview with TOHO Head of Project Development Akito Takahashi

Concept Art for Godzilla: King of Monsters -
Concept Art for Godzilla: King of Monsters - /

At this year’s San Diego Comic-Con, we had the opportunity to interview TOHO’s Head of Project Development Akito Takahashi to discuss Godzilla’s first-ever official appearance at the Con.

For anyone unfamiliar with the name, TOHO is the Japanese parent company which has been developing Godzilla movies for the past 60 years. They’ve continued to expand their brand on every platform possible, and are now reaching out to one event that is filled to the brim with fans crazy for the legendary Kaiju.

To celebrate the 65th anniversary of Godzilla’s very first film, TOHO brought a major presentation to San Diego Comic-Con 2019. The booth, specifically, included a retrospective look at 65 years of developing the iconic monster — as well as a live mural painting by Shinji Nishikawa. A few posters for the Godzilla Mobile Defense Force game were also strewn about.

I got to speak directly with TOHO’s Head of Project Development Akito Takahashi for an in-depth conversation on what the next cinematic features have in store. Takahashi wasn’t able to reveal much as TOHO’s partnership with Legendary Pictures — the studio that oversees America’s version of Godzilla — is limited, though we did touch on some rather interesting talking points. You can check out the entirety of our interview with TOHO’s Head of Project Development below.

Hidden Remote: What does the future of Godzilla look like after Kong Vs. Godzilla?

Akito Takahashi: So in terms of the movies, we don’t have anything specific to share at this point. There’s a huge production going on next year, that’s sort of where we’re at right now. But in terms of where Godzilla may be headed, there will be a lot of new creations, new touchpoints for fans, so we’re very excited to see what’s going to come next.

There might be something coming out from Japan, there might be something from the United States, there might be a collaboration, we’re unsure. We’re excited to know as well.

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HR: Are there any Japanese films currently in development?

Takahashi: There’s always conversations that keep happening, like the “Making of the movies”, those conversations never really stop, so it’s a continual conversation, but at this point, we don’t have anything else to add.

HR: As far as Godzilla: King of the Monsters goes, the movie ended with the Titans bowing to Godzilla. Is this going to present a challenge for Kong and Godzilla’s coexistence?

Takahashi: Although it’s the same character of Godzilla, as well as the same studio — Legendary — producing those movies, it’ll be a different director so there’s a huge chance that this is probably going to be a separate storyline that has nothing to do with this one [KOTM] because it’s not created by the same people. So it’s not so much gonna be a sequel, and Godzilla never really does any sequels, they just do different types of Godzilla. And again, it’s gonna be in the “eye of the beholder” of the creator, of the director, so that’s sort of the way it’s been done in Japan, and we’re starting to see some of the same being done in the U.S.

And, the last scene you described in KOTM, the title encompasses the whole view: Godzilla is that King. That’s not TOHO’s opinion. That’s my take on the scene so I just wanted to note the difference there.

HR: Could you maybe shed some light on the misconception that all these different Godzilla movies are directly connected?

Takahashi: So that’s the franchise that America has created with movies’ universes like the Marvel series, but that’s not the way the Godzilla universe is gonna be set up. It is, however, a sequel to the 2014 movie, in like the broadest way, as some of the recurring characters are coming back in.

But in terms of the product itself — like where the story ends — I believe the story ends where the movie does, and then there’s a different story that starts off with the similar type of characters involved. Because the way it’s been done in Japan, it’s always been one story per movie, and there are layovers in different characters, and others can be brought back, but it’s slightly different from the American format.

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HR: Can you say anything towards Kong’s appearance in the upcoming film: Kong Vs. Godzilla (2020)? Will he be larger, in general?

Takahashi: Our staff hasn’t seen any of the visuals yet so there’s nothing we can add. The movie is also still in production so we’ve only seen the scripts. Our boss has been traveling to the United States and is content with his findings, so the TOHO team is very excited to learn any new information as well.

HR: Do you know if any of the human characters introduced in KOTM will appear in Kong Vs. Godzilla next year?

Takahashi: There probably will be some crossover from the previous films, again, that question is best directed to Legendary Pictures, but there might be some new characters as well.

HR: Has Legendary spoken with TOHO about integrating elements from the Japanese version into the American franchise in development?

Takahashi: At this point, those conversations aren’t really happening. Legendary has its’ own vision of how they want to create their Godzilla platform, TOHO does come in, and makes sure it’s streamlined to ensure Godzilla characters are treated correctly. But at this point, we think it’s very important for Legendary to develop their own version of Godzilla, and we highly support them from Japan as well.

HR: Will there be anymore animated movies, like the ones previously released on Netflix?

Takahashi: Not specific to that series of movies, but as far as the animation format goes, absolutely. We believe there’ll be some exciting content around that as well. We’re not quite sure if the next installment will be a sequel to the trilogy currently streaming on Netflix, there’ll probably be a different type of story within the animation format.

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For more information on TOHO and everything Godzilla-related, check out the newly established Kong Vs. Godzilla is scheduled to be released on Mar. 13, 2020.