In the decades since his first appearance in Ishiro Honda's Godzilla in 1954, the titular kaiju has become perhaps the most internationally recognizable movie monster of all time. It’s easy to see why because even with the limited special effects of the time, the crew made a monster that continues to unsettle audiences to this very day. Still, there have been so many sequels, adaptations, crossovers, retcons, and remakes of Godzilla that the allegory of nuclear power gone wrong at the heart of the franchise has somewhat blurred over time to be more a general statement on giant mutated reptiles being scary and not to be trifled with.
To wit, we have the Godzilla Hanna-Barbera animated series from 1978. On the surface, this should have worked out great. Kids love Godzilla, right? However, apparently, Broadcast Standards and Practices weren't too interested in a Saturday morning children's cartoon in which a giant monster was torching cars and knocking down buildings. The producers were forced to water down the violence inherent to Godzilla’s whole deal so the series could even be aired, leaving a barely recognizable green lizard in place of the terrifying being audiences had come to know and love.
What could save the Godzilla animated series, then, but a bumbling sidekick that added comic relief by causing more problems than the actual villains? In classic Hanna-Barbera fashion, enter Godzooky! Probably Godzilla's nephew or distant relative of some kind, Godzooky was introduced to this series only to completely disappear after it ended. For the two seasons the show ran, Godzooky was the primary plot device of the series and was prominent in very nearly every scene. He hung out with scientists and a bizarrely trusting child while traveling the world in a hydrofoil research vehicle doing Science!
Also, Godzilla was there the whole time, just hanging out, certainly not eating anyone or destroying any cities. No, sir!
Godzilla debuted on NBC Saturday mornings as the Godzilla Power Hour, paired with Jana of the Jungle and, later, Johnny Quest reruns. Given the shifting nature of cartoons at the time, it wasn’t long before Godzilla was being teamed up with various other series starring the Globetrotters and Hong Kong Phooey. At its heart, however, this was a touching tale of a monster and his distant relative trying to get by in this world, so there wasn't much in the way of crossover between the shows.
The premise of the series is that Godzooky is an infant who was discovered by the crew of a ship called the Calico while stuck in a coral reef. The crew decides they might as well keep Godzooky and for some reason, no one objects to this. They accidentally cross paths with many zany, one-off monsters with self-explanatory names, such as Firebird, the Magnetic Terror, and the Seaweed Monster. Though this all starts out as being fairly run-of-the-mill, there are some genuinely intriguing monsters as the show goes on. So-called Time Dragons that transport the crew to prehistoric times, a vanishing island, and a city in the clouds ruled by a malevolent monster are all interesting concepts that briefly show up in later episodes.
Godzooky appears to have been somewhat based on the kaiju Minilla, who debuted in Son of Godzilla. Like Minilla, Godzooky blows smoke rings instead of fire and is clumsy. Unlike Minilla, Godzilla does not train Godzooky and mostly glares disapprovingly at him. Frankly, Godzilla is kind of hard on the little guy. In classic Scooby-Doo fashion, Godzooky is (reasonably) terrified of the (much larger and scarier) monsters, which amuses the crew of the Calico but annoys Godzilla to no end. Imagining what the family dynamics of kaiju must be like is mostly baffling, but at any rate, Godzilla is not a big fan of Godzooky.
The Calico's captain, Carl Majors, is a bearded guy in a nice cardigan that refers to the other people on the ship as “you science types.” He also has a remote control that will summon Godzilla that is absolutely never explained. Where would one possibly procure such a device? We’ll never know. He shares his ship with the scientist Doctor Quinn Darian, her assistant and/or the first mate of the ship Brock, and Quinn’s nephew Pete, who everyone is okay with being in perpetual life-threatening situations. Pete becomes best friends with Godzooky, which is the best possible move he could make because no one is looking out for his or Godzooky’s welfare in the slightest.
As for Godzilla himself, there were some interesting changes besides just the ones that kept him from destroying entire cities. What longtime fans know as his Atomic Breath is just regular old run-of-the-mill fire, further reducing the initial implications of the connection between Godzilla and the fear in a post-atomic bomb world. Rather than being enraged and intent on making people pay after his underwater habitat was destroyed by human carelessness, this Godzilla exists in service to humans. As such, this series was a pretty big disappointment for anyone looking for a poignant metaphor on the dangers of atomic energy. In fact, Godzilla's primary role here is to save a group of humans that almost destroy themselves constantly. That's a different metaphor, but fairly apt, regardless. Godzilla appears to trust the crew of the Calico for their kindness to Godzooky, but he saves their lives at least once per episode, which is going pretty far above and beyond to repay them for babysitting. I have to question what exactly was going on with Godzilla on a personal level during this show — but that's a mystery for another day.
Well, if there's one thing we can collectively learn from the story of 1978's Godzilla, it's that you either die a legend or you live to see yourself inexplicably become the personal assistant of a bearded man in a nice cardigan on a show that is intended for a much younger audience than your initial premise would allow. Sure, this series didn’t have a whole lot of focus and it definitely meanders, but that isn’t so different from most cartoons of its era. As any Godzilla fan knows, you can’t win them all, but if you’re trying to introduce a small kid to the magic of the kaiju without permanently emotionally scarring them by revealing the deep trauma of Godzilla’s backstory, this series is probably going to be your best bet. Godzooky might not be the best kaiju, is almost definitely the worst kaiju, and maybe he neither contributed anything nor resolved the questions his existence posed — but, dang it, he was still family, and family means letting go of your differences and teaming up to fight giant bird monsters in hidden volcanos, sometimes.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author's, and do not necessarily reflect those of SYFY WIRE, SYFY, or NBC Universal.