Last month I attended Chicago’s G-FEST (Godzilla Festival) for the thirteenth year in a row – a lucky number for me as it marked the return of my eldest son, Alex, to the Godzilla fold. Back in 2004, when we first started attending, he was a six year old Godzilla-obsessed kid who’d later anticipate this event more than Christmas itself. That is, of course, until puberty reared its ugly head and whisked away all love of dinosaurs, spaceships, and the “King of Monsters” in favor of hanging with peers and militaristic video games like Call of Duty. Needless to say, I was taken aback when he requested to join my youngest son, Luke, and I for this year’s event. I’m thinking it might be his way of seeking past childhood comforts before he leaves for the Air Force Academy next month. Whatever the reason, it was great having him back as the Fuentes headed to Rosemont.
I remember growing up in ‘70s and having my own small turntable complete with a collection of “Disneyland Records.” These were usually the smaller 45 varieties that would recount the studio’s animated features and accompanied with a storybook that helped you follow along. You’d be signaled to turn the page whenever you heard Tinkerbell’s chime (or something like that). They helped see me through many a rainy day but, had I grown up on the other side of the Pacific, I’d of been far more enthusiastic for shut-ins! This realization hit me during one of the last forums I attended during G-FEST XXII when I learned that children growing up in Japan also had records and stories; only theirs featured Godzilla, Gamera, Ultra-Man, and just about every other kaiju imaginable!
On Saturday July 11th a gathering of Gamera (Japan’s 2nd most famous monster) fans celebrated the giant turtle’s 50th birthday! It was one of the highlights of this year’s G-FEST (Godzilla Festival) as the kaiju reptile was a favorite of mine growing up back in the ‘70s. Though I prefer reliving those films via Mystery Science Theater 3000 these days, I believe his 1995 return, Gamera: Guardian of the Universe, is one of the best in the genre. The “50 Years of Gamera” panel was moderated by August Ragone and Kyle Yount. This was another big draw for me as I’ve wanted to meet Mr. Ragone for some time now. His contributions to both the horror host realm as well as Japanese monster fandom is far too numerous for me to list here. Suffice it to say, we encourage everyone to check out and follow this Rondo Award winning writer/commentator on his own blog, The Good, the Bad, and the Godzilla. Yount moderates his own Kaiju themed podcast, appropriately named KaijuCast which you can check out HERE.
Many (if not all) of us adult Godzilla fans first became enthralled with the “King of Monsters” back when we were kids. Director Masaaki Tezuka is no exception; tracing his love for Japan’s greatest unnatural resource at the age of seven when his parents took him to see King Kong vs Godzilla. From then on he’d dream of one day making his own Godzilla film before finally seeing his ambitions realized nearly forty years later when TOHO Studios handed him the reigns of Godzilla vs. Megaguirus. He would go on to direct two more Millennium (1999 – 2004) Godzilla films and I remember my son and I anxiously awaiting G-FEST XI when we’d get a special big screen sneak peek of his last one, Godzilla: Tokyo S.O.S. Fast forward eleven years and Tezuka would become G-FEST’s Guest of Honor and participate in a two-hour Q&A with us fans. Here are some highlights from that momentous occasion…