Kaiju Profile: Showa Rodan
Written by Les, Koopa, Gomora, Astounding Beyond Belief, The King of the Monsters, Titanollante
Edited by Titanollante
Voiced by Goji Boy
First appearing in the 1956 Toho film of the same name, Rodan is a giant pteranodon kaiju and one of TOHO'S "BIG 5" alongside Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, and Mechagodzilla. In the character's debut film, there were two Rodans: a male and a female. Both Rodans were seemingly killed near their nest on Mount Aso at the film's climax, but in "Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster" (the monster's entry point into the Godzilla franchise), a single Rodan emerged from the site. Whether it was a surviving Rodan from 1956 or their offspring is unclear. Regardless, this kaiju reappeared throughout the remainder of the Showa series.
In the original movie, the two Rodans are depicted as horrific and dangerous creatures who, despite their destructive nature, care deeply for each other and are unwilling to live without the other. In "Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster," Rodan displays a great deal of personality, mocking Godzilla when the latter is covered in Mothra's silk and shaking his head in irritation after Godzilla fires his atomic breath at him. According to the translation of the monsters' conversation by the Shobijin, Rodan agrees with Godzilla's sentiment that he only hates humans because they hate him. He claims he has no obligation to protect human beings and prefers to continue his fight with Godzilla. In subsequent Showa series films, Rodan is a loyal ally of Godzilla who assists him in fighting off King Ghidorah.
Early concept art for Rodan had him appear more akin to an archaeopteryx, with large feathers protruding from its wings and a long, feathered tail, and assuming a more hunched, bird-like posture. This concept, however, was ultimately scrapped by director Ishiro Honda and a number of different models for the creature were constructed with a design more closely resembling the final product.
The original 1956 Rodans were portrayed through a combined use of suitmation and puppetry, with 60% of the film's budget going toward the special effects scenes. The original suit was tailored to the measurements of actor Haruo Nakajima's body. Because the suit's wings would have been exceedingly difficult to support with nothing but the strength of the arms of its actor, they were reinforced with a number of bamboo rods and partially operated by piano wires. An upper half hand puppet for close-up shots and a number of flying models at several different scales were also constructed to portray the monster(s).
Similar techniques would later be used in portraying the second generation Rodan in 1964’s "Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster," for which a brand new suit was modeled by Teizo Toshimitsu, and Kanju and Yasuei Yagi. In addition, new flying props were also created. For "Invasion of Astro-Monster," the 1964 suit was reused but modified. Notably, the head was given a new beak and the size of the wings was slightly increased. Several new scale models were also created of Rodan for the film. A ½ scale Rodan miniature was altered and reused several times in the following years, both for Tsuburaya-produced television shows and later by Toho to portray the Giant Condor in "Ebirah, Horror of the Deep." The 1964 Rodan suit was greatly repaired and partly remodelled by Teizo Toshimitsu for use in "Destroy All Monsters."
Rodan (1956): After millions of years of laying dormant underneath Mt. Aso, a Pteranodon egg was exposed to radiation from atomic bomb tests. Once the cavern where it was located was unearthed, it hatched into the irradiated Rodan. The newborn devoured all the Meganulon found within its chamber before taking flight. It found a mate in another Rodan and the two created a nest in Mt. Aso. They set out in search of food, and caused panic after they were seen all over Asia. Eventually one of the Rodans was discovered by the JSDF. Although the jets were able to keep up with the monster, their weapons had little effect on it. The monster entered Fukuoka and began to destroy it, when its mate came along. The two finished leveling the city and headed back. The next day, the JSDF launched an attack on the nest as the Rodans were roosting, triggering the eruption of Mt. Aso. Though one Rodan fled, the second one was trapped in the eruption and faced certain doom. Incredibly, the Rodan that had escaped turned around and let itself be consumed by the eruption in order to die alongside its mate.
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster: 8 years later, a single Rodan emerged from the crater of Mt. Aso, taking to the skies and flying off to parts unknown. Shortly after, Godzilla reemerged and came ashore at Yokohama, capturing Rodan's attention. The pterosaur flew overhead - his presence agitating Godzilla, who proceeded to give chase. The two kaiju engaged in skirmishes across Japan, eventually clashing at Mt. Fuji with neither gaining any advantage over the other. Mothra soon appeared and begged both of the monsters to join her in a battle against King Ghidorah, an evil space monster which had arrived on Earth. The two initially declined, Rodan specifically saying that he hated humanity and would just fly away from King Ghidorah. Mothra went off to face King Ghidorah alone, impressing Godzilla and Rodan enough to draw them into the brawl. As a result of the superbly-coordinated effort of the three Earth monsters, King Ghidorah was defeated and subsequently retreated into outer space.
Invasion of Astro-Monster: Sometime later, Rodan had gone into hibernation inside of a mountain. After the people of Earth agreed to lend Rodan and Godzilla to the inhabitants of Planet X to help them drive off King Ghidorah, Rodan was captured by the Xiliens and flown to their homeworld. Once on Planet X, Rodan battled King Ghidorah alongside Godzilla and was successful in driving off the space monster once more. After the astronauts Glenn and Fuji returned to Earth, it was revealed that the Xiliens intended to take control of the planet to use it as a colony. When the humans refused to comply, the mind-controlled Rodan, Godzilla, and King Ghidorah were let loose to ravage the globe. However, after the Xiliens' control over the monsters was broken, all three were temporarily knocked out. Once Godzilla and Rodan awoke, they engaged the space monster. In the end, the three all plummeted into the ocean, and while only the space beast emerged and flew off, the observing humans remarked that Rodan and Godzilla were both too tough to have been killed in such a manner.
Destroy All Monsters: Rodan was among the kaiju living on Monsterland at the end of the 20th century. When the Kilaaks invaded the planet, Rodan fell under their control and was sent to destroy Moscow. Afterward, he appeared in Tokyo and laid waste to the city along with Manda, Godzilla, and Mothra. The Kilaaks later called on Rodan to chase off the Moonlight SY-3 as it strayed too close to their Earth base in Izu. Eventually though, Rodan was freed from the aliens’ control, and assembled with the other freed monsters to launch an attack on the Kilaaks' Mt. Fuji base. As a last resort, the Kilaaks called upon King Ghidorah to battle the Earth monsters, with Rodan being one of the kaiju to enter the battle. However after being hit by Ghidorah's gravity beams, the pteranodon flew off until the space beast was defeated. Rodan was struck again and set ablaze when the Fire Dragon collided with him before flying off. After the Fire Dragon was destroyed, Rodan returned to Monsterland, where he remained to live in peace.
Rodan later went on to appear in "Godzilla vs. Gigan," "Godzilla vs. Megalon," and "Terror of Mechagodzilla" in the form of stock footage.
Flight: Rodan's top flight speeds clock in at Mach 1.5, or over 500 meters per second. When flying close to the ground, Rodan can generate shockwaves strong enough to demolish buildings and send vehicles tumbling. Rodan is also highly maneuverable; the Second Generation Rodan was able to make a 180-degree turn to ram the pursuing King Ghidorah in "Ghidorah, the Three Headed Monster."
Rodan is able to generate gale-force hurricane winds by flapping his wings. Though enormously destructive, they appeared to have little effect on neither Godzilla nor King Ghidorah.
One Rodan also emitted a wind breath from its mouth while attacking Fukuoka in its debut film. This ability, a byproduct of its irradiation, has not been demonstrated in a film since.
Physical Abilities: Rodan will utilize his beak to peck at an enemy in an attempt to stun them. He was also seen lifting giant rocks and the 20,000 metric ton-Godzilla into the air with his claws plus carrying the 8,000-ton Mothra Larva on his back.
Submerging:' Rodan can submerge underwater for brief periods of time and resurface shortly after, notably demonstrated in his debut film, when he completely submerges himself under the waters near Saikai Bridge to evade a fleet of fighter jets. This ability was also demonstrated in "Destroy All Monsters," when Rodan dives into the waters off Monsterland to catch a dolphin for consumption.
Durability: Rodan displays a significant measure of resistance to conventional weaponry, shrugging off practically all jet and tank missile fire sent at it. In "Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster," Rodan withstands multiple blasts of Godzilla's atomic breath at point-blank range with no noticeable effect, while in "Invasion of Astro-Monster," he is unfazed by being struck by a number of King Ghidorah's gravity beams. Rodan also quickly recovers from his brutal midair collision with King Ghidorah in "The Three-Headed Monster."
Intelligence: Rodan is able to coordinate with his allies in battle. He's carried Godzilla and Mothra closer to an enemy for an attack, and ducked behind cover to avoid King Ghidorah's gravity beams on multiple occasions (even deciding to flee from the battle at Aokigahara in "DAM"). Aside from showing off some sick volleyball skills, he's exhibited intelligent behavior such as expressing himself through body language and even translate-able, spoken language.
Writer Ken Kuronuma was inspired to create the story for "Rodan" when he learned of an incident in 1948 in which a pilot was killed after crashing into an alleged UFO. In the first draft of the script for “Rodan,” there was only one Rodan. This draft also featured Rodan being seriously wounded over Okinawa by American fighter jets.
While filming the original "Rodan," the wires suspending the Rodan suit snapped, causing suit actor Haruo Nakajima to plummet nearly 20 feet into a tank of water. The suit's wings and the depth of the water helped him survive the fall. Special effects director Eiji Tsuburaya reportedly commented afterward that it was "good that [he] didn't die; because I need [him] to finish the film."
Another accident involving the special effects was also kept in the finished film. While filming the climax, depicting both Rodans being consumed by the lava from the eruption of Mt. Aso, one of the wires controlling one of the flying Rodan puppets snapped. Filming continued, and the wire operator was forced to improvise the rest of the scene. By frantically attempting to pull the Rodan puppet out of the fire, the puppeteer made it look like the Rodan was making one final attempt to escape before finally falling into the lava below and dying alongside its mate. At first, Tsuburaya was worried that the scene had been ruined, but Ishiro Honda saved it with a minor tweak. "At first, there was just the regular sound of the monster, but we modified it to make it sound as if it were crying out for something. Without that sound, it just looks like Rodan is flapping around… sound effects made the difference."
That's all there is for the Showa Rodan - thank you for watching!