Noriyaki Yuasa

The Man Behind Gamera

Written by Barney Buckley

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Who may Gamera famous or actually created the flying turtle Gamera? And the answer lies within the man that we are going to talk about his name is Noriaki Yuasa. There will be several questions that will be asked and then they will be answered in fashion.

The very first question that most people are curious about when it comes to Noriaki Yuasa and how he got started in the film business working for the Daiei film company.

You would answer elegantly that his father was an actor and a lot of the production that he was involved in was originally with the company Daiei Film Company. Now for Noriaki the opportunity literally jumped in his lap as he immediately became a director right away. At that point in time there was another man in charge of the Daiei Film Production Company. This particular man did not like to take chances with people he didn’t know who does really. He was deathly more interested in the people that he could trust and being the son of an actor who he knew just gave me that opportunity.

The next question I was given to Noriaki was the fact that Godzilla did in fact appear on the silver screen in 1954 and Gamera appeared 11 years later and during this time the question that was asked to Noriaki was he interested in Kaiju type movies and did he have an opinion on them and did you ever think that Noriaki would actually get involved in the very likes of Kaiju.

It was in between the release of Godzilla and the birth of Gamera that Noriaki and his boss at that time Mr. Nagata was at that time in America flying back to Japan and from the window of the airplane the shape of a cloud over the ocean made him think of a flying turtle. When Mr. Nagata finally reached Japan he did in fact gather at least 40 of his producers at the company and pretty much said that the Tahoe companies make a lot of money off of that Kaiju they call Godzilla. Mr. Nagata pretty much said “We Got to Do Something Ourselves.” Noriaki was approached by Mr. Nagata with a script and Noriaki pretty much gave him his opinion on how a flying turtle might be realized on the silver screen and this is how I got started.

The next question I was asked to Noriaki was did Noriaki ever see any of the Godzilla movies and what did he think of them?

It wasn’t until he was put in charge of the Gamera movies that he did not see any of Godzilla movies or ever watched any of the Godzilla movies. Noriaki did in fact call the telephone company and ask if they could watch any other Godzilla films and they said no (laughs) they pretty much told Noriaki if you want to see any of the Godzilla films you have to go to the movie theaters and watch it just like anybody else. Noriaki also mentioned that what really stood out after he saw this movie was the actual creation of Godzilla signature roar was created by an instrument he thought that was the most amazing thing and to this day he still remembers that.

The next question that was asked of him how was the voice of Gamera created?

Noriaki said that it was actually created using both recording animal sounds and human voices. He also said that they tried to time the type of voice sound to what was going on in the movie, so during a time of action we add emphasis to the voice, as opposed to the time when he was just simply walking. All sorts of noises were collected, they even use the sounds of someone walking in geta which is wooden Japanese shoes at that time.

The next question I was asked to Noriaki was the concept of Gamera did you in fact fight for the director’s chair for this film and can you tell us how you got chosen for this particular project?

Noriaki did in fact say that there was a lot of things that they had to consider before getting Gamera going. There is one thing that a lot of people do not know is the fact that the total company has been making a lot of special effects were movies for the government of Japan especially having to do with the military, so they were very good at that such type of movie. But the Daiei film company had not been going into the special effects film up to that point. Noriaki’s boss Mr. Nagata also did mention he likes horror films and he did in fact say we need to learn how to do the special-effects that is a must. Now the reason that I think I became the director of the Gamera film is that I was the youngest so they didn’t have to pay me as much (laughs) he also mentions that there are a lot of new ideals about this things that I had to figure out along the way. Also I like to mention if I didn’t do well I could be the scapegoat (laughs)

The next question I was asked to Mr. Noriaki Yuasa what was the most difficult challenges that you had to face and did you in fact have to get help from other people in order to solve the problem?

Noriaki pretty much says that none of us had any experience so there’s always disagreements all the time. Which kind of gave me the feeling that we might not be able to accomplish anything and Iris pretty much learning things as I went along. The one thing I like to mention is I like to go to different developing laboratories to see what it took to develop a film and what it took to add other elements or to remove them to edit it. This perhaps is probably my biggest challenge but I kept at it every single day so I learned at a very quick and rapid pace.

The next question I was asked to Noriaki is who designed the monster suits for Gamera’s enemies and what sort of thing were you looking for when you created the enemy monsters?

There was a certain amount of hesitation when it came to actually creating the monsters no one want the responsibility if the project didn’t succeed. The main thing about the suits or the creation of the suit is my concern was the fact that it fit the actor well and not restrict his movements too much. Also I wanted them to look evil but the actor inside was always a consideration. For example initially we’re on was a stand up on his hind legs but we found that the rigid nature of the blade like suit didn’t allow the actor to move very well in the suit if you were to stand up. So we decided to have we’re on crawl on all fours to increase his mobility. He was a good follow because he look like a sharp knife or guillotine something that would be dangerous for children to play with. However once we did get started creating the suits tons of ideas came out for creating new enemies and many suggestions that never made it onto the screen.

The next question for Noriaki was asked does he have any personal favorites among the enemy monsters, ones that work really well and that you thought looked really good?

And his answer was he love them all.

The next question that was asked of Noriaki was there a rival between the Toho Company in the Daiei Film Company?

Noriaki’s reply was there really wasn’t that big of a rivalry just as Scott-San is “my sensei” when it comes to Annie’s English-speaking Godzilla was sort of Gamera sensei which makes sense.

Noriaki was asked a question was there any unusual mishaps or accidents on the set involving the monsters, which you can recall?

It was during the first movie, because of the way we had to use the fire coming out of Gamera’s mouth and the difficulties we had with making him fly we were really able to accomplish all that much. But by the second film there was something I remembered we did in fact have to fill the Kaiju scenes at about four times the normal camera speed we had to get the timing of the lighting the fire and then ejecting it just right. A lot of the times the children and others who were on the set would laugh a lot because we’d be all set up for bakeshop and then this tiny little spurt of flame would be all that comes out of its mouth that would happen many times and they always got on my case about it because it looks so funny, so we had to get this time he absolutely right especially the flame affects just to get on the work perfectly.

There was also another scene in the first hour Gamera went to knock down Tokyo Tower but it fell down on its own. It’s very difficult to re-create the elaborate models is something like that happens and everyone would get upset. In the movie Gamera versus Barugon at one point Barugon was supposed across a bridge with a series of explosions going off right behind him, but the explosives guy accidentally wired them in reverse so they started going off in front and under Barugon feet! So Barugon was screaming out! Out! As the explosions went off in his face. The guy who was setting them off wonder what happened so we popped up from behind for law, right in the middle of the scene, and we couldn’t salvage anything from that shot because of the situation!

For Gyaos we have always argued over what his laser beam or Ray would look like. He was very expensive to insert the laser beam as it nearly cost $1000 per shot so that was always a point of contention.

The next question I was asked to Noriaki is why they use fire for Gamera rather than any animated flame and did not cause a dangerous for other monsters that were often sprayed by it?

Noriaki had set according to the Daiei film company they did in fact did not have an optical printer to do any kind animated race so they had to go “out of house” to do that sort of thing. So the entire staff got together and try to figure out how we could take care of this on the set, without having to go outside the studio. The big problem was that the fire is very dangerous and when a man in a suit there was the potential to burn his head off. So we made a special Gamera head that we just used for the fire scenes so there was never anyone inside the suit at any given time when he sprayed his fire. There was a point while we were shooting the Gamera head seems we didn’t always know how far it was going to shoot, so everyone had to be ready to jump out of harm’s way. It made the scene very exciting (laughs)

As it was written and read in the magazine G-Fan it was said that you try to make Gamera spin but you couldn’t do it so intern you use animation to make Gamera spent his first movie. But by the second film you managed to solve that problem on wondering how you actually accomplish the spinning without having to actually wobble?

Noriaki goes on to say it was during the first movie they did not have the technology or the tools to do it. For Gamera versus Barugon we were able to create a machine that was hung by piano wires that would spend the camera as it took the picture. So actually Gamera was just sitting still while the camera spend audiences murmured at this revelation. It got to the point when they continually did this that it finally got to the point where they had so many cameras involved that we were sure that the wires would have broken but fortunately that never happened.

The next question I was asked to Noriaki was a reference to the financial difficulties of this company and this is what they had to say could we assume that if Daiei had not had financial difficulties would you have been happy to make more Gamera films. And if so, could you share some of the ideas that you might have done if the series would have continued?

Noriaki’s answer is yes he definitely would have done more Gamera movies but because of Daiei’s trouble did prevent him from doing that so he was never really able to achieve his final goals with Gamera and if the opportunity ever arose again he said I’d love to make more movies!

The next question is pretty amazing as well as shocking Noriaki was asked a question are you surprised to find so many people here in the West truly enjoy your movies and of course here in Japan, Gamera has an enduring popularity. Does this apprise you or did you think that Gamera was just a character that would have endured?

This is one Noriaki had to say he was extremely very surprised that there were so many fans of Gamera and other colleges in America and he found that really great. The Japanese soundstages are generally much smaller than those in US so we have to do many things to get wide shots one technique that used was to make the monster smaller and smaller to create the illusion of more space around them in which to fly or whatever. So when the Daiei film company went bankrupt we had many different sizes of Gamera and other monsters from really smallest a very large ones. But the staff was so upset about Daiei situation that HR cameras express all the monster props if I have been able to say that I would have loved to get them as presents to the fans in America. But it is very nice to find that Gamera still popular in the West and that is a crying shame that they busted up all those props!

The next question is probably the most sensitive all questions. It was asked to Noriaki have you seen the three recent Gamera films if so what is your opinion on them?

After the Daiei film company went bankrupt Mr. Takahashi to whom Daiei owed a lot of money to got very upset. He wanted to talk to the president of the Daiei Company and said what are you going to do about my money? So what happened is the little he ruled out a contract and handed over all the rights to Gamera to Mr. Takahashi. He was happy with that and try to obtain funding for a new movie but had difficulty finding a suitable staff, so we gave up the idea for a while. This was the beginning of the new Gamera series. Eventually found some new people and brought in new blood to get things going once again. As for the new movie Scout yes I’ve seen them I heard that the director Shesuke Kaneko was at G fast in 1999 in Los Angeles and that is where he met him there.

He told me that he attempted to take the parts he felt were left out of the old film and add them into the new ones. I thought at the time that there were still some parts missing but I didn’t say that to Mr. Kanika but as far as a special effects go the CGI etc. it’s a lot higher level done very well. One thing I regret is that there’s not much focus paid to children part as it seems he is a friend of children Mr. Noriaki Yuasa he does mention that the trilogy is more of the all oriented and not so much for children he did in fact wish they would go back to a more child friendly environment which in fact they did in the 2006 Gamera movie.

Another question I was asked to Noriaki was the fact there was another Gamera we plan to be made it was called Gamera versus Garasharp can you elaborate on that?

Is nor the old days of Japan there was a form of stage entertainment where the actor will show pictures on paper and tell a story to go along with them that’s how I take the ideals to the boss of the diary company yes there was a plan to make this movie and I still have the pictures are used to make the presentation. The ideal past and were already in the process of making it. Gamera was making money for the diary company at that time and doing very well, and everyone was looking forward to the next movie. One thing I like to mention is there was a Godzilla film that had a three headed monster in one of his films so we thought we have a two headed monster and hours. It was during the battle that that you had to split into two separate monsters but before the movie could be shot the Daiei Company went bankrupt!

The next question I was asked to Noriaki was what was his inspiration for the monster Zigra?

The idea was always to have Gamera as a land monster even though he flew in the air most of the time was spent on the ground. What he fault Gyaos spent a lot of time in here. So we want to do something that was seaworthy. Also at that time in the news someone have been attacked by a shark in Japan. And children are scared of sharks. All in all it doesn’t matter if he was on land or in the sea or in the air you can find monsters in your heart and work with those ideals.

Anyway these are the basic questions that ask to Noriaki about the entire Showa Series of Gamera films and you do get a good idea of what happened with the Daiei Company going bankrupt and how it progressed into the new company that it is today and also the creation of the triple threat Heisei Series Gamera films. Anyway I hope you got a good understanding of who this man is and how Gamera came to be!


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