Original Japanese title card reading Ultraman: A Special Effects Fantasy Series
|Created by||Eiji Tsuburaya|
|Developed by||Tetsuo Kinjo|
|Opening theme||Ultraman Theme by the Misuzu Children's Choir|
|Country of origin||Japan|
|No. of episodes||39|
|Running time||24 minutes|
|Production company(s)||Tsuburaya Productions|
|Distributor||United Artists Television (United States)|
|Original release||July 17, 1966 –|
April 9, 1967
|Preceded by||Ultra Q|
|Followed by||Ultra Seven|
Ultraman (ウルトラマン, Urutoraman) is a Japanese tokusatsu science fiction television series created by Eiji Tsuburaya. It is a follow-up to Ultra Q, though not technically a sequel or spin-off. Tsuburaya Productions made 39 episodes (40, counting the pre-premiere special) that aired on Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) from July 17, 1966 to April 9, 1967. Its premiere topped the average rating set by Ultra Q and kept climbing each week, marking the show as a success.
Although Ultraman is the first series to feature an Ultraman character, it is the second installment in the Ultra Series, after Ultra Q. This is signified in the Japanese show opening by the Ultra Q logo exploding into the Ultraman logo. Ultraman and its titular hero became a major pop culture phenomena in Japan, spawning dozens of sequels, spin-offs, rip-offs, imitators, parodies and tributes. Ultraman went on to generate $7.4 billion in merchandising revenue from 1966 to 1987 (equivalent to more than $17 billion adjusted for inflation) and become the world's third top-selling licensed character by the 1980s (largely due to his popularity in Asia).
When the Earth is threatened by alien invaders and giant monsters, the world relies on the Science Patrol, a special anti-monster defense agency armed with high-tech weaponry and vehicles to combat these threats from the unknown. When the Science Patrol's weaponry is ineffective and all hope is lost, one of their members, Hayata, transforms into a giant alien called Ultraman to defeat the monstrous menace threatening the Earth, unbeknownst to the other Science Patrol members, who are unaware of his secret identity.
Due to the success of Ultra Q, Tokyo Broadcasting System (TBS) wanted a new monster-themed show from Tokyo Broadcasting System, this time filmed in color. TBS hoped to create a continuing series with Tsuburaya Productions. Eiji Tsuburaya and writer Tetsuo Kinjo chose to take the barebones idea of Ultra Q about civilians and scientists dealing with monsters and have a group specifically created to deal with monsters and supernatural phenomena as the focus of the new show. The group was tentatively named the "Scientific Investigation Agency" (SIA). Tsuburaya and Kinjo decided to add unused ideas from Ultra Q and the rejected outline Woo.
Tsuburaya had spent significant amounts of studio money to build his miniatures for the Godzilla films. The studio was desirous to monetize these miniatures, and was looking for a project that could repurpose the sets and costumes from the Godzilla franchise. The first iteration of Ultraman was named "Bemler". Bemler's human host would have been a 28-year-old man named "Officer Sakomizu", described as a "tough guy" in early drafts. Captain Muramatsu would have been the only SIA member to know his secret identity. The name "Bemler" (sometimes trademarked as "Bemular") was later given to Ultraman's foe in the premiere episode "Ultra Operation No. 1".
Pre-production and story layout for the show began in December 1965 as Bemler: Scientific Investigation Agency. Masahiro Yamada completed a sample teleplay titled The Birth of Bemler that featured an unused scenario originally written for Ultra Q. TBS producer Takashi Kakoi demanded to have Bemler be easily differentiated from other similarly designed monsters to avoid confusion. Tsuburaya and Kinjo then decided to make Bemler more humanoid in design. Kakoi later requested that Bemler have a more metallic-based image.
In January 1966, the production's title was changed to Redman, due to the protagonist's color scheme. The following month, the show was unanimously approved for production. In this version, Redman arrives as a refugee on Earth after invaders destroyed his home planet. Redman fuses with officer Sakomizu and together, they protect the Earth from giant monsters and alien invaders. This version also featured an early version of the Beta Capsule called a "Flashbeam" that resembled a futuristic fountain pen. During casting TBS suggested casting actors that looked as Western as possible, in order to appeal to overseas markets. It was later decided to add a female character to the SIA roster. Many of the cast members came from Toho. On March 22, 1966, the copyright offices approved registration of the show, now titled Ultraman.
The first iteration of the Ultraman character was originally named "Bemler". Bemler was originally conceived by Kinjo as an intergalactic reptilian creature that would enlarge itself to 164 feet and come to the SIA's aid. The original design was a cross between Garuda, a mythological Hindu/Buddhist guardian bird, and Tengu, a Japanese folkloric crow-goblin. Eiji Tsuburaya found the early versions of Ultraman's design to be too alien and sinister and requested that production designer Tohl Narita draft something more benevolent, despite teleplays already being written. Narita took inspiration from classical Greek art, ancient Egypt, the European Renaissance, and Miyamoto Musashi. Tsuburaya and Kinjo added input to each of Narita's new drawings. Ultraman's silver skin symbolized steel from an interstellar rocket and the red lining represented the surface of Mars.
Narita's assistant, Akira Sasaki, sculpted clays, but became concerned about the nose and mouth looking too human. They eventually decided on a brim-like nose that runs from the mouth to the top of the head like a dorsal fin. They also allowed the mouth to be flexible for speech. Early outlines had Ultraman capable of spitting fire and a liquid called "silver iodine", but these ideas were later dropped. Ultraman's three-minute Color Timer was added at the last minute due to the filmmakers feeling that Ultraman was too invincible, and also the belief that it would add suspense and make viewers cheer for Ultraman.
A decision was made to film Ultraman in color. To keep production costs from going over budget, the show was shot on 16mm stock and optical effects were shot using 35mm. This met the network's requirement for making new episodes on a fast-paced production schedule (due to filming starting in March 1966 for a scheduled debut that July). The production crew were separated into three teams subdivided into separate live-action filming and special effects filming groups. TBS and Tsuburaya Productions originally agreed to air Ultraman on July 17. TBS pushed the release up one week in order to cover the spot originally intended for the final episode of Ultra Q, which was pulled from the broadcast schedule due to not featuring any monsters. TBS also wanted to beat the release of Fuji Television's Ambassador Magma (a.k.a.The Space Giants), a show similar to Ultraman.
Though production on Ultraman was running smoothly, it was not running fast enough to meet the premiere date. After meetings between TBS, Tsuburaya Productions, and sponsors, the decision was made to produce a live broadcast on July 10 of a special titled Ultraman Eve Festival, a TV special intended to introduce Ultraman to viewers. This was also done to help the production crew catch up and finish the premiere episode. The special was then retitled The Birth of Ultraman: An Ultraman Premiere Celebration. Kunio Miyauchi, who composed the music for Ultra Q, was brought back to compose the music for Ultraman. The lyrics to the show's opening theme music were written by Hajime Tsuburaya (credited as Koichi Fuji).
Production designer Tohl Narita designed all of the monsters. Narita sometimes deviated from the original descriptions. A majority of the time, the writers did not include any specific descriptions of the monsters in the teleplays. Most of the monsters were not even named. The names of the monsters were decided via staff meetings, where it would be determined if the writer had created a creature that was capable or incapable of being filmed with the special effects technology available at the time. The monsters were sculpted and fabricated by Ryosaku Takayama, Akira Sasaki, and Ekisu Productions.
Bin Furuya was chosen to play Ultraman due to his physical stature and proportions. Furuya said that he trained with tap-dancing and karate. He also practiced the beam and Shuwatch! poses at home nearly 300 times. He said that the Ultraman suits were destroyed after production wrapped. Since he wore a thin suit, he was able to feel more pain than the other suit actors, and claimed to always get hurt in one way or another.
Haruo Nakajima (who played Godzilla for the first 12 films in the franchise) choreographed all the monsters' battles with Furuya and even played a few monsters, such as Neronga (episode 03) and Jiras (episode 10). Nakajima also had two cameos, one in episode 24 and one in episode 33 as a police officer. Ultraman featured new monster suits, as well as recycled suits from Ultra Q. Two Godzilla suits were recycled from Toho for the monster Jiras, with the head of the Godzilla suit from Ebirah, Horror of the Deep placed upon the body of the Godzilla suit from Mothra vs. Godzilla. The dorsal fins and parts of the suit were sprayed yellow and a large yellow frill was added to disguise the connection of the head with the body. The show also marks the first appearance of Ultraman Zoffy in the finale "Farewell, Ultraman".
- The Science Patrol member who transforms into Ultraman with the Beta Capsule. Bin Furuya was chosen as the suit performer for Ultraman due to his physical stature and proportions, as well as his martial arts experience.
- Leader of the Science Patrol. His name is shortened to "Captain Mura" in the English dub. In the Japanese version, he is sometimes referred to as "Cap".
- The Science Patrol's expert marksman.
- The Science Patrol's comical inventor. He creates the Science Patrol's missiles, guns and monster language translator. Susumu Ishikawa was originally cast in the role, but abruptly left the production due to contract disputes, despite filming a few scenes. The English dub renames the character as "Ito".
- The Science Patrol's communications officer.
- Akihide Tsuzawa as Isamu Hoshino
- The Science Patrol's unofficial mascot. In the English dub, he is described as Fuji's younger brother.
- The Science Patrol's scientific advisor. First appears in episode 5 and onward.
- Ultra Operation No. 1 (ウルトラ作戦第一号, Urutora Sakusen Dai Ichigō)
- Shoot the Invader (侵略者を撃て, Shinryakusha o Ute)
- Science Patrol, Move Out! (科特隊出撃せよ, Katokutai Shutugeki seyo)
- Five Seconds Before The Explosion (大爆発五秒前, Dai Bakuhatsu Gobyō Mae)
- The Secret of the Miroganda (ミロガンダの秘密, Miroganda no Himitsu)
- The Coast Guard Command (沿岸警備命令, Engan Keibi Meirei)
- The Blue Stone of Baradhi (バラージの青い石, Barāji no Aoi Ishi)
- The Monster Anarchy Zone (怪獣無法地帯, Kaijū Muhō Chitai)
- Lightning Operation (電光石火作戦, Denkōsekka Sakusen)
- The Mysterious Dinosaur Base (謎の恐竜基地, Nazo no Kyōryū Kichi)
- The Rascal from Outer Space (宇宙から来た暴れん坊, Uchū kara Kita Abarenbō)
- Cry of the Mummy (ミイラの叫び, Miira no Sakebi)
- Oil S.O.S. (オイルSOS, Oiru Esu Ō Esu)
- The Pearl Defense Directive (真珠貝防衛指令, Shinjugai Bōei Shirei)
- Terrifying Cosmic Rays (恐怖の宇宙線, Kyōfu no Uchūsen)
- Science Patrol Into Space (科特隊宇宙へ, Katokutai Uchū e)
- Passport to Infinity (無限へのパスポート, Mugen e no Pasupōto)
- Brother from Another Planet (遊星から来た兄弟, Yūsei kara Kita Kyōdai)
- Demons Rise Again (悪魔はふたたび, Akuma wa Futatabi)
- Terror on Route 87 (恐怖のルート87, Kyōfu no Rūto Hachijūnana)
- Breach the Wall of Smoke (噴煙突破せよ, Fun'en Toppa seyo)
- Overthrow the Surface (地上破壊工作, Chijō Hakai Kōsaku)
- My Home is the Earth (故郷は地球, Kokyō wa Chikyū)
- The Undersea Science Center (海底科学基地, Kaitei Kagaku Kichi)
- The Mysterious Comet Tsuifon (怪彗星ツイフォン, Kai Susei Tsuifon)
- The Monster Highness: (Part 1) (怪獣殿下 前篇, Kaijū Denka Zenpen)
- The Monster Highness: (Part 2) (怪獣殿下 後篇, Kaijū Denka Kōhen)
- Human Specimens 5 & 6 (人間標本5・6, Ningen Hyōhon Go Roku)
- Challenge to the Underground) (地底への挑戦, Chitei e no Chōsen)
- Phantom of the Snow Mountains (まぼろしの雪山, Maboroshi no Yukiyama)
- Who Goes There? (来たのは誰だ, Kita no wa Dare da)
- Endless Counterattack (果てしなき逆襲, Hateshinaki Gyakushū)
- The Forbidden Words (禁じられた言葉, Kinjirareta Kotoba)
- A Gift from the Sky (空の贈り物, Sora no Okurimono)
- The Monster Graveyard (怪獣墓場, Kaijū Hakaba)
- Don't Shoot! Arashi (射つな! アラシ, Utsuna! Arashi)
- A Little Hero (小さな英雄, Chiisana Eiyū)
- Spaceship Rescue Command (宇宙船救助命令, Uchūsen Kyūjo Meirei)
- Farewell, Ultraman (さらばウルトラマン, Saraba Urutoraman)
- Special film: Revive! Ultraman (甦れ!ウルトラマン, Yomigaere! Urutoraman) (this was a short film produced in 1996; it lacks the English language dubbing of the main series)
Due to the show's success, a feature film titled Ultraman: Operation Giant was planned. Toshihiro Iijima was attached to write the script. The film was to be filmed in CinemaScope and was to introduce new characters, such as a self-sacrificing automaton built by the Science Patrol, the Baltans invading Earth with the help of a human scientist, a new subterranean monster named "Morugo", and Ultraman was to be given a new sword weapon. The project never materialized.
United Artists Television picked up the rights for Ultra Q and Ultraman in the fall of 1966, two months after the first episode of Ultraman aired. Ultra Q was dubbed but never broadcast in the United States due to American TV stations preferring color shows over black-and-white shows. Ultraman ran in and out of syndication until the mid-1980s. UA-TV also syndicated Ultraman internationally. UA-TV commissioned an English dub from Titra Studios. Peter Fernandez, Earl Hammond, and Corinne Orr provided the voices for the dub. Fernandez also wrote and supervised the dub.
Describing the process, Fernandez said: "I had a moviola, sometimes a projector, and I’d go back and forth over each line carefully and carefully, building the line to look like English." Fernandez also went on to explain that a greased pencil was used to mark scenes that needed to be dubbed, even if it were a few lines. A loop of the film would be projected so that the voice actor could memorize his or her line and see where the scene needed to be dubbed. The voice actors had to wait for a beeping signal before starting, Fernandez explained: "So in the studio you hear “Beep… beep… beep…” then you talk, as if there is a forth [sic] beep. Those beeps are drilled into me. They are two-thirds of a second apart. Later on, the film is reassembled and mixed with the original music and sound effects." The English dub was featured in the BCI Eclipse 2006 North American DVD release of Ultraman, as well as subsequent re-issues from Mill Creek Entertainment.
In 1996, Ohio-based company Expressions In Animation, Inc. produced the Ultraman 30th Anniversary Collection VHS, which featured haphazardly restored prints of the first four English dubbed episodes. It also included an English subtitled version of the Japanese opening, which was adapted by musician Dow Thomas as well as an interview with monster performer Haruo Nakajima.
BCI Eclipse Home Entertainment LLC officially released Ultraman on two separate DVD volumes in 2006 and 2007, licensed from then-rights holder Southern California-based Golden Media Group Inc. (via Tokyo-based UM Corporation). BCI’s first DVD release featured the first 20 episodes, while the second release featured the final 19 episodes, all presented uncut, unedited and re-mastered in color with stereo sound. These releases also featured the original Japanese audio and the English dub. When Navarre folded BCI/Eclipse in December 2008, the series was shuffled over to Navarre's other home video label, Mill Creek Entertainment. In June 2009, Mill Creek re-released the complete series set on September 29, 2009, in a four-disc set with the same special features from the previous release. In Japan, there have been numerous releases in numerous home video formats over the last 25 years (from VHS to DVD) on several labels, including Bandai's various home video divisions, such as Bandai Visual.
In April 2013, Tsuburaya held a press conference announcing the new Ultra Series show and character, Ultraman Ginga, where they also announced that the original 1966 show will be given an HD remaster treatment in Japan. In July 2013, Bandai Visual released an HD transfer of Ultraman on Blu-ray titled Ultraman HD Remaster 2.0, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Tsuburaya Productions. Bandai Visual released the series on three separate box sets, each containing 13 episodes. The first box set was released on July 10, 2013, the second one on October 25, 2013 and the final one on January 29, 2014.
In July 2019, Mill Creek Entertainment announced that it had acquired most of the Ultraman library from Tsuburaya Productions through Indigo Entertainment, including 1,100 episodes and 20 films. Ultraman (1966) was released on Blu-ray in North America on October 15, 2019 in standard and steelbook editions.
Harvey Comics Entertainment published two short comic book series based on Ultraman in 1993 and 1994. Bandai published the video game Ultraman for Super Famicom in 1990, and PD Ultraman Battle Collection 64 for the Nintendo 64 in 1997. The games were released in Japan only. In 2011, a manga adaptation simply titled Ultraman began serialization in Shogakukan's Monthly Hero's magazine. It serves as a sequel to the television series. It was released on August 18, 2015 in North America by Viz Media, having received the rights earlier on February 18, 2015. 
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