The Big Ball of Confusion?
Written by Barney Buckley
Email Address – firstname.lastname@example.org
“The whole name change controversy between Godzilla 1998 and the new character that was created by the Toho Motion Picture Company and a lot of people want to call it Zilla and for the longest time I thought these were two separate Kaiju however I was proven wrong in a good way and upon further evidence I did have a conversation with somebody who actually showed me that Shogo Tomiyama did in fact change the name because he doesn’t own the rights to Godzilla and I am finally glad that we can put this mess behind me. However everything else according to the DVD copyrights were in fact correct the only thing I was proven wrong about was the name change it is indeed called Zilla. Everything below is a highlight and it does break everything down on every aspect about the movie Godzilla 1998, so go ahead and check it out as you will get a great understanding about the movie and the copyrights as well as the trademarks. Is a very interesting read…”
The “Godzilla and Zilla Name Change” controversy is a very common topic among Godzilla-fans about whether or not the title creature(S) from the 1998 American film release of Godzilla that came out in 1998 have actually been renamed from “Godzilla” to simply “Zilla”. The word “Zilla” was previously used as a mere suffix for any Godzilla incarnation up to that time. However Godzilla (1998) and Zilla are not the same character/creature and Godzilla (1998) does not use the label (Zilla) as proved by available evidence. 1st of all, some people have misinterpreted the official statements of a “Name Change” and taken them literally. It was in 2004 the new character known as “Zilla” was created, and this particular creature was supposed to represent a new variation of the incarnation they call Godzilla (1998) design. Besides the fact that it does have a different name is meant to distinguish it from Godzilla (1998) from which it was based upon, the new name is not given directly to the new creature’s predecessors Godzilla (1998), Baby Godzilla (1998), Godzilla (1998, Animated), Juvenile Godzilla, nor Cyber-Godzilla.
Let us begin examining the evidence pointing to that the claim that both of these creatures are the same character and the same name is merely just a minute and he was created by all of you Godzilla fans out there!
We will begin with some copyright disclaimers based on all the films that were created let us begin with the actual film they came out in 1998 it was released with subsequent VHS and DVD releases of the new film featuring this particular copyright disclaimer:
GODZILLA and the GODZILLA character and design are marks of Toho Co., Ltd. The GODZILLA character and design are copyrighted works of Toho Co., Ltd. All are used with permission.
When Godzilla: Final Wars was released in 2004 and featured a monster icon  and copyright disclaimer for Zilla was featured on the subsequent DVD releases of the film:
Godzilla®, Gigan, King Ceasar, Anguirus, Kumonga, Kamacuras, Ebirah, Manda, Hedorah, Rodan, Minilla, Mothra®, Monster X, Monster X II, Zilla and the Character Designs are trademarks of Toho Co., Ltd.
Now I need to keep in mind that the new copyright for the character “Zilla” is exclusive only to the 2004 film “Godzilla Final Wars” and it does not represent the creature from the 1998 film. The copyright disclaimer and monster icon for the movie Godzilla Final Wars they came out in 2004 and it has creature has not appeared on any other subsequent products but the 2013 IDW-comic Godzilla: Rulers of the Earth. It is since 2004 there has been several re-releases of the 1998 film in DVD, UMD and Blu-ray formats between the years 2004 and 2013, and all of them have the same copyright disclaimer  that was used prior to 2004. The copyright disclaimers should have been changed from “Godzilla” to “Zilla” if the creature in the 1998 film had actually been given a new name. Judging from the looks of it, the 1998 creature is still officially called and recognized as “Godzilla”. It is even called “Godzilla” in its debut film and this would be hard to change, so I need you guys to keep that in mind!
Here is an official statement from Ryuhei Kitamura and Shogo Tomiyama
Ryuhei Kitamura as most of us know him he is the director of “Godzilla Final Wars which this movie came out in Japanese theaters in 2004 and he is also one of the individuals responsible For the Creation of Zilla, where the other was the producer of the film, Shogi Tomiyama. These 2 particular people and a interview by Mark Schaefer on the Penny blood-website in 2004 they did make mention in excerpts from that particular interview relating to the topic discussed about the name change…
The selection of Kitamura to direct this huge project was somewhat unusual for the studio. Toho Pictures is a tight knit family and they almost always use directors that have come up through the ranks of the studio, but this time Tomiyama decided to bring in an outsider to reshape the franchise. There are a lot of expectations riding on Kitamura’s shoulders.
PENNY BLOOD: Welcome to the USA.
RYUHEI KITAMURA: Thank you.
PENNY BLOOD: Why don’t we ever see Godzilla eating people?
[Ryuhei Kitamura laughs.]
PENNY BLOOD: I mean, in the original Godzilla movie, the monster’s natural supply of food has been diminished by nuclear testing in the Pacific. He leaves the depths of the ocean to head towards Japan in search of livestock to eat, right? Yet, we never see him eating anything! Did you ever consider letting Godzilla eat people?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: When I first met the producers they were gathering all kinds of ideas and hadn’t yet decided what kind of Godzilla movie they wanted to make. I gave them three or four ideas of my own, and in one of them my Godzilla was eating people. I had a scene where he grabs a train, tips it up, and empties the passengers out into his mouth. Shogo didn’t respond to my suggestions. (LAUGHS) I don’t think he liked that idea very much.
SHOGO TOMIYAMA: Godzilla doesn’t want to destroy human bodies. He wants to destroy human civilization. It’s true that originally Godzilla did come to Japan to eat livestock, but Toho Pictures soon realized that they’d have to reconsider how Godzilla existed if they were going to expand the film into a series. The company needed to decide whether Godzilla was a living breathing creature, or something else. The decision was made to make Godzilla something else. He was much more than just a large creature that went around eating livestock.
PENNY BLOOD: So you’re saying he’s God-like?
SHOGO TOMIYAMA: Closer to that, yes. Godzilla is closer to being a God. He’s not just a living animal or a monster.
PENNY BLOOD: That’s why the Japanese refer to Godzilla as a “kaiju” instead of a monster? He’s more of a mystical creature. Then would you consider Godzilla to be a good or bad God?
SHOGO TOMIYAMA: The fact is that humans cannot control or judge the Gods. They have their own will. They have their own way. In Japan there are many Gods. There is a God of Destruction. He totally destroys everything and then there is a rebirth. Something new and fresh can begin. Godzilla is closer to being that kind of God.
PENNY BLOOD: You were quoted as saying, “that you renamed Hollywood’s 1998 version of the monster ‘Zilla’ because they took the God out of Godzilla.” When I read that quote, I interpreted it to be a slam against Hollywood’s Godzilla (1998.) I’m getting the impression now that your statement was referring to the “spiritual interpretation” of Godzilla in Japan verses Hollywood’s “monster interpretation.” It really wasn’t meant as a putdown. Is that correct?
SHOGO TOMIYAMA: Yes, because Hollywood’s Godzilla is just a normal monster He’s not a God. Hollywood treated Godzilla as a live monster or live animal. They shot him down with missiles and all that.
PENNY BLOOD: Quite a few fans hate that version of Godzilla. What did you think of the Hollywood movie? Were you disappointed with Hollywood’s interpretation of your star performer in Godzilla’98?
SHOGO TOMIYAMA: No. There was always very good communication between Tokyo and Hollywood. We knew exactly how they were going to do it, and we knew what Godzilla was going to look like. So, as a movie there’s no complaining.
RYUHEI KITAMURA: I liked the film. I like most of that director’s films.
[Roland Emmerich was the director of Godzilla (1998.)]
PENNY BLOOD: This new film is part of the ‘Millennium Series,’ but you made the decision not to continue the storyline of the last movie, Tokyo SOS. Godzilla Final Wars has a totally drop that story in favor of a different storyline.
RYUHEI KITAMURA: That’s because I didn’t like the more recent Godzilla movies. I think Toho understood where I was coming from, too. The audiences for Godzilla movies were decreasing every year. Last year’s Tokyo SOS was the worst. So, Shogo knew he was missing something, and decided to bring me in. We had a first meeting and I just spoke my mind. I was really honest and told him what I thought about the Godzilla movies. I hadn’t been to the theaters in ten years. I’d seen the more recent Godzilla films on TV and didn’t like them. I mean, the last three or four Godzilla movies have been shown in the theaters together with kid’s animation. Why would anyone want to go see a Godzilla movie if it’s being shown alongside a little mouse cartoon? It seemed like the company was only making Godzilla movies for kids and the diehard Godzilla fans, not for the general audience.
PENNY BLOOD: The first Godzilla was kind of scary.
RYUHEI KITAMURA: Yeah, but they weren’t making films like that anymore.
PENNY BLOOD: So what was your new approach to Godzilla?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: I told the producers, “I don’t like the way Godzilla movies look. They’re too bright. There’s too much light on Godzilla. He looks like a man-in-a-suit. The set looks like miniatures. If you’re going to film miniatures, they have to look real.
PENNY BLOOD: So, how did you shoot it?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: More power and more speed. This film is going to be like an Ultimate Championship Fight. I wanted to make the monsters fight like that. Punching, weaving, and using the elbows.
SHOGO TOMIYAMA: Ryuhei had a point. He wanted Godzilla to move faster but remain big and intimidating at the same time.
PENNY BLOOD: (To RYUHEI KITAMURA) I know that the Godzilla fans are very particular about every minor detail concerning the look and character of Godzilla. Did the studio present you with a list of character traits that you had to stick with, or were you able to pretty much do what you wanted in this film?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: Pretty much whatever I wanted. The only thing they said was, “Please, not too much blood. Please don’t have Godzilla eating people.” It’s true that a lot of children watch these movies, but I kept asking the producers, “What about the Lord of the Rings? There’s lots of violence and blood in that movie, and kids love it!” I asked them that everyday but they just kept saying, “Lots of children are going to see the film, so you can’t be too violent.”
PENNY BLOOD: A lot of the filmmakers involved with Godzilla worked their way up through the ranks at Toho Pictures. Here you are, a new guy coming in from the outside, and you end up directing the biggest Godzilla film the studio had ever done. Did you feel any resentment from the older filmmakers?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: No, not at all. The Special Effects Director, Eiichi Asada, knows everything about Godzilla. My favorite Godzilla is 1974’s Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla. Eiichi Asada was the Assistant Director on that film. He knows everything and has more experience with Godzilla then me. He was an excellent guy to work with and we got along fine.
PENNY BLOOD: How do you direct a man-in-a-rubber-suit?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: That’s the Special Effects Director’s job. We do it with a second unit. We’re in the same studio. He’s shooting the man-in-a-rubber-suit and the miniature stuff. I’m directing the actors and live action stuff. Eiichi Asada was such a great guy. We were talking about the movie from the beginning. He’s seen my films and knows my tastes. I made storyboards for the shooting and just gave them to him. So, everything I wanted to do is in the storyboards. He just looks at it from the technical side. He has lots of experience in special effects, so sometimes he’ll also suggest new ideas.
PENNY BLOOD: How did you build the film? Did you start with the story, the monsters, or the action sequences?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: The producers gave me an eight-page synopsis. Basically, the storyline was already there. It said, “Aliens attack earth using eight monsters.” So I asked “Why eight? What’s the record?” They told me, eleven. “Then we should go for a new record instead of eight!” So we decided to go with more than eleven monsters.
PENNY BLOOD: What’s the final count, then?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: That’s a secret.
[AUTHOR NOTE: We’ll keep it a secret too. It’s more fun that way.]
PENNY BLOOD: How did you decide which kaiju would be in the film? Why didn’t you put Mechagodzilla in the film, for instance?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: It depends on what kind of story you want. Mechagodzilla just didn’t fit into the story I wanted to tell.
PENNY BLOOD: Did you consider a rematch between Godzilla and King Kong?
SHOGO TOMIYAMA: The rights for Kong weren’t available.
PENNY BLOOD: Did you increase the size of the kaiju to fight Godzilla?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: All the kaiju are about 100 meters.
PENNY BLOOD: So you kept all the creatures about the same size?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: Yes.
PENNY BLOOD: Did you play with that scale during production? How seriously did you calculate the scale of the monsters when you’re filming and building the miniatures?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: No, we filmed whatever looked good. That kind of exacting detail makes a movie boring. That’s the type of thing only Godzilla freaks think about.
PENNY BLOOD: (To RYUHEI KITAMURA) I heard there’s a rumor circulating that Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez will be producing your new movie. Is there any truth to that rumor?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: No. I don’t know where that rumor started from.
PENNY BLOOD: (To RYUHEI KITAMURA) Will we ever see a sequel to your cult zombie flick, Verses?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: They’re keeping me busy, but yes, I want to do it eventually. I’m sure I’ll do it in the near future, but I don’t know when.
PENNY BLOOD: (To RYUHEI KITAMURA) Do you plan on staying with monster movies and fantasy films?
RYUHEI KITAMURA: No.
PENNY BLOOD: I heard that there were some famous non-Japanese directors that wanted to do a Godzilla film. Is there any truth to those rumors?
SHOGO TOMIYAMA: There have never been any direct talks with any of these directors. We are aware that some well-known filmmakers have expressed interests in directing a film. These young filmmakers grew up with Godzilla movies. I’m sure there are many directors that would like to do a kaiju movie.
PENNY BLOOD: You’ve said Toho is going to retire Godzilla after this film for ten years. What would happen if another studio came along and they wanted to produce their own version of Godzilla? Could that still be an option?
SHOGO TOMIYAMA: If a better story comes along that tops Godzilla Final Wars, and some other studio besides Toho wanted to consider producing the film? Then we might consider it.
PENNY BLOOD: Hey, I’ve got a great idea for a Godzilla movie!
SHOGO TOMIYAMA: (LAUGHS) There are as many ideas for Godzilla movies as there are fans!
PENNY BLOOD: One last question, who would you consider Godzilla’s most dangerous adversary?
[Shogo Tomiyama thinks for a moment…]
SHOGO TOMIYAMA: Right now? I’d say, Pikachu. Hopefully, Godzilla’s new film will finally win the hearts of children back from his most dangerous advisory ever: Pokémon.
[Roland Emmerich was the director of Godzilla (1998.)]
These particular statements above are easily misinterpreted by fans as evidence that these Toho-representatives had officially renamed Godzilla (1998) to Zilla. This misconception is given more detail in the statement by Keith Aiken in 2014 (which you can read below Matt Frank’s response following this section).
Here is the official statement given by the artist Matt Frank (who works on the ongoing IDW comic “Godzilla: Rulers of the Earth” which was released on June 26, 2013) Mr. Franks had commented on the myth on May 9, 2013 and stated that “Toho makes 0 distinctions between “Zilla” and “Godzilla 1998” with the exception of title alone”  indicating Toho (like most of us) consider Zilla to be a variation of Godzilla (1998) and that the creatures go by different names and he also states “that any future incarnations of the character be referred to here after as “Zilla.” “Indicating that former incarnations are still called “Godzilla”, like they were being called originally, and will be continually.
Below is another full statement which he posted as a response to a dispute going on in the comments section of one of his published artworks located on the website DeviantArt; so I have been skimming the last several pages and have noted that several fellow Deviants are carrying on some sort of extreme flame-war and have noted several instances of deliberate trolling. I am stepping in now to kindly ask that everyone ease up and not sit there and bait each other over and over again. Healthy debate is fine but aggressively insulting one another is not going to dominate my DeviantArt comment threads. If I have to step in again, I will start banning people.
And for the record, Toho makes zero distinction between “Zilla” and “Godzilla 1998” with the exception of title alone. The film itself is recognized as “Godzilla,” as is the animated series. “Zilla Jr.” is a fan-created name to emulate “Godzilla Junior.” Ever since 2004, Toho’s official stance has been that any future incarnations of the character be referred to hereafter as “Zilla.”
Also, for the record, the animated series Zilla is not within our net of licenses, nor do I think we would be able to obtain it.
Note also how Matt here refers to the animated version of Godzilla (1998) as “Zilla” due to his own personal preference, and how “Zilla Jr.” is clearly stated to be a fan-name (for those who didn’t already know). However, Matt’s statement is slightly contradicted in the statement below.
Now here is the official statement from the webmaster to the website they call “Sci-Fi Japan” his name is Keith Akins and this is what he had to say…
On August 17, 2014, Keith Aiken (a person of special interest in Godzilla -related circles) states this in a reply on the Facebook-page of Sci-Fi Japan ;
Devlin and Emmerich said that their Godzilla was said in its own timeline with no connections to events from any other Toho movies. The Godzilla in the movie is the first giant monster ever seen, the fishermen got the name from an old Japanese legend of a sea monster.
And to clarify a common misconception, the monster in the 1998 movie is not ‘Zilla’. The character is still copyrighted and trademarked by both Toho and Sony as ‘Godzilla’, and that’s not going to change since Sony paid for the Godzilla rights and owns the international film rights (outside of Japan) forever. Toho couldn’t change the name if they wanted to, and they don’t want to since having a major Hollywood production based on their character was/is very important to the company.
For decades, Toho has created variations on their characters with unique names, origins, powers, etc. But this didn’t change the names/copyrights of previous versions… Mechagodzilla ’74 isn’t now named ‘Kiryu’, King Ghidorah didn’t become ‘Kaizer Ghidorah’, and the original Mothra wasn’t renamed ‘Rainbow/Aqua/Eternal/Leo/Armored/etc’. Zilla is a variation of the 1998 Godzilla – according to Toho, Zilla is a separate creature that resembles a monster that once attacked NYC – the same way that G’98 is a variation of the classic Godzilla.
I’m not talking about whether GODZILLA (1998) was a good movie or whether the monster was a good representation of Godzilla (I would vote ‘no’ on both) but stating how Toho officially views the movie and character. For further proof, last month Toho released the 1998 movie on Blu-ray in Japan as GODZILLA (not ZILLA) and included it as part of their “Godzilla 60th Anniversary” releases with their own Godzilla films…
On August 18 he added (debunking the rumor that the 2001 Japanese film Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack made any official connections to the 1998 film as well as that the fan-wiki Wikizilla is containing false and misleading information) ;
Kaneko definitely intended the early line in GMK to be a joke… he didn’t like GODZILLA ’98 and took a little jab at it. In early 2002, I was invited to a private screening of GMK at Sony Pictures’ studio and the Sony execs burst out laughing at that scene.The Wikizilla article on the name change is inaccurate. It quotes from an interview I did with producer Shogo Tomiyama in late 2004, but misattributes something I wrote as coming from Tomiyama, and then misunderstood what I wrote. I’ve spoken with Tomiyama, I’ve talked to reps at Toho and Toho LA, and I worked for Sony Pictures so I was able to find out directly how Toho and Sony officially handle the 90[‘s] film and character, and it’s no[t] the way many fans claim it to be. It’s been almost 10 years since Zilla appeared in FINAL WARS, and yet Toho continues to maintain the Godzilla copyright and name for the 1998 film and monster, and they continue to reissue that film in Japan as GODZILLA… most recently on Blu-ray on July 16, 2014.
Trademark Still Active
A registered trademark monster icon (mentioned in the two first paragraphs in the section below) , apart from the standard version representing Godzilla (1998) , was given to the 1998 creature and registered the same year as the 1998 film was released. This monster icon appeared on products and merchandise promoting the 1998 film (which went on both before and after 2004), sometimes alongside the standard icon used for Godzilla (1998). The logo and word mark of the icon have been renewed and are still active and would be treated as if the Godzilla (1998) incarnation is still belonging to the Godzilla-character. The standard icon appeared again in 2007 with the release of the GODZILLA: LIMITED EDITION 2-DISC soundtrack, released by La La Land Records and containing musical score from the 1998 film GODZILLA. 
In this section I’ll try to make things as clear as possible regarding the trademark confusion. Below is information provided by Trademarkia regarding the specific trademarks GODZILLA, GODZILLA, BABY GODZILLA, and ZILLA;
On May 17, 1994, the logo mark for “GODZILLA” was filed. On April 11, 1995, it was published for opposition. On August 25, 1998, it was registered. On November 19, 2008, it was registered and renewed.  It is listed as “LIVE (Circa: 1994)”. 
On May 17, 1994, the word mark “GODZILLA” was filed. On June 6, 1995, it was published for opposition. On December 15, 1998, it was registered. On August 11, 2008, it was registered and renewed.  It is listed as “LIVE (Circa: 1994)”. 
On January 26, 1998, the word mark “GODZILLA” was filed. On July 28, 1998, it was published for opposition. On March 23, 1999, it was registered. On December 31, 2005, it was cancelled (section 8).  It is listed as “DEAD (Circa: 1998)”. 
On June 17, 1998, the logo mark for “GODZILLA” was filed. On July 27, 1999, it was published for opposition. On April 20, 2002, it was abandoned.  It is listed as “DEAD (Circa: 1998)”. 
On June 17, 1998, the logo mark for “BABY GODZILLA” was filed. On August 3, 1999, it was published for opposition. On April 27, 2002, it was abandoned (no statement of use filed).  It is listed as “DEAD (Circa: 1998)”. 
On November 14, 2006, the logo mark for “ZILLA” was filed. No available information on registration. On November 27, 2007, it was published for opposition. On March 21, 2011, it was abandoned (no statement of use filed).  It is listed as “DEAD (Circa: 2006)”. 
On November 14, 2006, the word mark “ZILLA” was filed. On September 16, 2008, it was published for opposition. On December 2, 2008, it was registered. On December 2, 2014, it had an estimated renewal deadline. On December 16, 2014, it was accepted and acknowledged (partial section 8 & 15).  It is listed as “LIVE (Circa: 2006)”. 
Some individuals do the mistake of using this information to support the “name change”-myth by assuming that; 1) because the word mark of GODZILLA is cancelled; 2) the logo mark of GODZILLA is abandoned; 3) the logo mark of BABY GODZILLA is abandoned; 4) the word mark for ZILLA is active; this must mean that the title “ZILLA” applies for Godzilla (1998) and Baby Godzilla (1998) aswell. But there’s no official documentation whatsoever to make or confirm this erroneous connection. This type of logic is no different than if, for example, you were to look at two different species of flowers, and you notice that one is old and one is young, and you then go on to conclude that the younger one must have originated from the older one. This is of course a weak and false conclusion and thus adds more criticism to the “name change”-myth.
Toho Kingdom and Sci-Fi Japan separates Godzilla (1998) and Zilla
If the aforementioned reasons aren’t enough indication of Godzilla (1998) and Zilla being different characters, this should help add more to the notion. The popular fan-website Toho Kingdom treats Zilla as a different or separate creature/character from Godzilla (1998) , Baby Godzilla (1998) , Godzilla (1998, animated) , and Cyber-Godzilla , and makes clear that Zilla’s only film-appearance has been in Godzilla: Final Wars (2004) and not in GODZILLA (1998) or Godzilla: The Series (1998-2000).  The site also correctly presents the latter creatures by their actual titles of “Godzilla”.
Sci-Fi Japan is another popular website which knows better and actually separates Godzilla (1998) and Zilla, as can be observed in any articles where these two characters are mentioned.
Hollywood Walk of Fame
On November 27, 2004, (in celebration of the Godzilla 50th Anniversary and Godzilla: Final Wars which was announced as the last Godzilla-film to be produced by Toho) the Godzilla-character received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and the time capsule included clearly states (even by this time) that the creature in the 1998 film is part of the Godzilla-character (with Zilla being merely a variation of the 1998 version of Godzilla);
Beloved by people of all ages, Godzilla has starred in 28 motion pictures including the blockbuster film produced in Hollywood. 
Fan-names aren’t official
As was stated earlier by Matt Frank, “Zilla Jr.” is a fan-created name based upon the introduction of Zilla in 2004 and meant to represent the animated version of Godzilla (1998) from Godzilla: The [Animated] Series. Fan-created names of course (by definition) aren’t officially licensed names and thus should not be treated as such. Additional fan-names are “Zilla Senior”, “Baby Zilla” (not to be confused with the term “Baby ‘Zilla” which is a stylized short-name), “Juvenile Zilla”, and “Cyber-Zilla”. Regarding the acronym GINO (Godzilla In Name Only), this was a fan-name coined by film critic Richard Pusateri of G-Fan Magazine on May 18, 1998, because of how different Godzilla (1998) was from Toho’s traditional Godzilla. 
Here is further proof given to me by Keith Aiken himself about the whole name change thing. is merely a myth. This is what he said in his own words!
The problem with this debate is you’re arguing semantics. Many fans don’t seem to understand how Toho handles their monster characters. They basically treat them like actors that play different roles in different stories; that’s why Godzilla, Mothra, King Ghidorah, etc. have different origins, powers, sizes, etc in different films. Some of these variations have unique names (Aqua Mothra, Mech-King Ghidorah, etc.) but that doesn’t change the status of the previous incarnations…. The original 1961 Mothra isn’t now called Rainbow Mothra, Fairy Mothra, or any of the other names that have been used for other versions of the character.
The 1998 Godzilla and Zilla are handled the same way. The “Godzilla” copyright and trademark on the monster in the 1998 TriStar film is co-held by Toho and Sony Pictures so Toho can’t just change it. And Toho doesn’t want to change it because they’re a business, and having big Hollywood productions using the “Godzilla” name is good for business.
So Shogo Tomiyama did not rename the 1998 Godzilla. He didn’t have that authority, and he understands the business side. What he and director Ryuhei Kitamura did was introduce a variation of that character as Zilla. Toho’s press materials for FINAL WARS describe Zilla as a new monster similar to (rather than the same as) one that had attacked NYC, so Toho made a distinction between the two versions from the start. And when I interviewed Tomiyama right before the world premiere of FINAL WARS he referred to the 1998 Godzilla as the “American Godzilla” not Zilla.
Toho stance is very clear for anyone he cares to look. Last year for Godzilla’s 60th anniversary they released all of the Godzilla films on Blu-ray and the 1998 film was included by Toho as GODZILLA, not Zilla or anything else (the Blu-ray cover has the title in both Japanese and English)…
And this month Toho and the satellite service WOWOW are showing all of the Godzilla films on HD television. Both the 1998 and 2014 American versions are included, and the titles for both are given as “GODZILLA”…
There is absolutely zero doubt what the name of the 1998 film and character are according to Toho.
The result we get from going through these specific points is that while Godzilla (1998) and Zilla use the same type of design they go by two different names and appears in two different movies (which takes place in two different fictional timelines/universes owned and created by two different companies) altogether, and ultimately they are two different characters. We also come to understand that Godzilla (1998), Baby Godzilla (1998), Godzilla (1998, animated), Juvenile Godzilla, and Cyber-Godzilla are still part of the Godzilla-character (as a variation) and will stay that way permanently and their names cannot be changed. This confirms that a direct name change (as some people imply or state have occurred) is a myth. This obviously means that any individual or website* holding on to this myth of calling Godzilla (1998) and its many incarnations for “Zilla” as fact will be spreading a lie.
* Wikipedia is an example of a website (which not only can be; edited by anyone and everyone; controlled by groups of people or administrators and their shared/biased views) which includes articles such as Godzilla (1998 film) and Zilla (Toho) which currently adds to confusing and misleading readers into believing this myth (especially when not faced with the actual facts).