San Diego Natural History Museum--Your Nature ConnectionSDNHM Exhibits
Dinosaurs: Reel and Robotic
Movie Posters
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Godzilla -- King of the Monsters, 1956, Toho/Trans World Release
Godzilla, 1956
Toho/Trans World Release
(1.3MB JPG)

Godzilla blurred the scientific aspects of dinosaurs into total science fiction. No real dinosaur ever looked like Godzilla. The artists combined bipedal carnivorous forms and armored dinosaurs to create Godzilla. The size barrier was shattered—Godzilla was over 300 feet tall. Now a cultural icon, often considered high camp and comedic, Godzilla was not intended for laughs. The original Japanese version of the motion picture used Godzilla to represent the evils unleashed by the development of the atomic bomb.

The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, 1953, Warner Brothers
The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, 1953
Warner Brothers
(0.9MB JPG)


Inspired by a short story by Ray Bradbury published in the Saturday Evening Post magazine, The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms became a huge box-office sensation that helped generate a wave of dinosaur and monster movies during the 1950s. The superb stop-motion special effects were created by Ray Harryhausen who based the fictional dinosaur on the artwork used in the short story. The "Rhedosaurus," as it was called, resembled a gigantic lizard more than any actual dinosaur known to science. It was the first to break the size barrier, portraying the dinosaur far larger than any known to science.
King Kong, 1933, RKO/Turner Broadcasting
King Kong, 1933
RKO/Turner Broadcasting
(1.4MB JPG)


For several decades, King Kong was the most influential movie depicting what dinosaurs might have been like in life. The film was produced shortly after sound had become an essential part of movie making. This allowed it to be repeatedly re-released to the theaters. The stop motion and improved special effects resulted in some of the most remarkable portrayals of dinosaurs ever shown on film. These dinosaurs were the first ever to be heard roaring and hissing in movies. The film's Tyrannosaurus rex, Brontosaurus, and Stegosaurus, as well as a snake-like Plesiosaurus and a flying Pteranodon were based on museum illustrations by Charles R. Knight.

King Kong, 1933, RKO/Turner Broadcasting
King Kong and Son of Kong, 1933
RKO/Turner Broadcasting
(0.8MB JPG)


Caption (top left): Son of Kong, effects technician positioning miniatures models.
Caption (center): This animation armature was used in the original King Kong (as a Brontosaur) in 1933 and then modified for use in the sequel Son of Kong (as a sea beast).
Caption (bottom right): Son of Kong, final composite scene of the sea beast and man as seen on the movie screen.

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