Alex TOTH and me – Part Four

I finally got my chance to work with Alex Toth when I was made the production designer on an American Godzilla movie being produced and directed by Steve Miner from a brilliant script by Fred Dekker. I began as the film’s pre-production artist and storyboard man, then (with some spurring from my friend, the legendary storyboard artist Mentor Huebner) asked for and received the job of production designer on the film.

There were special effects shots in nearly every scene, so practically the entire movie needed to be boarded so that the production could get a realistic guesstimate as to the film’s effects budget. I immediately hired Dave Stevens and Doug Wildey as storyboard artists. My pal and studio mate Dave could be slow if left entirely to his own devices, so I drew rough layouts for most of his scenes to speed things up. I revered Jonny Quest creator Doug Wildey (now there was a guy who knew how to visually tell stories for the screen!) and found it ironic that he was working for me, especially as I was learning so much from him about film and visual storytelling as we collaborated.

There was still plenty of storyboard work that needed to be produced, however. A light switched on in my brain.

Here’s my chance to work with Alex Toth!

We could collaborate and I could say “thank you” to him for all of his inspiration by tossing a good job his way on a potentially great film (in addition to Dave and Doug, animation master David Allen was hired to do the stop motion animation effects, paleoartist Stephen Czerkas created the armature and sculpted form of our stop motion Godzilla figure and the celebrated make-up artist and innovator Rick Baker was taken on to create a large robotic Godzilla head)! We had a real Dream Team working on this film.

I phoned Alex.

“Alex! This is Bill Stout. I’d love to have you work with me on this new Godzilla film I’m on.”

Alex was immediately dismissive.

“I don’t do that kind of movie.”

“But Alex — you haven’t even read the script! Its not like any Godzilla film you’ve seen in the past. It’s terrific! It’s a sort of Spielbergian version of Godzilla as seen through the eyes of a 14 year-old boy. You’ll love it. I’ve been made the movie’s production designer. We need to have the entire film storyboarded, so that’s why I’ve called, hoping you’d like to work on this with me.”

“If you couldn’t handle the job, why’d you take it?”

Wow.

I made some quick, parting niceties and got off the phone. That was the last time I ever spoke to Alex. I decided that maintaining our friendship was just too much hard work — especially since all the work was on my part and none was on his.

I decided I’d be much, much happier admiring Alex’s work from the distance of the printed page.

To Be Continued. . .

5 Responses to “Alex TOTH and me – Part Four”

  1. Rick Tucker says:

    Bill,

    Your last sentence pretty much sums up everything I’ve heard from those who admired Alex but just couldn’t cope personally with the him. I hope you have some closing insight that, so far, has eluded so many who also knew him.
    Thanks for sharing these experiences with him.

    Rick

  2. Rick Catizone says:

    That’s a shame that it was his reaction. I’m sure that it hurt…especially that he was someone you admired.

    The production and people lined up sound like it really could have been very exciting. Another film passed by…

    Best,
    Rick

  3. Aaron says:

    Hey Mr. Stout,

    Taking off on a bit of a tangent here but it sounds to me like you could fill a whole book on the production of the Godzilla movie that didn’t happen. And there are storyboards by Dave Stevens on this!? And a Steve Czerkas animation model!? And an animatronic head by Rick Baker!? Holy smoke! I wish you’d put together a book with your experience and art and give us the whole story.

    Best Wishes,
    Aaron

  4. Bill says:

    @ Aaron:
    It was the best movie I worked on (for two years!) that never got made. Godzilla targets San Francisco, beginning with the Golden Gate Bridge. The boy must sacrifice Godzilla to save his father. The Big G dies on Alcatraz. It’s incredibly sad and moving at the end. Right film, wrong time (very expensive, and four big budget films had just bombed at that time, Heaven’s Gate being one of them). I don’t think Rick made much headway on the robotic head, but I have good photos of Stephen Czerkas’ first pass at the articulated stop motion Godzilla figure.

    And I have a whole drawer full of Dave Stevens and Doug Wildey storyboards. I put together a slide show on the film for a couple of Godzilla conventions.

    Stout Trivia: If we had received the greenlight on Godzilla and had made it, assuming it was a hit, I was scheduled to direct Rodan.

  5. Jorge Farfan says:

    Part 5?? 😉 I have more to write, but bz working. Will comment further later. Sorry ’bout the Toth.

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