What is Suitmation? Definition and Examples.

Published:
Updated:

Suitmation is a filmmaking technique where actors wear large, detailed monster costumes and act out the creatures’ movements on miniature sets designed to represent urban or natural landscapes. Suitmation is primarily used in producing kaiju (giant monster) films and television series, most famously in the Godzilla franchise and other Japanese tokusatsu productions.

Imagine slipping into a giant rubber monster suit and clumsily stomping around miniature cities. Welcome to the world of suitmation. It’s sweaty, it’s awkward, but undeniably a spectacle.

The term “suitmation” combines “suit” (referring to the costume) and “animation,” highlighting the method of animating inanimate costumes on screen. It allows for a tactile and physically expressive portrayal of giant monsters, distinguishing it from other special effects methods like CGI or stop-motion animation.

Three examples of movies that use suitmation

Here are three notable examples of movies that extensively use suitmation:

Godzilla (1954)

Directed by Ishirō Honda, this film is perhaps the most iconic example of suitmation. Haruo Nakajima’s Godzilla suit brought the giant monster to life, wreaking havoc on miniature Tokyo sets. This film spawned a franchise that has continued to use suitmation in many of its entries.

Ultraman (1966)

Though originally a television series, Ultraman has had several movie adaptations. The series and its films feature a giant superhero fighting against giant monsters or aliens. The use of suitmation for Ultraman and the creatures he battles has been a hallmark of the series.

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe (1995)

This movie is part of the Gamera film series and features another giant monster, Gamera, who is brought to life through suitmation. The film rebooted the Gamera series and used updated suitmation techniques (including using CGI) to create more dynamic and engaging monster battles.

Gamera: Guardian of the Universe is also notable for being the first suitmation film where a woman wore a monster costume in Japan; they are traditionally only worn by men.

Summing Up

You might not realize it, but you’ve likely seen suitmation. It’s a classic special effects technique used primarily in Japanese kaiju films, in which an actor donning a costume portrays gigantic monsters.

It’s a traditional and cost-effective method that offers a tangible, if not slightly campy, realism to the creatures you see rampaging through cityscapes on screen.

Up Next: Easter Eggs in Movies. Meaning and Examples.

Author

    by
  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.