Traveling With Godzilla
A cleverly-edited Instagram profile shows the King of Monsters getting into shenanigans across the globe.
For as long as there have been cameras, people have taken photos while traveling, and now, thanks to platforms like Instagram, travel photography is bigger than ever. It’s so popular that some people, like Jack Morris and Lauren Bullen, have been able to quit their jobs and dedicate their lives to posting pictures of their travels on the ‘gram. Others, like Murad Osmann, have turned into international sensations because of a mere pose they “invented.” In fact, wanderlust today is so thick that some people, like Amelia Liana, have even tried faking travel pictures, just to get a slice of the fame.
And then there’s this guy.
Australian expat Kieran Murray has been traveling the world with a Godzilla figurine for the last four years.
“People must think that I’m a really lonely guy that had to make up a friend to travel with,” said Murray, who also makes viral YouTube videos about Australian slang words. “Really, this whole thing is meant to be a joke.”
He’s talking about the more than 400 photos of landmarks and tourist attractions that he’s Photoshopped the so-called “King of Monsters” into and posted to Instagram under the account @ryangodzilling. The exquisitely edited photos are similar to the traveling gnome snapshots Amelie sent her father in the eponymous 2001 French romantic comedy, albeit with a bit more mischief and sleight of hand involved.
Murray’s toy — whose official name is Ryan Godzilling, but whose “stage name” is Godzilla — has chased squirrels on the White House’s front lawn and barfed into trash cans after a boozy night on New Orleans’ Bourbon Street. He’s been arrested in Texas for sneaking a Big Gulp refill at a 7-Eleven, and together, the pair once spied through the windows of Tom’s Restaurant in Manhattan searching for Jerry Seinfeld. Godzilla has a penchant for climbing tourist attractions — he’s already conquered Big Ben, the Space Needle, the Empire State Building, and the Manhattan Bridge, to name a few — and he has a bad habit of peeing in bodies of water, be it the Hudson River or a hotel pool in Orlando, Fla. Earlier this year, he managed to get a selfie of his scaley-skinned self with Justin Timberlake.
But not everything Murray portrays Godzilla doing is particularly glamorous. Some of the plastic monster’s Instagram pics show him doing mundane things, like riding the subway, shopping for groceries, and working out at the gym. Murray said he does this to make the giant reptile seem more relatable to his fans.
“The stuff that happens with him on Instagram, it’s always the kind of stuff you wouldn’t expect from an enormous reptilian fire-breathing monster,” Murray said. “His personality is quite the opposite of that. He’s a big softie. His favorite movie is Spy Kids, and he think Gremlins is the scariest.”
Murray purchased Godzilla from a comic book store in Chicago, Ill., on July 4, 2014 because he wanted a travel souvenir from the Windy City.
“Our eyes met across the room,” he explained. “And I went up to the clerk and said, ‘Oh my god, how much is that figurine?’ ” (Answer: $8.)
Later that night, while watching the fireworks with friends, Murray got the idea to hold Godzilla up to the skyline and take a picture. Though it’s not the first photo posted on their Instagram account, Murray credited it as the one “that sort of sparked the whole idea” to start a travelogue with the toy.
Surprisingly, Murray is not a Godzilla fan, and he has a hard time explaining why he ended up gravitating toward the figurine on that fateful Fourth of July.
“It just happened,” he said. “As a result, people assumed I was this Godzilla nut, but that’s really not the case at all. I’ve seen that late ’90s Godzilla movie, the one with Matthew Broderick in it, and I loved it. But that’s the only film I’ve ever seen of him.”
Regardless of why he picked the figurine, choosing Godzilla as his travel buddy has turned out to be a smart move. Murray unwittingly tapped into a large and hungry community of Godzilla fans on Instagram, and to date, @ryangodzilling has more than 14,500 followers.
“It’s really worked out well,”Murray said. “I picked a figurine that is popular, but also underrepresented online.”
Today, because he travels so much, he usually edits the photos while sitting in airports or airplanes, but in the early days, he wasn’t using Photoshop at all.
“It was just me literally holding him out in front of my iPhone,” he said. “And, since there’s only so many ways that you can take photos using that method — which basically means holding him by the tail and then poking him into the frame — that progressed into using the visual effects skills that I learned while in university.”
Murray spends anywhere from 30 minutes to four hours working on a single image, though his average time is about two hours. Some of the more challenging photos he’s created involved casting Godzilla’s shadow onto buildings or camouflaging him with background art, like the American flag or the geometric set in the music video to Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.”
Murray has no plans of ending his adventures with Godzilla any time soon, but he realizes that this decision might ultimately be out of his control anyways.
“People always ask me if I have backups of Godzilla, and I don’t. I only have this one,” he said. “So if I lose this thing, that’s the end of this Instagram.”