Godzilla may be the most popular kaiju there is, but at least when it comes to Toho’s stable, Mothra is number two, appearing in thirteen of Godzilla’s movies and her own trilogy in the Heisei era.
She got her start when producer Tomoyuki Tanaka hired author Shin’ichirō Nakamura to write an original kaiju story. Working with Takehiko Fukunaga and Zenei Hotta, their story The Glowing Fairies and Mothra was serialized in Weekly Asahi Extra magazine. To play the fairies, the idol singing group The Peanuts were hired, bringing a new audience to kaiju movies.
They are just two of the many odd inhabitants of Infant Island, a place whose juice can heal radiation sickness, vampire plants nearly eat trespassers and gigantic lavra can grow into fantastic moth creatures.
Let me say this again. One of the main plot points of this movie involves singing miniature women called the Shobijin who can speak directly to giant monsters.
Much like so many kaiju films, a shady businessman kidnaps them and attempts to make money off them. That plan has failed every time it’s been tried, dating all the way back to King Kong. So they call out to be rescued, singing to the egg god of their island which hatches to become a gigantic silk-spinning worm that cocoons itself until it becomes a gigantic butterfly, saving the women and taking them home.
Columbia Pictures had the rights to this movie in America and they went full William Castle selling it. They came up with a press book that told theater owners to put up signs on construction sites saying “Mothra was here” and to hire cute girls and make them walk around with signs that read “Mothra, the world’s most fantastic love story!”
They even wanted theaters to have radioactive material and geiger counters for audiences to play with. Anything to sell a monster movie, I guess.