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Clifford the Big Red Dog
Photo: Paramount Pictures

Is 'Clifford the Big Red Dog' a kaiju?

The live-action trailer suggests the mutt is of a kind with Godzilla

Written by
Andy Kryza

Yesterday, Paramount Pictures unleashed upon an unsuspecting world the first trailer for its upcoming live-action Clifford the Big Red Dog adaptation. And like Paddington before it, the internet responded by recoiling in fear. 

The trailer shows the RV-sized, seemingly Kool-Aid dipped mega-mutt rampaging around New York to the tune of BTS' "Dynamite" and a John Cleese narration.

But as the dog grows more and more — he's fueled by love, you see — his size begins to take on a more sinister bent. We see Clifford's thrashing tail slamming humans into walls and crushing various objects. At one point, he attacks a human in an inflatable hamster ball and nearly swallows another dog whole. Climactically, he is seen rampaging across the Brooklyn Bridge looking like a Day-Glo version of the monster from Bong Joon-Ho's The Host.

The footage — which evokes such previous CGI horrors as Sonic the Hedgehog's debut trailer —begs the question: Is Clifford the Big Red Dog a kaiju?

The question of whether or not author Norman Birdwell's beloved pet — who debuted in 1963 and became the de-facto mascot for publisher Scholastic — is of the same class of gigantic monsters as Godzilla, King Kong, the Cloverfield alien and the interdimensional invaders of Pacific Rim has been asked before. Years-old debate threads on Quora and Reddit conclude that Clifford's enormous frame and bizarre coloration qualify him as a daikaiju, a Japanese phrase translated as "great strange beast." 

Coupled with Clifford's accidentally destructive habits, many have insisted that the ever-growing hound fits into a cuddly corner of the genre usually populated by more malevolent creatures like Godzilla, Mothra and whatever the Power Rangers are punching in a given week. 

The previous debate centered on the cartoon version of Clifford. Seeing the dog manifested in the real world — terrorizing poor Tony Hale, trampling Jack Whitehall and adopting the voice of David Alan Grier — has caused viewers to take up their pitchforks and cry kaiju. The reignited debate surrounding Clifford's status among monsters is now trending online. 

Some viewers have moved beyond the sci-fi flavors of the kaiju world and posited that Clifford may serve a more sinister master: 

Others saw fit to resurrect an even greater evil:

Digressions aside, Clifford absolutely fits the definition and profile of a kaiju. Now that we've cleared that up, we can only hope that the film is successful enough to lead to the next logical iteration of the beloved children's series:

Clifford the Big Red Dog rolls into theaters September 17. 

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