Monday, September 28, 2009

Short Film: Bambi Meets Godzilla (USA, 1969)

Here is a legendary film that for years everyone had heard of but few people ever had the chance to see. Needless to say, has changed that. But once upon a time, this film was mentioned in reverie by folks that refused to actually tell what happens in the film — other than that, well, Bambi meets Godzilla. But then, with a running length of roughly 1.5 minutes, there really isn’t all that much to tell, other than it is a fun classic that everyone should see at least once in their life. Bambi Meets Godzilla is all setup for a final punch line, and as such remains one of the shortest and funniest films ever made.Often misappropriately called Bambi vs. Godzilla, the film was made in 1969 by Marv Newland, a student at the Art Center of Design in Pasadena. (And not in L.A., OK folks?). Supposedly the first film to come out of Art Center, the Marv's film was a quick solution for a term project when he realized that his initially intended film, a live action film, wouldn't be finished on time. According to popular legend, at the time he made Bambi Meets Godzilla he was living in an apartment rented from Adriana Caselotti, who had supplied the voice to Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937/trailer). Seeing that she was active in real estate, the legend could well be true — and could well also explain why Marv was inspired to use a Disney icon in his film. (Why he chose Bambi rather than Snow White is easy to surmise: Bambi is a lot easier to draw than Snow White.)Supposedly it took him a full two weeks to complete the film, but considering the simplicity of the animation and shortness of the film, he probably worked on the film between distractions — as everyone tends to do in art school, as anyone who went to an art school can tell you. In any event, he managed to make a classic "underground" short, which is a lot more than many an other filmmaker has ever managed to do. His film is, of course, an homage to two favorites of childhood: Walt Disney's Bambi (1942/trailer) and Ishirô Honda's allegory of the atom bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki Gojira (1954/trailer), a film better known to most English speakers in its re-edited version starring a closeted Raymond Burr, Godzilla (1956/trailer). If the music and sound effects sound familiar, it's because the pleasant classical music is the highly familiar overture from Gioacchino Rossini’s opera William Tell, while the sound to the climactic confrontation is the final reverberating note of The Beatles' A Day in the Life.Following the world premiere of Bambi Meets Godzilla at Art Center and Marv's eventual graduation, Marv went into television commercials before leaving La La Land for Canada in 1970. Eventually settling in Vancouver, he founded the animation film company International Rocket Ship in 1975, which oddly enough does not seem to have an internet presence. Among the most renowned projects that he worked on in the years since Bambi Meets Godzilla are the two Gary Larson TV animated films, Tales from the Far Side (1994) and Tales from the Far Side II (1997), two under-appreciated masterpieces of animated humor. (Click here for roughly the first ten minutes of the first film.) In general, however, Marve seems to keep a low profile.
Like so many a successful film, Bambi Meets Godzilla has since been followed by a sequel entitled Son of Bambi Meets Godzilla (1999). The film, written and directed by Eric Fernandes, was made without the involvement of either Marv Newland or Walt Disney (or Ishirô Honda, for that matter), which sorely shows. A mere few seconds longer than the film its follows, its computer animation might be a primitive as Marv's original line drawings but it lacks the freshness and fun of the first film.
Enjoy this early classic of no-budget filmmaking.

1 comment:

Scotched said...

Wonderful to see this Classic again. I started at Vancouver's Alpha-Cine in 1971, and this film was an inspiration to continue searching for quality.
My thanks to the director!