Bambi meets Godzilla (1969)
This weekend many of us will once again indulge in the anarchic pleasure of seeing a giant lizard lay waste to densely populated areas on the big screen. Since the release of Ishiro Honda’s quintessential creature feature Gojira (1954), the King of the Monsters has appeared in nearly 30 officially licenced films and also inspired an incalculable number of imitators. After sitting through Cloverfield and Pacific Rim, I think it will be a nice change of pace to see a big-budget Godzilla movie that actually has Godzilla in it.
Among the unauthorized uses of Godzilla, none stand taller than animator Marv Newland’s Bambi meets Godzilla (1969). This black-and-white minute-and-a-half counterculture cartoon was a one-man production for Newland forty-five years ago when he was 22. Within the world of animated comedy the influence of the short is everywhere, partly because Newland’s abrupt sense of comedy is just as effective today was it was back then. With its epic randomness and reliance on reference humour, Bambi meets Godzilla might seem to some like a gag taken from an episode of Robot Chicken but Marv Newland deserves credit for establishing the trend. As testament to its lasting significance, Bambi meets Godzilla was featured in The 50 Greatest Cartoons: As Selected by 1000 Animation Professionals compiled by animation historian Jerry Beck.
After the phenomenon of Bambi meets Godzilla, Newland decided to move from California to Toronto because of his vehement opposition to the war in Vietnam. There Newland animated segments for Sesame Street and projects for National Film Board of Canada before founding International Rocketship Limited; an animation film production company headquartered in Vancouver, British Colombia. At International Rocketship, Newland directed a number of acclaimed shorts including Sing Beast Sing (1980), Hooray for Sandbox Land (1985), the international collaboration Anijam (1984) as well as the sexually explicit fantasia Pink Komkommer (1991). Newland also directed Tales from the Far Side (1994) which was a television special based on the cartoons of Gary Larson and was recognized with the Grand Prix at the Annecy International Animation Festival in Paris. In the 1990s, Newland also directed episodes of the animated primetime shows Duckman and The PJs, and International Rocketship created animation for US television networks such as MTV, Nickelodeon and Lifetime.
International Rocketship has also produced a number of successful shorts by other animators, including J. Falconer’s Dog Brain (1988) and Danny Antonucci’s Lupo the Butcher (1986). Newland and International Rocketship continue to produce new animated projects including his most recent work Postalolio (2009) which screened at the SoHo International Film Festival in New York as well as the Hiroshima International Animation Festival.