“Bambi Meets Godzilla”: The 1969 Student Film That Launched A Career

By on April 14, 2015

Bambi Meets Godzilla — Marv Newland’s now-classic 1969 student film — just might be one of the most famous short animated films ever made.

BAMBI 2

In the late 60s, Newland — born in 1947 in Oakland, California — had originally planned to take design classes at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, but he switched his focus in order to make films instead.

His first project, a live-action film, proved to be too difficult to finish on time, so he spent two weeks working on a black-and-white animated short, Bambi Meets Gozilla, which he was able to make for less than $300. For its soundtrack he utilized the bucolic strains of “Call To The Dairy Cows” (A Ranz des Vaches), from Rossini’s opera William Tell (1829), a simple melody that was traditionally played on the horn by the Swiss Alpine herdsmen as they drove their cattle to or from the pasture.

Today, Newland still receives residuals from the sale of the cartoon which he has occasionally joked “ruined my career.”

There’s not much to say about the film except to possibly add that the sound you hear at the end, when Godzilla’s foot crushes down on Bambi (spoiler!!), is actually the final reverberating note heard in the Beatles’s “A Day in the Life”, from their 1967 LP Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

BAMBI 1

After graduating, Newland landed his first job right away, briefly working at SpungBuggy Works, Frank Terry’s L.A.-based commercial studio, where he designed animated TV commercials while learning the nuts and bolts of animation.

By the end of 1970, he was moving out of the U.S., to Toronto, Canada, where he was able to get freelance work as an animator.

He ended up working on a Canadian animated series called Super Joe (1971), as well as doing segments for PBS’s Sesame Street, among other projects. He then moved to Vancouver, Canada, and freelanced for a few more years before he ended up inking storyboards for Toonder Studios in Holland, for an animated series called Barbapapa (1973).

By 1975, he was directing his own films again, and founding his own animation studio, International Rocketship Limited.

Newland ended up making his own award-winning short animated films, including: Sing Beast Sing (1980), Anijam (1984), Hooray for Sandbox Land (1985), Black Hula (1988), Pink Komkommer (1991), Fuv (1999), and a few other films.

In 1985, Bambi Meets Godzilla was released theatrically as the lead in short to the film Godzilla 1985: The Legend Is Reborn.

BAMBI 3
Black Hula (1988)

Newland has continued to work in animation, moving over to producing and giving young animators their own shot at making their own mark in the world of animation. His International Rocketship  company has produced more than 20 short animated films as well as several animated sequences for television commercials — for MTV, Nickelodeon, and Locomotion — station IDs, and also produced two longer hour-long animated specials for CBS: Gary Larson’s Tales From The Far Side (1994) and its sequel, the imaginatively-named Gary Larson’s Tales From The Far Side II (1997).

International Rocketship Ltd. has produced more animated short films in Canada than any other Canadian animation studio. Retrospectives of the company’s films have been held at international film and animation festivals, and they have won numerous awards.

And to think, it all started with a tw0-minute film: Bambi Meets Godzilla.

BAMBI 5

Newland — seen here in 2014 — has conducted animation workshops in Germany and France and is currently an animation instructor.

When asked “What advice do you have for students wanting to become animators? Any animation tips or wisdom you’ve learned over the years?,” Newland answered this way:

“Read books. Learn the history of your artform/occupation. Do not consider drawing/animating to be work. Observe nature. Listen to all types of music. Conserve your energy for your work. Stay out of bar fights. Avoid long prayers. If you conceive a child be damn sure it is an accident.”

Bonus: With all the reboots, revivals and sequels being churned out these days, filmmaker Scotty Fields — who makes monsters for a living — has produced something we thought Hollywood would have jumped on decades ago – a remake of Bambi Meets Godzilla in live-action!

BAMBI 4

About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, assistant editor for the When You Awake blog, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.