Kong: Skull Island is finally arriving this week (get your tickets here)! We're celebrating with a week of articles in honor of cinema's most famous ape.
You know what I actively try to never do? Read the comment section of any article or video posted online. Though, I will say that BMD is an exception. The amount of film-loving, engaging commentary and discussion in the comment section of BMD articles vastly outnumbers the complete garbage that generally makes up online comment sections. But I digress. Despite my general resistance, for this piece, an “investigation” into the ongoing popularity of Marv Newland’s Bambi Meets Godzilla, a comment section seemed like the best place to start.
If you aren’t already familiar with this not-even-two-minute-short, or for those of you who simply can’t get enough of Bambi Meets Godzilla, please relish the video below:
What was created for a student project in 1969 unexpectedly turned into a cult favorite for fans of the Godzilla franchise. When sifting through comments, more than half were short stories from YouTube users who had stumbled upon a video they hadn’t seen since the '80s when the film was theatrically released as an opener for Godzilla 1985: The Legend is Reborn.
What was once a traumatic epilogue to Bambi is now a comedic tale about two widely-known characters unfortunately crossing paths. The humor in Newland’s rolling credits – I mean come on, “Marv Newland produced by Mr. and Mrs. Newland” is too good -- amidst the sweet sound of “Call to the Dairy Cows” outshines the gruesome death of our sweet Bambi.
This quirky off-shoot continued to make appearances years later. Its eccentric animation and hilarity adds a sense of originality that all festivals, independent screenings, and Godzilla-related events work to acquire. Spike and Mike’s Festival of Animation, a festival that ran from 1977 to the early 2000s and screened the works of John Lasseter, Mike Judge, Nick Park, and Bill Plympton, showed the film on several occasions. Godzilla 1985: The Legend is Reborn wasn’t Bambi Meets Godzilla’s first theatrical opening either. It had a theatrical release a decade earlier thanks to Seattle-based film enthusiast Randy Finley who opened John Magnuson’s Thank You Mask Man with Newland’s short.
Viewers can’t deny its humor as one of the reasons they keep returning to this short film. But its significance isn’t just a result of its comedy. Jerry Beck, an animation historian, ranked Bambi Meets Godzilla as number 38 out of 50 of the most highly regarded animation shorts. Beck’s ranking was based on a poll of 1,000 people in the animation industry who felt these top 50 films were the most historically significant. One of the reasons it was included on this list was due to its metaphorical implication, specifically Newland’s use of low art (Godzilla) to trump high art (Disney’s Bambi).
Fans of the film restored Bambi Meets Godzilla, creating a new 1080p for public viewing on YouTube. A handful of Newland’s films, including Bambi’s animated murder, have been preserved and are currently stored at the Academy Film Archive. Newland’s student film has stood the test of time, not just for nostalgic reasons but also because of its historical significance. And just like the Godzilla franchise, there have been several remakes and sequels, none of which compare to Newland’s creation. Though, I will admit that I’m a fan of its live action remake by Scotty Fields. His use of lit matches is perfection.