The Scoop: 1969 unrated. Directed by Marv Newland and starring Bambi and Godzilla.
Summary Capsule: At long last, the world’s cutest deer clashes with the King of the Monsters. It’s the fight that was born to happen!
Drew’s Rating: Sure he’s the underdog, but I’m still putting a five spot on Bambi. Can you imagine the payoff if he wins?
Drew’s Review: You know, the word “ass-kickingly” gets thrown around a lot these days, but I can’t think of a better term to describe how the makers of Bambi Meets Godzilla went about dealing with their hefty subject matter. Let’s face it: this is a battle of two pop culture titans, weight classes be damned. Both have ardent fans who can be counted on to make a strong case for their favorite; both are fictional animals who have achieved the highest levels of success in cinema with Disney and Toho respectively. And most importantly, both have axes to grind. Few people know this, but the hunter who shot Bambi’s mother (wait, spoiler… dammit!) was actually a Japanese emigrant who left his native country after countless attacks by Godzilla, making the mean green machine indirectly responsible for the murder of Bambi’s mom. That’s grounds for vendetta, folks. And as for the Big G, well, he hates all deer. They know why.
I won’t insult anyone by trying to do justice to a plot summary of BMG, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the technical elements. They… well, they suck. Sorry. I understand that unplanned expenses can arise, but when one considers the trim but fair $50 million budget Newland was reportedly working with, one expects a better caliber of animation, or at least voice actors with more range. Obviously the animation was somewhat limited by the technology of the era — no one is expecting Toy Story here — but when one considers some of the other animatic triumphs from the time period, it’s hard to avoid the feeling that BMG comes up a bit short.
But where Marv Newland’s animation skills may be in question, his directorial abilities are anything but. Few directors, and fewer still at so early a stage in their careers, would have been able to elicit the raw acting power that Newland draws out of his stars. Both have been in their share of successes (Bambi, Godzilla) and less-beloved sequels (Bambi 2, Godzilla vs. Gigan), but nowhere do they shine brighter than in this single, brief pairing. And “brief” is the operative word: some have criticized the film’s running time, arguing that with such stars at his disposal, it’s criminal of Newland not to allow them more time to play off of each other. I couldn’t disagree more — the hallmark of a great director is knowing what to leave on the cutting room floor. Are there entire deleted scenes that would likely highlight each actor’s strengths and make for interesting “what might have been”s on a DVD release? Undoubtedly. But Newland was committed to crafting a tight, taut film, and that’s what he delivered. Any longer and he would have run the risk of losing sight of the plot, and I don’t think any of us wanted to see that happen.
It’s accepted wisdom in this business that some movies are simply review-proof, and BMG may well be one of them. There’s so much to say about the film’s many layers, but how can I get into any of that without depriving someone of the chance to experience the movie with fresh, unspoiled eyes? And that, I’m afraid, is something I’m just not willing to do. If you’ve never had the pleasure of witnessing what is perhaps the greatest battle ever committed to film, get yourself to YouTube post haste and rectify that. And if you have, do yourself a favor and watch it again. You know you were just going to spend those two minutes goofing off anyway. Slacker.
- Marv Newland was a student at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles in 1969, working on a live-action film for his term project. When he found himself unable to complete it, he created Bambi Meets Godzilla instead. At the time, Newland was renting an apartment from Adriana Caselotti, the voice of Snow White from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves.
- The piano chord heard at the end is the final note from “A Day in the Life” by the Beatles.
- The original VHS release of Godzilla 1985 included Bambi Meets Godzilla prior to the beginning of that movie.
- Bambi Meets Godzilla was ranked #38 in a list of the 50 greatest cartoons of all time in 1994.
- Bambi: …
If You Liked This Movie, Try These:
- Son of Bambi Meets Godzilla