Yesterday, I was reminded of the old Somerville Theatre at Davis Square. I use 'old' because it has since been renovated; it was quite shabby when I lived in the area. I encountered Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969) during the animation festival. I had no idea when I first saw it, that it was already a classic and that, in fact, much of the audience anticipated its return. I did not trust my memory on this fact, but I was pleased to find this point confirmed in a report of the festival, probably the year before I attended it, published in the Harvard Crimson.* I was so astounded by the short cartoon, that I sought it out whenever it returned to town. It never failed to amaze how something could be so funny and horrid at the same time.
In looking at it again, when preparing this post, I recognized that I had somehow had effaced from memory the significant role of the rather narcissistic opening (and closing) credits in the film (including the jokes embedded in them). For reasons I cannot explain I find the credits especially jarring because they contrast with the visual simplicity of the cartoon itself.
Either way, in revisiting the cartoon, I was struck that Godzilla's foot has scales. Godzilla (who is supposed to be some kind of dinosaur, I think) is part gorilla, part whale, and Godzilla has an aquatic origin. But the scales also puzzle me because I believe whales do not have scales. Yet, in looking at the final image of Bambi flattened by Godzilla, I was reminded of Leviathan (think book of Job and Hobbes). In the famous image at the front of Hobbes's Leviathan, the people that compose the Leviathan are made to look like scales.
Bambi's mom is slaughtered by man-the-hunter. I have no idea if, at the height of the Vietnam War, Marv Newland meant to invoke the brutality of the state-leviathan, which tramples innocence along the way. But it is not far-fetched; in the original, Japanese context, Godzilla is meant to evoke the dangers of atomic warfare (this is also an unsubtle point: Godzilla flattens Japanese cities).
So far so good. But if one goes down this route, the question is whose innocence innocence is being trampled on? The flattened daisy evokes, perhaps, LBJ's famous commercial against Goldwater. I would like to think that Bambi stands for the idea of American freedom, but I am not entirely confident on this matter.