Friday, February 15, 2013

Bambi Meets Godzilla: The Making of The Re-Creation

I think the first time I saw Marv Newland's animated short "Bambi Meets Godzilla" on the big screen was in 1996-ish at the (now gone) Harwan Theatre in Mount Ephraim, NJ, shown before a midnight movie. I loved the short, thought it was fun, but thought the film looked incredibly beat up and could either use a re-make or a restoration.

Fast forward to late November 2012. Having completed a few small video editing projects using Sony Vegas, and being prone to geeky projects just for the fun of it, I decided to try my hand at re-doing this classic animation via computer.

I started out by finding the best possible material, which in this case was a video from Vimeo. Watching the video, as well as a dozen other copies scattered around the Internet, I noticed that all of them were skewed, as if the film was recorded looking up at a movie screen at an angle. I also found out that the video downloaded from Vimeo ran at 25 frames per second, as opposed to the 23.976/24 fps frame rate commonly used in the US. Since each frame of the original video was from a full intact frame of film, I then had the basis for my project, which I decided I would render in a 4:3 aspect ratio at 4K (2880 x 2160).

I desaturated and deskewed the video, and saved the finished project to a new file to have something to work from. From there, I output the video as a series of images, then used those images to copy the look and feel of the credits via Photoshop, using the same typefaces (mostly Helvetica and Futura) as the original. I ended up with 17 image files.

I then printed out individual frames of the original elements, used tracing paper to trace them, then scanned the traced images at 1200 dpi. From there, I overlaid each of the frames into the project, using the original film as my template. I had to take a few liberties with the new version, the largest being that my images are stationary, and the images in the original film unintentionally moved around a bit from frame to frame.

Once I was done drawing and overlaying the image of the field of grass and flowers, and animating all of the credits and Godzilla's foot, I was a bit burned out on the arduous process and took a break for a month or two.

I started up again in February 2013 by finishing the most difficult part of the project: animating Bambi. Bambi's animation consists of about 27 unique animated frames (yes, including the squished Bambi), used in different sequences throughout the film. I printed out the Bambi images, six to a page, then traced only the portions of the animation that differed from each frame before it, and scanned those in. I then used Photoshop to clean up and piece together my scanned images.

After that, it was simply a matter of assembling the frames in the correct order. Each piece of animation lasts for about three frames of film on average, but there were also many variations and anomalies in the original film as well. I went frame by frame and dropped each image in, again using the original video as a template.

Once the entire animation process was complete, I rendered my finished project to individual images (again at 2880 x 2160). I imported the image sequence back into Vegas at 23.976 fps, then got to work on the audio, which I decided I would redo in 48 kHz, 24-bit, 5.1 surround.

I again used the Vimeo video as my template for the audio. Since the audio, running with the 25fps video, also ran at that speed, I had to slow the audio down to the correct speed/pitch before I could use it.

I went on a hunt, looking for the same pre-1969 recording of the excerpt from Rossini's William Tell Overture that matched the one used in the film, but couldn't find it. I instead used a more recent version from a CD, and used Acid Pro to stretch and match up that audio with the original version's timing. 

For the final chord, consisting of a certain famous song played at half-speed, I found a 96 kHz, 24-bit 5.1 version of the song, and simply changed the sampling rate to half (48 kHz), getting the correct sampling resolution and roughly the required speed all at once.

I used Vegas again to replace the original audio, expanding the new William Tell audio to 5.1 by adding a small amount reverb to the rear channels, and then dropping in the other song as-is for the final chord. I thought of adding some outdoorsy sound effects or of adding a projector sound to the rear channels, but decided against it, because I wanted to leave the audio as close to the original as possible, while still adding a new dimension of sound to the proceedings.

Somewhere in this, I also decided the resultant 4K image was TOO sharp, and so I used Vegas to add a tiny bit of film grain, gaussian blur, and scratches before the final render.

Then, it was finally time for said render. I wanted to output the image to YouTube at 4K, but my hardware and software has some serious limitations, so 1080p is the best I could do for now. YouTube also only plays in stereo, so what you hear on the video is a 2-channel mixdown of the 5.1.

As I now have all of these files, someday I'd like to output the files to a DCP (digital cinema package) at 4K with 5.1 sound... but that's for another day.

EDIT: As of July 14, 2013, the render is in full 4K (2880 x 2160)!

Special Thanks:
Rhi - for being my cheering section through the process
Jeannie and Jeff - for more cheering, and for the use of the all-in-one printer-scanner



  1. Beautifully done.

    I worked in the film department of a public libary in the early '80s, and this 16mm film was always in terrible shape. We'd get cuts and damaged sprockets throughout, and had to splice out the damaged parts. Obviously, even cutting a little really affects the impact of the film. Finally, when the very last bit of animation was damaged and had to be removed we scrapped the film. Fortunately, the media librarian recognized the cultural importance of the film, and acquired a few new copies, on the (then) new "Estar base" film stock, which was practically indestructible.

    It's great to see it in even better shape than I remember it.


  2. Bless you for doing this. This is one of my all time favorite shorts!

  3. Thanks, I am now able to share it with my teenage son.

  4. That's great!

    However, Re: The William Tell Overture: It sounds like you sped up the recording! It's normally played in G-Major; what you added is in Ab-Major! Changing keys is no biggie in jazz or pop, but is totally verboten with classical works! I'm working on replacing it with Spike Jones' version :)

    1. Hi,

      As the original film's music is in the same key, I simply tried my best to duplicate the audio.