GODZILLA’S UNSUNG ANIMATOR! Ernest Geefay on Animating the Short Parody Film ‘Bambi’s Revenge’!

Ernest Geefay works on the Thai children’s television program Meet Mr. Maytree. Photo © Michael Schmicker.

Bambi’s Revenge (1976) is an unofficial sequel to Marv Newland’s classic short film Bambi Meets Godzilla (1969). The 1976 cartoon was written and directed by Norman Gibson, produced by Frank Wetzel, photographed by John Roope, and animated by Ernest Geefay. Clocking in at about two minutes, the animated short picks up where Bambi Meets Godzilla leaves off and gives the audience a much happier ending than the original, but it’s Ernest Geefay’s animation that truly brings it all to life. After animating Bambi’s Revenge, Mr. Geefay went on to write and direct many television commercials, some of which had a national reach. In September 2022, Mr. Geefay answered Brett Homenick’s questions about his work on Bambi’s Revenge.

Brett Homenick: Please talk about your early life. When and where were you born?

Ernest Geefay: Born in Chicago [in] 1946, moved to California in 1950.

BH: Could you describe your childhood? What did you like to do at that time?

EG: I loved drawing. My school teachers always leaned on me to decorate the classroom with drawings for open house.

BH: When did you become interested in animation?

EG: When Disneyland opened in 1955, I went there and bought a book on animated cartoons — Chip ‘n’ Dale — and dreamed of working as an animator one day. I did lots of cartoon drawings, mostly just for fun.

BH: How did you study and practice it?

EG: In 1969, I joined the Peace Corps. I went to Thailand for four years and was assigned to make animated cartoons for the Bangkok Municipality educational TV program [Meet Mr. Maytree] to teach basic English to grade school children.

We used a Bolex 16mm film camera that could shoot one frame at a time and did animated cartoons and cut out animations teaching the English alphabet and illustrating simple words.

Ernest Geefay’s credit at the end of Bambi’s Revenge. Photo © Frank Wetzel Productions.

BH: Did you become a professional animator?

EG: No, I just did it until I left Thailand. When I returned to the U.S., [I] went to San Jose State [University] and got a degree in TV production. And, after graduation, I got a job at KSBW TV in Salinas, CA, as a commercial photographer.

BH: What are some of your other credits as an animator or artist?

EG: None, really.

BH: How did you get hired to work on Bambi’s Revenge?

EG: While working at KSBW, I was invited by one of their studio engineers to help them out on Bambi’s Revenge. My job was to draw the animation cartoons frame by frame.

BH: Do you remember if director Norman Gibson or producer Frank Wetzel contacted you?

EG: No, this was a really basic animated short, just a few friends doing it out of their house. I never met any big names.

BH: What kind of direction were you given about what to animate?

EG: As I recall, they had a storyboard, and I just drew the cels according to the storyboard.

BH: How much freedom did you have when drawing the pictures?

EG: As I recall, I was unsupervised. I did the drawings in Salinas and brought them to the house to be photographed one frame at a time.

BH: How long did it take you to complete the animation for the short?

EG: As I recall, I was there at the house only two days.

BH: Where did you do the animation?

EG: I did the drawings in Salinas. They gave me a small animation stand to use. I can’t recall how many cels I drew. When I was done, I took a bus to the house where the camera setup was located.

BH: Where did you go to have the animation cels photographed?

EG: I can’t recall the location — in California and not in Salinas.

BH: Did you work with John Roope, who photographed the animation frame by frame?

EG: Yes, I think that was the name of engineer who worked at KSBW. He asked me to do the drawings. [In his interview with Brett Homenick, John Roope describes working at KSBY, which was then a sister station of KSBW.]

BH: How long did the process of photographing the animation take?

EG: Two days, I think.

Ernest Geefay hard at work in Thailand as an animator. Photo © Michael Schmicker.

BH: What kind of feedback did you receive about your animation from the filmmakers?

EG: None. After the job was done, I can’t even recall seeing the finished product. Sometime later, someone mentioned to me that he had seen my name on the credits in a theater where the animation was shown.

BH: Did you ever see the finished short film?

EG: Just now [after sending the link to Mr. Geefay to view the short]. Thanks. Did it make the “Big Time”?

BH: Well, it does have its fans. Did you ever hear any comments about the short from people who have seen it?

EG: No. Can you tell me why you are interested in this obscure film?

BH: I think the people interested in it are Godzilla fans who enjoy tracking down obscure media. In the years since Bambi’s Revenge, what else have you done?

EG: No animated cartoons, just lots of TV commercials.

BH: What are some TV commercials you’ve worked on?

EG: Mostly local car commercials in the Sacramento area, but also for JCPenney, VSP, Ace Hardware, [and] some contract work for the U.S. government – [the] missile defense program.

BH: Would you like to share any closing comments for this interview?

EG: Today, I am 76 years old and happily retired in Thailand where I was once a Peace Corps volunteer 54 years ago. I met my wife while working on those English programs back in 1971.

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