Even these tapes cost something

  Bandi The Squirrel
198? | Portland Films.
Bandi The Squirrel Portland Films Movie Makers Blackpool

Terrible beyond belief!
Is this a "loveable story" or someone's Junior School Class project?

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Born in 1860 author, naturalist, and co-founder of the Boy Scouts of America Ernest Thompson Seton was a prolific writer and true lover of outdoor pursuits. From 1886 onwards he wrote numerous articles, around 60 books and over 400 short stories fuelled by his fascination for the natural world.

It was for his short stories, featuring tales of animals and the trials of a wild existence, that he became most popular for in Japan. In the early 1960's several of his children's stories were adapted by artist Sanpei Shirato into a five volume manga series entitled Seton Dobutsuki (Seton's Animals).

The first of his books to be given the anime treatment was his 1904 story Monarch: The Big Bear of Tallac, under the title Seton's Animal Tales Jacky the Bear Cub. Animated by Nippon Animation (Angie Girl, Chojin Locke) and airing on TV Asahi in 1977 as a 22 episode TV series, it chronicled the adventures of an Native Indian boy and his bear cub friends who he names Jacky and Jill.

In 1979 many of the same crew, including character designer Yasuji Mori and director Yoshio Kuroda returned for another Seton adaptation for the same station, this time it was Bannertail: The Story of the Gray Squirrel originally published in 1922. Once more under the heading of Seton's Animal Tales. Banner the Squirrel (Risu no Banner) was set on a quiet New Jersey farm where an orphaned Squirrel is raised by a mother cat leading him to believing he too is feline. When, one day, the farm burns down Banner finds himself in his unfamiliar true home of the forest where he has to make friends with other inhabitants and learn to live once more as a wild animal.

The series lasted for 26 half hour episodes and proved more popular than the previous adaptation. Director Kuroda later helmed several other literary based anime including Story of Fifteen Boys by Jules Verne and JM Barrie's Peter Pan.

The last anime outing to date for Seton's works was the 1989 TV series titled Seton's Animals which brought many of his short stories to the small screen during its 45 episode run including a second treatment of Monarch. Again, shown on TV Asahi; the man himself even appeared in animated form.

The West first got to see Banner in Spain and Spanish speaking territories in 1982 where it was renamed Banner y Flappy after the lead character and his eventual mate (originally named Sue). The same year the Italian station Italia 1 broadcast the complete series under the name Lo Scoiattolo Banner.

It wasn't until 1984 that Seton's Squirrel got his most popular Western release, shown on channel ZDF in Germany as Puschel das Eichhorn. The series proved such a hit with children that it was repeated several times during the early 90's and has received a full DVD release.

While the Banner TV series was shown subtitled in America on TV stations in Japanese communities, the only English language release came in the early 80's from a very low end video distributor in the UK. Portland, a small company based in Blackpool, saw the opportunity to potentially cash in on the cinema re-release of the Disney classic Bambi. The show's title was changed from Banner the Squirrel to Bandi the Squirrel in optimistic hopes of fooling the video renting public.

The video cassette contained a 23 minute feature of an extremely amateur quality. The cartoon was hurriedly cobbled together from scraps of the first two episodes with dialog dubbed in a single, unrehearsed take over the silent footage. Most sound effects are absent and a constant and completely ill suited guitar accompaniment plays for the duration.

No information is available on the creation of the cassette or the cast/crew responsible, which was later re-released with a second volume in 1989, but one possibility is that it came from an attempted amateur dubbing of the local station broadcast in the USA. The later releases were bulked out with an addition and unrelated 'bonus' cartoon.

Portland, who used the alias Movie Makers Blackpool, also released video tapes of Princess Knight under various titles, Nippon Animation's Sherlock & Me as well as dubbed episodes of the Tokusatsu series Spectreman.


Risu No Banner aka banner the squirrel puschel das eichhorn Japanese Banner VHS Ernest Thompson Seton anime
Advertising still
Advertising still
Japanese VHS Vol.4
Ernest Thompson Seton (Anime-d)

Before we witness the horror that is Bandi the Squirrel let's read the laughable blurb:

"When Bambi was first introduced to the viewing public, queues formed around
many cinemas nationwide.

When Bandi reaches the cinemas the same will happen, but this will not be for some time and you and your children have the opportunity now to see this loveable [sic] story on your home video screen.

Bandi's adventures as he steps out into the wild and wonderful world are tender, thrilling and exciting. This is a film to enthrall children of all ages and is a video must."

So, remember, the title sounds very much like Bambi and that was good, right? Plus this is a "video must" which pretty much makes it illegal not to watch it. I think if you pick up a "video must" off of the shelf you have to at least rent it. It's a kind of a press gang thing. So relax and enjoy, with the kids, this lovable story, on your home internet screen.

The blue title screen appears, three seconds of a Spanish guitar track plays before being abruptly replaced by a second which finishes with the title card to be replaced by a third.

The music is quite dramatic although, on the screen is a gentle pan across a field of grazing cattle. Make the most of the sound effects since the handful we get in this section are the only ones in the entire 23 min run time (that should be crawl time). As the scene changes to a slow zoom of a farm cottage, if you listen real carefully you can just make out a voice whispering on the audio track.

Bandi the squirrel Banner the Squirrel Risu no Banner

For some reason a few seconds of perfectly innocuous footage is cut causing a sudden jump in the lovely guitar solo as well as screen fuzz. Inside the house Bandi, or Banner as he is referred, pulls a table cloth and the contents of the table onto the floor then chases a mouse around a bucket and up a bookcase, finally onto an alarm clock. Unexpectedly, the alarm begins to ring and drowns the vocal track to a just-about-audible muffle.

Bandi the squirrel Banner the Squirrel Risu no Banner

Banner heads outside and climbs on to the cottage roof. After cleaning himself in the manner of a cat he looks out to the fields where he sees several bonfires burning. A terrible, static crackle creeps over the tape that turns out to be the sound effects guy attempting an approximation of fire. My guess is either plastic wrapping or rice in a jar. Either way, it's miles off and really irritating. He walks over to the burning leaf piles. "What is this stuff?" Banner can be just about heard to say over the rattley fire and incessant Classical Gas. Sniffing it he burns his nose and ends up laying on a frog. Is this exciting yet?

Banner ends up in a fight with a stray dog and hides up a tree. Having never seen a Hannah Barbera cartoon, he chooses to cling onto the only light coloured branch on the tree and it snaps. Before he can be shaken into a bloody fur pile his Mummy cat shows up and saves the day. Mrs Cat carries Banner back to the barn and, nearly seven minutes in, we get the first dialog of the 'movie'.

Bandi the squirrel Banner the Squirrel Risu no Banner

As always it is buried deep beneath the constant strumming and audio hiss. The mean spirited local cats make fun of her 'special ed' child and mock Momma for adopting a Squirrel. So high is the dubbing quality that Mrs Cat fudges her line:

"But I love him as if he were... a squir-unn -unn-cat."

Good going Mrs Cat! Right up there with the fighter-plane-dog-fight-sneeze in Crushers!

Inside the barn Momma cat finds Banner sleeping. She remembers how he came to be her son, the farm boy found him as a baby in a fallen tree and brought the squirrel to her as live dinner! But instead of eat him she adopted him since all her true litter had been given away. You also get to see the deeply disturbing sight of a squirrel suckling on Cat-teat! Inter-species milking!! Urgh!!

Bandi the squirrel Banner the Squirrel Risu no Banner

The scene fades out and, just for a brief moment, the guitar arrangement comes to a stop. A new scene is announced by the loud hum in the audio track followed by mashed and mangled sounds from the original following scene.

The guitar solo returns. The next morning Banner awakens alone in a field. Confused, he calls out for his mama. And he should be confused - he went to sleep in a barn. Is this another case of alien abduction? Was he horribly, invasively probed? Or did his Mama get tired of the constant verbal abuse and ditched him in favour of the popular kids?

Banner searches a watermill where he finds one of the unfriendly cats who reveals the truth about his parentage. The cat seems to be female but, going from the voice, I think it was born a man and the pills are only just taking effect. Under threat of being eaten Banner flees and ends up in the forest.

Bandi the squirrel Banner the Squirrel Risu no Banner

Scary-face trees put the squirrel on edge. Why doesn't he just chill-out to the laid back strumming I'm listening to? It really takes the drama off any situation!

Banner runs from a wild bore and takes refuge in a deer's antlers with equally heart racing results. Next an owl tries to eat him but they get to talking instead. Here's their thoroughly rehearsed conversation:

Banner: "Good evening Mr Owl"
Owl: "Aren't you afraid. Of me?Hm?"
Banner: "No."
Owl: "I was thinking of eaaating yoou."
Banner: "Eat, eat me?"
Owl: "Yes, you look verrrry tastttty"
Banner: "Ha ha ha ha, no kidding?"
Owl: "Owls always eat squirrels my. Favourite meal matteroffact is squirrrrel
Banner: "Squirrel? Am I really a squirrel?"
Owl: "Hmmmmmm, let. Me. See. Yes, I. Think you're a. Squirrel."
Banner: "Is that right? I'm a squirrel?"
Owl: "Usually when a squirrel sees me he runs. Why didn't you run?"
Banner: "But I like your company. Can I stay with you Mr?"
Owl: (Mumbling) "I think your a very strange squirrel."
Banner: "You sure like to think."
Owl: "Yes. I, I do think quite a lot. Yes."
Banner: "Oh?"

... and so the thrilling dialog continues, concluding with "Mr Owl" taking banner back to his place for sleep, and maybe more. The stilted chat continues inside a tree with the strumming getting sporadically LOUDER and quieter, frequently drowning out the turgid conversation. Banner falls asleep and the scene fades out. The guitar continues undeterred. Not even the progress of time can stop this run away mariachi.

Bandi the squirrel Risu no Banner Banner the Squirrel

Morning comes. The strumming builds louder and louder, more and more frantic and insistent, thrashing wildly to underscore the urgent drama of a small squirrel peacefully waking to a still, quiet and tranquil morning in the sunlit forest. Finally the playing reaches a crescendo and, for an all too brief while, stops completely.

Banner leaves the tree and goes to explore the forest. The curse of the strumming returns. He sees some birds and a bee. Then he sits by a river and repeats "So hungry" three times to fill the lip movements. The music momentarily changes to a jaunty full orchestral piece. Banner attempts to catch a fish. Then a crab pinches his nose.

Bandi the squirrel Risu no Banner Banner the Squirrel

"Ouch, my nose! My nose is sore". LOUD STRINGS - THE END.

Wait, what? What the hell was that?

Sensing that 23 minutes and 21 seconds of mangled garbage wouldn't be enough for the smart video consumers of the 1990's Movie Makers Blackpool dumped another cartoon on the end. Or "BONUS CARTOON/S ADDED" as the hastily placed silver sticker on the sleeve reverse describes it.

What we get is a Rankin Bass cartoon of Johnny Appleseed from 1972. Shown as part of The Festival of Family Classics originally. Fast forwarding through it I caught the credit "Animation by Mushi Studios", as founded by Osamu Tezuka. What a coincidence!

I still didn't go back and watch it though.

Missing videos Missing videos

Bandi the Squirrel Part one
Because I just couldn't choose, you get to watch the whole 23 minute mess...

Bandi the Squirrel Part two
... if you can handle it. See him before he becomes big! Final part here

Literally nothing.
Terrible vocal cast
Clearly improvised script
  Audio mixing that defies belief
  Tape-recorder-in-the-garage sound quality
  Tapas restaurant backing track
  Few sound effects
  No sign of narrative
  Abrupt ending
  Stupid cash-in title
  Really poor quality washed out transfer
  Overall, a jaw-dropping zero budget production
  Not even a Krypton Klassic pre-used cassette!

Wow, that was astonishing. Just why this video exists, outside of vain hopes of swindling Disney fans, and why it is so horrible remains a mystery. This dross makes Krypton Force's output look like a Criterion Edition. Even Kid Pix can sneer at this train wreck.

Interestingly the illustration on the cover shows the farm burning down, a scene that is missing from the finished feature. This would suggest that whoever scraped this thing together had access to complete episodes. Since it is likely the cover was drawn in the UK for this specific release it that could mean that the 'edit' and most likely 'dubbing' of this movie was entirely the product of Movie Makers Blackpool. If anyone has any information of the background of this video please email in. Any information that leads to a conviction will receive a reward!

Anyway, when's this cinema release penciled in for?