‘A Wombat Named Bimbo’ is a journey into a forgotten era in Australia’s film and cultural history, going back to the late 1930s when a young self-taught animation enthusiast named Eric Porter set out to fulfil his vision of creating Australian animated films that would feature Australian characters and Australian stories. Porter was convinced that the public would welcome this change of diet from the familiar saturation in Hollywood product. Inspired by Disney’s animation style and techniques, Porter created the character of a wombat named Willy and scraped funding and improvised technically to complete a short animated film called ‘Waste Not Want Not’. It was received warmly by those who saw it and was taken up by the Commonwealth Bank as a commercial, comic books featuring Willy were published, as was the sheet music for a song about Willy. After the war, Porter continued with the Wombat idea but was persuaded to change Willy’s name to Bimbo, fearing that American markets would be closed to a film about an unfamiliar animal like a wombat. Two Bimbo cartoons were made but distribution was a problem and they did not sell well. Porter moved into advertising (a story told in our previous documentary, ‘Animating Aeroplane Jelly’) and then into television, and made Australian’s first animated feature film, ‘Marco Polo Versus the Red Dragon’.
Porter’s films miraculously survive in the National Film and Sound Archive after a narrow escape from being taken to a rubbish tip. Some of Porter’s employees are still alive and are happy to remember their years with him, and his family members are dedicating time and energy to his memory.