Oh Deer: Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Disney’s “Bambi” – Animation Scoop

Oh Deer: Celebrating the 75th Anniversary of Disney’s “Bambi”

The late, great animation historian John Culhane vividly remembered seeing Bambi when he was a young boy. The movie’s most impactful scene (maybe one of the most impactful scenes in all movie history), the death of Bambi’s mother was playing out on the screen.

“Bambi’s screaming ‘Mother!’ ‘Mother!’,” Culhane recalled in a 1998 interview. “A little kid, younger than me shouted out in the theater, ‘You can come home with me Bambi honey!’ The audience started to laugh and then their laughter choked in their throats and I thought “‘This is a great work of art!'”

John’s story is just one of many that’s evidence of how powerful a movie Walt Disney’s Bambi is and how watching it has been a pivotal moment for many generations. Bambi celebrates its 75th anniversary this month, which is the perfect time to reflect back on Disney’s masterpiece.

There’s so much to celebrate about “Bambi,” and the film’s making of stories could fill a book (which they already have).

So, in the interest of time and in honor of “Bambi’s” milestone, here is a top ten of fascinating facts about Disney’s classic:

Director Sydney A. Franklin, who worked at Metro Goldwyn Mayer actually owned the film rights to the book “Bambi” and wanted to adapt it as a film at MGM. After some negotiations with Walt, Franklin not only agreed to let Disney make the film, he served as an advisor and even received a mention in the film’s opening credits: “To Sydney A. Franklin, sincere appreciation for his inspiring collaboration.”

Felix Salten, author of the book “Bambi: A Life in the Woods,” on which the film is based, would provide the Disney Studio with inspiration again in 1957, when Walt adapted another of his books, “Perri.” This story of a young squirrel was very similar to “Bambi,” save for the fact that Walt decided to make it in live-action as a “True Life Fantasy.”

Does the voice of the adult version of Flower the Skunk sound familiar? It should to discerning Disney fans. The voice is none other than actor Sterling Holloway, who would become a staple at the studio, voicing such characters as Mr Stork, the Cheshire Cat, Winnie the Pooh and Kaa the Snake.

Artist Tyrus Wong, who passed away just last year at the age of 106, is credited with creating the peaceful, idealized forest world that the character’s in “Bambi” inhabit. Wong created hundreds of pastel studies during the film’s early stages that became the realistic and artistic tone of “Bambi.”

Another artist who heavily influenced “Bambi” was Marc Davis. Davis, who would become one of Walt’s “Nine Old Men,” and a true star and mentor among animators, got his start with “Bambi.” Davis’ early sketches of the woodland creatures had so much personality that Walt asked for Marc to be promoted to animator. Davis would go on to animate such Disney characters as Cinderella, Tinker Belle, Maleficent and Cruella DeVile. Additionally, Marc was one of the artists who helped create such Disney theme park attractions as The Haunted Mansion and Pirates of the Caribbean.

The song “April Showers,” actually began life as a song simply entitled “The Rain Song,” in which the rain was going to sing about the joys of falling to earth (it was wisely changed).

The Maine Development Commission partnered with the Disney Studio to have two live fawns sent to the Studio, for artists to study and create realistic movements for the characters.

Thumper the rabbit was such a popular scene stealer that he was given his own series of Disney Comic Books.

At one point during the film’s development, the story artists considered showing a dead hunter lying next to his rifle, after the fire has raged through the forest. The thought was that this would show how man’s carelessness had an effect even on him. Once it was decided not to show Man at all, this idea was eliminated and makes the film even more impactful.

Want to learn more about “Bambi?” Consider reading “Walt Disney’s ‘Bambi’: The Story and the Film,” by legendary Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston. First published in 1990, the book is a re-telling of the story using art work from the film as well as a first hand account of the making of “Bambi.” A brand new blu-ray release also contains a wealth of background information.

Walt Disney sketches deer in preperation (and publicity purposes) for BAMBI

Michael Lyons

Michael Lyons

Michael Lyons is a freelance writer covering the animation industry.
Michael Lyons
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