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Bambi, Disney's 1942 Classic

Apr 24, 2008
In 1942, Walt Disney released his fifth animated film, Bambi. It was based on the Austrian story Bambi, A Life In The Woods, by Felix Salten. Published in 1923, the book followed the adventures of a male roe deer from birth to maturity. The book was well received both in Europe and the United States. Salten, whose real name was Siegmund Salzmann, was Hungarian by birth but spent most of his life in Vienna. The popularity of the book inspired Salten to write a sequel entitled Bambi's Children.

The plot of Bambi, the animated film, follows the adventures the title deer, who is the Prince of the Forest, and his companions Thumper, a rabbit; Flower, a skunk; and Faline, a white-tailed fawn who becomes his mate. While Bambi was originally written as a roe deer, Disney took the liberty to make him a white-tailed deer as roe do not inhabit the United States.

In his trademark effort to capture realistic details, Disney sent his team of animators to lectures at the Los Angeles Zoo and even went so far as to have a pair of fawns shipped in from Baxter State Park in Maine. This allowed the animators to observe, first-hand, the movements of the white-tailed deer. This was a key factor in deciding to make the animated Bambi a white-tailed deer, and not the roe deer of Salten's book. Maurice Day, of one the best known of Disney's animators, was sent to Vermont and Maine to photograph and sketch the eastern forests. His research material was used by Tyrus Wong, a former painter whose Eastern painterly influence added a new dimension of emotion to the lush backgrounds.

Bambi was released by RKO in August of 1942, as World War II was raging. Although it did relatively well at the box office, it was still considered a disappointment by Disney at it barely covered the costs of production. It was in subsequent re-releases, in 1947, 1957, 1966, 1975, 1982, and 1988 that Bambi actually made a tremendous profit. Indeed, it has been one of the most popular VHS and DVD features the studio has ever issued. The Bambi Masterpiece release was the first Disney release to be THX certified.

The film was honored with three Academy Award nominations for Best Sound, Best Song ("Love Is A Song"), and Original Music Score. Fans and critics alike applauded the animation, which showed a maturity and solidification of the Disney "style." Disney would not think to make another animated feature until well after the war with Cinderella in 1950.
About the Author
Steve Collins is an Author and Journalist based in Encino, CA. A massive Disney fan, he uses the Disney Movie Club to complete his collection. Read his articles about the movies he purchases on the Disney Movie Club
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