Who hasn’t heard of the cute, furry fawn, Bambi? You know the one with all the woodland friends like Thumper the rabbit and Flower the skunk. Today, Bambi is practically a household name to everyone under the age of five and, when you come to think about it, there must only be about 0.001% of the world’s population who can honestly say they didn’t cry when Bambi’s mother got shot. But no matter how many times you’ve seen the movie, how much do you really know about the film?
Bambi Footage in Other Films
Bambi’s Use of Sinister Music
The Faceless Killer in Bambi
The Killer’s Identity
Scene of Bambi’s Mother Dying
The Voice of Thumper
Originally, Sidney Franklin thought he would make the story of Bambi as a real life film, nine whole years before Disney released his version, even going to the lengths of recording stage stars of the day, such as Margaret Sullivan, as the voices for the soundtrack. Yet common sense finally prevailed when he realised that there was no available technology at that time to deliver the film in the way he wanted. However, when Franklin saw “Snow white and the Seven Dwarves” he knew his dream could be created in animated form and he approached Walt Disney. The animator loved the idea and even though he was developing “Fantasia”, “Dumbo” and “Pinocchio” at the same time, he started working on the project in 1936.
Even though it is now probably one of Disney’s best-loved and most remembered animations, back in 1942 when the film was first released, it was not an overnight success. In fact, it was a box office flop and didn’t start to recoup the $2,000,000 it cost to produce until it’s re-release in 1947.
Disney was so taken with the animation of the birds, leaves and general woodland scenes in Bambi that much of it has been reused in other Disney films. The most reused part is the few seconds of Bambi’s mother looking up from eating grass when she hears the killer hunters – this was used in hunting scenes in “The Sword in the Stone” and “The Jungle Book”. It also featured in “The Rescuers” and the opening scene of “Beauty and the Beast”. Bambi’s mother has even been put with Donald Duck in a later animated short.
Whenever the unseen threat arose in Bambi, it was expressed solely through the music. Disney used a low three note, repeating musical motif to imply impending violence that is a powerful psychological technique – Its effect was so good that later on in 1975, Steven Spielberg famously adopted it for Jaws.
Originally, the hunter who kills Bambi’s mother was going to be an actual character in the film but Disney knew he would have to portray this character as totally cruel and evil and he didn’t want to be seen as maligning all hunters in this way. Therefore, this character was never seen in the final version of the film. Ironically however, years later this off-screen character of “Man” which had never actually been seen on the screen was named as one of the 100 Greatest Screen Villains by the American Film Institute.
It was meant to be revealed that Judge Dread was the person who killed Bambi’s Mother in the film “Who Framed Roger Rabbit” but while reading an early draft of the screenplay, Walt Disney’s nephew, Roy, who was the head of Walt Disney Feature Animation at the time, thought the association was inappropriate. When the idea was discussed at a weekly Sunday meeting it was decided it would make more sense to hint that the killer was Gaston.
In an early draft of the script, Bambi actually found his mother after she had been shot, lying in a pool of blood. It was deemed, however, that the scene was just too graphic and harrowing for any prospective viewer and it was duly cut.
Before Thumper’s name was finalised, he was called “Bobo” and was just one of the several young rabbits in the film.
Several children were auditioned for the voice roles of Mother Rabbit’s children and when six year old Peter Behn said the line, “Did the young prince fall down?”, a casting director who was watching the audition in another room, shouted “Get that kid out of here! He can’t act!”
The Disney animators, however, loved Behn’s voice and called him back to the studio. The role of Thumper was created mainly because of Peter’s vocal talents.
In 1993, Warner Bros. made a parody about the sensitive subject of Bambi’s Mother getting shot, perhaps trying to suggest the whole topic was just too violent and upsetting for children. In one of their Animaniacs episodes there was a segment called, “Bumbie’s Mum” where Slappy Squirrel and her nephew, Skippy, go and see a movie “Bumbie” – Bumbie’s mum get shot off-screen and Skippy bursts into tears. Then Skippy gets even more scared during the forest fire scene. Eventually, Slappy has to pull a sobbing Skippy out of the movie theatre and then Skippy learns Bumbie’s mum wasn’t really killed.
Recently, Bambi was criticized by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior for propagating the idea that the best way to manage the forest resources in America was to fight forest fires. The Secretary commented that controlled burning is now recognized as more beneficial and animals, such as Bambi, simply move out of the way of the fire and do not get hurt by them. The very fact, however, that the character “Bambi” was even mentioned in such a speech, shows how deeply and irrevocably that cute little furry fawn has burrowed his way into the public’s heart.