Bambi (1942): Disney’s Most Personal and Favorite Films

RKO (Disney production)

The 1942 animated “Bambi” was one of Walt Disney’s most favorite and personal films, due to its technical accomplishments and strong emotional impact.

Perce Pearce and Larry Morey’s screenplay, based on Felix Salten’s story, illustrates the various cycles of life and their differential meanings through the growth of a young deer.

A fawn named Bambi grows up in the forest, making friends with a rabbit named Thumper and a skunk named Flower. Bambi’s mom teaches him about the joys of nature but also cautions him about the dangers represented by a deadly creature named “Man.”

Indeed, on a beautiful and peaceful spring day, Bambi’s mother is killed by hunters. Bambi survives and begins to experience life, its good and bad sides, including a romance with a deer named Faline. He nearly dies in a forest fire, but he survives to raise a family with Faline.

At least four years in the works, “Babmi” differs from other Disney animations, which reached some kind of height with the extremely popular 1937 “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

It’s one of most visually stunning of all Disney films, with its rich drawing of lush forests and meadow backgrounds. For greater authenticity, Walt Disney decided to use the voices of little children, a practice that would change in later film, which would employ adult actors and name stars.

At the time, the scene of Bambi’s death was controversial because of its effects on children, who were traumatized by it. Never done so graphically and effectively, that scene still exerts power decades later. And while some criticized it, others praised its honesty and realism, particularly for a Disney animation. Moreover, defenders of that scene claimed that the novel by Felix Salten, on which the movie is based, is far more graphically violent.

Reel-Real Impact: The Disney version has probably done more to discourage deer hunting than any protest movement could.

Running time: 70 minutes
Producer: Walt Disney
Director: David D. Hand
Screenplay: Perce Pearce and Larry Morey, based on Felix Salten’s novel
Music: Frank Churchill, Edward H. Plumb
Art Direction: Tom Codrick, Robert Cormack, Al Zinnen, McLaren Stewart, and others

Oscar Nominations: 3

Sound Recording: Sam Slyfield
Song: “Love Is a Song,” music by Frank Churchill, lyrics by Larry Morey
Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture: Frank Churchill and Edward Plumb

Oscar Awards: None

Oscar Context

The winners in those categories were: Sound for “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” Best Song for Irvin Berlin’s “White Christmas” in “Holiday Inn,” and Score for Max Steiner’s music in the famous Bette Davis melodrama, “Now, Voyager.”