1988 Disney Film That Combined Live Actors With Animated Characters The Bambi Blues

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The Bambi Blues

New to Blue Ray, Walt Disney’s beloved animated classic Bambi was a controversial flop when it was first released.

“You’re worried about what you’re missing out of the picture and I’m worried about losing my shirt!” Walt Disney, explaining to a director why the studio had to cut sequences from Bambi.

In 1937, full of faith and a pioneering spirit for what could be accomplished in the cartoon medium, thirty-six-year-old Walt Disney acquired the film rights to the children’s book Bambi, A Life in the Woods. Written by Hungarian-born Siegmund Salzmann, under the pen name Felix Salten in 1923, Bambi was among the many books banned in Adolph Hitler’s Germany in 1936 (reportedly, the usually animal-loving Nazis saw the Jewish Salten’s story about woodland creatures who were trying to survive the threat of man as an allegory for Jewish persecution). Despite warnings from his artists that he lacked a sufficient story and his heavy dependence on the German market, Walt Disney saw Bambi as an excellent opportunity to animate animals with human characteristics.

Typically, Walt Disney laughed off any political meaning in his films. The Three Little Pigs, produced in 1933, was seen by many as an ode to the Great Depression; Happy pigs danced like carefree people in the 1920s until the big bad wolf wiped them out with the force of the stock market crash of 1929. Typically Republican Walt never intended for the hardworking pig living in the brick house to be seen as an endorsement of President Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. Seven years later, a columnist raved about Fantasia. In her mind, the film’s climactic scene, where the devil cursed human souls into a volcano, meant that Disney was saying that we were all powerless against the Nazi demons. Perhaps the most outrageous accusation was made three years ago when a left-wing newspaper writer wrote that in Snow White, when the seven dwarfs had overthrown the evil queen, it was a clear triumph for a communist society in miniature. Disney would no doubt have been surprised to find that many people in the modern green movement would later cite watching Bambi as starting their interest in environmentalism.

Making Bambi turned out to be as arduous as some at the studio had feared. More of an ideas man than an animator himself, Walt had neglected Bambi, leaving his artists to take control of the story. Two kits, one male, one female, were flown in from Maine to study the cartoonists, after a while they began to behave more like pets than the wild creatures Walt wanted to depict on screen. A breakthrough occurred when one morning a big buck came down from nearby Griffith Park to visit the deer at Hollywood Studios and startled the human spectators by lowering his head and pointing his antlers at them. After animal control took the deer, the relieved cartoonists had a better idea of ​​how to proceed. Walt, began appearing at story meetings and made some of his signature suggestions: young Bambi could have a comic adventure stumbling across a frozen lake; Thumper, a character not mentioned in Salten’s book, can become, like Jiminy Cricket in Pinocchio, the main character with whom the audience must identify. However, the picture dragged on and was finally completed in 1942.

By the time Walt had put Bambi into production, both of Disney’s parents had died, Pinocchio (1940) and Fantasia (1940) had failed, plunging Walt into debt, the studio had been destroyed by a labor strike, and the Japanese had bombed Pearl. But you. Walt, no longer having access to the lucrative European market, was in desperate need of a shot. But Bambi received a lukewarm reception from critics, many of whom found the life of the talking animated animals too realistic. (Writing about Bambi in 1988, critic Roger Ebert declared that the film was sexist by showing the father deer going off to live on his own, leaving the mother with all the responsibility of raising the child.) Several hunters, who found himself after the release of Bambi, seen as a murderer and not as a sportsman, deeply angered the film. The film lost 200,000 in its initial run, and Walt was devastated when his daughter Diane attacked him over the death of Bambi’s mother (Disney later revived it; the moose’s famous mother made movies in The Sword and the Stone (1963) and The Jungle Book four years later).

From then on Walt never had the same enthusiasm for animation, his desire to break new ground was aimed more towards television, amusement parks and city planning. However, despite the poor box office results, Walt remained proud of Bambi. He insisted it was meant as entertainment, not a disparagement of hunters, and often said in interviews that it was his favorite film. It took fifteen years before the general public shared his appreciation.

“I think back in 1942 when we released that picture and there was a war and nobody cared about a deer’s love life, and the bankers were on my back. It’s very satisfying to know that Bambi finally made it.” – Walt Disney in 1957.

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