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Why Walt Disney’s classic movie ‘Bambi’ took 5 years to make (1942)

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Bambi: Disney’s movie five years in the making

Hollywood’s Wiseboys said Walt Disney would have a long, gray beard before he ever finished “Bambi.”

They began saving it almost at the start of work on that picture five years ago, because Walt moved like a man taking his time. They said it more and more loudly as year followed year, until five years had passed without hailing “Bambi.”

But Walt crossed them up. This week “Bambi” is being shown to exhibitors, And Walt is still a vigorous, black-haired dynamo with a clipped black mustache — and no beard. So, not to disappoint Hollywood’s Wiseboys, or maybe make ’em out to be liars, some of Walt’s artists took a picture of him and decorated it with a long gray beard.

Walt is grinning in the picture. Maybe Hollywood’s Wiseboys know why.

Vintage Bambi and Thumper on the ice

A slender five-ten in dark blue. Walt explains, grinning as in the picture, “We moved slowly because we had so much to learn.

“I began planning to do ‘Bambi’ years ago, when Felix Salten’s great book was first published. It looked like strong meat for us to chew on — the story of all life with its loves and its tragedies and triumphs told in terms of the forest and the forest animals.

“But it was outside our customary storyline. So it wouldn’t hurry. I wanted it right.”

The result was that while Walt and his crew worked on “Bambi,” they also went ahead on other features.

“Snow White” emerged. “Pinocchio” was born, “Fantasia,” then “Dumbo.” Still “Bambi” was in production, and five years had come and gone. In a way, it’s no wonder Hollywood Wiseboys ribbed him. After all, no live action picture ever made was five years in the works.

Vintage Bambi movie poster 1948

Walt disregarded the ribbing. It means no more to him than water to Donald’s back.

“I wanted those animal characters in ‘Bambi’ to be actors,” he said. “Not just cute things. I wanted acting on a plane with the highest acting in the finest of live-action pictures.

“So every artist at work on ‘Bambi’ had to be an actor as well as a technician, a craftsman. No more of that business which used to mark animated cartoons, in which we got action by having our characters always in motion, hopping around like fleas on & hot griddle.

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“And no more of the Big Eyes. Characters in animated cartoons used to be distinguished by ’em. Remember? They were big like this,” said Walt, rounding his fingers before his eyes. “And they were flat and expressionless like window panes.

“But when I used to box, I always watched the other fellow’s eyes. Any time you’re talking to somebody, you watch his eyes. Think of the best actors vou can recall, and you’ll realize the eyes are the focus of attention.

“So, watch the eyes in ‘Bambi.’ I think you’ll see something.”

All that took time.

So the years rolled on–one, two, three, four, five. Millions of drawings piled up — roughs, preliminary sketches, finished things. A total of 400,500 separate paintings, each advancing the action imperceptibly to the eve when screened, were used in the finished production. “Bambi” was born.

Bambi - Italian movie poster 1942

Review: “Bambi” best of all Walt Disney’s films (1942)

Walt Disney’s newest feature production, “Bambi,” now showing at the Liberty, photographed in Multiplane Technicolor, reveals the exciting peak which this original and fascinating form of screen entertainment has reached.

“Bambi” is pure Disney, with all that means to lovers of the world of fun, beauty and imagination which Disney has made his own. “Bambi” goes even further than any previous Disney feature; it has overtones of serious significance and in certain ways can be described as one of the most moving love stories ever brought to the screen.

“Bambi” was filmed — or drawn — from the best-selling novel of the same title by Felix Salten. As a novel, “Bambi” was a Book-of-the-Month choice, and has a sales record of more than 650,000 copies.


Incidentally, “Bambi” is the first novel to be brought to the screen by Walt Disney. The picture was in production for more than five years, having, indeed, been started before “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The matchless perfection of its technical glories reflects the long period of painstaking work required to complete the feature.

Bambi is the best of Disney (1942)

The story of “Bambi” is the story of everyone’s life, filled with the human emotions of love, hate, jealousy, gaiety, fear, happiness, courtship and parenthood. It is the most adult story Disney has yet chosen — adult, yet at the same time told with the beloved Disney animal characters.

Bambi himself is a deer, the Prince of the Forest. His friends include some of the most ingratiating characters ever created — for instance, Thumper, a cotton tail, who almost steals the picture.

An inspired name for another character, an irresistibly charming skunk, is Flower. Faline is the doe Bambi loves and has to fight for to win. Most of the wild animals of the great forest are characters of varying importance.

Perhaps the most brilliant sequence of “Bambi” is the famous “twitterpated” scene when romance strikes the young bloods of the forest with one hilarious effect after another. It’s all so true — the brash, self-confident young males who assure the wise old Owl that they are immune from this strange “twitterpated” business; the alluring young females who in the next instant have them in an ecstatic state of complete surrender, just as the wise old Owl said would happen.

“Twitterpated” is inspired tomfoolery passed on powerful human emotions, and the word will no doubt become the popular way to describe the state of being rapturously in love.

Walt Disney's Bambi movie - A great love story

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Lines in New York City were around the block for Disney’s movie Bambi

Crowds such as Radio City sees only once in years! Thousands waiting in line as long as three hours. More thousands turned away — and many, many more MILLIONS waiting for this tremendous attraction to open in YOUR CITY and the rest of the country!

Bambi movie crowds 1942 (2)

Bambi movie crowds 1942 (1)

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