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Bambi is a American animated feature produced by Walt Disney and based on the book Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Austrianmarker author Felix Salten. The film was released by RKO Radio Pictures on August 13, 1942, and it is the fifth film in the Walt Disney Animated Classics series.

The main characters are Bambi, a white-tailed deer, his parents (the Great Prince of the forest and his unnamed mother), his friends Thumper (a pink-nosed rabbit), and Flower (a skunk), and his childhood friend and future mate, Faline. For the movie, Disney took the liberty of changing Bambi's species into a white-tailed deer from his original species of roe deer, since roe deer don't inhabit the United States, and the white-tailed deer is more familiar to Americans. This film received three Academy Award nominations for Best Sound, Best Song for "Love Is a Song" and Original Music Score.

In June 2008, the American Film Institute presented a list of its "10 Top 10"—the best ten films in each of ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Bambi placed third in animation.


A doe gives birth to a fawn in the thicket whom she names Bambi. After he learns to walk, Bambi befriends Thumper, a young rabbit, and while learning to talk he meets Flower, a young skunk. One day his mother takes him to the meadow, a place that is both wonderful and frightening. There he meets Faline, a doe-fawn, and his father, the Great Prince of the Forest. It is also during this visit that Bambi has his first encounter with man, who causes all the animals to flee the meadow. During a harsh winter, Bambi and his mother go to the meadow and discover a patch of new grass, heralding the arrival of spring. As they eat, his mother senses a hunter and orders Bambi to flee. As they run, gun shots ring out. When Bambi arrives at their thicket, he discovers his mother is no longer with him. He wanders the forest calling for her, but she does not answer. His father appears in front of him and tells Bambi "your mother can't be with you anymore," then leads him away.

In the spring, an adult Bambi is reunited with Thumper and Flower as the animals around them begin pairing up with mates. Though they resolve not to be "twitterpated" like the other animals in love, Thumper and Flower each leave with newly found mates. Bambi is disgusted, until he runs into Faline and they become a couple. As they happily dance and flirt through the woods, another buck, Ronno, appears who tries to force Faline to go with him. Though he initially struggles, Bambi's rage gives him the strength to defeat Ronno and push him off a cliff and into a river below.

That night, Bambi is awoken by the smell of smoke. His father explains that Man is in the forest and they must flee. Bambi goes back to search for Faline, but she is being chased by hunting dogs. Bambi finds her in time and fights off the dogs, allowing Faline to escape. With Faline safe, Bambi runs but is shot as he leaps over a ravine. The Great Prince finds him there and urges him back to his feet. Together, they escape the forest fire and go to a small island in a lake where the other animals, including Faline, have taken refuge.

At the end of the film, Faline gives birth to twin fawns, Bambi stands watch on the large hill, and the Great Prince silently turns and walks away.



Sidney Franklin, a producer and director at MGM films, purchased the film rights to Felix Salten's novel Bambi, A Life in the Woods in 1933, intending to adapt it into a live action film. Deciding it would be too difficult to make such a film, he sold the film rights to Walt Disney in April 1937. Disney began working on crafting an animated adaptation immediately, intending it to be the company's second feature length animated film and their first to be based on a specific, recent work. However, the original novel, written for an adult audience, was considered too "grim" and "somber" for the young audience Disney was targeting, and with the work required to adapt the novel, Disney put production on hold while it worked on several other works. In 1938, Disney assigned Perce Pearce and Carl Fallberg to work on the film's storyboards, but attention was soon drawn away as the studio began working on Fantasia. Finally, on August 17, 1939, production on Bambi began in earnest, though progressed slowly due to changes in the studio personnel, location, and methodology of handling animation at the time. The writing was completed in July 1940, by which time the film's budget had swelled to $858,000.

Walt Disney attempted to achieve realistic detail in this animated film. He had Rico LeBrun, a painter of animals, come and lecture to the animators on the structure and movement of animals. Animators also visited the Los Angeles Zoomarker. A pair of fawns (named Bambi and Faline) were shipped from the area of present day Baxter State Parkmarker in Mainemarker to the studio so that the artists could see first-hand the movement of these animals. The source of these fawns, from the Eastern United States, was the impetus for the transformation of Felix Salten's roe deer to white-tailed deer. A small zoo was also established at the studio so animators could study other animals, like rabbits, ducks, owls, and skunks at close range.

The background of the film was inspired by the Eastern woodlands; one of the earliest and best known artists for the Disney studio, Maurice "Jake" Day spent several weeks in the Vermont and Maine forests, sketching and photographing deer, fawns, and the surrounding wilderness areas. The usage of the multi-plane camera also added to the realism of the backgrounds.

Although there were no humans in the film, live action footage of humans were used for one scene: actress Jane Randolph and Ice Capades star Donna Atwood acted as live-action references for the scene where Bambi and Thumper are on the icy pond.

The realism that Disney was pushing caused delays in production; animators were unaccustomed to drawing natural animals, and expert animators could only manage around eight drawings a day. This amounted to only half a foot of film a day, unlike the normal rate of production of ten feet. This equaled less than a second of film versus over thirteen seconds. Disney was later forced to slash 12 minutes from the film before final animation, to save costs on production due to losses suffered in Europe as World War II loomed.

Although the release of Bambi was an initial financial loss for the studio the animators learned a lot during its production that they'd utilize in future projects. Animators now had a broader spectrum of animation styles, from the wider stylization of Mickey Mouse to the naturalistic look of characters like the stag version of Bambi. They also learned more techniques with the multiplane camera, expanding their knowledge of its usage. Additionally the paint laboratory had developed hundreds of new colors for the production that were used in future films.


Bambi was released in theaters in 1942, during World War II, and was Disney's 5th full-length animated film. The famous art direction of Bambi was due to the influence of Tyrus Wong, a former painter who provided eastern and painterly influence to the backgrounds. Bambi was re-released to theaters in 1947, 1957, 1966, 1975, 1982, and 1988. It was released on VHS in 1989 (Classics Version), 1997 (Masterpiece Collection Version), and digitally remastered and restored for the March 1, 2005 Platinum Edition DVD. The Platinum Edition DVD went on moratorium on January 31, 2007. The Masterpiece Version was the first Disney Video to be THX certified.


Bambi lost money at the box office for its first release, but recouped its considerable cost during the 1947 re-release. Although the film received good reviews, the timing of the release, during World War II, hurt the film's box office numbers. The film didn't do so well at the box office in the U.S., and the studio no longer had access to many European markets that provided a large portion of its profits. Roy Disney sent a telegram to his brother Walt after the New York opening of the film that read: "Fell short of our holdover figure by $4,000. Just came from Music Hall. Unable to make any deal to stay third week...Night business is our problem."

What also hurt box office numbers is the realistic animation of the animals, and the story of their fight against the evil humans in the story. Hunters spoke out against the movie, saying it was "an insult to American sportsmen." The criticism, however, was short-lived, and the financial shortfall of its first release was made up multiple times in the subsequent re-releases.

Today, the film is viewed as a classic. Critics Mick Martin and Marsha Porter call the film "...the crowning achievement of Walt Disney's animation studio." In June 2008, the American Film Institute revealed its "Ten top Ten"—the best ten films in ten "classic" American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Bambi was acknowledged as the third best film in the animation genre.


The off-screen villain "man" has been placed #20 on AFI's List of Heroes and Villains.

Former Beatle Paul McCartney has credited the shooting death of Bambi's mother for his initial interest in animal rights, an example of what has been called the Bambi effect.

Soon after the film's release, Walt Disney allowed his characters to appear in fire prevention public service campaigns. However, Bambi was only loaned to the government for a year, so a new symbol was needed, leading to the creation of Smokey Bear.

In 2006, the Ad Council, in partnership with the United States Forest Service, started a series of Public Service Announcement ads that feature footage from Bambi and Bambi II for wildfire prevention. During the ads, as the Bambi footage is shown, the screen will momentarily fade into black with the text "Don't let our forests...become once upon a time", and usually (but not always) ending the ads with Bambi's line "Mother, what we gonna do today?" followed by Smokey Bear saying "Only you can prevent wildfires" as the Smokey logo is shown on the screen. The ads air on various television networks, and the Ad Council has also put them on Youtube.


Bambi II was released as a midquel sequel to Bambi. Set in middle of Bambi, it shows the Great Prince of the Forest struggling to raise the motherless Bambi, and Bambi's doubts about his father's love. The film was released direct-to-video on February 7, 2006. While the film was a direct-to-video release in countries like the United Statesmarker, Japanmarker, Canadamarker, mainland Chinamarker, Hong Kongmarker and Taiwanmarker, it was a theatrical release in some countries like the United Kingdommarker, Francemarker, Austriamarker, Mexicomarker, Dominican Republicmarker, Brazilmarker, Australia and some other European countries.


The copyrights for Bambi were inherited by Anna Wyler, Salten's daughter, who renewed them in 1954. After her death, Wyler's husband sold the rights to Twin Books, which subsequently filed a law suit against Disney, claiming Disney owed it money for the continued licensing for the use of the book. Disney countered by claiming that Salten had published the story in 1923 without a copyright notice, and was thus immediately entered into the public domain. Disney also argued that if the claimed 1923 publication date was accurate, then the copyright renewal filed in 1954 had been registered after the deadline and was thus invalid. The courts initially upheld Disney's view, however in 1996, the Ninth Circuit Court reversed the decision on appeal.

See also


  1. Thomas, Bob: "Chapter 6: Expansion and War: Bambi", page 90-1. Disney's Art of Animation: From Mickey Mouse to Hercules, 1997
  2. Walt Disney Collection: Walt's Masterworks — Bambi.
  3. The Trouble with Bambi: Walt Disney's Bambi and the American Vision of Nature by Ralph H. Lutts: From 'Forest and Conservation History' 36 (October 1992)
  4. Maurice E. Day, Animator, 90; Drew Deer for Movie 'Bambi': Obituary in the New York Times, published May 19, 1983)
  5. Finch, Christopher: "Chapter 7: Dumbo and Bambi", pages 217-222. The Art of Walt Disney, 2004
  6. How They Restored Bambi, Monsters and Critics.
  7. IGN.
  8. AFI's List: 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains
  9. ‘Bambi’ was cruel 12 December 2005. Retrieved: 29 January 2007

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