Exclusive Interview With The Voices of Bambi and Thumper Plus Paul Felix, Visual Development Artist at Walt Disney Animation Studios #BambiBluray

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Disclosure- I was invited by Disney to attend this all expense paid press trip but all opinions are 100% my own.

BambiThe beloved classic movie, Bambi, is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year. In honor of this special anniversary it joined Walt Disney’s Signature Collection today on Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere. It will be released on Blu-ray, DVD, and On-Demand on June 6th. The collection release will include a variety of bonus features and I will be reviewing it in an upcoming post. There is also a special deal going on right now. Disney Movie Rewards is offering a beautiful tank top featuring Paul Felix art inspired by BAMBI, for only $9.99 with every digital purchase/redemption of BAMBI.   Learn more about the tank top promotion here.
bambi tank top

Did you ever wonder what it was like to work with Walt Disney? Or what it was like to be a part of a classic Disney movie? During our trip to Los Angeles last week we had the unique opportunity last week to interview with 2 of the original voices from the movie. Disney Archivist Becky Cline moderated as interviewed  Donald “Donnie” Dunagan (young voice of “Bambi”) and Peter Behn (young voice of “Thumper”). We also interviewed  Paul Felix, Visual Development Artist at Walt Disney Animation Studios who was inspired by Tyrus Wong (animator on Bambi).
Here are the top things we learned:

~Hand-drawn Artwork and Attention to Detail

Talent_WEB_017Photo credit- BAMBI Disney archive image

Bambi was released in 1942 during World War II. It took over 5 years to make due to its exquisite hand-drawn artwork and attention to detail. Paul Felix told us how the studio went on strike and moved during the time Bambi was being made which also delayed the project. It was supposed to come out after Snow White but ended up coming after Pinocchio and Fantasia. They had to cut some of the movie out and only do what they could afford at the time. Paul also told us that one important thing that Disney animators of the time had to learn to do was learn how to create animals with faces that could emote dialog. A good example of this is comparing how lifelike and realistic the deer in Bambi are compared to the deer in Snow White that are stiff and don’t have much life to them.

~The Zen of Bambi

paul felix 2
Paul Felix shared with us how he feels Bambi is special because the themes are so broad. It deals with the reality of the world and has a zen-like simplicity that is profound. He also went on to talk about how the movie is so powerful even today because it shows how the connection between mother and child is so primal and relatable.

~There Were No Auditions For Thumper


BAMBI Disney archive image

Photo credit- BAMBI Disney archive image

Peter Behn’s father was a screenwriter in the 1920’s. He knew Walt Disney and brought Peter in to audition for the voice of Bambi but Donnie beat him out. They didn’t think his voice was right for Bambi but they thought his voice was right for “the rabbit” character. They never held auditions for Thumper, as they knew Peter was right for the part. He was only 4 years old at the time and the tender age of 5 when he voiced his character.

~Donnie Dunagan Knew What He Wanted As a Boy

donnie dunagan mickeyPhoto credit- BAMBI Disney archive image

Donnie Dunagan grew up dirt poor and his family entered him in a talent contest when he was 4 years old. In the contest he danced with a paper bag hat and a stick from a tree to the song, A Tisket A Tasket. He won and caught the eye of a talent scout! He went on to be a child actor at the age of 5 years old. He did lots of films as a child, 7 before the age of 5 1/2 years old, but when is agent told him not to take the role of Bambi he fired his agent. Talk about a boy who knew what he wanted!

~Peter Behn Only Saw Bambi Once In His Youth

Talent_WEB_023Photo credit- BAMBI Disney archive image
Peter Behn saw Bambi at the premiere and then didn’t see it again for a long time. I hadn’t thought about it before but back in those days they didn’t have DVDs, VHS tapes, or Netflix so movies were just seen in theaters when they came out.

~Commanding Officer Bambi

Talent_WEB_025Photo credit- BAMBI Disney archive image

Donnie went on to become a commanding officer in the Marine Corp but he didn’t tell anyone about his role in Bambi. He was afraid they would tease him- “My commanding officer is Bambi!” He didn’t even tell his wife about his role in Bambi when they were first married. It took her finding an old box of memorabilia and fan letters for Donnie to tell his wife all about his Disney past.

~A True Leader

When asked about what it was like to work with Walt Disney Donnie said that Walt was very helpful, a true leader. He was not a feared boss but instead a very hands on leader who was approachable and helped everyone.

~Recording The Voices

The voices were recorded first and then the artwork was created based on the recordings. The audio was transcribed with a needle on a plastic device because they didn’t have the digital technology like they do today.

~”Your Mother Is In Trouble”

bambi momPhoto credit- BAMBI Disney archive image
To get Peter to say his lines the director would read the lines and Peter would mimic him with inflection because he was too young to read the lines well. When Donnie was recording the scene where Bambi’s mother dies the director thought that Donnie sounded too happy and not sad enough. He told Donnie to pretend “Your mother is in trouble. Call your mother!”

~Bambi’s Legacy Lives On Today

flowerPhoto credit- BAMBI Disney archive image
Peter shared with us how Walt Disney was ahead of his time in protecting the environment as shown in Bambi. This speaks to his forward thinking and awareness of environmental issues. The legacy of Bambi still lives on today.

~Bambi is Forever

fansPhoto credit- BAMBI Disney archive image
The most touching part of our interview was when Donnie shared with us, with a quivering voice and tears in his eyes, that Bambi is forever. He showed us the letters he still receives from children from all over the world.

~Advice For Aspiring Animators

While Paul Felix is known for designing settings over characters he said anyone interested in becoming an animator should draw from life, draw both buildings and people. Try painting with watercolors and create a mood with colors. Don’t limit yourself. Learn art history to ground yourself in art and design.

donnie and peter group

Photo credit- Louise Bishop Momstart.com

Make sure to check out the 75th anniversary Walt Disney Signature Collection Bambi on Digital HD May 23rd and Blu-ray June 6th!

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