Last week, I was lucky enough to be invited by the Walt Disney Company to attend the in home event for the release of BAMBI’S SIGNATURE COLLECTION. The event started over at The Walt Disney Studios, were we gathered in front of the old Animation Building. We walked the halls where the great legends of Disney Animator’s once walked, looking at concept art and sketches of some of Disney’s most beloved films.
We then proceeded upstairs to meet Kevin Kern, Senior Archivist at Walt Disney Studios, he did a brief introduction to the recently restored Walt Disney’s secretary’s office, his working office, and his formal office.
All three offices were restored in 2015 and have personal photos, awards, trinkets, original furnishings, and of course his piano. There are also rotating exhibits on various Disney subjects to celebrate anniversaries, films, and events throughout the Company’s history from 1923 to the present day. During our visit, the exhibit showcased famous Caricatures of Walt Disney.
After our amazing tour of Walt’s office, which of course I had goosey’s throughout the entire time, we headed across the street to the newly redone Walt Disney Animation Studios. We headed over to the social media suite, where they had set up this beautiful photo backdrop.
We were able to do our best Thumper or Flower pose and turned it into a .gif. We then headed upstairs to interview the people of the hour, DONNIE DUNAGON the voice of young Bambi and PETER BEHN voice of young Thumper.
I first saw Donnie and Peter a few years ago at the TCM Film Festival during a special screening of BAMBI. Their stories from making BAMBI were incredible, and I was excited to interview them on a personal level this time.
BECKY CLINE, the Director of the Walt Disney Archives introduced the gentleman and asked some of the first questions about working on BAMBI. Peter explained that his dad brought him over for the voice auditions for the part of Bambi. And Donnie beat him out on that one because he had the wrong voice for that part. However, later Frank Thomas, Milt Kahl, and Ollie Johnston, part of the “nine old men” said he was perfect for the “rabbit” part. It took two years to finish the voice parts for BAMBI, Peter was around 5 when it was finished.
On working with Walt, both had very different responses. Peter, “Well, bear in mind, by that time Disney had become quite a businessman, and it wasn’t just Bambi that he was working on. I did meet him a couple of times but not on a regular basis. He wasn’t one dealing directly with me anyway. Maybe he was with Donnie, he needed a lot more supervision; Anyway, he was with me and showed me the little Disney zoo that they had. At one time they had deer and some rabbits and other creatures so the animators could see the anatomy of the animals and help them with their drawings. And so I do remember being out there at that time. And he was a very nice man.”
Donnie,” Let me share with you a different bit of an experience then say along with Peter’s excellent sharing with you. Only because I had been in seven other films as a young kid, sometimes if you’re quiet they forget you’re there. It never really happened with me, but my wife here would argue with that. I was very disappointed in some of the studio activities with the people who were supposed to be the leaders, the executives, the owners, the number one producers.
Sometimes they would come around, different jobs and I was in a whole bunch of them, right? And the employees and cameramen and sound guys would say, “Watch out here comes the boss.” Watch out, here comes the boss? Huh? What does that tell you about leadership? It means you see artificial things, right? I’m an old troop commander. I understand that word leadership reasonably well, okay? Mr. Disney was not like that. When I first saw him, I thought maybe he was going to get a room or something.
I mean, he had his sleeves rolled up, and he was working, and they introduced us to him. We had a great time. Most of the time I saw him, I saw him often, all right. He was participating in things. He wasn’t, oh my gosh here comes the boss. He was, here comes Walt, here comes Mr. Disney, he’ll help. Ask him about this. Ask him about that. That’s called leadership. Very different. And that’s why Disney was successful.”
One of the most touching moments was Donnie speaking on the impact BAMBI had had with everyone around the world to this day. “The environmental profile, the forests, the reckless fire is spoken to by children in schools now. And I listen to them. And they pick up on that right away. Here’s an extension of Mr. Walt Disney’s Bambi, okay. I get one of these by children a month from all over the world. speaking about letters or pictures.
And a couple I have, I can’t spell correctly you know. One a month minimum, Christmas time a couple more. And at least 2 ½ to 3 handwritten letters a week from children all over the world. To Disney who happens to be this old beat up fool back in the middle of West Texas, all right? To Disney, to Disney, to Disney, thank you, Disney, thank you Disney. If this doesn’t tell people that Bambi is forever, I’ll do push-ups in that parking lot for you.”
Our final interview was with Disney Animator Paul Felix. He was asked to draw a special piece for the Anniversary. He spoke briefly about the inspiration he had from MARC DAVIS AND TYRUS WONG. He spoke about how even though TYRUS only worked with Walt Disney Animation for about three years, his work still inspires not only artists within the company but future artists as well. His touches are all over the movie with his production design and backgrounds. We got to see a great time lapse video of Paul creating his beautiful piece which he said took a little over an hour to complete!
It was an amazing day on the lot, and one I will not forget! BAMBI 75th Anniversary Signature Collection is now available to own!