Tuesday, August 8, 2017
Happy 75th Birthday Bambi!
In August 1942, war was raging in Europe, yet Disney Studios held the world premiere of its fifth animated film, Bambi, in London on the thirteenth of that month. Not surprising, the movie lost money. A telegram from Roy Disney to his brother, Walt, indicated “Unable to make any deal to stay third week…night business is our problem.” (Go figure!)
Did you know the story of Bambi didn’t originate at Disney? Did you know the novel was written for adults? Authored by Hungarian-Austrian Felix Salten in 1923, Bambi, A Life in the Woods was translated into English in 1928 and became a book-of-the-month success. Five years later, Salten sold the rights for $1,000 to the MGM director Sidney Franklin who later transferred the rights to Disney Studios when he decided that making the book into a live action film would be too difficult. Salten’s books Perri and The Hound of Florence were also made into Disney films: Perri (1957) and The Shaggy Dog (1959).
Originally a roe deer, Bambi was changed to a white-tailed deer because roe deer are not native to North America. Despite its original failure, the film ultimately received three Academy Award nominations: Best Sound, Best Song, and Original Music Score. Since then the American Film Institute placed Bambi on a list of its “10 Top 10,” the best ten films in each of ten classic American film genres. In 2011 the movie was added to the National Film Registry in the Library of Congress.
Today’s much loved response to the movie is the antithesis of how Bambi was received in 1942. Because of the lack of fantasy elements and an objection toward a dramatic story of animals’ struggle to survive and avoid the threat of humans, most critics did not like Bambi. Film critic Manny Farber said the movie was “entirely unpleasant,” and Outdoor Life editor Raymond Brown wrote that Bambi “was the worst insult ever offered in any form to American sportsmen.” According to The New York Times “In the search for perfection, Mr. Disney has come perilously close to tossing away his whole world of cartoon fantasy.” Reports are that even Walt Disney’s daughter, Diane, complained that Bambi’s mother didn’t need to die.
The movie was re-released in 1947 and saw greater success. After the war, Disney Studios went on to make the animated The Three Caballeros, Song of the South, and Cinderella, as well as the live-action Mary Poppins which received five Academy Awards.
What is your favorite animated Disney film?
A freelance writer for over ten years, Linda Shenton Matchett is the author of several romance novellas. Under Fire, the first book in her trilogy about WWII War Correspondent/amateur sleuth Ruth Brown, is available from eLectio Publishing, Amazon, or your favorite independent bookstore. Visit Linda at www.LindaShentonMatchett.com