On this day in 1942, Disney's 5th full-length animated feature Bambi had its U.S. debut at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City. (The film had premiered 5 days earlier in London, England.)
Based on the book "Bambi, A Life in the Woods" by Austrian author Felix Salten, the film rights had actually been purchased in 1933 by Sidney Franklin a producer-director at MGM. He had originally wanted to make the story of Bambi into a live-action feature, but realizing the difficulties involved - he in turn sold the film rights to Walt Disney in 1937. Disney began immediately crafting the story into an animated adaptation (along with director David Hand) hoping for it to be the studio's second animated feature. But due to its slow progress, other projects (like Fantasia) took precedence.
Disney's Bambi tells the story of a young white-tailed deer who is hailed as the "Prince of the Forest" at birth. As Bambi grows he makes friends with other animals (a rabbit named Thumper and a skunk named Flower) and learns the skills needed to survive in the woods. As he grows, Bambi experiences the death of his mother at the hands of a hunter, falling in love with a doe named Faline, and rescuing his friends from a raging forest fire. As he matures, Bambi assumes his proper place as the "Prince of the Forest."
Bambi was voiced by 4 different actors - Bobby Stewart as baby Bambi, Donnie Dunagan as young Bambi, Hardie Albright as adolescent Bambi, and John Sutherland as adult Bambi. Other notable voice contributions included Sam Edwards as adult Thumper and Sterling Holloway as adult Flower. (Edwards later worked for Disney voicing many characters for LP record releases and Holloway later became the first voice of Winnie the Pooh.)
Believe it or not Bambi lost money at the box office during its first release. Although the film received good reviews, the timing of the release during World War II, hurt the film's box office numbers. Despite the initial financial loss to the studio, Bambi did teach Walt and his animators much about the art of production. Because of the film, the animators now had a broader spectrum of styles and an expanded knowledge of the multiplane camera. Also Disney's paint lab developed hundreds of new colors for Bambi that would later be used on other projects.
Today the film is considered a classic (and has obviously made a large profit due to its multiple theater re-releases and home video/DVD releases).
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