On this day in 1869, Austrian writer Felix Salten was born Siegmund Salzmann in Budapest, Hungary. Disney fans may not recognize his name, but they surely know some of his most famous characters and stories.
Salten's career as a writer actually started when he wrote poems and short stories to relieve the boredom of his job as an insurance agent. His stories began to appear in newspapers and he soon found himself working full-time as a journalist. In 1900 he published his first collection of short stories - which later led to novels, essays, and travel books.
Salten's most famous work Bambi was published in 1926. The idea for the story came to him while vacationing in the Alps. He was charmed by the wildlife and based the name Bambi on the Italian word "bambino" - meaning baby. First published by the Zsolnay publishing company in Vienna, the original title was Bambi, ein Leben im Walde or Bambi, a Life in the Woods. In 1933, Salten sold the film rights to director Sidney Franklin who later transferred the rights to the Walt Disney Studios. Bambi, Disney's 5th animated feature, was released in August 1942. Salten saw the film himself for the first time at the European premiere in Zurich's Rex Movie Theater.
Among Salten's many stories were also Perri and The Hound of Florence. Disney released Perri as a True Life Fantasy in 1957. The film follows the life of a female squirrel named Perri who lives in a forest filled with danger. When she isn't fleeing her natural enemies, she finds time to fall in love. Directed by Paul Kenworhty and Ralph Wright (later the voice of Eeyore), it was nominated for an Oscar.
First published in 1930, Salten's The Hound of Florence became the inspiration for Disney's 1959 live-action comedy The Shaggy Dog. One of the top movies of that year, it told the story of a teenage boy who is transformed into a a sheep dog. The success of the film led to a sequel in 1976 called The Shaggy D.A. (The Shaggy Dog was also remade in 2006.)
Salten passed away at the age of 76 in 1945.