Bambi—the iconic Disney animated film responsible for destroying childhood innocence everywhere—celebrated its 74th anniversary on Saturday. Drew Taylor of the website Oh My Disney dug into the production history of the 1942 classic. The film was the fifth feature released by Disney, and Taylor calls it the “synthesis” of the films that came before it: “[It utilizes] the formalism of Pinocchio and Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, the naturalism of Dumbo, and the gentle experimentalism of Fantasia.”
Based on a 1923 book by Viennese author Felix Salten called Bambi: A Life In The Woods, the Disney animators struggled to figure out how to tell a more amorphous story without a traditional fairy tale structure. The Bambi team wound up sequestered in another building while animators worked on Fantasia, Alice In Wonderland, and Peter Pan in the main studio. And a lengthy production period gave the team time to find a unique visual style for the animation, settle on a tone of emotional realism, and spend some quality time with deer that were brought into the studio. Taylor notes that at one point Walt Disney told the team, “There would be a disaster here if we started rushing everybody on this picture.”
In addition to showcasing some great old photos from Bambi’s creation, Taylor’s article also details the ways in which the outbreak of World War II impacted the production and examines how audiences received the slightly more somber film.