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The lovely and gentle Bambi was adapted from the 1929 novel by Felix Salten. The rights to the book had actually been purchased by producer/director Sydney A. Franklin (The Good Earth, Waterloo Bridge, Mrs. Miniver), who was eager to collaborate with Walt Disney on the project. He surrendered his rights and served as an advisor on the project. The opening credits express Disney's gratitude: "To Sidney A. Franklin, sincere appreciation for his inspiring collaboration."
Walt Disney had wanted to begin development on Bambi when he first read the book in 1935, but actual story development and study began in 1937 as production of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was winding down.

The film moved slowly through production, as Pinocchio (1940), The Reluctant Dragon (1941) and Dumbo (1941) superseded it. The desire for the ultimate combination of realism and animation art was at the heart of this sluggish progress, but the results delighted Walt Disney- "Fellas, this stuff is pure gold," he told the animators.

Bambi was released at the time that international markets were still cut off to Disney, so although the critical and public reaction was positive, the profits were relatively small. Over the years, the film has come to be revered for its gentle story and skillful stylization.

The realistic depiction of the animals and their settings led the production of Bambi to stretch over six years. Although work on the film was not continuous over this span, it rarely came to a complete halt. Four of Disney's key animators- Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas, Eric Larson, and Milt Kahl-supervised the production "part-time" over its six-year schedule. They worked so diligently that Bambi was largely finished in early 1941, when the completion of Dumbo allowed Bambi to return to full production and completion.

The artists working on the film studied animal movement and anatomy under celebrated California artist Rico Le Brun. A pair of four-month-old fawns was sent to the Disney Studio from the Maine Development Commission for animator study. Two skunks numerous squirrels, birds, rabbits, chipmunks, owls, and other forest creatures were also brought to the "animal compound" at the Disney Studio. When the deer became too tame and well adapted to the human domain, their behavior was no longer reflective of deer in the wild. Walt sent Maurice "Jake" Day to Maine, where he shot extensive footage of not only deer, but also anything else that could help document the world of a "real" forest.

Although renowned for its "realistic" animation, Bambi also features beautifully stylized work, including Bambi's fight with the young buck and the forest fire.

More than four million drawings were executed during the production of Bambi. In addition to the animators, a staff of 25 scenic artists created more than 450 background paintings, working in oils rather than the usual tempera or water-color to achieve greater depth in the forest settings.







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