Disney's Bambi opened in theaters nationwide. Today the film looks quaint but in its time many artists felt it was as realistic as artists could attain.
Joe Grant told me Designer Rico LeBrun had a hunter friend bring in a real deer he shot in the Sierras. LeBrun set up drawing and anatomy sessions to study the dead animal.
But LeBrun was so inspired by the opportunity he refused to dispose of the carcass even after several days. And it began to smell badly and attract flies. Finally the other animators waited until LeBrun had left for lunch and tossed the rancid thing. Walt arranged to bring in some live deer.
-- TAG President Emeritus Tom Sito (aka "Mr. History")
My favorite Bambi story was told to me by Disney veteran Frank Thomas:
The picture was finished and a bunch of us went with Walt to a sneak preview in L.A.
The movie started showing and was going over pretty well. Then it got to the scene where Bambi's mother is shot, and Bambi wanders through the snow crying out "Mo-ther! MO-ther!" You could hear a pin drop. Then some wise guy up in the balcony shouts back: "Here I am Bambi! Here I AM!"
I leaned out and looked down the row at Walt. You could almost see the steam coming out of his ears." ...
Bambi today is a well-loved classic, but it didn't turn a profit until its second release in 1947. The first animated feature into development after Snow White, it was the last pre-war animated feature to be released. There wouldn't be another until Cinderella in 1950.
Add On: Screenwriter William Goldman, in his book Adventures in the Screen Trade, has this to say about Walt Disney's fifth animated feature:
... Deer Hunter told me [what] I already knew and believed in: No matter how horrid the notion of war, Robert de Niro would end up staring soulfully at the beautiful, long-suffering Meryl Streep.
So I say in spite of its skill and the seriousness of its subject matter, we have a well-disguised comic-book movie. Nothing shook my world.
If the shower scene in Psycho was the shocker of the sixties, and for me, it sure was, then its equivalent in the entire decade of the forties was when Bambi’s mother dies.
And what about that line of dialogue ‘Man has entered the forest’?
And the fire, and the incredibly strong anti-violence implications […]
I know it was a cartoon. I know Thumper had one of the great scene-stealing roles, I know there was a lot of cuteness.
But I left that movie changed.
It had, and has, a terrifying sense of life to it, and not life as we like it to be. You may think I’m crazy, and you may be right, but Bambi still reverberates inside me. ...
So says Willian Goldman, author of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Marathon Man, The Princess Bride, All the President's Men and on and on.
And he ought to know (even though Goldman maintains that "Nobody knows anything.")
Despite the assertion, I say William G. knows his movies.