Original Bambi Star Says Modern Disney Movies Lack Walt Disney’s Sensitivity

Posted 2022/04/26 4 0


Things have changes a lot since Walt Disney passed away in 1966, and that includes the kind of movies The Walt Disney Company produces.

For many older fans of Walt Disney’s animated movies, films like Bambi are a world away from some of the modern offerings from the House of Mouse, and that is an opinion shared by Donnie Dunagan. While his name may not be familiar to many, you will have heard Dunagan’s voice as he played the young version of the iconic Disney deer in the 1942 release of Bambi, one of the best-known movies in Disney’s long history. Based on the book by Felix Salten, the life of Bambi plays out from his birth, through the trauma of his mother’s death, to his ascension as prince of the forest, and Dunagan believes that more movies would have been like Bambi if Walt Disney had not passed away in 1966.

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While the Disney name is now attached to many big brands and franchises such as Marvel and Star Wars, their animated movies have spread into new worlds and stories beyond the classic fairytales that made up much of Disney’s most loved back catalog. Dunagan believes that Walt Disney himself would not have put his name on many of the more recent Disney releases. Reflecting on his memories of Walt, Dunagan told ILiveInDallas.com:

“It is so messy today that I don’t think they have the sensitivity that Mr. Disney had in his productions. I’ll give you a good example… World War II in Europe is going on… That was the environment when Mr. Disney was getting ready to show Bambi. I was there when he first saw the take of Bambi’s mother being shot. He called a pause and he looked at the production people and said to take it out because it had an image of her being shot with a bullet hole and her face grimacing as she was getting ready to die. He said, ‘Take that out. Just suggest that the mother was shot.’… So, when you watch Bambi, it’s just a suggestion that they’re both shot, both the mother and then later me… Even then, when the mother was shot, although it was just a suggestion, I saw mothers put their hand over the children’s eyes… Think of that in contrast to today, with the movies where there’s somebody blown away every 15 seconds. What a contrast! Mr. Disney was very sensitive about those things…”

The Death of Bambi’s Mother is One of the Most Haunting Disney Moments Ever

When Stephen King, the most famous horror author in the world, calls Bambi the “first horror movie” they saw, it gives you an idea of the decades of trauma the movie has caused to generations of children. Like many of the greatest movies of all time, though, it is what you don’t see that makes the movie and that death scene in particular so powerful. Walt Disney being directly responsible for the scene ending up as the suggestion of death rather than an explicit confirmation goes a long way to proving Dunagan’s point about modern movies. It will be interesting to see how the scene is handled in the upcoming “live-action” remake.

There is no way to deny that times have changed in the movie landscape since the 1940s, with violence, swearing and sexual references being commonplace in any movie rated PG-13 and above. Back when Walt Disney was making movies, many villains weren’t seen to perish on screen and even their comeuppances were assumed off-screen. In contrast, the death of a Disney villain became the norm in the late 1980s and 1990s in the likes of Oliver and Co, Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. There is no way of knowing precisely what Walt Disney would have thought of his company now, but many of Disney’s most-loved movies continue to be the ones that were made during Walt’s lifetime.

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