An Interview with Donnie Dunagan, both the voice of Bambi and the Son of Frankenstein!
"This is beautiful."
You should see this. You should buy this. Disney has taken every step to preserve and restore one of their greatest masterworks in the field of animation. Finally, the vault has been unlocked and Bambi, the 5th Disney Animated feature produced, is being released for the very first time in 8 years on a 2-disc DVD set full of extras. This fine piece of moving artwork has been reconditioned, waxed, and buffed to perfection, giving it a sheen that hasn't been seen since the first time it ran through a projector back in 1942. The image is so crystal clear; brushstrokes literally jump off the screen. It's like having an active canvass in your living room.
Movie PictureThe hues are edible.
I don't need to sit here and pontificate on the importance of this cornerstone, often considered one of Walt Disney's best and most heartfelt efforts. The comforts associated with Bambi, Thumper, and Flower come wrapped around the heart like a warm down blanket. Those semi-wonderful people over at Disney's Animation Department realized this. They have decided to turn their attentions away from whatever bastardized sequel they may have been scribbling on to instead safeguard this antique flowing imagery which built their mouse house in the first place.
Bambi comes as the fifth entry in their celebrated Platinum Collection. And makes its debut next week on March 1st, 2005. As is the case with most classic Disney fare, this DVD will only be available for a short time. Don't waist a moment in purchasing your copy. These guys aren't kidding around when they say you won't be able buy it after a certain date. It will vanish as quickly as it came. You'll never even know it was here in the first place. Kind of like the guy I'm about to introduce to you...
One of the least recognizable aspects of the film is the voice behind the title character of Bambi. There is a reason for this. Child actor Donnie Dunagan, who supplied the calming squeak of everyone's favorite fawn, disappeared from the media machine shortly after recording the needed tracks for the cartoon. Having also appeared in the early horror classics Son of Frankenstein and Tower of London, Donnie became one of the most sought after and hard to find personalities in the history of the medium, especially over the course of the last few years. Our boy seemed to disappear into thin air.
It wasn't until recently that this Career Marine reappeared from obscurity with quite a story to tell. It seems that Bambi is just one of the many interesting things that have happened to Donnie in his seventy years. He went from child actor, to serving in Vietnam, to getting shot three times, to working in counter intelligence, to retiring in Texas, to losing all his savings in the Enron scandal. He's not through yet, though. He'd still like to tackle a few more voice-over roles before he's done. Earn a bit of cash. And maybe even pull a boat with his teeth. Donnie has stayed in better shape than Jack LaLanne. You'd never recognize him as the curly-haired, doe-eyed moppet from those early black and white films made ages ago.
Dunagan recently came out of hiding in support of this new Disney DVD. As he tells it, he never came forward before this because he just didn't like to brag about the things he'd done. And he defiantly didn't want his fellow Marines knowing that he was Bambi. He is, in fact, quite proud of his past achievements, especially being part of this film, and is overjoyed to be sharing his experiences with us now. He never imagined that there would be so much interest in the work he'd done as an eight-year-old boy.
Donnie is now doing the rounds, conducting interviews and making more than a few live appearances at festivals and conventions. I was lucky enough to sit down and talk with Donnie yesterday morning via speakerphone. I've recorded that fine conversation for you, my friends, in hopes that you, too could enjoy just a taste of this unique man's story, and appreciate the rich history that stands behind the making of Disney's Bambi. Consider this an addendum to the DVD you know you're going to buy next week...