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Exclusive Interview With The Voices of Disney’s Bambi and Thumper

One of Disney’s most treasured and timeless films Bambi turned 75 years old. To celebrate the 75th anniversary, I had the honor of attending an Exclusive Interview With The Voices of Disney’s Bambi and Thumper. Where we discussed Donnie Dunagan and Peter Behn’s experience making this film.

Peter Behn and Donnie Dunagan standing in group photo infront of Bambi themed backdrop during Interview With The Voices of Disney's Bambi and Thumper .

Photo Credit: Louise Bishop / MomStart.com

Exclusive Interview With The Voices of Disney’s Bambi and Thumper

In the year of 1942, Walt Disney released one of the most infamous movies of all time, Dinsey’s Bambi hit theaters just after World War 2. Originally set to have been the second movie released just after Snow White, it was postponed for 4 years due to the war and ending up becoming the fifth film from Disney.

It’s amazing to see how the graphics progressed so quickly from the older black and white Mickey Mouse movies and headed straight toward Bambi where you have these beautiful drawings and big splashes of color.

Follow along my high sea's adventure at the Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales premiere in Los Angeles, California. Attend a red carpet premiere in Hollywood with me, and checkout all the pirate themed fun we had at the premiere party.

Pirates Life Event

Don’t miss out on any of the celebrity interviews from the 5th installment of Pirates Of The Caribbean: Dead Men Tell No Tales. Click on the name of the interviews you would like to read about below, also don’t forget to check out all of the other adventures during my PiratesLifeEvent press trip in LA.

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One of Disney's most treasured and timeless films Bambi turned 75 years old. To celebrate the 75th anniversary, I had the honor of attending an Exclusive Interview With The Voices of Disney's Bambi and Thumper. Where we discussed Donnie Dunagan and Peter Behn's experience making this film.
Photo Credit: Louise Bishop / MomStart.com

Interview with Disney’s Bambi and Thumper

Throughout the movie, you will see the many mix of colors and how they shared Bambi’s story with gorgeous backgrounds and wonderful graphics. It was a surprise to find out that the two had never actually encountered each other during their recordings, actually, they never met until about 10 years ago.

We asked them a few questions about their early-on memories of Walt Disney, as well as what they remembered of the recording process for his role in Disney’s Bambi.

Love reading celebrity and producer interviews? Make sure you check out all of my available interviews with the latest shows and films. As well as my most recent Exclusive Interview With Benjamin Bratt (Voice of Ernesto de la Cruz) in Disney Pixar’s COCO.

Photo Credit: www.momstart.com

Interview with Paul Felix

Paul Felix the Bambi Walt Disney Signature Collection Disneygraph Artist had a chat with us and shared his experience with Bambi as well as other films he has worked on. Felix created the beautiful Disneygraph of Bambi and Thumper in honor of the film’s 75th anniversary.

Below you can find our chat with him and learn about how he drew inspiration from the original film and translated it into a timeless photo.

A photo of Donnie Dunagan during an Interview With The Voices of Disney's Bambi and Thumper.

Meet Bambi, Voiced By Donnie Dunagan

At just 5 years old Donnie Dunagan has scored the voice-over of a lifetime, he was cast to play the young Bambi alongside Peter Behn who voiced young Thumper. Donnie Dunagan was actually a child star who played in numerous other movies. Following his childhood stardom, Donnie Dunagan joined the Marines where he quickly rose the ranks.

Donnie spent 25 years in the Marine Corps and said that no one actually knew he was the voice of young Bambi until right before he retired. Dunagan explained he was very worried about everyone seeing his name in the credits (the first time they added credits to the movie ever!).

Can you imagine being on base and then everyone viewing the movie seeing their superior’s name as that gentle adorable Bambi? I totally would have been cool with it!

Original sketch of Bambi and his mother shown during Interview With The Voices of Disney's Bambi and Thumper.

That Fateful Mother Mother Scene that tugged at all our hearts.

Donnie: ” Remember when the mother is shot, right? Thank goodness off-camera. I had the original copy of the book. Mr. Disney had followed the book verbatim, you know page for page. If you had seen it on camera, it’d have been terrible.

It’s already bad enough. We hear about it all the time, the mother, the mother’s been shot, the mother’s been shot. When that recording was required I did not do it as well as I should have.

Original sketch of Bambi shown during Interview With The Voices of Disney's Bambi and Thumper.

Donnie talks about the Mother Scene

Mother, mother, mother. You know, I’m having the time of my life. You know, this cannot be a bad time. And my coach was a lady in the sound booth like Peter was discussing.

And she said, no, do it again, do it again. Okay. Mother, mother. Hey mom, where’s Mother you know? That’s not going to work, right. Well, I meet a very bright lady, I’ll never forget She said, your mother’s in trouble.

Original sketch of Disney's Bambi girl bunny character.

Donnie Voicing Bambi

Now, she didn’t tell me this, this is fun, right. She said your mother’s in trouble. Donnie, maybe your mother’s in trouble. You need to plead with your mother. Call your mother, call your mother.

That caught my attention pretty quickly. You know I’m just a kid, right. Mother, mother, mother. Now, that took some doing with me. Peter was faster at this than I was. I took some coaching.”

Photo of Peter Behn during Interview With The Voices of Disney's Bambi and Thumper.

Meet Thumper as Voiced by Peter Behn

Peter Bhen’s career started off very early on in his childhood, his father Harry Behn was a screenwriter and children’s book author and Renaissance man, artist, all kinds of wonderful things.

At the age of five Peter Behn auditioned for the voice of Bambi, he actually did not get that part but did land the lovable bunny Thumper.

I honestly could not have imagined Thumper having any other voice than Peter Behn’s. Behn left the show business and took interest in becoming a housebuilder and worked in real estate.

Roundtable shot of Donnie Dungan and Peter Behn during Interview With The Voices of Disney's Bambi and Thumper.

Who was Peter Behn’s Father?

My father actually started writing screenplays I think in the 20s in the era of silent movies. And he wrote several quite well-known or was in those days called the big parade. It was directed by King Vidor who was one of the premier directors in those days.

He then later went on to write the screenplay for Hells Angels which was Howard Hughes’ big blockbuster back when the first world war area of combat  And then during that time or after a little later in the 30s, he knew Walt Disney.

How Peter Behn Got His Part In Bambi

And he heard that a new movie was about to be done. And he brought me over for the voice auditions for the part of Bambi. And Donnie beat me out on that one. Because I had the wrong voice for that part.

However, later Frank Thomas and one other of the Ollie and Milt. Ollie decided that my voice was right for the rabbit, is the way they referred to it as I understand it initially. And never actually ever auditioned for Thumper so they just went from there.

I was four initially, yeah. And then the recordings took place intermittently over a two-year period and I was 5. That was Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston who is known in these circles as Frank and Ollie, nine old men, and Milt Kahl who’s also one of the nine old men. All three very famous animators at Disney, highly specialized.

Original sketch of Thumper shown in Exclusive Interview With The Voices of Disney's Bambi and Thumper.

Have you watched the movie over and over?

Peter Behn: I was at the premiere and then I didn’t see the film for quite some time. And back in those days, I don’t think it was even out on any kind of media so we didn’t have the opportunity of seeing it.

And later of course, it came out on VHS and then it came out on DVDs and that sort of thing. So, I have seen it over the years a few times but not a lot.

Donnie Dunagan: So I and Peter saw it at the premier. We were so young. Mr. Disney may have wanted to release Bambi Christmas of 41, December 1941, but after December 7, 1941, Pearl Harbor, entering into war. So, that’s hearsay. But I think I believe it. So about right now, 1942 to release it and I saw it when Peter saw it.

What was it like working with Walt Disney Himself Back Then?

Peter Behn: Well, bear in mind, Disney was quite a –, by that time had really become quite a businessman and it wasn’t just Bambi that he was working on. I did meet him a couple of times but not on a regular basis.

He wasn’t one dealing directly with me anyway. Maybe he was with Donnie who needed a lot more supervision and guidance.

Anyway, he was with me and showed me the little Disney zoo that they had. At one time they had deer and some rabbits and other creatures so the animators could actually see the anatomy of the animals and help them with their drawings. And so I do remember being out there at that time. And he was a very nice man.

Donnie Dunagan:  When I first saw him I thought maybe he was going to get a room or something. I mean, he had his sleeves rolled up and he was working and they introduced us to him. We had a great time. Most of the time I saw him, I saw him off, all right.

He was participating in things. He wasn’t, oh my gosh here comes the boss. He was, here comes Walt, here comes Mr. Disney, he’ll help. Ask him about this. Ask him about that. That’s called leadership. Very different. And that’s why Disney was successful.

Donnie Dunagan and Peter Behn standing next to Bambi Movie Poster

The Final Question That Brought Everyone To Tears

What do you envision and hope for the legacy of Bambi going forward?

Peter B: Well, very frankly one of my strongest feelings about the movie is the amazing fact that back in the 30s, Walt Disney was so aware of his, far ahead of his time in the environmental concerns.

I think the movie is truly a very strong statement in favor of protecting the environment and the concern that man was ruining it or even make it worse which unfortunately I personally believe.

It’s one of my strong beliefs that we have to do everything we can to keep it from getting worse. But it’s just, it’s a forward awareness and thinking that Walt obviously brought to the movie. He had to know what he was doing. I think it was very strong.

And I think as time goes on perhaps that aspect of the movie will resonate and become even more important and more people will be more aware of that aspect of the movie. At least I hope so.

Donnie Dunagan showing a photo of fan mail he received with a hand drawn photo of Bambi. Shown during Interview With The Voices of Disney's Bambi and Thumper .

Continued

Donnie: If I live to be 1000 years old I couldn’t say it better than Peter did. The environmental profile, the forests, the reckless fire is spoken to by children in schools now. And I listen to them.

And they pick up on that right away. Here’s an extension of Mr. Walt Disney’s Bambi, okay. I get one of these by children a month from all over the world.

And a couple I have, I can’t spell correctly you know. One a month minimum, Christmas time a couple more. And at least 2 ½ to 3 handwritten letters a week from children all over the world.

To Disney who happens to be this old beat-up fool back in the middle of West Texas, all right? To Disney, thank you, Disney. If this doesn’t tell people that Bambi is forever, I’ll do push-ups in that parking lot for you.

Photo of Paul Felix sitting in front of a screen with the movie Bambi in the background during Exclusive Interview With The Voices of Disney's Bambi and Thumper.

Meet Paul Felix

Paul Felix (Bambi Walt Disney Signature Collection Disneygraph artist) is a production designer at Walt Disney Animation Studios. Felix most recently served as production designer for the 2016 short film, “Inner Workings,”

Which was released theatrically with the Oscar®-nominated “Moana.” Felix also served as production designer for the 2014 Academy Award®-winning feature film, “Big Hero 6.”

Felix was inspired to pursue a career in animation after discovering Christopher Finch’s “The Art of Walt Disney” at his local library. He joined Disney Television Animation in 1989, and transferred to Walt Disney Animation Studios six years later.

75th Bambi Walt Disney Signature Collection Disneygraph

We asked him where Paul drew inspiration from when bringing Bambi and Thumper to life in this 75th Bambi Walt Disney Signature Collection Disneygraph. Paul explained he studied the characters by visiting the Disney Archives, especially the ones with the early drawings of famed Disney animator, Mark Davis. Paul told us that he had a rich history with the Bambi and Thumper and that is why they are both featured in the drawing.

How was this drawing achieved? He used a combination of colored pencils and watercolors, just like the original artwork featured in the movie.

Disney’s Bambi 75th Anniversary

In honor of Disney’s Bambi 75th Anniversary Bluray Release Movie Rewards is giving everyone the opportunity to snag a tank top featuring the Paul Felix artwork inspired by Bambi. The tank top is available with every digital purchase/redemption of Disney’s Bambi! So make sure you snag this Bambi 75th Anniversary Bluray in stores June 6th!

How old were you when you first saw Bambi? When is the last time you saw this timeless classic? Isn’t it amazing that we had the opportunity to interview the actual voices of Bambi and Thumper? What was your favorite part of the interview?

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