Interview with Donnie Dunagan
The Voice of “Bambi”
February 25, 2011
How did this come about, that you were chosen to be the voice of
“Bambi” in the original Disney production in 1942?
was just 6 ½ years old. I’d
already been a child actor in a couple of films, and Mr. Disney liked my
look---I had these blonde curls and big eyes.
I was actually the facial model for Bambi, as well as the voice.
Mr. Disney himself called my Mom to ask her.
We were the first child actors used in a Disney production, I found
out later---prior to this time they’d used adult actors trying to sound
: And were you instantly famous?
my life went in another direction, and this became just part of my past for
the longest time. I went into the
Marine Corps, and didn’t want to tell anyone about it because I was afraid
they’d immediately nickname me “Bambi.”
: You were probably right about that!
only person who knew was my commanding general, because he had my personnel
file, and because of needing top secret clearance, it included everything
about my personal history. He only
used it on me once---when he wanted me to take a job I really didn’t want!
The PX on the base was being audited, and he wanted me to audit the
auditors. So he said, “You will do
this, Mr. Bambi.” That was it.
I had no choice.
: What was it like actually doing the
recording? Were there a lot of people
in the room with you? Were you
reading the part, or did you have to memorize it?
were only a handful of people in the sound studio.
They did the voices first, you know, and then the animation.
: And then the orchestration?
the orchestration was last. I was
already reading at 4, so I had no problem with that---in fact, Mr. Disney
had me read something for him as part of my interview.
I’ve also always been able to memorize things, so the whole thing
went pretty smoothly. The only time
they had to do a “re-take” was when I was calling for Mom, and one of
the ladies sitting behind me said, “call her like you think she’s in
danger,” and that was apparently all the coaching I needed!
I only met the girl once who did the voice of Faline, and I never met
the ones who did Flower and Thumper at all.
you have any chance at all to enjoy the
scene at the time?
I remember I had a water gun on the set, which Boris Karloff had given me
for Christmas, but they took it away from me, and if they find it around,
I’d like it back!
I remember going over to Jimmy
Stewart’s house one time and amusing him with an impression I did of him.
He was really a nice guy. Two
of his movies, “Mr. Smith Goes To
,” and “It’s A Wonderful Life,” are my all-time favorites.
: Do you enjoy current films?
I don’t see too many of them. The
last one I liked was “Shane”!
: When I was thinking about seeing
“Bambi” with my grandchildren, I was wondering if they’d be bothered
by the part about losing his mother to the hunters---there’s a message
there about humans vs. nature---but by the end, I figured it was part of the
cycle of life.
exactly, and I thought there was also a powerful message when Bambi gets
grazed by a bullet, and his Dad comes and says, “Get up!”
I used that same philosophy a couple of times in the Marines.
: I really did enjoy the film,
especially the vocal choruses and the orchestration, and I think that many
folks in my readership will appreciate those parts, as well.
you can, see it on blu-ray; the technology is fantastic.
: I will, and thank you for your
was a pleasure.