Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

The illustrations that inspired Disney's Bambi

hero.jpg
heor2.jpg

If there's a Disney film that broke our junior hearts and made our jaws drop into our tiny laps, it was Bambi. (We never quite recovered from the distressing scene where Bambi loses his mother). But not only was its story about a young deer growing up in the forest touching, it also featured a new wave of animation that was equally endearing.

A recent exhibition at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco revealed that artist Tyrus Wong was the man who inspired the look and feel of the film while it was in its early stages of development.

Wong worked at the Walt Disney Studios as an 'inbetweener', the person who goes through the tedious process of making “in-between” drawings that filled out the movement of the characters between the animators’ key drawings. When he heard that Disney’s next feature-length film was going to be Bambi, he saw an opportunity to present his work.

He read Felix Salten’s Bambi and immediately fell in love with story. "You could almost smell the pine,” he said. Inspired by Sung dynasty landscape paintings, he made sample sketches creating the lush mountain and forest settings, which are featured here.

Wong explained, “I tried to keep it very, very simple and create the atmosphere, the feeling of the forest”.

Wong's approach to design was vastly different from the ornate style of Disney’s SnowWhite and the Seven Dwarfs, which preceded Bambi, and one that had never been seen before in an animated film. The film’s art director, Tom Codrick, was impressed by his sensitive style.

Consequently, Wong’s Chinese-inspired paintings set the look and tone for Bambi and are considered to be some of the most beautiful art to ever be produced at the Walt Disney Studios.

On the film's release in 1942, The New York Times praised the animation, inspired by Wong's designs, as "magical" while Time Magazine described the colours as striking.

Wong went onto work as a production illustrator and sketch artist for Warner Brothers, where he switched from fantasy to realism. He painted and sketched concept art for hundreds of live-action films, including Rebel Without A Cause, Calamity Jane, Harper, The Wild Bunch and Sands of Iwo Jima.

In 2001, Wong was named a Disney Legend, and his work continues to inspire and influence the leading animators of today.

(Words: Sejal Kapadia, Images: magicforces.com and Disney)

Related

rexfeatures-3425898s.jpg

Rooney Mara to play Tiger Lily in new Peter Pan film

1302-cvr-ew-jolie-hero.jpg

First pictures of Angelina Jolie as Maleficent

hero.jpg

Female journalists who changed the world

hero.jpg

20 on-screen bedrooms we wish were ours

hero.jpg

Meet Lammily, the anti-Barbie doll with a real female body

beauty-disney-hero.jpg

Best beauty looks in Disney

Comments

More

Everything you need to know about growing your own vegetables

(Even if you don't have loads of space)

by Sarah Biddlecombe
21 Feb 2017

Calling all vino fans: are you ready for red wine ice cream?

Ice cream and red wine, together at last…

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Feb 2017

Letters penned 100 years apart show unchanging attitude to abortion

"I'm in the family way again, and I'm nearly crazy..."

by Sarah Biddlecombe
21 Feb 2017

Woman opens up about having her grandmother as her bridesmaid

“She’s my best friend”

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Feb 2017

Artist captures how mental illness feels with sketches of houses

“It belongs to our lives and we must not stigmatise it”

by Sarah Biddlecombe
21 Feb 2017

Pair cheese and wine like a pro with this incredible interactive map

Winchester Aged Gouda with a glass of Amarone della Valpolicella, anyone?

by Moya Crockett
21 Feb 2017

Elderly woman finds £5 note worth £50k, donates it to “young people”

She’s the hero we need right now, if not the one we deserve.

by Moya Crockett
21 Feb 2017

Watch Emma Watson sing ‘Belle’ in new Beauty and the Beast clip

“There goes the baker with his tray, like always…”

by Kayleigh Dray
21 Feb 2017

The worst date I’ve ever witnessed: waiters share their stories

From the toe-curlingly awkward to the jaw-on-floor shocking.

by Moya Crockett
20 Feb 2017

Men open up about “the one that got away” in thought-provoking video

But not all is as it seems…

by Kayleigh Dray
20 Feb 2017