The Origins of Bambi – From Novel to Film



when the name Bambi is mentioned most people will immediately think of the Disney film the aesthetics of Disney's 1943 animated version would have been imitated countless times and for good reason it's a beautiful impeccably crafted film with a tone totally different from anything else the studio had ever created it's truly classic Disney as the years pass fewer and fewer people recognize the origins of the character why not with Disney but with the 1923 novel Bambi a life in the woods by Felix Alton a few years back I walked into a used bookstore and asked them if they had any copies and the clerks told me Bambi isn't a book it's a movie so that's what inspired me to make this video ambi a life in the woods was first published in german in 1923 and then in english in 1928 author felix salty was a Jewish Austrian and the themes of his writing is reflective persecution he experienced the story of a deer's harsh life in the wilderness drew critical attention quickly became a best-seller around the world and was republished countless times ambi was banned by Hitler in 1936 and Sultan was forced to flee Austria in need of money to finance his new life he sold the film rights for $5,000 to director Sidney Franklin who quickly sold them to Disney on this turn of events Sultan is quoted as saying I have been delivered over to Disney with my hands and feet fettered and a gag in my mouth zoltan never received any royalties or recognition for the film beyond his name in the credits the basic structure is the same between the book in the film a young deer is raised in the forest his mother dies he grows up has children and continues the cycle but beyond this structure the two works are extremely different in sultans Bambi there is no crowd of friendly animals awaiting the birth of a prince there is only Bambi's mother and a lone magpie who annoys her constantly the only animals who spend much time with young Bambi and his mother are friend hare a stoic adult polite enough to tolerate the fawn and Perri a red squirrel most animals that Bambi meets as a farm straight up reject him or insult him this is in stark contrast to the Disney version where all of the animals are shown to live in harmony as friends interrupted by only one thing in sultans Bambi humans are but one of many concerns for the forest animals though still a constant and mysterious threat in the novel the deer referred humans only as he and him lending a religious quality to the relationship between hunter and hunted Bambi learns about the dangers of the forest through experience the wide-eyed wonder of discovering the world is there but for very different reasons than in the Disney film early on in the story Bambi witnesses a ferret killing a mouse while on a walk with his mother and Bambi asks sir shall we kill a mouse too sometime little is sugar-coated yet the beauty of the forest remains apparent in both life and death Sultan was explicitly clear about the fact that his Bambi was not for children when Sultan learned his novel was to be censored for its publication in America he contacted his publisher with a letter that read at this time I beg you most urgently not to advertise my work as a children's book or to launch it otherwise in such a way the sequel novel Bambi's children was still censored for its american publication but the original was left untouched the book was not written for children and this is reflected both in the reading level and the darkness of its subject matter the story often drifts away from the life of Bambi and shows the lives of other forest inhabitants a fox has an argument about domestication with a murderous hunting dog before being ripped to shreds two leaves about to fall from an autumn tree reflect on their lives another story arc follows flames brother gobo who naively believes all humans are good because a family raised him as a fawn an idealistic deer named marina has a vision of a future where animals and humans live in peace but this is immediately rejected by the other deer rano the buck who Bambi fights in the film is actually a fleshed out character in the book rano X is a wise older friend to Bambi and this lends a lot more weight to their battle when Bambi becomes an adult the Walt Disney version of Bambi displays a very American monogamous concept of true love where each of the protagonists find a mate and settle down as a family Dalton's original stayed truer to the real behavior of deer with Bambi being a cold and distant partner to Faline and an absent father to his children as well this is not to say that the book is joyless or the violence gratuitous the dangers feel in genuine and the animals in her thoughts are believable the book holds up remarkably well for being written in 1923 the forest feels timeless and the animals words have as much impact today as they did when they were first written some passages and scenes have stuck with me for life particularly the scene where Bambi and the old stag discover a hunter's dead body and Bambi realizes he is no more than an animal who believes and feels pain like any other creature a part of me wonders what a faithful film adaptation of Sultan's original novel would look like there was a Russian film adaptation in the 1980s which took the bizarre route of using humans in place of deer leading to scenes like this needless to say the film was never released outside of Russia at root a source material adaptation is now unlikely to happen given Disney now owns the film rights to the character of Bambi in any and all forms in 1950 Disney offered Sultan the sum of money for the exclusive rights to Bambi and part of this Agreement stated that Sultan could never again write a story featuring his dear hero at this time Sultan was living in exile in Switzerland and desperately needed the money but in his personal letters he expressed regret about losing the rights to his own character maybe this is an opportunity for a Disney live-action remake to actually have a purpose though Bambi's life story may still be too bleak for the big screen

39 thoughts on “The Origins of Bambi – From Novel to Film

  1. I made a factual mistake at 6:26; it was not in the 1950s that Disney bought the exclusive rights to the character, it was in 1942. Salten was dead by the 1950s so wouldn't have been able to make such statements… Oops!

    One more mistake: The illustrations at 1:30 and 4:01 are by Girard Goodenow, not Barbara Cooney.

  2. I love the two animated movies, but the books were so much better.

  3. If the inevitable Bambi remake isn’t faithful to the book this time round, I will NOT watch it. Seriously, what are the chances of THAT happening?

  4. A good video is one that pushes you're picture of reality. This does just that. Good job👍🏾

  5. So why do people say Disney is antisemitic??? And if it is so, why would he make such a movie? This video brought more questions 🙄🙄🙄

  6. You call this Bambi being in the public domain? This is nothing like a public domain when Disney owns Bambi in two ways apparently.

  7. So, let me get this straight: Disney is bad for ripping off Kimba and stifling Jungle Emperor Leo without any regard for the original source material, and they're also bad for buying the rights to Bambi because they changed the story and didn't allow the original author to have additional creative input (after he put into writing his disdain for their decision to adapt his story for children). Is this correct?

    I'm sorry, but you can't have both. I agree that what happened with the Lion King is messed up… but if Disney had changed the names and released Bambi without any regard to the source material, then it probably would have done just as well, and we'd then start calling them out for plagiarizing Salten's imagery… the author may have had challenging circumstances, but that isn't Disney's fault and he made his decisions… no need to get all salty about it.

  8. It's quite difficult for me to write a YT comment about Salten's novel, because it is primal in my life. I read it many times as quite a young child. It was an early metaphorical introduction to life's tragedies and sorrows, beginning with the deep groans of Bambi's mother in labour. The terror of the defenseless hunted, meaningless violent death, innocence destroyed by deceit, the mortality of the strongest parental figures… above all, the profound isolation of Bambi's character. But it's far more than a parade of tragedies. In the face of all this there is deep love between the characters. The chapter of the dying Oak Leaves consoling each other has knifelike poignancy. … Of course the book as metaphor for persecuted peoples has far greater force now after the enormous crimes against humanity that have unfolded since 1923. ….I saw the cartoon much later. It is as beautiful a tribute as a commercial product can be expected to be. But it's a pretty pastel shadow of a profound, disturbing work of literature.

  9. The sequel to the original books sounds better than the first. I feel like I have to read it now.

  10. Thanks for giving credit to the illustrators. Some of my favorite names appeared there and I wouldn’t have known they illustrated versions of Bambi. I even have a copy here on my nightstand by coincidence.

  11. Salten SOLD the right to his book, so no, he was not owed any royalties or credit.

  12. And even earlier than that in 1883 a famous georgian poet and writer Vazha-Pshavela wrote The Story of the Roebuck which is almost identical.
    P.S. love your videos

  13. I never really liked disney's Bambi because I find it boring but the original seems more interesting .

  14. 1:20 is the copy I have ….found it at a used book store just randomly browsing….it’s a very dark story.

  15. I just love your calming voice & slight humor…. You earn yourselves a subscriber…. Best of luck

  16. Thank you for the true back story behind this Noble tale.

  17. I remember reading this as a kid. I was given a list of books to choose from for book reports, and I thought doing a book a Disney movie was based on would be easy, since I'd already seen the movie. However, i quickly learned that the book was way different, and better, than the movie, especially in its depiction of man. I always hated, especially now as an adult, how the original movie painted the hunters as murderous death machines. But as you pointed out in this video, the book makes it clear that the forest is a naturally violent ecosystem, and man is simply a part of it.

  18. 6:25 how could Disney offer Salten money in 1950 when he died in 1945?

  19. Recently I was banned from TV Tropes by acknowledging the atrocities done to Felix Salten. Spread the word.

  20. I juts love how relaxing and soothing your voice is, changes me from the generic loud youtube videos. Just well put together and pleasing.

  21. I've always loved Bambi! 🦌 One day by accident I found the novel in the "Classics" section bookshelf from my university's library. I took it home and after reading a couple of chapters I was confused, it wasn't what I expected. The story made me feel sad but also made me love it more than I did ❤️ Thank you for your video!

  22. One day Disney shall own all, and actual creators shall own nothing.

  23. Disney didn’t really seem to give the actual creator of Bambi as much respect. Some rights are better off being away from Disney.

  24. I haven't read the original Bambi but it sounds very similar to the original Silver Brumby, which is about a wild horse in Australia. The animals act like animals but have somewhat human thoughts (at least by level of intelligence) there is open acknowledgement of death (eg a mare wishing her bones one day to bleach on the high mountains) and the stallions take several mares as mates, he is somewhat cold and distant to them, caring only about protecting them (from man, predator and other stallions) and is indifferent to his foals. It's a great book which I enjoyed so I think I'll need to find the original Bambi now.

  25. I remember when classmates in my school found this film “gay” and embarrassed cause of the cutesy parts in the first half of the film.

  26. Well I do follow Disney and as much as I do like the film(having seen the movies first). Disney is rarely close to the sources that I don’t imagine them even considered doing a toned down version of the faithful story either. They’re mainly aiming at kids merchandising which apparently has to be ‘cute’ and that’s why they did all the cutesy stuff and mostly just the child Bambi in the first place(how much Disney merchandise would you even see of the adult Bambi?)
    Apparently, even fate went against Salten with Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer passing the rights to Disney cause their special effects for their film failed at the time and how he would reluctantly sell rights to the character name just to regret it like a father losing his son.
    I honestly, wouldn’t recommend Disney to an author hoping for some close adaptation or MGM for passing rights to the latter before.

  27. Inspired me to pick up the book! Very interesting video, thank you!

  28. I would love to read the original, I just dont know where to buy it and im not sure when I should buy it. Am I too young? I see myself as still a child because I am only 13, Do you think I can take it? Would it ruin my childhood and my way of looking at the movie??

  29. Yes yes and yes again! Bambi is a stronger contender for my all time favorite novel. I was blown away by its beauty and power. Like his American counterpart, Daniel Mannix (Fox and the Hound) Salten could capture both beauty and brutality in a way that helped you accept it. Sadly, I doubt Disney is going to bother with a remake. Bambi is considered an animation masterpiece and one of their golden cows. It’d require a director and writer with guts.

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