Walt Disney’s ‘Bambi’ Is Modeled On A White-Tailed Maine Deer
In anticipation of a live-action remake of Walt Disney's classic Bambi from 1942, the New England Historical Society reminds us that the beloved cartoon has a very important Maine connection: If it weren't for Maine artist and animator Maurice "Jake" Day, Bambi would have been a California mule deer. Jake Day was a well-known animator for Disney, and he reportedly told Walt that the "real Bambi had to come from Maine," according to NEHS. Day, who was from Damariscotta, Maine, spent months with another photographer taking thousands of pictures of white-tailed deer, nature, and details of the forest in the Mt. Katahdin area of Maine.
Those photos convinced Disney to base Bambi's animation on a white-tailed deer, instead of a mule deer. Day made it possible for two four-month-old fawns to travel from Maine to Hollywood, so other Disney artists could spend time studying and sketching them. These real Maine fawns served as models for the cartoon deer. Because of them and Day's persistence, Disney's Bambi was born. It has become a much-loved movie that most American children, then and now, grew up watching.
Watch the official digitally-restored trailer featuring Hardie Albright as the voice of Bambi: