When Disney released Bambi in 1942, it became the fifth in an incredibly long and acclaimed series of Walt Disney Animated Classics. It also introduced us to a number of lovable anthropomorphic animals like Thumper, Flower, Faline, and of course, Bambi.
As sweet and heartwarming as Bambi was, it's not without its soul-crushing moments. Do we even need to relive the horribly sad scene you know I'm talking about? Yup.
With the 73rd anniversary of the film quickly approaching (August 9, by the way), it's the perfect time to learn some interesting facts about the film that is so near and dear to our childhoods. Even the most avid fans of Bambi might still be surprised by this piece of trivia.
In an interview on NPR's Morning Edition, we met Marine and decorated war veteran Donnie Dunagan. Dunagan was drafted in the 1950s and provided his service for 25 years, being promoted 13 times in the process. While he fought alongside other brave men in the Vietnam War, he kept one secret close to his heart.
Before Donnie Dunagan became the tough Marine his brothers knew him to be, he was the voice of our favorite fawn, Bambi. During a brief stint as a child actor, Dunagan was picked by Walt Disney to play the voice of young Bambi.
When asked if he told anyone about his Disney ties, Dunagan spoke to his wife, Dana, saying:
No chance! I never said a word to anybody about Bambi, even to you. When we first met I never said a word about it. Most of the image in people's minds of Bambi was a little frail deer, not doing very well, sliding around on the ice on his belly.
As a commander in the Marine Corps boot camp, Dunagan knew that if anyone got word of his previous career the hundreds of recruits he oversaw would never let him live it down or take him seriously.
It wasn't until he was a few months shy of his retirement that Dunagan's secret came to light. A General whom Dunagan had worked with a number of times found out this juicy tidbit of information and decided it would be worthwhile to mess around with him a bit.
When the General asked Dunagan to come in and "audit the auditors" he respectfully questioned why he, a busy man not short of his own responsibilities, would be assigned such a task. Dunagan recalls the story saying:
He looked at me, pulled his glasses down like some kind of college professor. There's a big, red, top-secret folder that he got out of some safe somewhere that had my name on it. He pats this folder, looks me in the eye and says, 'You will audit the auditors. Won't you, Maj. Bambi?'
But what he once considered to be somewhat embarrassing, has ultimately become a point of pride for the retired Marine.
I have some holes in my body that God didn't put there. I got shot through my left knee. Got an award or two for saving lives over time. But I think I could have been appointed as the aide-de camp in the White House, it wouldn't make any difference — it's Bambi that's so dear to people.
But I love it now — when people realize, 'This old jerk, he's still alive and was Bambi.' And I wouldn't take anything for it, not a darn thing for it.
A man who has contributed so much to our country and its pop culture history, his story is really one worth hearing. To hear more, listen to Donnie Dunagan's story on NPR here.