Written by an immigrant Jew hounded by Hitler, and envisioned by a Chinese immigrant dreaming of America, Walt Disney’s Bambi remains an unheeded warning of terror and terraformation, sadly forgotten by a burning world careening into an exponential apocalypse. My plea to pay attention, delivered on Bambi‘s 75th birthday.
75 Years After Its New York Debut, Bambi Remains Underrated
An impressive masterpiece of art and environmentalism, Bambi remains underrated, 75 years after its New York City debut, which happened on this day. That this is possible in an epoch of exponential global warming and mass extinction is tragicomic, as theater multiplexes swell with lesser works and Earth swelters, afire just like in Bambi’s climax.
The irony may be that Walt Disney had to take pains to water it down. Felix Salten’s source text — Bambi, A Life in the Woods, published 1923 in pre-Nazi Austria — is as lyrically epic as its author’s geopolitically turbulent life. Hitler banned Bambi because it was a popular book-of-the-month standout from a well-published Jew, whose abrupt immigration from Austria to Switzerland set loose a chain of events that landed the American film rights to Bambi in Walt Disney’s lap.
And there it lied, a green rallying cry, anticipating the cli-fi apocalypse to come. That is, until another immigrant with a complex backstory — Chinese-American artist and Bambi production designer, Tyrus Wong — transformed his own geopolitically turbulent experience into one of the most artful expressions of nature ever channeled into animation.