Bambi at 75

Why Dis­ney ex­ter­mi­nated the movie’s cranky grasshop­per

The Hamilton Spectator - - A&E - BRYAN ALEXAN­DER

Work­ing in Hol­ly­wood can give any­body a hard ex­oskele­ton, es­pe­cially the grasshop­per char­ac­ter who was cut from Dis­ney’s clas­sic 1942 an­i­mated film “Bambi.”

The stu­dio is re­veal­ing the grumpy grasshop­per char­ac­ter who didn’t make the fi­nal film cut, swat­ted aside af­ter pre­lim­i­nary sto­ry­board draw­ings.

The name­less grasshop­per was re­cov­ered from the ar­chives of the Walt Dis­ney An­i­ma­tion Re­search Li­brary and given voice for Bambi’s 75th an­niver­sary home re­lease (on dig­i­tal HD May 23, Blu-ray June 6). The cranky crit­ter never found a place in the story of a deer prince grow­ing up in the for­est.

“This grasshop­per was just very ornery,” says Fox Car­ney, head of re­search at the an­i­ma­tion li­brary. “He was not that ap­peal­ing. Ornery for the sake of be­ing ornery didn’t add any­thing to the story.”

The grasshop­per’s fate is a far cry from the other Dis­ney’s star in­sect, Jiminy Cricket (both be­long to the or­der Orthoptera, mean­ing “straight wings”), from 1940s “Pinoc­chio.” The two projects were de­vel­oped in over­lap­ping time frames, Car­ney says.

“They both have in­sects in the story. But Jiminy Cricket be­comes more car­toony, much more ap­peal­ing and en­gag­ing and a cen­tral char­ac­ter,” says Car­ney. “And in “Bambi,” they have a grasshop­per who just looks like a grasshop­per. I couldn’t imag­ine “Pinoc­chio” with­out Jiminy Cricket. But I sure as heck can en­vi­sion “Bambi” not hav­ing this grasshop­per.”

Story artists cre­ated the grasshop­per af­ter Walt Dis­ney asked to in­cor­po­rate more char­ac­ters from the for­est to punch up the com­edy in early drafts. Some of these gags showed the for­est was filled with small crea­tures, too — a bee (tem­po­rar­ily swal­lowed by Bambi), ants and the grasshop­per, who is al­most stepped on by Bambi be­fore he starts hurl­ing the small-guy anger.

“You work with char­ac­ters like the grasshop­per and see if takes you some­where. If it does, they make it into the fi­nal film. Some don’t,” says Car­ney.

The grasshop­per’s ornery as­pects were in­cor­po­rated into the Friend Owl char­ac­ter, who bal­anced those traits by show­ing some story heart and teach­ing the for­est char­ac­ters about fall­ing in love (or be­ing “twit­ter­pated”).

The sketches and clip also de­pict an­other then-mi­nor char­ac­ter, an adorable bunny named Bobo. The rab­bit would even­tu­ally morph into the beloved side­kick Thumper, fa­mously voiced by Peter Behn. When Dis­ney saw test reels of Bambi and Thumper to­gether, he ex­claimed that the pair­ing was “pure gold,” ac­cord­ing to Car­ney.

“Thumper wasn’t a big char­ac­ter, ei­ther, but as the story team started de­vel­op­ing him, it was like this char­ac­ter has charm. Then came the clas­sic voice record­ing,” says Car­ney.

DIS­NEY

This grasshop­per char­ac­ter didn’t make the fi­nal cut of Dis­ney’s 1942 clas­sic, “Bambi.”

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