Bambi at 75
Why Disney exterminated the movie’s cranky grasshopper
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.
This grasshopper character didn’t make the final cut of Disney’s 1942 classic, “Bambi.”