‘Bambi’ Actor Explains How ‘Messy’ Modern Disney Movies Lack Walt Disney’s Sensitivity to Violence

Disney and violence don’t normally go together, but over the years as Disney has matured, there have been some more violent moments. Even when characters died in previous animated movies, Disney typically didn’t show it and just suggested it. An actor from Bambi recently explains why he believes modern Disney movies lack Walt Disney’s sensitivity to violence. 

Donnie Dunagan played young Bambi in the Disney animated movie

Young Bambi, voiced by Donnie Dunagan, watches the rain fall in the "Little April Showers" scene from Disney's Bambi
Bambi | Disney Junior via Getty images

Believe it or not, Bambi is turning 80 years old this year. It’s been that long since Disney scarred children forever by killing Bambi’s mom. In Bambi, the young version of the titular character was voiced by Donnie Dunagan. 

Dunagan had a short acting career as a child where he starred in movies like Son of Frankenstein, The Forgotten Woman, and Tower of London. Bambi is his final film role. Dunagan joined the marines at the age of 18 and served three tours in Vietnam before retiring in 1977. He has received a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. 

The ‘Bambi’ actor believes modern Disney movies abandoned Walt Disney’s sensitivity to violence

In a recent interview with iliveindallas.com, Dunagan was asked about what he thinks Walt Disney would think about his company today. The Bambi actor explains that Disney lacks Walt’s sensitivity to violence and explains how Walt edited Bambi’s mom being shot to make it more implied than visually explicit. 

“It is so messy today that I don’t think they have the sensitivity that Mr. Disney had in his productions,” Dunagan said. “I’ll give you a good example. To your excellent question, World War II in Europe is going on. The black and white news about the war is being shown in the movie houses everywhere. It was showing children walking in the mud with their parents, fleeing from the violence. That was the environment when Mr. Disney was getting ready to show Bambi. I was there when he first saw the take of Bambi’s mother being shot. He called a pause and he looked at the production people and said to take it out because it had an image of her being shot with a bullet hole and her face grimacing as she was getting ready to die. He said, “Take that out. Just suggest that the mother was shot.” Just a few minutes later in the storyline Bambi is shot. Again, he said, “Gentlemen, take that out. Just suggested it.” So, when you watch Bambi, it’s just a suggestion that they’re both shot, both the mother and the later me.”

“We went to the premiere up in the valley north of Los Angeles,” Dunagan continued. “Even then, when the mother was shot, although it was just a suggestion, I saw mothers put their hand over the children’s eyes. Then, when Bambi is shot, the same thing happened. Think of that in contrast to today, with the movies where there’s somebody blown away every 15 seconds. What a contrast! Mr. Disney was very sensitive about those things, and he left a great impression on many, many people. Look at the number of people that retired working for Disney. They retired after 25 and 30 years; it’s a record number versus any of the other studios in the world. Those people stayed with him because he was a class act guy.”

Disney has more mature content than in the early days of the company

Disney is a massive company now and owns a ton of properties including Star Wars and Marvel, where most of the movies and shows are PG-13. However, their animated projects feature more violence now than they did in the Bambi era. 

It’s not like anyone is getting their head chopped off, but certain deaths and moments are rather dark. For example, Ursula’s death in The Little Mermaid and Clayton’s death in Tarzan is rather graphic. More recent movies like Raya and the Last Dragon and Big Hero 6 are straight-up action movies and feature some more violent moments than some Disney fans are used to. 

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