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Color in 'Bambi'; animation as a non-naturalistic art form


Work on 'Bambi': movement and color
Jules Engel Film-maker
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Bambi, I primarily did color stuff. Although, naturally, there was other little story sections but the important thing was, the director who was working on Bambi, he was the head of the Color Unit and he saw my color stuff, what I did for the other people on… you know? And he said, 'Once you finished that, then come over'. But what happened was, and I'm with a lot of people and somebody says, 'Hey Jules, they put you on Bambi'. And I said, 'What do you mean, Bambi?' 'Bambi is a deer'. I said, 'Oh shit, I don't want to work on an animal'. I said, 'It's not my bag, I don't understand that world. Next thing you know, there's somebody who wants to see me. So some bastard, you know, went to that somebody and said that I'm very unhappy because I don't want to work on animals. See how they have these guys, would run to somebody to tell them that you're not a nice person, you know? Whatever that means. Anyway, so I went to see this guy and he said, 'We would like to try you on a sequence in Bambi because it probably has more of what you've done before'. So I said, 'Okay, I buy'. So I worked on that one sequence on Bambi where Bambi meets the girl for the first time, you know? And that was nothing but movement, that's why they put me on, because there was just a lot of movement. Bambi chasing her, she's chasing him and so that was something that they felt I could handle. And then, what really sold me on this whole deal, was the music. I heard a score that was written for this sequence, where Bambi meets Faline and all of a sudden, they come chasing, which was a pure abstraction, you know? There's a lot of movement. So that was a big change and so that was when I came in on Bambi. But when I came in on Bambi, I began to do some color sketches, you know, because the sketches they had on Bambi was too real, was too real. In that the deer, or color of a deer is a kind of, whatever that is. And I said, 'This doesn't have to be just that'. So I made them yellow, I made them purple, I made them pink and they were running and stuff in all this color. It worked. It gave Bambi that texture that they didn't have because everybody was staying too close to the real stuff. And so that's when Bambi came and I was on it like that. But it was a good experience, you know?

The late Hungarian-American film-maker Jules Engel is best known for his contribution to the field of animation. His work includes the dance sequences in Walt Disney's 'Fantasia' and the creation of 'Mr Magoo'. His films and lithographs are housed in museums all over the world and have won many awards.

Listeners: Tamara Tracz Bill Moritz

Tamara Tracz is a writer and filmmaker based in London.

William Moritz received his doctorate from USC and pursues parallel careers as filmmaker and writer. His forty-four experimental and animation films have been screened at museums in Paris, Amsterdam and Tokyo, among others. He published widely on Oskar Fischinger, James Whitney, Bruce Conner, the Fleischers and 200 pages of animation history for an AbsolutVodka website. He wrote chapters for the "Oxford History of Cinema", appeared in several television documentaries, curated art exhibits and received a lifetime achievement trophy from the Netherlands Royal Academy for his work with visual music. He has served on film festival juries and received an American Film Institute filmmaking grant. His poetry and plays are also performed and published. He is a leading expert of Oskar Fischinger and recently published a biography of him. He teaches at The California Institute of the Arts.

Tags: Bambi, Disney Color Unit, Walt Disney

Duration: 3 minutes

Date story recorded: April 2003

Date story went live: 24 January 2008