Sunday, May 18, 2014

Deer Development

This post focuses on the different stages that were involved in the design of deer characters for animation, particularly young adult Bambi. To get the artists ready for a film that featured characters with unprecedented realism in drawing and movement, special anatomy classes were held, so the animators would get to know the body of deer inside and out.
In the photo above you can spot story artist Mel Shaw in the middle of the back row, and on the left are animators Retta Scott and Frank Thomas.
After many thorough studies of the animals, it took a while to come up with animatable designs that could communicate true animal behavior as well as human feelings. 
It seems that three artists were responsible for this successful evolution.

Bernard Garbutt had a way of simplifying the appearance of deer and discover natural and dynamic poses. His animals don’t talk, but they present a terrific base to build personalities on.

Marc Davis studied graceful realistic movement, before adding human expressions while storyboarding particular sequences for the film.

Milt Kahl gave the final look to all deer characters, including adolescent Bambi. He ended up animating most of his personality scenes, including the section where Bambi meets Feline as an adult. As usual, the anatomy in his drawings feels rock solid while offering possibilities for unrealistic, even cartoony animation. Milt’s animation of Bambi following Feline through the clouds has nothing to do with realistic deer motion, but it interprets instead the dreamlike state of falling in love. 

A great doodle sheet, Milt explores proper animation anatomy in detail.


  1. Love those Marc Davis studies.....

  2. wonderfull, so great bambi blend shapes!**!

  3. I always thought the scene with Bambi and Faline leaping around on the clouds was by Marc Davis, but I guess not. Did Milt do much stuff with the younger Bambi? Or was that mostly Frank and Ollie, etc.?

  4. This is great, I just rewatched bambi yesterday after so many years and now this post!

    As Marc said: "I felt every bone" watching the movie, the study of the anatomy it's outstanding, very inspiring.

    Thanks for posting!

  5. Love those Milt´s studies. What, did Milt use eraser?! :D

  6. Wonderful expressions on Milt's drawings! It is amazing how he knew exactly how far can he go with human expressions for a deer, and still keep it believable. No deer could make face like that, but still it's fully convincing for Bambi. It's the same genius that allowed Milt to design Pinnocchio - finding just the right spot between what the character physically was (a deer or a puppet) and human soul that the character has.

    These drawings also remind me the documentary film about making Bambi 2. There was a talk about making Bambi sneeze, it had similar difficulty of finding a balance between how a fawn would behave, and how human kid would.

    Maybe you could post something also about your work with Bambi 2? Among all the sequels, I find this one exceptionally well made both in story and animation.

  7. Eternal love - the art of Milt. Lot of humanity in the Model of Bambi...

  8. When I was I kid, the beautiful characters, straight and obvious story captivated me. This was the best film Walt Disney ever produced, unfortunately the soundtrack never reached the power of Snow White or Pinocchio, but still fantastic and beautiful.
    This is why I was captivated by the Lion King as well: it was the only film that continued the "Bambi tradition": no humans, just animals, no magical elements, but the characters were magical by themselves. The story of the LK also followed this tradition: straight, clear, yet beautifully harmonious.
    Thank you for sharing