Sorry for the unannounced three weeks off from this blog, I was on vacation and then I moved to a new apartment and I just did not have time to write any new posts. Today I return to feature a piece of Bambi concept art by artist Tyrus Wong. I’ve told many stories about Disney artist’s whose amazing and unique concept art influenced the look of an entire animated film. Tyrus Wong’s art played this role for Bambi. Wong’s watercolor concept art, like this painting of Bambi and Thumper, is considered some of the most gorgeous concept art in the Animation Research Library, and the story of how he came to influence the style of Bambi is a fascinating one. His story is especially close to my heart, as his Chinese heritage played a huge role in his success.
Tyrus Wong was a Chinese immigrant and artist who was hired to work at Walt Disney Animation in the late 1930s. When Bambi began production Wong was essentially at the bottom of the animation totem-pole, an inbetweener, one of the animators whose job it is to fill in the in-between drawings after the head animators draw the character’s main poses. During this time Walt Disney was aiming for a completely different look for Bambi. Gustaff Tenngren, who had created the main visual style for Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio had created the initial concept drawings for the film. His drawings depicted lush, detail heavy forests that would have taken forever to draw, and seemed to many to be far to busy and distracting from the main action of the animals. In his spare time Wong began to create his own watercolor concept paintings for the film. He took his inspiration from from traditional Chinese paintings and made his backgrounds minimalist and impressionistic. You can see in this painting how he masterfully used the few details in his paintings to draw the eyes attention towards the animals in the centre. Eventually Walt Disney saw Wong’s paintings and thought they were perfect for the simplistic, natural story he wanted to tell. They also had the benefit of taking much less time to create than Tenngren’s backgrounds would have. Wong was quickly promoted from in-betweener to lead concept artist and the style of the entire film was based upon his paintings.
One interesting aspect of this particular piece of Tyrus Wong concept art is that it is one of the few paintings of his I’ve seen that include Thumper alongside Bambi. Most of his concept art features Bambi alone. or accompanied by his mother or father. Thumper is not actually a character in the original book that the film was based on. He was a character made up by Disney storymen for inclusion in the film, and he was not even the first choice of sidekick for Bambi. For a while the film contained a comedic team of a squirrel and a chipmunk instead. At this time in the film’s development Thumper was a minor character, an adult rabbit that interacted with Bambi in only one scene. Eventually someone in the story department must have realized how adorable the rabbit vharacter would be as a child, and Thumper took on the role of Bambi’s best friend . It was sometime in this later phase that Wong must have made this painting
Hope you enjoyed this look at this gorgeous concept painting of Bambi and Thumper created by Tyrus Wong. His story is an inspiring one and he is truly worthy of the title of Disney legend. He passed away earlier this year at the age of 106, and I am glad to say that many websites took the time to acknowledge his fantastic contribution to the Disney masterpiece Bambi.