Walt Disney’s Anti-Nazi Message Removed by Studio

in Movies

Walt Disney with Mickey Mouses

Credit: D23

Bambi has been under fire for its recent remake announcement, but the real issue might go further than just his mother’s traumatic demise.

Rachel Zegler in West Side Story and Snow White together
Credit: Inside the Magic

Disney’s live-action remakes already have a negative stigma surrounding them, but censors and parents going crazy over an anti-violence and anti-Nazi narrative are going too far.

Related: Rare Video of Walt Disney Discussing “Disney Adults” Surfaces

Ever since Rachel Zegler assumed the role of Snow White for the 2024 remake, fans have been decidedly more vocal about how the studio is treating some of these timeless stories, especially if they were ones commissioned by Walt Disney himself. Unfortunately, a petty and pretentious princess might be the least of Disney’s worries.

Jewish Author Silenced by Disney Remake

Bambi exploring the woods with friends
Credit: Disney

Bambi (1942) was Walt Disney’s animated coming-of-age story depicting a young deer’s life and the community of other woodland creatures sharing the same habitat. What some Disney buffs might not know is that it was based on a novel with much darker tones and a more severe allegory.

Related: ‘Once Upon A Studio’ Celebrates Disney Animation With Every Iconic Character

While Walt Disney’s adaptation is undoubtedly the immortal version, Bambi: A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten was the backbone of the production. With the imagery of nature, the violence towards animals, and the threat of “man in the forest,” it was initially believed to be an anti-hunting demonstration by the Disney studio. However, other scholars believe both versions of Bambi carry much more weight.

Bambi and his Author
Credit: Inside the Magic

Felix Salten was a Jewish-Austrian writer, journalist, and environmentalist who first penned the story of Bambi in 1923. However, it was not merely the tale of Bambi, Thumper, and Flower frolicking in the forest we see on the screen. Forced to flee his native Austria after the book’s publication, the parallels between Bambi and Jewish persecution have not gone unnoticed, especially not by Walt.

Related: Disney Animation Plans to Lose Millions

Paul J. Hale, author, and host of the Cinema Story Origins podcast, goes into much better detail on the significance of both the book and movie in his analysis, and this author highly recommends giving it a listen, but the relationship between Bambi and the threats faced by Salten and other Jewish people during the rise of the Third Reich cannot be ignored.

Given the fact the studio released the film during the height of WWII, Walt Disney was by no means unaware of the allegory. However, due to viewer sensitivities, the recently announced Bambi remake might erase that from the formula.

Bambi talking to his friend
Credit: Disney

The allegory was so obvious that during the height of the Nazi movement in Germany, Adolf Hitler had Bambi and all of Salten’s other books banned in 1938. But where the book was verboten in the author’s German-occupied Vienna, the rights were purchased by Walt Disney just one year prior.

Related: Walt Disney Ideologies Spark Vocal Debate

Disney’s adaptation of the much bleaker Bambi takes more than a few creative liberties, described as a symphony or a ballet inspired by the book by some of Walt’s animators, but the symbolism and allegory remain intact.  At least they do in the original version of the film.

Viewers Can’t Handle Bambi Anymore

Bambi scared in the snow
Credit: Disney

Disney and Bambi made headlines as Lindsay Beer, the director of the upcoming remake, wrote that the infamous death of Bambi’s mother would be given a “different treatment” in the new adaptation. Not only does this come across as insulting to fans of the original film, but it also removes the crux of Bambi’s narrative in both the movie and the book.

Related: Disney Animation Erases Walt’s Original Work

Although the scene is sad and frightening, it’s one of those necessary evils that most viewers already know through cultural osmosis. It’s where the story gets its coming-of-age element, as Bambi is forced to grow up and become the next Great Prince of the Forest.

Just as Felix Salten had to escape Nazi-occupied Austria, so does Bambi escape the hunters and their guns. Removing Disney’s darker elements from the remake isn’t just detrimental; it’s insulting to the themes and inspiration behind the original and the novel, and the studio should truly tread carefully with what they do next.

Do you think Bambi needs a remake? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments down below!





in Movies

View Comment (1)