Exclusive Interview With Bambi, Thumper [Original Voices] & Paul Felix #BambiBluray

Exclusive Interviews: Original Voices Of Bambi, Thumper & Paul Felix #BambiBluray

A few days ago, I got the privilege of sitting down and talking to the original voices behind Disney’s iconic Bambi and Thumper. Donnie Dunagan [Bambi] and Peter Behn [Thumper] were small children at the time Bambi was in production – just 4 and 5 years old. They have each led full, rich lives since the making of Bambi and actually didn’t even meet each other until around 10 years ago! Check out my interview with Bambi and Thumper as well as my chat with Paul Felix who works at Disney Animation Studios below and share your thoughts and/or memories about Bambi in the comment section below.

Exclusive Interview With Bambi, Thumper & Paul Felix

Exclusive Interviews: Original Voices Of Bambi, Thumper & Paul Felix #BambiBluray

Donnie Dunagan [Bambi]

Donnie Dunagan was discovered by a talent agent at age 3 where he won a local talent contest. After that, he made 7 films between 1938 and 1941 including Bambi. Since ending his career in acting, Dunagan has had an illustrious career in the Marines, where he was Assistant Drill Instructor in Marine history and became a Marine Sergeant by age 19! One of Donnie’s proudest achievementwas was getting Citizen Of The Year in the Military Sector [1977] for his role in helping to provide food to widows of WWII Servicemen. He currently lives in Texas with his wife of 19 years.

Exclusive Interviews: Original Voices Of Bambi, Thumper & Paul Felix #BambiBluray

Peter Behn [Thumper]

Behn came by Hollywood naturally as his dad was the famed screenwriter behind “Hell’s Angels.” Behn originally tried out for the role of Bambi, but his rambunctiousness made him perfect for Thumper. He even did voiceover work for a couple more years at Disney. After he left acting, Behn worked in the Army Security Agency and in real estate. He is very passionate about protecting the environment and e currently lives on a very self-sufficient farm with photovoltaic power, solar panels, and a wind generator and he raises his own chickens. He currently resides there with his wife, Pamela.

Exclusive Interviews: Original Voices Of Bambi, Thumper & Paul Felix #BambiBluray

How did you get into acting?

Donnie Dunagan: Oh, dear me. Everybody in this room is so wonderfully young. I love you…during the depression, it was grim. We were dirt poor. And my mother would take me down to the corner about two blocks away where a wonderful man danced on the corner on Saturday, okay, with a Victrola that you crank up and put on the sidewalk, And I’m standing there at 3 ½, four years old you know I’m standing behind a crowd. And it was the depression, no phones, no radios, no money, okay? People were there laughing about this wonderful man dancing on the corner for nickels and pennies. And I started imitating him. And I was barefoot. He had tap shoes. He’s cheating, right? And I’m barefoot. And I start dancing. Then they decided to put me in a talent contest. People went to talent contests in those days in local theaters because they were dirt poor and there was no entertainment, you know.

[A talent scout was in the audience and this is how he was discovered. Dunagan and Behn actually didn’t even get to see the final film for quite some time due to it being depression era. We have access to bluray, DVD and VHS, but in the cinema was really the only place to see a movie at that time. They ended up seeing it at the premiere with everyone else.]

Donnie Dunagan: Mr. Disney may have wanted to release Bambi Christmas of 41, but after Pearl Harbor [12/7/41]…it was released in 1942.

Did you often share with others about your work on Bambi?

Donnie Dunagan: I’d love to tell you I’m bulletproof and all this stuff, I’m not, all right. My fear was, oh my gosh, if he puts credits on these things and shows it in the base theater, right, I got all these drill instructors working for me and all this stuff…I could just see them, those drill instructors and captains working for me. Dear mom, guess what. My commanding officer is Bambi.

[Donnie Dunagan actually even kept his work in Bambi private from his wife. When she finally found out he joked that he had to eat peanut butter for a month!]

Exclusive Interviews: Original Voices Of Bambi, Thumper & Paul Felix #BambiBluray

What was it like working with Disney himself? Can you share?

Peter Behn: I did meet him a couple of times but not on a regular basis…and he was a very nice man.

Donnie Dunagan: Mr Disney had his sleeves rolled up and he was working and they introduced us to him. We had a great time. Most of the time I saw him…he was participating in things. That’s called leadership. And that’s why Disney was successful.

Can you talk about the process a little?

Peter Behn: The director would read the lines with the inflection that was needed. And then I would say them back or mimic them, try to mimic them with the same kind of inflection. I can’t recall how many takes they took but I’m sure there were a number.

Exclusive Interviews: Original Voices Of Bambi, Thumper & Paul Felix #BambiBluray

It’s the 75th anniversary for Bambi. What do you envision and hope for the legacy of this film going forward?

Peter Behn: Quite frankly, Walt Disney was very far ahead of his time with environmental concerns. I think the movie is truly a very strong statement in favor of protecting the environment and the concern that man was ruining it or even making it worse. It’s one of my strong beliefs that we have to do everything we can to keep it from getting worse. It’s a forward awareness and thinking that Walt obviously brought to the movie. He had to know what he was doing.And I think as time goes on perhaps that aspect of the movie will resonate and become even more important.

Donnie Dunagan: If I live to be 1000 years old I couldn’t say it better than Peter did. The environmental profile, the forests, the reckless fire is spoken about to children in schools now. And they pick up on that right away. I get at least 2 ½ to 3 handwritten letters a week from children all over the world because of Bambi.

Exclusive Interviews: Original Voices Of Bambi, Thumper & Paul Felix #BambiBluray

Paul Felix

Paul Felix is a production designer at Walt Disney Animation Studios. You might recognize his work from Big Hero 6, where he served as production designer, 2011’s “Winnie The Pooh,” 2003’s “Brother Bear” and 1998’s “Mulan” and 2002’s “Lilo and Stitch,” to name a few. He has worked with Disney since 1989, where he started in the Television Animation Department.

I asked Paul Felix which live action movie he would like to see animated and get to work on himself. He jokingly said, “Saving Private Ryan.” He did finally settle on “anything by Stanley Kubrick.” He also shared with us that what he feels makes Bambi so special is that it’s “themes are so broad – it’s about the cycle of life, character experiences, the beauty of the world and the zen of simple.”

Starting today, a beautiful tank top featuring the art of Paul Felix, inspired by BAMBI, will be available via Disney Movie Rewards with every digital purchase/redemption of BAMBI. Be sure to get yours here.

About Dawn McAlexander

Dawn has been a music lover her entire life. She went to college in Boone, NC, an area that is rich in music and culture. She also worked as a radio deejay for 8 years and grew up in Southeastern, Va, a melting pot of different musical styles and traditions. She has been to more concerts than she can count in every genre you can imagine. She resides in North Carolina with her furbabies and her massive collection of Disney memorabilia.


  1. This post is extremely intriguing. You forget about the people behind the voices in the cartoons. And with Bambi being so classic and made so long ago I would’ve loved to set down with those two and just listen to them talk.
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  2. I love this! I am a huge Bambi fan and am so excited for the release of the Signature Edition. I have seen the Pinocchio edition many times since it came out and I can’t wait to get Bambi!
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  3. Bambi! How can anyone resist Bambi. I’m a Thumper fan myself, full of energy, always smiling, and cute as a button (Thumper of course!)
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  4. Oh goodness! Believe it or not – I have the 1st Edition Bambi sitting on the shelf above me right now! It is one of my prized possessions! I loved reading this interview thank you!!
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  5. This is such a wonderful post. I always wonder about the voices behind the old school Disney movies.
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  6. Wow. I can’t believe it’s been 75 years since Bambi was released. It’s been a staple in my life forever. It was so cool to read the interview with their original voices!
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  7. This interview is so awesome! I love that kids are still sending in letters about Bambi. That’s the mark of a classic.
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  8. What an amazing group of men to interview! I think their are so talented! Voice actors don’t always get the recognition they deserve.
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  9. What great interviews. I loved reading this post. Disney was definitely a man ahead of his time.
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  10. Hey, that’s pretty awesome. I have to admit, I never really wonder about the voices in these classic movies. It was quite interesting to see the men behind the voices.
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  11. One of my all time favorite movies growing up! Looks like such an awesome interview!

  12. How awesome! I love that you got to discuss such a timeless classic with the original voice actors. Bambi will forever have my heart and make me cry.
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  13. Amy Desrosiers says

    Wow, I had no idea the voices for these iconic characters were still working and busy as bees. Mega cool interview- I love Bambi.

  14. Claudia Krusch says

    Bambi is one of my favorite movies from my childhood. This is such a cool interview. I will have to watch it this weekend again.

  15. I loved this movie as a little girl. I need to watch it with my kids. It is a cute movie but a tear jerker too! Definite Disney classic!
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  16. I love Bambi! It was one of my favorite movies. All Disney movies were my favorites. I can’t wait to share this movie with my girls.

  17. Such a great classic movie. Some of my favorite memories are of watching Bambi and similar movies

  18. Bambi is a movie from my childhood that I will never forget. I am so excited for you that you got this amazing opportunity!
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  19. How cool is this? I loved Bambi as a kid!

  20. What an amazing experience to meet all these people behind Bambi. I loved watching the film when I was young.
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  21. This is amazing! I love Bambi when I was young!! What a great opportunity to talk with him.
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  22. This is really cool! I didn’t know much about Bambi, but I find the voices behind Spongebob pretty hilarious!
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  23. Rebecca Swenor says

    This is a great interview with the Donnie Dunagan (Bambi), Peter Behn (Thumper). and Paul Felix who works at Disney. Bambi was always my favorite story when I was a child. I can’t what to share this movie with my nephews and nieces. Thanks for sharing the interview.

  24. This is a great interview. I love seeing things like this behind the scenes, so cool!
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  25. I can’t believe that this is one of the original movies that Disney created. It has been so long since I saw the original. I will have to watch this one with my boys. That is so cool that you got to talk with the people who did the voices.
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  26. I often wonder what Walt Disney would think if he saw his amusement park today. I hope they’d make him proud. I think it’s crazy that both of those voice actors in Bambi never met. How weird.
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  27. This is a great interview. I pretty much hung on every words. I think it’s kind of funny that he (Bambi) hid it from his marine buddies!
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  28. Victoria Heckstall says

    I can’t imagine, it’s been a years since he was discovered. The life of Bambi is inspiration to all.

  29. Karlyn Cruz says

    Wow. Such a great interview. I’m an avid fan, i love bambi since i was a kid. and now i am so excited to share this with my childhood friend.

  30. I love Bambi. It is one of the first Disney movies I watched with my kids. The voices behind the animation were so sweet. How nice that you got to meet the people who provided the personality to some of the most beloved animated characters.

  31. What a wonderful opportunity. Bambi was one of my kids’ favorite movies ever.
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  32. This had to be just incredible. Bambi was my childhood. I mean like, everyday of my childhood I watched Bambi. LOL Thumper was always by favorite! <3
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  33. I’m always amazed at people who can do voices for characters. It is just amazing to me. – yolonda
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