View Full Version : Bambi is alive and well in the EARL PATCH

03-06-05, 01:54 PM


For a quarter of a century, Donald Roan Dunagan worked his way up through the ranks in the U.S. Marine Corps. During that time, the TEXAS native carefully hid his historic role as the model and voice for one of Walt Disney's most beloved animated characters.

"This may sound corny to any reasonably intelligent person," Dunagan said. "I would not have made it as a very young first sergeant, a CWO gunner, a regular line lieutenant, company commander or field-grade officer with the nickname 'Bambi.'

"I would have been history. I told myself back then, 'Dunagan, that's long ago. Nobody knows. Nobody needs to know. Nobody probably even cares - so just keep it to yourself.' "

Long retired from the military, the 70-year-old Dunagan has ended 63 years of silence. Embracing his screen heritage, the former child actor now freely discusses his memories of "Bambi," "Son of Frankenstein" and other vintage films.

He is featured in "The Making of 'Bambi': A Prince is Born," one of many bonus features on last week's Platinum Edition DVD release of the classic 1942 film.

"I was hired at first by Mr. Disney to be a model of Bambi, not the voice," recalled Dunagan, who was 7 when the film was released. "Newspaper clippings that we have say Mr. Disney picked me out of a lineup as the model for the eyes and head and expression for the animation. That evolved into the voice work as Bambi for the first three-quarters of the movie - they brought in an older kid to do the voice for the scenes where Bambi is older."

During his long service in the military, only a few close friends were privy to Dunagan's past life as a Hollywood player.

"There was this wonderful General, Kenneth J. Houghton, who was a tough dude and smart as the ****ens," Dunagan said in an October interview from his home in San Angelo, TEXAS. "He called me in one day and said, 'Dunagan, I had some background work done on you, and I want to ask you some questions.' Well, this general had found out about 'Bambi' - and he just beat me up with this whole thing."

Dunagan - who has been sought by fans and film scholars for decades - kept his cinematic career shrouded in secrecy until last May, when he presented an after-dinner speech for a charity organization in San Angelo.

With his childhood identity revealed, Dunagan relented to requests for a KLS-TV interview. One of the viewers of that segment contacted her son, a Burbank-based film engineer who works on preservation projects. Eventually, the word got back to the Disney studios.

Dunagan was born in San Antonio, but his family moved to Memphis, Tenn., in 1937. When he was 3, Dunagan competed in a talent contest at Memphis' Orpheum Theater.

"It was any age young up to 12 or 13, and the prize money was $100 - that was a fortune," Dunagan noted. "A little homemade band played 'A-Tisket, A-Tasket,' and I danced. I won the darn thing, and my parents went bananas. In the audience was a talent scout who had some RKO relationship. Within two weeks, we were on this long train ride to Los Angeles."

Dunagan made his screen debut playing one of "Mother Carey's Chickens" in a 1939 family drama inspired by the story of a Memphis woman who took in teenage orphans. The movie was directed by Rowland V. Lee, who then cast Dunagan opposite Basil Rathbone, Boris Karloff and Bela Lugosi in the horror hit "Son of Frankenstein."

"That all came to an end after 'Bambi,' " Dunagan recalled. "I caught pneumonia somewhere after I left Disney, and a lot of my hair fell out. Then my family broke up, and I was banged around with aunts and uncles."

When he turned 18, Dunagan received a draft notice while working as an assistant golf pro at Wilshire Country Club.

"I went into the Marines, and it was wonderful for me," Dunagan said.

Since his retirement, Dunagan has worked in business and education and suffered devastating losses during the downfall of Enron. His first retrospective interview, with author Tom Weaver, was published last fall in Video Watchdog magazine. Dunagan is now busy promoting "Bambi" and his new Web site www.donniedunagan.com, and he hopes to make personal appearances at film conventions across the country.

Semper Fi

books :marine:

03-06-05, 08:09 PM
Interesting, thanks!

As an aside, I was wondering if you did not spell "dick" or if the site did not allow the word, "dick", when he said "dickens". lol

03-06-05, 08:20 PM

A simple test:

Jap mushroom: ****ake

let's see what happens?

well the software works too good


03-06-05, 08:39 PM
Now we know?---lol