Bambi, one of Disney's most beloved animals, may be best known as "a little frail deer, not doing very well, sliding around on the ice on his belly," as Donnie Dunagan, the original voice of Young Bambi, describes him.
That image of a helpless baby animal is exactly what Dunagan didn't want people associating with him when he was later drafted into the Marine Corps, as he explained to his wife in a recent visit to a recording booth in San Angelo, Texas as part of StoryCorps' project to collect the stories of everyday Americans.
Dunagan went on to serve in the Marines for over two decades, both in combat and as a commander in a boot camp, all while keeping his Bambi past a secret. He was terrified that the marines he wanted to fear him would instead start thinking of him as "Major Bambi." Dunagan's conversation with his wife was broadcast Friday on Morning Edition as part of their weekly StoryCorps series:
Dunagan thought he had successfully kept Bambi a secret up until a month before his retirement. During a particularly busy time on the base, a general he had known for years called him into his office, assigning him more duties. Dunagan expressed dismay at the extra workload. Then, as Dunagan recalls, the general pulled out a top-secret folder from a safe with his name on it, looked at him over his glasses and said, "You will... won't you, Major Bambi?"
While Dunagan may have once had mixed feelings about his Disney past, he says now that he wouldn't trade that experience for anything. He loves when people realize that he's "this old jerk, he's still around and was Bambi."