The Voice Of Bambi Had To Keep His Role A Secret When He Became A Drill Instructor
Despite being some of the most famous movies of all time, classic Disney animated films did a pretty terrible job of making their cast into household names. Sure, on occasion, the films will go the route of choosing an A-list actor to work on an animated character that was deliberately designed for them. But a majority of the time, voice actors remain relatively anonymous. Can you name, without looking it up, who voiced the title character in The Hunchback of Notre Dame? Or Aladdin (it was Steve from Full House), or The Little Mermaid, or Beauty OR the Beast?
Pocahontas was Vanessa Williams, right? No?
At least some of the time, this was intentional. Back when Disney released Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, they didn't even credit the performers. They blocked Snow White's voice actress, Adriana Caselotti, from media appearances in the name of maintaining the magic of Snow White the character. The leads in Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, and Lady And The Tramp all ended up floundering in obscurity and suing Disney for royalties. Meanwhile, if you were just a kid when you did voice work for Disney, no one would ever know who you were. And that suited Donnie Dunagan just fine.
Donnie Dunagan voiced young Bambi. I'm not going to recap all of Bambi for you, but if all you know about the film is Bambi calling after his mother after she's been shot into venison and a head mount, perfect. That was Donnie Dunagan. Dunagan had few previous acting gigs, and voicing Bambi brought him no additional fame. It would be his last role. His family burned through their Disney money, and by age 13, Dunagan was working as a lathe operator.
Wait, didn't I say Dunagan liked anonymity, rather than him being screwed into a life of misery? Right: Because at 18, Dunagan joined the Marines, and he now kept his Disney resume a guarded secret so that the other recruits wouldn't mock him mercilessly. You can't become a grizzled military man if everyone thinks you're baby Bambi. And boy, did Dunagan become a grizzled military man. He was the youngest ever drill instructor, served three tours in Vietnam, and received a Bronze Star and three Purple Hearts. He retired as a major.
If he ever sang about woodland critters, he did so in private.