Immigration, Illustration & Innovation: How Tyrus Wong’s Chinese Culture Influenced Disney’s “Bambi” 

Tyrus Wong was best known for his innovative artistic contributions to the classic Disney film Bambi. Born in China, he traveled to Angel Island off the San Francisco coast to try to gain entry into the United States when he was 10 years old. After starting school in America he eventually got into Otis College as their youngest student, and he worked and studied there for five years. When he heard of a calling from Disney for help with the production of the Bambi film, he knew his skills as a landscape painter could be put to work. Intertwining his cultural background into his work, Wong’s landscapes pulled inspiration from the Song Dynasty and calligraphy pieces. A close examination of the backgrounds used throughout the film showcases how Wong created the feel of quick and calculated brushstrokes to create a more blurred background which contrasted well with the characters to allow them to stand out amongst the forestation. It was said that Wong’s artwork was not only the focus of every drawn-up scene in the movie, but it also influenced the choice of music and special effects. Having struggled with racism his whole life as an Asian-American, he did not receive real credit for his artistic abilities until he was in his 90s. In his later years Wong created designs for Hallmark cards, dinner plates, and even created imaginative kites. He died in December 2016 at the age of 106. 

His work is being honored at an event coordinated in part by the Walt Disney Family Museum coming up on May 18th at the Presidio in San Francisco. Tickets can be reserved online at:

New York Times:


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