Friday, April 6, 2012

Camouflage Artist | Maurice (Jake) Day

Frank S. Nicholson, National Park Service Poster (c1938)
Above Frank S. Nicholson, wildlife poster for the National Park Service (c1918). Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

It turns out that the artist in the Disney Studios who determined what Bambi would look like was also a World War I ship camoufleur. His name was Maurice (Jake) Day (1892-1983).

There is an online biography of Day, written by Andrew Vietze, titled "The Mainer Who Found Bambi" (, December 2009).

Here's an excerpt that pertains to his service as a camoufleur—

Born in Damariscotta [ME] in 1892, Jake Day attended high school at Lincoln Academy, where he did his first serious painting of a local church. From there he moved on to the Massachusetts Normal School, studying for a year before transferring to the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Upon graduation he found the world embroiled in a war and enlisted in the Naval Camouflage Department of the Emergency Fleet Corps in New Orleans.

As a ship camoufleur in New Orleans, Jake Day presumably worked with Paul F. Brown, whom we featured in a recent earlier post.

The Vietze article provides a substantial account of Day's experiences as an animator in California, where he moved in 1935. One of the firms he worked for was the Walt Disney Studio, which had just purchased the rights to an Austrian children's book about a fawn named Bambi. Disney planned to make an animated film, basing the look of the young deer on a California mule deer. Day convinced Disney to used a white-tailed deer instead—and the rest is history.