Though Barks was pigeonholed as a "duck man", he worked briefly with Chuck
Couch and Ken Hultgren on «Bambi», but then was ordered back to
work on duck pictures. Barks seems to have protested ("I felt that I was in
with the guys who were really producing the future"), but no avail. Couch
and Hultgren continued to work on the story for «Bambi», but
little of their material reached the screen.
When Barks and Barrier were talking in
1973 about his work on Bambi, he described a gag that he and Couch had
devised. It is apparently the gag that is reproduced in Robert
D. Feild's 1941 book, «The Art of Walt
Disney», as Plate 26, «The Way to Crack a Nut».
Hultgren, as a "story sketch man," made the nine finished sketches for this
gag from rough sketches by Barks and Couch. This was a luxury that Barks had
not enjoyed on the Duck shorts, where his own rough sketches were used on
Hultgren's sketches depict a squirrel instructing a chipmunk how to use a
forked branch as a nutcracker. The simple-minded chipmunk attempts to follow
the squirrel's advice, but without first removing the nut from his jaws.
When Barks and Barrier were looking at the plate in the Feild book, he
suggested another reason why his departure from the Disney studio was
inevitable. "These guys who could visualize stuff in action," he said,
"they were much better at thinking up that type of gag than I was."
What type of gag came most naturally to him? Barrier asked.
"Well," Barks said. "I would have thought of the gag, but I wouldn't have
seen all of these sketches as being necessary in putting it over." He
would have drawn one sketch, he said, "and that would have been it."
Nonetheless, a series of caricatures sketched by Barks's colleagues attests
to his dilligent work on «Bambi». One lampoon shows him bent over
a drawing board while squirrels and chipmunks peer suspiciously over his
shoulder; another portrays Barks himself as a sly-looking squirrel.