"If certain events continue, much of America's natural beauty will become nothing more than a memory. The natural beauty of America is a treasure found nowhere else in the world. Our forests, waters, grasslands and wildlife must be wisely protected and used. I urge all citizens to join the effort to save America's natural beauty... it's our America - do something to preserve its beauty, strength and natural wealth."
Though better known for creating imaginative artificial landscapes, Walt Disney was a renowned lover of nature. While publicly eschewing titles like "conservationist," Disney still took an active role in helping Americans to better understand and preserve their shared natural heritage. In 1956, for example, he was awarded the distinction of being the honourary chairman of the National Wildlife Federation's National Wildlife Week, a position held until his passing in 1966. In an annual series of public service announcements made for the NWF, he made unequivocal statements like "We must help Nature preserve her vanishing creatures," "The preservation of our American wildlife is very close to me," and "You've probably heard people talk about conservation. Well, conservation isn't just the business of a few people. It's a matter that concerns all of us."
The first inklings one might get towards Walt Disney's sensitivity to nature is in one of his first films: Bambi (1942). In this story of a young deer's growth into maturity, Disney gives a vivid, sympathetic and often sentimental view into the lives of forest animals. Bambi's portrayal of nature was so heart-warming, and its portrayal of hunters so terrifying, that it spurred on considerable controversy in its day over the question of ethical hunting. This enduring film still wields this influence; it is not uncommon to hear that little deer's name brought up in debates over conservation issues, whether one is trying to elicit sympathy for wildlife or accusing someone else of having an overly naive and sentimental view of nature. Disney even lent his characters out to the US Forest Service in fire prevention posters, until Smokey the Bear was created in 1944. Yet Bambi is only the first example of how America's master showman and the company which bears his name have been able to shape the public perception of these important issues.