Longtime Production Executives peer group member Bambi Moé seemed destined for a career in show business: nine-months-pregnant Mom was attending a film premiere at Universal Studios when her water broke.
And with the name Bambi, it was almost inevitable that she end up working at Disney, the company responsible for the animated classic film about the deer of the same name.
“Being named Bambi can be a blessing and a curse,” Moé says with a laugh.
One blessing? A seriograph from the film Bambi, autographed by Walt Disney himself at the request of her mother’s best friend, who happened to be one of Disney’s secretaries. And a curse? (Well, maybe not really.) “When I worked at Disney, I had people calling who wanted to speak to ‘the four-legged creature with the furry tail.’”
Moé began working at Disney after graduating from Cal State Northridge with a degree in business administration, management, and working for an entertainment attorney, as she was considering becoming a lawyer or earning an MBA.
Realizing she might want to be a producer instead, she successfully answered an ad for a copyright assistant in Disney’s music publishing division in Burbank.
She later moved to the creative side and spent five years as supervisor of product development at Walt Disney Records. In that role, she produced and edited more than 60 story recordings, song albums and music videos, resulting in gold and platinum record sales.
Leaving the company, she established the home video division of Rhino Records. She eventually returned to Disney, where her last and longest position – 10 years – was as vice president, music, Walt Disney Pictures and Television; she supervised the creative aspects of music development and production for almost 1,000 animated television series episodes as well as direct-to-video releases and feature film soundtracks.
She left Disney in 2001, launching her own company, Unencumbered Productions, and later founded and co-owned an independent record label, earning Grammy nominations for two Harry Shearer comedy albums.
Moé’s current project is the television show Composers on Composing, which documents the musical evolution of rock artists who now compose for television and film.
Two episodes have aired on local PBS station KLCS, one featuring Steve Porcaro of the group Toto, who scored the FX drama Justified, and one featuring Wendy Melvoin and Lisa Coleman, who shared an Oscar with Prince for “Purple Rain” and have composed for such series as NBC’s Shades of Blue and Heroes Reborn and Showtime’s Nurse Jackie.
Besides producing, Moé interviews the composers in their studios, eliciting anecdotes and reminiscences that illuminate both their work processes and personalities.
Do you have any particularly memorable moments, being Bambi on the Disney lot?
People would say, “Did you change your name to work here?” I got a call my first week on the job from Security, that there was a woman at the gate who was upset, as she was trying to pick up Bambi.
I talked to her on the phone, and said, “I’m sorry, I’m not going with you. I don’t know you.” Finally, my officemate, who had heard all this, said, “I think she’s trying to pick up the film.”
I’d always get calls back, when I’d leave messages and say, “Bambi from Disney” was calling. One time, I got a challenge to call Gary Owens, [previously] from Laugh-In. He did call back, and said, “You will always get a call back!”
People have preconceived ideas from your name of what you look like. You build relationships on the phone, and then they’d meet me and say, “You don’t look like a Bambi.” But I do have big brown eyes!
A seminal moment came in November 1985. I had produced the album Totally Minnie.
It caught the attention of Michael Jackson. He wanted to meet “the real-life Bambi.” I met him in a trailer on the Disney lot, when he was there shooting [Disney theme park 3D film] Captain EO re-takes.
What were some other highlights, working at Disney?
I’ve been so lucky in my career. I worked with talented veterans such as the Sherman Brothers and Kenny Loggins, who worked together on The Tigger Movie. Steven Spielberg directed the recording session we did to tell the story of E.T. with little Drew Barrymore, who wanted me to get chocolate for her.
And I got to work with some of the greatest talents on Broadway at the beginning of their careers – Idina Menzel, Heather Headley, LaChanze.
During my tenure as vice president, we were nominated for Daytime Emmys for outstanding music direction and composition eight years in a row. We won for Aladdin. 1994-95.
Did anyone in particular inspire you in your career?
[Before starting a career,] my hero was David Geffen. He was a creative executive. He had a hand in film, records. He had the ability to create from what he knew. He was the subject of an amazing documentary that I require my students to watch. [Moé is a faculty member at Cal State Polytechnic University, Pomona, teaching the music course “Artist Representation and Promotion.”]
And now you’ve created something from what you know, Composers on Composing.
Composers on Composing is the culmination of my career. In my capacity at Disney, I had the opportunity to be educated about the world of composers: what a composer does, how important the composer’s job is.
I can’t tell you how many times I sat with a producer with something that was not working, and the producer said, “The music will save it.” The music won’t save something that isn’t good, but it will elevate it.
To understand what the composer does – that’s fascinating. People knew the composers [profiled on the show] from their rock ’n roll days, and now they’re doing [television]. The great part in creating this series is, I’m able to bridge these two audiences.
I wanted to go into the composers’ working environments. I don’t spend too much time on the past, but I do talk about their histories. Each episode has a performance part; Lisa Coleman got up spontaneously and played an instrument I’d never heard of. And I enhance it with photos and film clips.
Besides already knowing the composers, some people from the Television Academy were involved.
I’d been asked to secure talent for a KLCS show, Rock ’N Roll Stories. I had no idea Sabrina Fair Thomas, whom I’d sat together with at Academy Honors Committee meetings, was general manager there! I said “I have an idea for a show that will fit your demographic.” She has been such a champion of the show, so supportive. And [former music governor] Mark Watters co-wrote the theme.
You’ve been a member of the Production Executives peer group for more than 20 years.
And you’ve served the Academy in so many ways during that time: currently or formerly, you’ve been a founding member and a co-chair of the Television Honors committee – which requires you to watch hundreds of hours of submissions – a vice-chair of the Brand committee, a Daytime Emmys committee member. You produced the videos for the SCORE! concert at Royce Hall at UCLA, celebrating television composers and music.
You’ve also been a national trustee and a governor of the Recording Academy. Why do you want to be so involved?
A: I love the Television Academy. If I’m going to be a member of an organization, I want to contribute. I love the educational aspect of the College Television Awards. I enjoy what the Academy is about – it’s not just the advocacy, it’s not just the Emmy Awards; it’s the education. At a certain point when I had a limited amount of time to volunteer, I had to make a decision as to where to use that time.
The Academy has afforded me the opportunity to participate in a meaningful way.