Bambi

‘Man is in the forest…’

After a few, well, negative reviews of Disney movies, I decided to go all the way back to the time of those Disney classics which possessed amazing animation, solid story and beautiful backgrounds.

Walt Disney started work on Bambi in 1936, the year before the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.  It wasn’t until 1942 that Bambi got its release, meaning that Pinocchio, Dumbo and Fantasia were all completed before Walt came back to Bambi.  The film was based on a book by Felix Salten, who was actually an insurance clerk who began to write purely out of boredom.  Despite the popularity of the film in the modern day, it performed badly at the box office, prompting the Disney studio to re-release Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1944.

The story begins with moving multi-plane shots of the forest, which were designed largely by Chinese artist Tyrus Wong.  His environmental paintings were more softly drawn, providing a background, but a one which is not tightly finished like those in many other Disney movies.  This allows more focus to be on the animals.  The story centres on life in the forest, new life, as Bambi has just entered the world at the start of the film.  He soon discovers two friends which we are led to believe to be around the same age as him: Thumper and Flower.  Thumper acts as a mentor and muse to Bambi, helping him learn about the forest and teaching him how to have fun.  Flowers is a much more muted personality compared to Thumper, and has a slightly more wicked personality, often giggling at Bambi’s lack of knowledge on simple things.

According to TIME magazine, a Disney cast member was seen lying on the ground, not wanting to be moved, because he wanted to see how raindrops looked as they came towards your eyes.  There is debate as to whether this happened or not, but if it did, it had to be someone working on the wonderful ‘April Shower’ scene.  The raindrops look very realistic, and it is almost like a scene from Fantasia, with the visuals working in time with the song, to give the sense of the rhythm in nature.  The music in Bambi was almost like another character, more so than in many other Disney films, because in Bambi, there is a lot less dialogue.  It is also more noticeable when there is a long and dramatic silence, which emphasizes danger.

Bambi is by no means the most uplifting film to come out of the Disney studios; however, there are moments of comedy to break up the slower periods in the film.  For example, one of the most iconic scenes in the film is that of Bambi and Thumper out on the ice, with Bambi’s legs getting tangled up like spaghetti due to his hard hooves skidding along the ice.  It is extremely similar to a Pluto cartoon where Pluto is wearing ice skates and struggling to stand up on the ice.  The scene is welcome relief from the heavier scene which follows; possibly the first thing that many people think of when you mention Bambi: the death of Bambi’s mother.

Though never seen, we are introduced to the ‘villain’ in the film, the common enemy: man.  Bambi and his mother find a patch of green grass in the snow, a rare find in the cold of winter, so they begin to eat it.  Suddenly, Bambi’s mother hears something, and urges Bambi to run away.  The urgency of the situation is accentuated by the dramatic music used, and as they try to escape, you see Bambi get out of the way just in time, but his mother does not follow.  Although the mother is not too much of a central character like Thumper, Bambi and Flower are, the audience still has the slight expectation that she might get up and still be alive.  Unfortunately for Bambi, she does not.  Cut to a scene of Bambi in the forest alone, blinded by falling snow, searching for his mother.  Walt and his team had the idea of showing the shadow of man with a gun; however the idea was quickly scrapped, as it was thought that it was better to portray man as the unknown, almost alien-like, to make it more terrifying.  The design of Bambi being very baby like, and also the fact that he is still dependent on his mother, makes the death all the more horrifying and heart-breaking.  There had also been an idea to show Bambi’s mother lying in a pool of blood, an idea which was brought to life (albeit without blood) in The Lion King.

After these very heavy and depressing scenes, the mood is uplifted again by the return of spring.  It appears to be several years later, since Bambi has grown into an almost fully grown deer.  All his friends have also grown, and life goes on without his mother, with him finding love and going on to have his own children.  This is the original circle of life tale, decades before The Lion King would come to fruition.  At the end of Bambi, there is a fire started by man.  It had been considered to show man burning within the fire, but once again, that was much too graphic, and detracted from man being unfamiliar and terrifying to the forest animals.

Walt made sure that the anatomy of the animals was as realistic as possible, having his artists go to anatomy classes and draw deer from life.  The finished product: anatomically correct animals which are caricatures of human beings.

I have reviewed the film from the Blu-Ray release, and Bambi looks fantastic in HD!  There are extra features here compared to the DVD release, but the original features are also included.  The new features are wonderful for any Disney enthusiasts, featuring a very long look at Walt Disney’s story meetings, giving an inside view on the thought processes of the artists, story men  and Walt himself.  You can also access the usual deleted scenes, galleries, games, as well as a deleted song ‘Twitterpated’.  The wealth of special features really does feel never-ending, perfect for Disney fans.

Bambi is definitely one of the classic Disney films, containing comedy, innocence, tragedy and the life lesson of survival.  It is a very honest film.  I could go on writing and writing about Bambi, but instead, I would urge you to go and watch your own copy, and take in the beauty of the visuals, the songs, and realise the power of animation when used in its most mature form.

I give this movie 5 Tinks.

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