- by Jeff Beck
Bambi (75th Anniversary Edition): The Disney Classic Reaches a Milestone (Blu-ray)
Once again we return to the wonderful world of Disney classics, with the studio opening their vaults to release another one of their beloved animated works to Blu-ray. This time, Disney brings “Bambi” to the high definition format for its 75th anniversary, celebrating one of its earliest and most cherished works. Like with the previous selection (“Pinocchio”), this was a film I hadn’t seen in over 20 years, giving me an excellent excuse to finally go back and revisit another film that I had fond memories of growing up with. But does it still hold up as well today as it did back then, or are the memories making it seem better than it was?
The film begins deep in the woods with the birth of a deer known as Bambi (Voice of Donnie Dunagan), or the “young prince” as he is also called. His mother (Voice of Paula Winslowe) does her best to teach him the ways of the world, but he also gets a lot of help from his friends, including Thumper the rabbit (Voice of Peter Behn) and Flower the skunk (Voice of Stan Alexander). As time passes, Bambi must face the harsh winter with his mother, trying to find food wherever they can. On one of these trips, the villainous “Man” shoots and kills Bambi’s mother, leaving him all alone. However, his father, The Great Prince of the Forest (Voice of Fred Shields), shows up to take care of him in his time of need. Bambi must leave his home behind for a time, but when he returns, he finds that there was far more to come back to than just his childhood friends.
Just like it was with “Pinocchio,” rewatching “Bambi” after so long was a surreal and nostalgic experience. Here’s another film that I hadn’t seen since the mid-90s, and yet, I could still remember very specific sequences (Bambi learning to walk, hanging out with his friends Thumper and Flower, his Mother warning him about “Man,” etc.). Even as it was playing, it all came back to me like I had just watched it recently, and just as it had been before, it was a rather pleasant experience.
Admittedly, this is not one of Disney’s more narratively-driven features, but there’s still enough story to give it plenty of framework for the beloved characters. Getting the chance to watch Bambi grow and develop literally gives the film an incredible amount of character development that gets you invested not only in him, but also his friends that help him along the way. You could even argue that Thumper is the more famous character due to his outspoken personality, which gets him chided by his mother more than once. Flower gets the least amount of screentime, but he gets a good share of memorable moments nonetheless.
All this is to say that this is more a character-driven film than anything else. The film wastes no time getting you emotionally connected to this little deer and his companions through Bambi’s learning process and their subsequent time spent together. In fact, this is probably the main reason why the film remains an endearing classic to this day. Returning to it was like visiting old friends that you hadn’t seen in a long time and getting reacquainted. Granted, it has one of the most infamously heartbreaking scenes every put in a film right in the middle of it, but in its efforts to convey that “Man” is their main villain, I suppose certain measures had to be taken.
As with most of the Disney classics, the animation and music must also be mentioned. The film looks as gorgeous today as it must have way back in 1942. The animation is so beautifully done that it makes you long for the days when every cel was hand-drawn, and that’s not even to mention how incredibly ambitious several sequences in the film are, including the climax. When it comes to the music, the Oscar-nominated score is fantastic, as are the memorable songs (including the Oscar-nominated “Love is a Song”). The music may not be the first thing that people remember when they think of “Bambi,” but it just goes to show that several of the early features had fantastic music, just like their contemporary counterparts.
On the whole, “Bambi” may not be the most memorable of Disney’s features thanks to its somewhat scarce plot, but it’s truly the characters that make it worth coming back to in the first place. Even after all these years, it remains a pleasant film to watch, and is still rather admirable for its stunning technique. It’s probably been said a million times by now, but Disney’s animated classics have always been enjoyed by both kids and adults alike, and “Bambi” is definitely no exception.
“Bambi” comes to Blu-ray in a spectacular 1.33:1, 1080p High Definition transfer. As with all of their releases, Disney has put a lot of time and care into restoring the film, making the gorgeous animation look bright and new again. Likewise, the 7.1 DTS-HDHR soundtrack has been upgraded to give you all of the dialogue, sound effects, and Oscar-nominated music in pristine quality. Overall, the film looks and sounds better than it ever has, leaving you with yet another magnificent release of an animated classic.
Studio Stories: Bambi (5 Minutes): A fascinating excerpt from an interview conducted with Walt Disney in 1956.
Deleted Scenes (7 Minutes): A pair of deleted scenes involving additional characters that didn’t make the final cut.
Africa Before Dark (6 Minutes): A cartoon short featuring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.
The Bambi Effect (3 Minutes): A very brief featurette that examines the art of the film.
Bambi Fawn Facts (4 Minutes): A collection of animal facts.
Classic Deleted Scenes (6 Minutes): Three additional sequences that were cut from the final film.
Deleted Song: “Twitterpated” (2 Minutes): A so-so song that didn’t make the final cut.
The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born (53 Minutes): An outstanding collection of featurettes that go behind the scenes of the making of the film, delving into areas such as the story, characters, and its history.
Tricks of Our Trade (7 Minutes): A neat little featurette that describes how the multi-plane camera works.
Inside the Disney Archives (9 Minutes): A featurette that explores the original artwork for the film from the Disney Archives.
The Old Mill (9 Minutes): A classic, Oscar-winning animated short.
The Golden Age (6 Minutes): A featurette that explores the film’s history and the development of Disney animation.
While its scarce plot may prevent it from being one of Disney’s most memorable animated classics, “Bambi” remains an endearing and beloved film thanks to the delightful characters, the beautiful animation, and the marvelous music. This new 75th Anniversary Blu-ray brings the film back to life in spectacular fashion and provides several fascinating extras that take you behind the scenes of its making. Whether you’re seeing it for the first time or the twentieth time, this is yet another Disney Blu-ray that deserves a spot on your shelf right next to the others.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
Follow me on Twitter @BeckFilmCritic.