Bambi Platinum Edition
This is bad, because I had let the moment overshadow the film, and good, because I would be able to see the film again with essentially a clean slate, something many rarely get to do, even for brand new movies.
I found myself revisiting Bambi due to its release as a 2-disc Platinum Edition DVD set. Say what you want about Disney, but they certainly know how to release a DVD. As with other Platinum Edition titles the studio has put out, Bambi has been put under the microscope and through the digital wringer. The result is an honest and unprepossessing movie seen through a bright and full image as opposed to the murkily dull one that so many of us grew up viewing. On top of this beautifully restored print, the DVDs are full of interesting and informative behind-the-scenes/making-of documentaries, fun games, deleted scenes and the 1937 Oscar-winning short, The Old Mill (notable as the first film to utilize Disney's multiplane camera, a device that would itself receive an Academy Award for its technical achievements). If there is one drawback to this DVD set, it's that they included a short preview of the Bambi sequel, Bambi and the Great Prince. There's always a catch to these things, I suppose.
Over the years, Bambi has gotten the reputation for being a cute and cuddly movie about animals and not much else. While there are some moments in the film you might call cute, the bulk of the movie is more than my memory retained. This is a beautifully rendered story; while it isn't necessarily a "fun" movie, there is a great amount of entertainment to be had. At the end you're smiling not because of some great adventure completed or a hard-fought prize won, rather you smile at life because watching this movie helps you understand, if for but a moment, that among our sadnesses, there are a lot of good things around.
Bambi works for so many reasons. The first was the idea to keep animals with animal characteristics, as opposed to having them stand on their back paws and wear pants. Secondly, even though Bambi is the star of the picture, he's not an overbearing presence. Perhaps, this is both a blessing (for the story) and a curse (for the marketing department). Because Bambi is played at such an even keel, he's easier to relate to than other characters, we're not trailing behind him or wishing we could be him, truth be told for much of the audience we are that little deer. And this is what makes "the moment" so powerful. Even though most of us know it by heart, we have to look at the moment. A perfectly timed sequence that really shows nothing but tells everything. The production team wisely underplayed this sequence, allowing the audience's subconscious and fears to become a key part of the storytelling in this process. The result is simply one of the most exactly realized moments in an animated film—perhaps in any movie.
The movie proudly features a more adult sensibility, something the studio has struggled to find in its more recent features. There is of course the loss of a parent, the loss of innocence, the discovery of love, the onset of responsibility, the coexistence of the species and man's impact on the environment. That all of these can be shown and played out as artfully as they are in this film is a true credit to writers Larry Morey and Perce Pearce who spent several years fleshing out the story. Their patience shows on every frame of the film.
Early on, the writers and the entire production team made a crucial decision to let the story tell itself. The studio has stated that there are only 900 words spoken in the film, which really allows you to be enveloped more in a mood of sounds and images—images that look both perfectly real and at the same time like what your dream of a forest might look like.
For years, Bambi has been overlooked, as it is seen more as a bridge from one Disney era to the next. Hopefully with this new DVD release, people will be able to see the movie again and appreciate it for the artful way it tells its gentle, yet emotionally powerful story.
What's Good: This is a well-told, quiet story that is perfectly presented in this DVD set.
What's Bad: Sometimes the film is a little too quiet. The lack of "whistle-able" songs is, surprisingly, a bit of a letdown.
DVD Extras: Inside Walt's Story Meetings and The Making of Bambi featurettes; deleted scenes; a look at how the film was restored; a "time capsule" glimpse into 1942; a showcase of the film's art; a re-creation of the film's production story meetings; The Old Mill animated short; a virtual forest; interactive games.
DVD Features: 1:33.1 aspect ratio; English, French and Spanish language tracks; Region 1.