For those wondering where the other “first five classics” of Disney are, they have been in the top spot. Not really a spoiler to the list because those reading this do not know which spots they are in and the first one in the top ten is Bambi. Bambi came out in the tail end of the Golden Age of Disney in a time where the company suffered financially and it did not help that America was ready to enter World War II at the time. People were less concerned about the life and times of a deer and more concerned about the war effort at the time. Though a failure and leading Disney to make cheaper and less costly films in the bland “Wartime Era” or “Package Films” era. Luckily, Bambi ended the Golden Age with sticking to the risks and boundaries Disney was taking at the time.
The film is easy to talk about due to the simplicity on the surface. Bambi (Donnie Dunagan, Hardie Albright & John Sutherland) is born into the world as a fawn destined to take his father’s place as the Great Prince of the Forest. He meets his friend Thumper (Peter Behn, Tim Davis & Sam Edwards) and Flower (Stan Alexander, Tim Davis & Sterling Halloway) and goes about his life with his mother (Paula Winslowe). From here, the audience sees Bambi grow from his first word, his first steps and his first time exploring the world where Man has a dangerous presence in. One day while in the meadow, Bambi’s mom is kill by man and must grow up and fast inheriting his rightful place as the Great Prince. He then must prove his worth to the forest as the guardian and protector that his father was.
This is a marvel for Disney capturing their years of researching how animals move and the reality of nature. There is love and care put into each frame with meticulous design from the lush green of the meadow, the pure white innocence of winter time, the countless number of trees and the stark red and oranges of the fast moving fire toward the end of the film. The animals move close to their real life counterpart, but have the Disney expressions and heart added to them to make the audience aware of what they are feeling at a moment notice, especially with the main character of Bambi. The reason one is invested is his approach to the world as we take a look of his forest life through his eyes. Yes, other characters are shown and we get a glimmer, but it is Bambi who we must follow.
It’s this that leads to the underlying theme of death and growing up. It is a theme that Lion King is more famous for, but Bambi handles with a more mature understanding. Death seems to loom largest of all throughout with Man always lingering in the forest. Much like the realistic notion of death, Man can strike at anytime, but life will still go on. There is a stark contrast with a transition that proves this. After Bambi’s mom is killed, Bambi is looking for her and is taken in by his father ready to help him grow in the absence of her. The next scene immediately jumps to birds singing in spring happy as heck with Bambi already in his young adult years setting the tone that despite her passing, everything has gone on and smoothly. It is a hard concept for most younger audiences to understand, yet at the time, this was geared toward the adult audience and it shows tremendously. In recent years, I personally thought the second half of his adult life was boring. However, after watching it recently, I realized it was not and only added to his story by becoming deeper to show how far Bambi has come. I’ll even go as far as to say that I now love this movie and that adds to the power this movie has.
Critic’s Quote: “The fun and fear, the silliness and heartbreak, are taken to vivid extremes by Walt’s entwining of high art and what snobs will always deride as Disney-kitsch.” – Andrew Osmond, Empire Magazine, January 11, 2011
Signature Moment: Bambi meeting the Great Prince for the first time after his mom has just passed. It is a moment of silence and pure tragedy unlike any other.