In the interest of full disclosure, I had never seen Disney’s Bambi before I sat down to watch this latest Anniversary Edition. I know, I know. How is that possible? I’m a huge fan of Disney animated films. The first movie I ever saw in theaters was the 1984 re-release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, so the foundation of film-going experience begins with the Disney animated feature that started it all. And yet, Bambi had eluded by viewing for the 37 years I’ve been around. Until now.
Here are SIX things I learned while watching and researching the film, Bambi:
1. Bambi is a Milestone for Disney Animation
From its setting of the forest to its more accurately drawn animals, Bambi marked a new era in Disney animation with its eye for realism. Disney created special classes for his animators so they could learn how to draw and animate animals, water, fire, and other elements in order to create a truly believable world. And to their credit the film is a visually stunning masterpiece of pastoral beauty. It’s a feast for the eyes with literal layers of animation to watch and enjoy time and time again.
2. Bambi was not a Financial Success for Disney
It’s hard to believe that it’s the 75th anniversary of Bambi. That means that this film was the 5th animated feature from Walt Disney Studios and it also happened to be released during World War II (1942). This may explain that while we think of it as a classic, it was a failure at the box office. This makes sense given the time period (there was a major war going on) and its box office failings put it in good company with two other memorable Disney classics: Pinocchio and Fantasia (both released in 1940).
3. Not the Story I Thought it Was
I’ve always believed that Bambi’s mom got shot and killed by the Hunter at the beginning of the movie and the rest of the film is Bambi coping with her death with the help of Thumper, Flower, and the other animals of the forest. I was wrong, which to me is a good thing. This meant that I was actually more engaged with the story, and the tension of when Bambi’s mother would be shot and killed made the film all the more suspenseful to watch. I also didn’t know about the big fire that happens during the final act of the film. This, too, made the an unexpected surprise and one that shows that you never really know what a film is about until you’ve taken the time to watch it for yourself.
4. It’s Not a Musical
Along with the story, I was also surprised that there are no musical numbers sung or performed by the animal cast (which may have been a choice by Walt himself given that he wanted the animals to be more realistic…talking aside). Yes, there are songs and music, but knowing how Disney likes to have characters break into song in the majority of their animated films, it was an interesting discovery. In this instance it makes sense, much like in future Disney features like Tarzan, where music is a factor in the overall world of the film, but not in the lives of most of the characters that inhabit the story.
5. Shows a Pattern in Disney Storytelling Still Seen Today
The theme of the orphaned main character is a common story device that is used in the majority of Disney films. And like most of these features – The Lion King and Frozen being two exceptions – how the character copes with that death/loss is handled off-screen. But it is this wound inflicted on the character against their will that helps make them stronger and more independent in the long run as they make their way through the struggles and victories of the narrative. The same can be said for characters what only have one parent in the picture. How they deal with the loss of the other parent is never fully explored if it’s mentioned at all.
It’s also an interesting side note that many of the characters in the Marvel films and Star Wars films also share the orphaned/parentless theme with many of their Disney character counterparts.
6. Incited Controversy
How, you may ask? Well, believe it or not, hunters were very upset over their demonization in the film. According to a 2014 FilmInspector.com article by James Bjorkman: “American sportsmen naturally took offense at this negative imagery: in a 1942 edition of the magazine “Outdoor Life,” editor Raymond Brown denounced the film as “the worst insult ever offered in any form to American sportsmen.” Imagine if they had had a Twitter account back then!
Not only was this an issue for some, but the entire plot point of Bambi’s mother’s death was also a contentious area of debate, especially in the Disney household. Walt himself admitted in an interview that his daughter was horrified over the death of Bambi’s mother and she was not happy that it was in the film. Others who witnessed the off-screen death were drawn to animal conservation efforts and became animal activist in their adult years.
Along with the original theatrical version, the Blu-ray includes a and the following special features:
Studio Stories: Bambi
The Bambi Effect
Inside Walt’s Story Meetings
Bambi Fawn Facts
Short Film: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit – “In Africa Before Dark”
Deleted Song: “Twitterpated”
The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born
Tricks of Our Trade (Excerpt)
Inside the Disney Archives
The Old Mill: Animated Short
The Golden Age
For a look at what truly was the first Golden Age of Disney animation, I highly recommend Disney’s Bambi: Anniversary Edition!
Disney’s Bambi: Anniversary Edition is available NOW on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital Download.
What’s your favorite Disney animated feature? Leave a comment and let us know!