Anniversary Edition Blu-ray/DVD/Digital HD

Review by Michael Jacobson

Director:  David Hand
Audio:  DTS HD 7.1
Video:  Full Frame 1.33:1
Studio:  Walt Disney
Features:  See Review
Length:  70 Minutes
Release Date: 
June 6, 2017

"What happened, Mother?  Why did we all run?"

"Man...was in the forest."

Film ***1/2

I suppose one of the legacies of Bambi is that it frequently serves as a young child's first introduction to death.  Whether or not Walt had that in mind when he made the picture I can't say.  What I can say is that I remember the night my own mother passed away...my father came to my room to break the news to me.  As I lay sadly in bed, I couldn't help but remember the voice of the Great Prince of the forest:

"Your mother can't be with you anymore."

I can't even say whether it's too much or too soon for a young child to comprehend such things, especially offered up in the format of an animated cartoon.  But I guess the point is that from the time I first saw Bambi, a part of me was aware that someday, even though it was a long ways away, I too would know the loss of a parent as part of the great mysterious progress of life.

Yet I don't mean to begin this review in such a heavy handed fashion.  Bambi is, first and foremost, a delightfully colorful and artistically rich animated film, made in an era where artists still put pencil to paper.  The detail in every glorious scene is unimaginably painstaking, and every imaginative touch was lovingly crafted by hand.  Truth be told, it's one of Disney's lightest offerings ever in terms of story and character.  But none of his films were as deeply beautiful to look at.

The story opens in spring, when the young deer prince Bambi is born.  We see the magic of new life through his tender first steps, his first feeble words, and his playful experiences with his new friends, including Thumper the rabbit and Flower the skunk.  And we also learn that life in the forest isn't all beauty and joy, particularly when Bambi's mother speaks the passage quoted above...a phrase that still gives audiences chills to this day.  But we learn it even more in the wintertime, when Bambi's mother is taken from him by a hunter.  The scene where his father breaks the news is one of the most lyrically sad in the history of motion pictures.

But death is hardly the end of the story...though for me, not much that follows that stark scene is memorable.  The grown-up versions of Bambi, Thumper and Flower aren't particularly endearing, despite the exciting forest fire finale (and what a fire...the whole forest seems to go up faster than you can say "controlled burn"!).  I suppose there's a circle of life lesson to be learned from the film, but it was stated more eloquently, if not as artistically, fifty years later with The Lion King.

Still, Walt's vision of a colorful and richly detailed forest story was enough of an achievement to make Bambi the highest grossing film of the 1940s, as well as an instant classic and perennial fan favorite.  I only hope today's youth weaned on the limitless visual splendor of computer animated movies will be able to appreciate what animation once was, and how much work went into crafting a picture like Bambi, and most of all, how glorious the results are even after more than six decades.

BONUS TRIVIA:  Cammie King Conlon, who was the voice of the young Faline, was also Bonnie Blue Butler in Gone With the Wind.  She still jokes to this day that her career peaked at age 5!

Video ****

I've been into Blu-ray for years now, but it's still an absolute treat when I put a disc in and truly have my breath taken away.  Bambi has to be one of the most beautiful traditionally animated films of all time, and believe me when I say, nothing that came before can compare with the sheer majesty of this high definition presentation.  I've never appreciated the opening multi-plane forest shots so much, for example.  The vividness of the detail just opens up a completely and beautifully realized animated world that you don't just watch, you lose yourself in.

Audio ****

This DTS HD soundtrack is more incredible than you might believe given the 70 year old age of the film.  The mixers did an outstanding job of blending the natural voices and effects we know and love with some extra dynamic range here and there.  For instance, when the thunderstorm erupts, look out...your subwoofer and rear channels may have been a bit idle up to that point, but they jump in and really take the entire experience up a notch.  Perhaps best served of all is the music.  The songs are so clean and so well-orchestrated that the individual voices in the choruses stand out, and the sound fills the room as though you were attending a live performance.  The fact that all of this came from an original mono mix proves that Disney never runs out of magic.

Features ****

Special Edition Blu-rays from Disney generally mean if you're like me and go through all the extras on a disc, you'd best have a lot of time on your hands.  This one starts a re-creation of the original story meetings conducted by Walt and his staff that you can see on screen while the movie plays in the corner.  Voiceovers bring the text to life, and we can witness what the artists are discussing so we can actually witness the evolution of the movie over its six year period of gestation.

There are two NEW deleted scenes included in this release, as well as a look at a removed musical number for "Twitterpated".  There is an new introduction from Diane Disney Miller from the Disney Museum in San Francisco, a big book of knowledge game for the kids, and a Disney View option that fills the black bars on the left and right of the screen with artwork.  For most of Disney's releases, I like this feature, but I ended up turning it off for Bambi.  They were beautiful, but a little distracting.

All the original Platinum Edition DVD extras are here, starting with 8 games for the kids, including a forest adventure, trivia, and memory test.  A "DisneyPedia" takes a look at the real life versions of Bambi and his friends.  "Thumper Goes Exploring" is a Disney Storytime extra you can read to yourself or along with Friend Owl.  There's also a 1942 time capsule, a terrific 53 minute making-of documentary, a sneak peek at the sequel Bambi And the Great Prince of the Forest (okay, I gotta ask...is a sequel really necessary?), plus two deleted scenes (storyboards with new voiceovers).  The virtual forest isn't much...just an active still shot.

Rounding out is the original trailer (which focuses entirely on the ADULT Bambi...what marketing genius made that decision?), a "Tricks of the Trade" excerpt from 1957 where Walt discusses the multi-plane camera, the Oscar winning short "The Old Mill", and a look through the Disney archives and the art of the movie.


Bambi showed the world just how beautiful an art animation could be, and the passage of time hasn't eroded its ability to inspire awe.  This is going to be remembered as one of the year's best Blu-ray releases, and fans of this classic are going to be thrilled with just how amazing the high definition presentation is.

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