Film #5 in the Disney Animated Marathon!
Adaptation By: Larry Morey
Directed By: David Hand
Often in the Disney Marathon I have full fledged memories of the films I am watching or at the very least fond remembrances. That is not the case with Bambi, I have never once in my life seen Bambi. Outside of people mentioning Bambi I knew nothing of the story or what was in store for me (well, I knew the one obvious fact but everyone knows that fact). I settled down to watch Bambi, not knowing what to expect, outside of the story of a female fawn, and what is the first surprise thrown my way, Bambi is a male!
I wonder if all the strippers I’ve seen over the years named Bambi understood the oddness I now feel about watching hot women strip using the name of a male fawn? That bit of absurdity aside, the gender of Bambi isn’t an issue in any way, it’s merely an initial surprise to get over. As I began to immerse myself into Bambi, oh that sounds weird after what I just wrote, I was struck by a feeling of joy. Similar to a movie like Tonari No Totoro, Bambi isn’t about complex issues or even much of a plot, it is about the joy in watching the cycles of life portrayed through these animals. Bambi’s initial journey of discovery through the forest was a pleasure to take in, the rest of the film was filled with that type of pleasure.
It is in Bambi’s initial forest jaunt that the animation begins to stand out. The animators do a splendid job of realizing the flailing limbs of this young fawn. His forest surroundings are rendered beautifully, there is never a moment in Bambi where I didn’t think I was looking at a painting in an art gallery when the forest was in focus. Each and every one of the animals are expressive, they have their own personalities and the animation conveys this through the expressiveness of their faces and by allowing the animals to do their own thing.
No animal in Bambi was as endlessly cute as Thumper. Sometimes too cute can be a bad thing, but that is not the case with Thumper. He is delivered to the audience in small doses and because of that he never wears out his welcome. The idiosyncrasies in his actions allow us to relate to Thumper on a basic level, and his aw shucks attitude about everything in his life reminds us of our own childhood or the actions of our own children as the case may be. Out of all the characters we have seen so far in the marathon Thumper may be the cutest of them all and the most effectively cute of them all.
There are two scenes in Bambi that truly showcase the power of the animation on display. The rainfall scene looks amazing, it is rendered to absolute perfection. The way the sequence unfolds you get a sense for both the smallness and the grandeur of the forest and how something like rain affects them greatly. The fight between Bambi and another young male is also handled brilliantly. The hues used in that fight highlight that this is the first and only time we will see animal on animal violence. It exists outside of the serene nature of the rest of the world, even outside the scenes that involve mankind hunting.
It is true that there isn’t much plot to Bambi, but that really isn’t much of a problem. Bambi isn’t about a story, it’s not about getting from point A to point Z. Bambi is about growing up, and instead of a story to bring this idea to the masses Bambi utilizes visual cues and emotions. The seasons change to reflect Bambi’s growth, obstacles are placed in Bambi’s path, yet they never feel like dramatic leanings, they come across like simple happenings in his life. The idea of the growth of life also ties into the two other areas Bambi covers, innocence and mankind. Young Bambi is an innocent and through him we see how innocent eyes that haven’t been touched by society view the world. We also see how our views are shaped through our parents and through what we see happen around us. This finally leaves us to mankind, and the message on mankind is clear and simple. Mankind doesn’t respect nature therefore mankind will destroy nature. Simplistic, but honest, it isn’t a judging statement, rather it is a statement borne out of what history has shown us mankind does to nature in its quest to be master of its domain.
There are moments of great tension in Bambi, both times Bambi and his mother must flee from the meadow as well as when an older Bambi must deal with the hunters yet again. I found the reactions of the animals to their own hunting to be very interesting. Particularly the reactions of the bird who is eventually shot down. The way their reactions are handled it creates a harrowing atmosphere, one of unknown death and dread. The fact I spoke of earlier of of course the death of Bambi’s mother. Despite the fact I knew she was going to die, my notes sum up how effectively that scene is handled, “Those sons of bitched killed Bambi’s mom!”
The only two areas where I think Bambi could have used some tweaking was in the transition to adult Bambi and in the role fathers played in the film. The transition was abrupt, too abrupt for my tastes, I would have liked to have seen a smoother transition from childhood to adulthood. The lack of father figures in the film is never explained, and it creates an odd scenario where we know their are fathers to be found, we just don’t know where they are or what the film is trying to say by their absence. It would have resulted in a much different film, but this is an area I believe deserved further exploration.
Finally, there was one shot in particular that resonated with me. I couldn’t help but see the similarity between the shot of the Great Prince of the Forest standing atop the bedrock silhouetted by the sky and a similar shot to be found many years later in Mononoke-hime. The shot in Mononoke-hime of the Forest God standing atop a hill silhouetted by the skyline appears to be a direct homage to the Prince on the bedrock shot. For me, a huge Hayao Miyazaki fan, this was a cool little nugget to discover.
After a pair of films that I thought were very good but lacking in many areas in Pinocchio and Dumbo, Bambi is a return to the greatness that I found at the beginning of this marathon. The few issues I took umbrage with in Bambi stop it from reaching the heights of Fantasia or Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs, but it is a great film nonetheless. Just remember kids, Bambi is a dude, not a woman, keep that in mind next time you see a stripper named Bambi!