One of the most questionable actions of the Eisner/Katzenberg era at Disney was the decision to launch a series of direct-to-video sequels to their hallowed animated film classics. For the most part, those sequels were forgettable and barely a shadow of their origin films, with poor artistry, weak stories, and music. Seemingly no reason for existence other than extracting a few more dollars from the parents of the youngest and most devoted fans. However, magic managed to strike a few times, perhaps nowhere as successfully as Bambi II.
Picking up during Bambi's childhood (aka his cute years), the "midquel" tracks his ongoing adventures with his forest friends such as Thumper and Flower, but more importantly reveals the efforts of his father to raise the fawn without a mother. Along the way, the proud father learns a few things from his child as well, giving the simple tale some emotional weight. The plot isn't particularly memorable, but it's respectful of its source movie and does a fine job of coloring in the blanks between Bambi's childhood and adult years. Where the movie truly shines is its animation, with lush artistry and fully faithful and consistent character models that belie the film's direct-to-video budget. On Blu-ray, that technical proficiency is even more apparent, with crisp detail and vibrant colors enhancing the viewing experience. And the best part: no nightmare-inducing shootings.
The vocal cast is led by Patrick Stewart as the Great Prince of the forest, giving a touch of Shakespearian prestige to the majestic father. Bambi is capably played by Alexander Gould (Weeds, Finding Nemo), while the other forest friends sound close enough to the originals to avoid distraction. The film also includes a few unobjectionable songs that accompany the tale without grinding it to a halt, contributed by vocalists including Alison Krauss and Martina McBride.
The movie was originally released only five years ago, so not much has changed for this release aside from the addition of the Blu-ray disc. All of the extras from the original DVD are included, such as an interactive Thumper game, a tutorial on how to draw Thumper, a featurette about the film's history, and pop-ups that reveal trivia about the film. The only new features are a deleted song called "Sing the Day", along with three new interactive learning games starring Owl.
Bambi II is now available on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack, DVD, and digital download. Cinema Sentries is currently holding a giveaway on the site.