Based on the book Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten, Walt Disney’s Bambi was released in 1942 and is the company’s fifth animated film. Although it is hard to for me criticize anything Disney-related, as I revisited Bambi, my thoughts wandered to all of the more entertaining films in their vast archives.
The film starts with all of the forest animals gathering together for the birth of the new prince, a deer named Bambi. Thumper, an outspoken bunny rabbit, becomes Bambi’s closest friend and introduces him to various elements of the forest while teaching him how to talk. Flower, a shy skunk, soon joins the duo in their adventures. We follow Bambi as he learns about the dangers of the forest, the changing of the seasons, and the struggles and joys that come along with them.
The Blu-ray is presented with a 1080p/MPEG-4 AVC encoded transfer displayed at 1.33:1. The colors are as vibrant as the animators intended. Detail is strong and clear. The cel-animated characters blend seamlessly with the painted backgrounds. The image is free from dirt and digital defect. The audio doesn’t earn the same high marks preseted with a lossy DTS-HD 7.1 HR track. It doesn’t make the best use of the surrounds, coming off a slightly front heavy, and the LFE doesn’t have a lot to offer. The dialogue is clear but can be soft and flat at times.
This two-disc (Blu-ray/DVD) combo pack offers many special features. The first group offer several options for viewing the movie. An introduction by Walt’s daughter Diane showcasing the museum in the San Francisco area is available. The Disney View option fills the screen with side panel artwork created by Lisa Keene, a longtime Disney artist. Lastly, there is Disney Second Screen, which expands a picture out of the picture-in-picture concept. After an Apple application is downloaded onto an iPad or computer, it syncs with the film and shows bonus features on that device.
The Blu-ray includes bonus features separated into three sections: Backstage Disney: Diamond Edition; Family Play: Games & Activities; and Classic DVD Bonus Features. Backstage Disney includes the features new to this edition and offers “Bambi: Inside Walt’s Story Board Meetings,” a dramatic re-creation based on transcripts from creative meetings that took place from 1937 to 1940. There are also two never-before-seen deleted scenes, a deleted song, and an extensive interactive gallery. Family Play offers “Disney’s Big Book of Knowledge Game” where younger viewers can learn about the forest while playing games and collecting stickers. The Classic DVD Bonus Features are from previous editions and is comprised of deleted scenes; a behind-the-scenes featurette entitled “The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born”; “Tricks of the Trade” highlights the creative elements used by Disney at the time the film was made; “Inside the Disney Archives” is a tour of an artwork vault featuring sketches from the film; “The Old Mill” is an animated short; and the original theatrical trailer.
When creating Bambi, Walt’s primary focus was ensuring that the details of the animals and forest were as realistic as possible and the newly enhanced high definition picture brings his vision to another level. The film is truly a piece of art, each frame thoughtfully crafted. The issue is that you can only be enticed by the visuals for so long. The changing of the seasons provides new experiences and new scenery but the story is not strong enough to fend off boredom.
Admittedly, I am not sure what the audience would be for this film today. I haven’t watched Bambi in years, and for this viewing I watched it with my parents who are in their late 60s. All of us thought it was too slow, the songs were weak, and felt a lack of connection to the characters. Younger viewers are too used to constant action and would surely lose interest the first time the animals meander through the woods. While I appreciate the still-relevant underlying themes of appreciating nature and man’s destruction thereof, I can’t recommend it, but fans of the film will surely appreciate the high definition presentation.