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Monday, February 6, 2012

Disneyear: Bambi (1942)

Ah, Bambi. The charming little movie that scared millions of kids I knew for life. No point in bringing up why. We all know what happened. No reason to say what it is. No sir... no point at al...
.... dammit....

But is that all there is to remember about Bambi? The answer is obviously no. It's one of those films that you appreciate more as an adult than when you where a kid. Why don't we find out why?

One morning in the spring, a baby fawn is born. This gathers the attention of all the woodland critters (thank God not the South Park ones...) because this particular fawn happens to be the prince of the forest. Why? Because.... deer are graceful. Anyway, he is christened Bambi and learns much about the forest while gaining friends in a rabbit named Thumper and a skunk named Flower. All throughout the seasons, little Bambi learns all the skills he needs to live from his mother. Then winter comes and... you-know-what happens. His father is there to take Bambi under his wing (or foreleg) and returns to the forest as an adult in the spring, antlers and all. After reuniting with Thumper and Flower all grown up, they later get twitterpated and meet their future mates, including Bambi with a fawn he met only once as a fawn named Faline. After a fight with another stag, Bambi has won Faline over. All's well until the most sinister of creatures enters the wood and makes life hell for the animals... MAN!! After a really intense climax, we cut to next spring when the forest recovers after a forest fire caused by man. It seems the cycle has started over again as Bambi and his father look over the next generation of forest royalty.

Where do I begin? Well, to be honest, the artwork in this movie is fantastic. The backgrounds, I hear, were done entirely in watercolor, a Disney first. And it's pulled off very well. It's like watching Planet Earth, you really feel like you're out in nature. Everything about it seems real. Even the animals are animated very realistically with a touch of that Disney style of course. I think that the animators must have actually studied how these animals act because their effort really shows. Just look at these beautiful backgrounds for case and point.

Another great thing about it is the atmosphere. What I mean by that is that it's never really in the same tone. It mixes a lot of warm and cute scenes with ones more dark and forbearing. I know a lot of people give that famous scene a lot of attention, but there's other really intense scenes. I actually thought the end scene where Bambi fights off the dogs and escapes a forest fire where more intense and far more dramatic.

Thankfully, the movie seems to find a perfect balance of happy with the dramatic stuff.  Like I said before, the simplified version of the story is really the life of this one deer. The narrative isn't very coherent and clear cut. But, that's life! It's not always coherent and clear, there's not always heroes and villains, or even resolve itself in a poetic fashion. Bambi seems to reflect that aspect so well. It also doesn't rely on cliches in other kids or even adult films and thank God, because this is really all we need.

Like I said, the movie has less emphasis on story and more on character, and while Bambi himself isn't the most interesting character, but he's not supposed to be. He's more like the every man, an observer of the world, a blank slate and his character is carved from experiences. Also, there's something about Bambi's father. Every time Bambi sees him, he's more scared than happy. Sort of an interesting form of dysfunctional family we have here. Then again, I know that does are the ones taking care of the fawns and not bucks, so I supposed it's more true to nature this way. Nothing wrong with that. Since Bambi's the main focus, the other characters don't really have a chance for development, but they're still cute and enjoyable. I find myself liking Flower and that old owl had a lot of funny moments. 

Best scene: too many to choose. But if you want to go for something more lighthearted, I just love the scene where Bambi, Thumper, and Flower as adults try to take an oath to never fall in love, but nature strikes back. Their reactions when they do get twitterpated are hilarious.

Overall, this is easily one of Disney's finest movies. The artwork and atmosphere mixed with a compelling coming-to-age story are way to good to pass up. Yeah, it gets intense at some parts, but I handled it fine as a kid and I suppose your kids can use some tough material. It's funny how even though I own the movie, this is actually one of the Disney films I watched the least as a kid and even as an adult. It's kind of like Citizen Kane or the Stanley Kubrick library, I respect it more than I watch. And I think that theory holds true for a lot of folks. Just have a tissue-box ready for when it happens.

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