It had been a very long time since I saw Walt Disney’s Bambi, and after watching it again recently, I’m sad I haven’t watched it more often. It is truly deserving of the “masterpiece” label often affixed to it, even 72 years after its original release.
After Bambi is born, all the animals are excited to meet him because he is the son of the prince of the forest. He soon makes many friends, including Thumper, Flower, and the incorrigible flirt, Faline. As the seasons pass, they have a lot of fun frolicking through the forest and having new adventures, such as venturing onto the meadow for the first time.
One of the main themes of the film is how dangerous man is: man kills the animals, has nasty dogs, and causes forest fires. While it wasn’t too overbearing, it was unusually environmentally-aware for the day (and the book it’s based on is even more so, being published in 1923).
I absolutely loved the background paintings done by Tyrus Wong. While they are more Impressionist than Realist, they convey the feel of the forest and help focus—rather than detract—attention on the characters. I don’t think I have seen another film which used the same technique, and though it took a few minutes to adjust to the style, I liked it more and more as the film progressed.
The music was another favorite feature for me. The song “Little April Shower” is my favorite, and I had forgotten it was from Bambi due to how many years it had been since I watched it. Written by Frank Churchill and Larry Morey, it has become one of the most beloved Disney songs, and it’s right up there with my favorites, too. The other music in the film, especially the theme used whenever Man was in the forest, really added to the atmosphere of the film.
The only slightly confusing part was the animals remaining basically babies all the way into winter, and then suddenly jumping to spring and having Bambi be a young buck. There wasn’t any real transition in the way he looked as time progressed into the fall of his first year. Perhaps this was done for budgetary reasons (the studio was having some of those due to Pinocchio and Fantasia doing poorly), or just because they didn’t think about it. Either way, it was a little confusing, but not a huge detraction from the story.
And just in case you are wondering why this film is being reviewed here: there is a brief fantasy segment where Bambi and Faline are prancing through the clouds as they are falling in love. Not to mention the talking animals, of course.
This film is not just for kids. It has a lot of good messages in it, including dealing with death and other tragedies. It really isn’t a message film outside of showing a somewhat fantastical—but still fairly realistic in many instances—view of animals interacting and living their lives in the forest. Walt Disney’s Bambi is an excellent film for all ages, and I highly recommend it.
Release Date: August 13, 1942 (USA)
MPAA Rating: G
Nudity: 0 (though none of the animals wear clothes…)
Violence: 1 (death of Bambi’s mother (off screen), aftermath of a pheasant being shot, peril due to forest fire, chase by slavering hunting dogs)