BAMBI

(1942)
With the voices of 
Paula Winslowe, Fred Shields, Peter Behn, Stan Alexander, Will Wright, Sterling Holloway, Donnie Dunagan, many others
Directed by David Hand
Style: Hand-Drawn
Reviewed by JB

"Well, Thumper, at least I'll save money on Mother's Day!"     There are not many films more visually beautiful, more of a complete treat for the eyes, than Walt Disney's fifth animated feature BAMBI. You could turn the sound down and use this film as an animated painting (or a "moving picture"). However, doing that would rob you of the extreme pleasure of enjoying the near-perfect symbiotic relationship between Disney's visuals and the film's music, a relationship reminiscent of, and often superior to, that found in 1940's FANTASIA.

     With animated features almost the exclusive property of the Walt Disney Studio at this time, Disney films had yet to become formulaic.  SNOW WHITE and DUMBO were based on solid stories, PINOCCHIO was an episodic delight, and FANTASIA was a fanciful experiment.  BAMBI most often resembles FANTASIA, but because of its lovable characters, it is the more entertaining film. 

     But don't look to BAMBI for anything resembling a plot.  It is, instead, almost an animated ballet or tone-poem about the cycle of life in the forest.  Bambi, a young deer, is born, he grows up, he mates, he fathers his own children.  In between being born and becoming a father, there are many lovely interludes featuring Bambi and his friends, as well as an extraordinary amount (for a Disney film) of death, disaster and heartbreak.  As with DUMBO, BAMBI contains at least one moment (which I will not spoil) which can make even the manliest of men weep.  Aside from this most famous moment, there is a vicious attack by hunting dogs, a bird shot out of the sky, a starkly stylized fight between an adolescent Bambi and a rival for the affections of a doe, and a devastating forest fire.  There are also some "Is this really in a Disney film?" moments in which Flower the Skunk and Thumper the Rabbit have somewhat bizarre, unexpected reactions to the opposite sex.  It seems as if old Walt and his animators must have been paying attention to the kind of funny stuff coming out of Warner Brothers and MGM at the time. 

     I said that Disney films had yet to become formulaic, but there was an obvious Disney trademark coming into vogue - the sidekicks and secondary characters.  PINOCCHIO had Jiminy Cricket, Figaro the Cat and Cleo the Goldfish, DUMBO featured the underrated Timothy Q. Mouse, and BAMBI has Thumper the Rabbit, whose trademark is thumping his foot in rapid succession on the ground to express his emotions.  Voiced initially by Peter Behn, Thumper is sometimes just a shade too cute, but remains one of the classic secondary Disney characters. 

    Despite the lack of one of those catchy hit songs Disney films were becoming famous for, BAMBI is justifiably considered by many fans to be the greatest Disney feature ever.  It is also the last of five initial Disney films that are the Mount Rushmore of the hand drawn animated feature genre. After SNOW WHITE, PINOCCHIO, FANTASIA, DUMBO and BAMBI, is it any wonder that Warner Brothers and MGM put all their energy into making wild, wacky, hilarious cartoons instead of trying to emulate Disney?  After a while, not even Disney could compete with these five films. 5 - JB


SEQUEL

Bambi 2 (2006 - Direct to Video)


DISNEY MEETS BOND

In 1971's DIAMONDS ARE FOREVER, James Bond, as played by Sean Connery, runs into two beautiful and potentially deadly female bodyguards named Bambi and Thumper.