Bambi, Diamond Edition Blu-ray, Disney, review

It's probably been decades since I've seen the Disney animated classic Bambi. So, when the opportunity arose to review the film's Diamond Blu-ray release, I must confess that I merely curious by the prospect and not exactly anticipating it.

By that I mean I wasn't waiting by the mailbox for the review copy to arrive. I don't mean to be cruel. I'm thankful for the chance. It's just that, well... Bambi was never one of those movies that connected with me as a child.

I don't know if it's the pro-nature theme, the gender ambiguous names of the characters like Bambi and Flower or if it has something to do with one of animation's starkest bummer scenes. And if you know the story of Bambi, you know what I'm talking about.

What I discovered rediscovered instead was a very thoughtful, organic and beautifully composed film that rightly deserves its revered status among the Disney classics.

Watching Bambi as an adult, I was struck by its painterly style. Specifically, I'm talking about the lush watercolor backgrounds that allude to nature without ever overpowering the scenes.

They characters, too, remind the audience of the raw power and delicate grace of nature in a way that is practically uncanny. The ability for the animators to infuse human characteristics and personality traits into the mix demonstrates the raw talent in the pool during production of what was only their fifth film.

So why is there such a profound disconnect in my mind? I actually blame Disney for that. To a point.

Having marketed the film to the home video audience on and off for the last 30 years, Disney has reduced the scope of the movie to the cute, stumbling fawn that we are introduced to in the first half of the movie. Slipping on the ice, learning how to say the word "bird," yelling "FLOWER!" at a skunk so forcefully he rolls back into a bed of daisies. I'm sure you can easily envision these scenes just from reading my brief descriptions.

Bambi, Disney

However, the marketing completely ignores the second half of the movie where Bambi, now mature, takes a mate and confronts the scourge of Man. Incidentally, it never occurred to me how heavily The Lion King borrows from Bambi in this regard.

Now, granted, if I were going to pick a theme to push to unindoctrinated audiences, I'd probably go with the happy, fuzzy, lighter first act. All I'm saying is that the second act is so thematically jarring to me - largely due to my own hazy memory - that Bambi almost feels like two completely different movies.

In fact, the environmentalist theme in the second act is so profound, those who criticized Wall-E for having an agenda would probably explode from outrage watching this film. Disney's message pulls no punches. "Nature is beautiful and should be preserved. Man ruins everything he touches."

Wisely, is never shown in the film. But the brilliant musical score tells you exactly when he's near. But when the swirling, pacing strings of "Man's Theme" rise from the background, there's no confusion that danger is present. In fact, it's so simple, even a 4 year-old could recognize it. Watching the film with my son, nervously he would ask "What does that bad sound mean?"

I can think of no clearer example of how Disney pushed the medium of animation and film to communicate emotion without clubbing you over the head with it. That deft and steady hand is felt throughout the film.

The Diamond Edition Blu-ray is stacked with features that are exceptionally thorough - especially when you consider the film is over 65 years old. Probably the most interesting extra feature included on the disc is "Inside Walt’s Story Meetings-Enhanced Edition." Reading from notes taken during story meetings, voice-over artists bring life to the words of Walt Disney, his writers and animators as they pitch ideas on how scenes will play out before one frame of animation was ever completed. The care and attention to detail these artists paid to the story is evident in these re-enactments.

In fact, the feature plays almost like an audio commentary. But instead of the actors and directors sitting around the room talking about what they thought worked and what they would have tried differently, Walt and his team talk about what will be and stay alarming true to their vision. Animation junkies and/or historians will be facinated by this opportunity to be a fly on the wall.

The Blu-ray also includes two "deleted scenes," cobbled together from discarded storyboard drawings as well as a deleted song - "Twitterpaited" - which is basically about springtime and falling in love. Additional features made previously available in the DVD release of the film are also included.

Going back to the point I made previously about Bambi being two films and the softer pallet that has been sold to us by Disney over the years... I guess what brought this into focus for me was a specific bonus included with extras - the original trailer for the film from 1942. View it for yourself.

Now compare it to this advertisement for the Diamond Edition Blu-ray.

I don't mean to make a mountain out of a molehill, but I find it interesting that audiences in 1942 were tantalized with promises of romance, action and heroism with nary a reference to Bambi as a child. Meanwhile, today's audience is set up for an entirely different experience.

Bambi IS both films and it is a credit to Disney's storytelling that the film works for both children and adults alike.

But if you were anything like me and was convinced that Bambi was a Technicolor cliche, you owe it to yourself to watch the film and reintroduce yourself to the splendor and refined artistry of Disney's Halcyon days. You won't regret it.

Bambi, Disney, review