There are a few thoughts that enter my head as I rewatch Bambi for the first time in years, the first of which is wondering why the name is often associated with women but the character of Bambi is male. Another is just how little “story” there actually is here. I say this not as a criticism, because the film is actually better for not forcing more narrative into its (relatively short) running time.
Bambi first is introduced to citizens of the forest, characters we know and love (Flower, Thumper, etc.) as he learns of his place and role in things. His father, I guess an absentee parent, shows up briefly, makes an impression, and disappears. Of course nearly everybody remembers the sequence where Bambi’s mother is killed, and that’s really not much of a spoiler, though it is a major catalyst for Bambi’s life. This is of course not the only danger and hardship Bambi endures.
Other than the talking of the animals this could almost feel as if it were a documentary in animated form. There is a realism, perhaps not to the specific way the interactions play out, but to the generality of it all, the universalness of discovery that is especially on display at the beginning of the film. The beloved ice skating scene is a great example of this, as is the way Flower is introduced.
For its previous release several years ago this Walt Disney classic had been restored to look as good, better even, than the filmmakers had intended. The colors are lush and warm, the atmosphere evocative and everything is vibrant. What you’re really looking at in this edition over the previous one are the special features, and there are a couple that are missing this time around, starting off with the image gallery which had hundred of stills and images that were fascinating to check out. A few others are not missed (the quiz, games, screensaver, etc.) but the featurette on restoring the film should have been carried over. Thankfully the “second screen” bit is gone, but the content is also gone as well. That should have been another picture in picture option.
A few new supplements are present, starting off an Oswald short. Two short featurettes look at the real-life animal inspiration for the animators and some of the animators themselves, but they should have been combined and expanded, perhaps with the other featurette looking at the sound and how it is animated (a featurette that includes some footage from the short “The Old Mill” which is included and carried over from the previous Blu-ray release).
Carried over from the previous Blu-ray include, thankfully, the picture in picture track Inside Walt’s Story Meetings, which provides almost everything you might want to know about the background and making of Bambi. It is a great in-depth item fans will want to check out. Then there are deleted scenes, a nearly hour long “Making Of” feature, and a few others.
With the deletion of a few key items this version is not the definitive release of Bambi fans have been hoping for. If you did not pick up Bambi on Blu-ray yet, now is your chance, because this will get put away in the vault before too long. If you only have one of the previous DVD or VHS releases you need to upgrade.