tek's rating: ½

Bambi (G)
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Caution: spoilers!

This was first released in 1942, more than three decades before I was born. I feel like I may have seen it in a theatrical re-release sometime when I was very young, but I'm not sure. I also feel like I must have seen it on TV at some point, when I was a kid. At the very least, I've seen bits of it on some Disney TV special(s) that would have had scenes from various movies, probably. Anyway, I'm finally watching it on DVD in 2013, so whether I've ever seen the whole thing before or not, now I can review it. I must say, however much of it I may have seen before, there's a ton I didn't recall at all. The movie's famous for the fact that the title character's mother (a deer) is killed by human hunters. And somehow, I thought that happened at the very start of the movie, but in fact it does not. It begins with all the animals in the forest going to see the newborn prince for the first time. That prince, of course, is Bambi himself, but I absolutely did not remember him being a prince. And I'm not sure how much that title actually means; this ain't exactly The Lion King. But his father is called "the Great Prince of the Forest," and all the animals respect him, even if there isn't anything like actual royalty in the forest, in the sense that humans use the concept.

Before I get into the plot, I should mention that the animation is gorgeous. The music is also nice. During the first rainstorm Bambi experiences, there's a song I certainly don't recall ever having heard before, but I quite like it, it's very pretty... though when the rain gets stormier, the song gets scarier. (And then of course the sun comes out, and everything's pleasant again.) Um... I guess the movie, by the way, is based on a book, but I didn't know that until looking at Wikipedia. Apparently the book is a lot darker than the movie, but the movie is still very dark, in some parts. I'm actually a bit surprised it has a G rating, considering how traumatizing it can be. (I'm also kind of surprised there's no blood in the movie, considering some of the things that happen.) Mostly the movie is cute and funny and sweet, but... yes, definitely dark. Apparently when it first came out, hunters protested it, which is understandable. It's also kind of ridiculous. Of course killing animals is unpleasant to think about, especially cartoon animals with actual personalities. But, you know... it's the circle of life. Can't be helped. I don't think the movie actually suggests that humans are evil, or that we should all become vegetarians, or anything. Nor does it say that all animals are sweet and innocent. I don't think animals are really... the way they're depicted in the film, but at least this movie comes closer to reality than most Disney movies. And I think at least it should make people feel a deeper respect for the animals they hunt... and not just hunt for sport.

Anyway, soon after Bambi is born, he's befriended by a rabbit named Thumper, who basically teaches him how to talk. And stuff. (Bambi seems to have some trouble with the first word he learns, but after that everything comes pretty easy to him.) He also meets a skunk whom he calls Flower, right after he learned the word "flower." Which surprised me, since I always thought Flower was actually the skunk's name, but I guess we never learn his real name. Um... but Bambi spends most of his time with his mother and/or Thumper. (Thumper is in fact the character I've always remembered best from the movie.) The movie is comprised of a series of scenes from different points in Bambi's young life, as he continues to learn about the world. At one point, his mother takes him to a meadow, where he first meets a female fawn named Faline. He's bashful to the point of seeming quite scared of her, at first, but it doesn't take long for him to start frolicking with her. Later in that scene, we see Bambi's father, though it doesn't seem like they've ever met. Also in that scene, Bambi first learns to fear Man (though humans aren't actually seen in the movie, all the animals become aware of their presence and start running back into the forest).

After that, there's a scene where Bambi experiences his first winter, and Thumper skates around on an icy pond, though Bambi keeps falling down. This, I think, is the earliest scene in the movie that I really remember having seen before (and the movie's half over, at this point). Definitely something that played as part of some TV compilation special. But mostly Winter is just long and cold and difficult. And toward the end of winter, Bambi's mother is finally killed by hunters. The scene doesn't just take place much further into the movie than I expected, it's also a different season than I expected. Somehow I seem to remember Bambi's mom being killed during a violent storm, so maybe I'm confusing this scene with the rainstorm I mentioned earlier. (I'm wondering if I saw the two scenes closer together in a TV special? Maybe?) Whatever, it's very sad, anyway. Heartbreaking, actually. And it's after that that the Great Prince first speaks to the young prince and calls him son. (I kinda think if we're going to anthropomorphize animals' familial and friendly relationships, we're obligated to see the Great Prince as a deadbeat dad, though I'm pretty sure that's not what the story's going for. But at least he's there for Bambi when it counts the most.)

Immediately after that tragic scene, we spring into a jubilant springtime scene. Bambi, Thumper, and Flower all have new voice actors now, since they're older, though Bambi's the only one who clearly looks older to me. (Hard to believe how much he's changed since the previous scene, considering not nearly as much time could have passed since then as had passed between the beginning of the movie and the last scene, but whatever.) They have an old owl friend who tells them that in spring, everyone gets "twitterpated," and describes falling in love (or what I'd call falling into infatuation). The three of them decide they won't let it happen to them, but of course, one by one they all get twitterpated as they meet a pretty skunk, a pretty rabbit, and then Faline shows up. (This is the second scene from the movie that I clearly remember, which I'm sure was also in some TV special.)

And then... there are a few very dramatic, violent, scary scenes, followed by a very sweet scene that neatly bookends the movie. And I guess that's all I want to say about the plot. Anyway, it's definitely a great, classic movie, and I'm glad I now know the whole story. (Although part of me worries that Bambi could turn into Darth Vader at some point... Nah, that prob'ly won't happen.)

Incidentally, in 2006 there was a direct-to-video "midquel," which takes place between the death of Bambi's mother and the spring. I haven't seen it and I don't know if I ever will... but I'm starting to feel more interested in it than I would have expected. So we'll see. Maybe someday.

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