A LOOK BACK: Bambi
Continuing our look at the Disney animated features in chronological order, we come to Bambi.
Based on a novel by Felix Salten, the film tells the tale of a young Mule Deer named Bambi. Bambi loves to spend time with his mother, but doesn't know who his father is. He befriends some woodland creature like a bunny named Thumper, a skunk named Flower and a young doe named Faline. One day, the Great Prince of the Forest warns the animals that Man is coming. Bambi becomes separated from his mother, but the Great Prince finds him and brings him back to her.
One day, Bambi's mother takes Bambi out for food. The two enjoy some grass when Bambi's mother senses Man has returned. The two of them run, but Bambi's mother is shot and dies. The Great Prince brings Bambi home and it's this time that Bambi learns that the Great Prince is his father. The next year, Bambi grows to be a young stag. He and his friends are warned about "twitterpation" and falling in love. They don't think they'll fall for it, but, eventually all three fall in love. Bambi falls for Faline, however there is one obstacle in his way. Another stag named Ronno competes for Faline's affection. He challenges Bambi, but Bambi wins.
One day, Bambi awakens to the smell of smoke. His father warns him that Man is back and they flee. But, Bambi can't find Faline and searches for her. He unfortunately gets cornered by Man's dogs. He manages to escape, but gets shot. In the meantime, the fire at Man's camp turns into a wildfire and the animals have to escape to the riverbank. The next spring, Bambi and Faline have twins while Bambi ascends to being the new Great Prince of the Forest. And, so the circle of life has run its course.
The film is absolutely gorgeous thanks to the wonderfully impressionistic watercolor feel of the film given to it by Tyrus Wong. “He set the color schemes along with the appearance of the forest in painting after painting, hundreds of them, depicting Bambi’s world in an unforgettable way,” said Ollie Johnston and Frank Tomas in their book Walt Disney's Bambi, The Story and The Film. “Here at last was the beauty of [Felix] Salten’s writing, created not in script or with character development, but in paintings that captured the poetic feeling that had eluded us for so long…The remarkable paintings of Ty Wong not only inspired the other visual artists, but created a standard that was met by musicians and special effects, too.”
Bambi is a wonderfully simple film, yet full of great themes, including needing to be aware of our environment which seems progressive for the time. The theme of death is also intense and I'm sure lead to a lot of conversations about it in homes after the film.
Unfortunately, due to the start of World War II, Bambi did not perform as well as they wanted. However, the film is regarded as one of the most beloved animated films. The American Film Institute (AFI) ranked Bambi third for animation in its "10 Top 10" lists. The film also won three Academy Awards for Best Sound, Best Song for "Love Is a Song" and Original Music Score.
Bambi deserves the accolades and is a true masterpiece.