Bambi (1942)

In more recent years, I would look back on this movie somewhat fondly, yet I had no real recollection of watching it very often.  I was never really sure why exactly, I just knew it wasn’t my go-to movie when I needed a Disney fix.  That being said, I did still recall a few wonderful scenes that I thought were really cute and well done.

As it turns out, those few wonderful scenes were essentially the only storyline in the film.

Bambi has always been that movie that I know I’ve seen because I remember the story, but with which I didn’t have any clear childhood associations. Viewing the movie as an adult, it’s pretty easy to see why.

Story-wise, there’s really not a whole lot going on.  Bambi’s born, we follow him as he experiences things for the first time and learns to identify different objects, his mother is killed by hunters in what may be the most heart-wrenching off-screen death scene ever produced (Not that I’ve been scarred for life by this movie or anything), he rapidly grows up, falls in love, and escapes a forest fire.

Had this been any other movie, that would have been the basest of summaries, which would have been filled in with thoughtful character development and subplots.

Not the case with Bambi.

Instead, Bambi is a short story that has somehow been turned into a full-length (a whopping 70 minutes) motion picture.

It’s rather clear that the writers and artists had to work to make this film longer; there are numerous instances of extended mood-setting scenes, and one particularly lengthy “spring showers” number, in which we literally just watch different unnamed forest creatures shelter themselves from the rain.

The villain, collectively referred to as “Man”, is never even shown on-screen, and serves as a direct yet all-too-realistic villain for the woodland creatures.

All in all, this is not a film that I should enjoy.

And yet.

I truly can’t say if it’s simply childhood nostalgia, but I genuinely like this story.  Yes, it’s very simple and there’s far less dialogue here than in most movies, but the story is sweet, albeit sad at times.

To this day I love the adorable words of wisdom Thumper must repeat after his mother scolds him, or the ever-adorable “Flower”, a skunk who has no problem being given a new moniker.

Cutest. Little. Skunk. Ever.

My favorite scene by far though, is the moment Bambi emerges as a young stag, and he and his childhood friends are hit with the harsh realities of becoming “twitterpated”.  This is still one of the most adorable scenes in just about any Disney movie.

These moments, though brief, were incredibly memorable, and help explain why the movie has such appeal.  This film is essentially about the circle of life (yep, they did it before The Lion King), as well as the dangers humans pose to the forest.  Not all of the scenes are happy.  After all, Bambi’s mom dies and then the forest is burned to the ground; but, this is the way the world works.  Disney doesn’t try to sugar-coat it.  Instead, they show the world as it really is (taking some liberties with the talking animals bit), birth, loss, and everything in between.

The overall design of the film is not my favorite.  Most of the backgrounds are done in a bland water-color style, with little if any attention to detail, leaving the film feeling a bit flat at times.  Still, there’s just something about it that draws the viewer in.  The film doesn’t pretend to be something it isn’t.  The story, or what little there is of one, is presented plainly, while still giving cause for reflection on the dangers humans may pose to the life cycle of the forest.

There’s a part of my mind telling me that this isn’t a very good movie, or that at least it doesn’t have any of the qualifications that constitute a good movie by today’s standards.  Still, that doesn’t make this a bad film, per se.  It’s not the first movie that pops into mind when someone says “kid’s movie”, but it’s actually a brilliant tool for introducing the concept of life and death to a child who hasn’t had to face such events yet.  While perhaps not a stunning masterpiece of film, it is nevertheless an important movie, and presents a story that stays with the viewer.  The characters are sweet and innocent, and will always hold a special place in my heart.

It gets me all twitterpated just thinking about it.

-Jess

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