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In Disney's spectacularly animated forest fable, a fawn named Bambi is born, destined to become "Prince of the Forest." He soon befriends other woodland creatures such as Flower, a bashful skunk, and Thumper, an outgoing rabbit. As the years pass, they encounter a number of life's lessons in the woods, including the death of Bambi's mother at the hands of hunters. Eventually, Bambi comes of age, completing the cycle of life and taking his father's place.
For more about Bambi and the Bambi Blu-ray release, see Bambi Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on February 18, 2011 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Hardie Albright, Stan Alexander, Bobette Audrey, Peter Behn, Thelma Boardman, Tim Davis (I)
Directors: James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, David Hand, Graham Heid, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield
» See full cast & crew
Bambi Blu-ray Review
Disney's breathtaking 1942 masterpiece earns a must-own Diamond Edition release...
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, February 18, 2011
It's hard to imagine an animated film in the vein of Bambi being released in this day and age. Undisputed Disney Classic though it may be, its story is startlingly minimalistic, its forest dwellers don't embark on a grand adventure, its protagonist never undergoes any self-affirming transformations, it dispenses few life lessons and even fewer message points, focuses on the sparse beauty of nature rather than its anthropomorphic pursuits, and its talking animals only speak when doing so is crucial to the development of the plot or characters. (Even Wall-E, the 2008 Pixar powerhouse rightfully praised for its restraint, relents after a magnificent first act and begins traveling a more conventional road.) Instead, Bambi is a deceptively simple, disarmingly poignant coming-of-age fable about a fawn who experiences the joys, fears and realities of an uncertain world.
Predating The Lion King by some fifty years, Bambi tells the story of the birth, adolescence and rise to kingship of the new Prince of the Forest, a whitetail deer named Bambi (voiced first by Bobby Stewart, then Donnie Dunagan, Hardie Albright and John Sutherland). After learning to walk, the timid fawn ventures out into the forest and acquaints himself with its many creatures, forging friendships with excitable rabbit Thumper (Peter Behn, Tim Davis, Sam Edwards) and bashful skunk Flower (Stan Alexander, Tim Davis, Sterling Holloway), and meeting a young doe named Faline (Cammie King, Ann Gillis). Before long, Bambi's mother (Paula Winslowe) takes him to a meadow where the deer of the thickets gather; an opportunity that leads to an encounter with his stoic, ever-distant father, the Great Prince of the Forest (Fred Shields). To his mother's dismay though, the meadow also introduces Bambi to the forest's greatest threat: man. He survives this brush with danger, only to contend with a harsh winter, a shortage of food and, eventually, the tragic death of his mother. Thankfully, adolescence and the promise of change aren't far behind. As his antlers grow and the seasons pass, Bambi reunites with Thumper and Flower, falls in love with Faline and faces the return of an all-too-familiar foe.
Bambi has been billed as a great love story since its debut sixty-nine years ago, but it's much more than that. Even going so far as to call it a great story of love, life and loss would still sell the film short. Based on Austrian author Felix Salten's 1923 novel, "Bambi, a Life in the Woods," Walt Disney's fifth animated production is arguably his best, weaving a heartfelt tale that relies on silence, subtlety, realism and sincerity above all else. While less sobering than Salten's original work, Disney's meticulously constructed adaptation doesn't pull many punches. Bambi's father is absent during his formative years, gunfire induces palpable fear in the woodland creatures, winter and starvation are fearsome adversaries, hunting dogs descend on Faline like a lynch mob, a raging forest fire sends hundreds of animals scrambling for safety, and the death of Bambi's mother is perhaps the single most devastating, heart-wrenching moment to ever grace an animated film (as sobbing viewers of all ages will attest). And yet there's a touching serenity, an innate sweetness even, that permeates every scene, dark or otherwise. Bambi's days as a fawn are marked by invigorating discovery, his adolescence hinges on instinctual epiphanies and his ascension to his father's side hints at a looming greatness we the audience aren't permitted to see.
Of course, none of that would matter if the film's character designs, voicework and animation were anything less than extraordinary. Rather than infuse Salten's creatures with unmistakable humanity, Disney and his animators studied real animals and did everything they could to retain the demeanor, movement, behavior, personality and temperament of each species. The results are incredibly convincing. No, a rabbit wouldn't skate across a frozen pond or help his friend stagger up on all four hooves; no, animal kingdom courtship isn't the "twitterpated" romance presented by Friend Owl (Will Wright); and no, many of the expressions and mannerisms in Bambi aren't derived from animals at all. But it rarely, if ever, hinders the film. Disney strikes a careful balance between the real and surreal, granting his animals human characteristics only as the narrative demands. The emotions that stir on Bambi and his friends' faces speak volumes even when the characters say nothing at all, the descent of a leaf and the trickle of a raindrop are as memorable as the film's most entertaining expressions, and the forest itself all but comes alive on a number of occasions. Answering their fearless leader's call to oh-so-authentic arms, Disney's animators tackle each frame with conviction and skill, creating jaw-dropping environments, endearing characters and convincing creatures in one tireless swoop.
If I haven't already made it clear though, the film's story and animation aren't the only things that contribute to its classic status. Disney's use of a multiplane camera adds cinematic depth to his artists' hand-painted backgrounds, Frank Churchill and Edward Plumb's evocative score transforms many a scene into a breathtaking Fantasia short, the voice cast's performances are memorable and engaging, and the writers' smartly crafted, refreshingly minimal dialogue punctuates the story perfectly. Honestly, I could go on and on, but no amount of words could convey Bambi's beauty, majesty and grandeur. It must be experienced and treasured if one is to see it for the timeless masterwork it is.
Bambi Blu-ray, Video Quality
There are restorations that honor classic films and reinvigorate aging masterpieces. Then there are restorations that are so beautiful, so impeccable, so utterly faithful to their source that they transport audiences back in time. Disney has breathed new life into Bambi, carefully eliminating sixty-nine years of wear and tear, rejuvenating the film's ailing animation and staying true to the artists and filmmakers' intentions. The forest's lush green foliage, earthy underbrush and colorful flowers are natural and nuanced, vibrant springtime primaries and chilling wintry hues are humble but breathtaking, and black levels look as if they're fresh off the tip of a painter's brush. Contrast and clarity are impressive as well. The animators' lineart is crisp and clean, painterly background textures have been perfectly preserved, the smallest color fluctuations on Bambi and his friends are apparent, and what little softness appears either traces back to Walt Disney's use of a multiplane camera or the film's original print, never the studio's restorative efforts or subsequent technical transfer. (Even then, only two shots are distracting, one in which Bambi drifts to sleep after a storm and another in which the maturing young deer backs away from Faline.)
Better still, the presentation is free of compression artifacts, banding, ringing, aliasing, print damage and other abnormalities, and I don't have a single complaint when it comes to the restoration itself. Every frame looks as if it's been lifted from an animator's desk; every iconic character is as endearing and personable as the day they were conceived; and every rich background and hand-drawn forest stands as a testament to Disney's legacy. Bambi has been reborn as a modern high definition marvel sure to warm hearts, send fans scrambling for a tissue and leave children clapping with joy.
Bambi Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Bambi's 2046kbps DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1 surround track (not to be confused with a lossless DTS-HD Master Audio mix) may warrant more tempered praise, but it delivers a worthwhile catalog audio experience nonetheless. Award-winning mixer Terry Porter's work pays tremendous respect to Walt Disney and C.O. Slyfield's original sound design, even though he opens up the soundfield and expands Frank Churchill and Edward Plumb's score considerably. The rear speakers aren't aggressive, but the dense forest world and orchestral environment they create are suitably enveloping. Strings surge and relent convincingly, choral voices swell and horns punctuate the soundscape. LFE output follows suit, but lends welcome support to more intense scenes (especially when it comes to the forest fire sequences at the end of the film). All the while, dialogue is bright and clear, pans are smooth and dynamics are strong for a Golden Age catalog title. That doesn't mean Bambi suddenly sounds like a 21st Century production of course. The tone and tenor of the track is true to its 1942 origins, effects are relatively thin and most every element in the mix has aged (gracefully but noticeably). Ultimately, Bambi sounds great in spite of its seventy years (and lossy DTS-HD HR track), and most everyone will be pleased with the results.
Bambi Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
The Blu-ray edition of Bambi doesn't boast a flashy supplemental package, just one that offers a welcome variety of top-shelf special features and exclusives, all of which are worth watching.
Bambi Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Bambi is a truly timeless classic as heartfelt, moving and, dare I say, profound in 2011 as it was nearly seventy years ago. It remains one of Disney's best and one of animation's greatest treasures. Its Diamond Edition Blu-ray release is outstanding as well. With a masterclass restoration, a stunning video transfer, a noteworthy 2046kbps DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1 surround track and a generous, unexpectedly revealing supplemental package, it joins a growing list of must-own Disney releases. Don't hesitate for a second, even when contemplating the absence of a lossless audio track. Lossless audio would have put this one over the top, but it shouldn't stop anyone from ordering and enjoying Bambi as the masterpiece it is.
Bambi: Other Editions
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