Here’s number four in the Revisiting Disney series: Bambi. Like Dumbo, this one focuses on animal characters. Indeed, we never see any humans at all, with “man” only existing in the background as the enemy of the forest dwellers. The story is much simpler than in the earlier animated films, basically just being about Bambi growing up and learning about life. Bambi talks, but no more than is necessary, with the film putting heavy influence on animation. It’s a quite beautiful movie, both in terms of the scenery and the animation.
Bambi was the first of these Disney animated features to be based on a recent book, as opposed to an older one like Pinocchio. I haven’t read the book, but it was written by Felix Salten and originally published in Austria, and I understand it had heavy environmental themes. Disney downplayed these somewhat, but obviously couldn’t get rid of them entirely. The Wikipedia entry mentions Paul McCartney as an example of someone who became interested in animal rights issues after seeing the film, and I’m sure he wasn’t the only one. Mind you, it could perhaps also be seen as part of why so many people are only worried about protecting CUTE animals. Apparently hunters protested the movie when it first came out, and they probably had a point, as it does present them as rather vicious and stupid. Really, though, I think the main thing the movie does in this respect is to present an alternate point of view, and show how we as a species might possibly come across to other animals. We don’t necessarily have to view animals as innocents (after all, in real life that friendly owl would probably be snacking on the cute little mice) or become hardcore PETA members, but we do have to realize that they have feelings, and might doesn’t make right. At least that’s how I see it, but as far as I can remember I’ve always been an animal lover who nonetheless enjoyed eating animal products. Your opinion may vary on this point.
The one part that has received a particular reputation for upsetting children is, of course, when Bambi’s mother is shot to death. I don’t recall having a particularly strong reaction to this as a kid, but I honestly can’t really remember my youthful reactions to the movie at all. What’s really weird upon seeing it again is how matter-of-fact the film seems to be about her death, not showing any of Bambi’s mourning period but rather almost immediately fast-forwarding time to the height of spring and Bambi’s adulthood. I was also struck by how cold and distant Bambi’s father is, only seeing his son every once in a while, and never saying anything positive or comforting.
While this makes sense for deer, which are pretty much always raised exclusively by their mothers, it’s pretty disturbing from a human perspective. The same can be said of the scene with Bambi and an unidentified buck fighting over Faline, which I’d totally forgotten about. It shows the buck trying to drive away an unwilling Faline with his antlers, presumably so he could have his way with her. Most of the movie is cute, though, especially with the introduction of Thumper and Flower, who weren’t in the book. Actually, Flower didn’t appear as much as I’d thought he did, but he was a loveable character anyway. I do have to say, however, that the voices of the adult Bambi and Thumper seemed kind of awkward after getting used to their childish ones. Well, they WERE basically teenagers, I suppose. Also, I should mention that I like the term “twitterpated.” Also “addlepated.” Maybe I just like words with “pate” somewhere in them.
Apparently Thumper’s girlfriend/wife, known as “Miss Bunny,” is popular in Japan.
Next up is Saludos Amigos, the first of these animated classics that I haven’t seen before. Actually, I haven’t seen most of the movies that are collections of shorter cartoons. Will that affect my reviews of them? I couldn’t say.