I’m one of those kids who were traumatized by watching Disney’s Bambi as a child.
How fun! A cute movie with a little fawn, and a funny bunny rabbit and a cute little squirrel and it’s in a pretty forest and, then, BAM: fire, hunters, parental death, and, zoom, Bambi’s now an adult because his dad told him he has to grow up.
For this reason, I never bought Bambi for my kids when they were of the age to love all the Disney movies. (We also avoided Old Yeller though I think that movie death makes more sense and has a very poignant point.)
Disney, being the company that it is, has reissued the classic Bambi several times, most recently as a Blu-ray edition in March of this year.
They are both gorgeous movies. The original movie’s forest, with its rich colors and sounds, is duplicated almost perfectly for the much-later sequel. The main cast of characters is back, including Thumper, Flower, Owl and Faline. There are some really cute sequences with all of them.
But I have to admit, as much as I disliked the original as a kid, the sequel is slighter and less interesting.
The best parts of Bambi II are Patrick Stewart as Bambi’s father — the Great Prince of the Forest — and Thumper, voiced by child actor Brenden Baerg. You have to watch the behind-the-scenes making-of extra just to see this kid. And while it’s somewhat odd at first to hear Stewart’s voice in the movie, he quickly becomes the best part of it for adults. Stewart sighs a lot, frustrated at being a single father. To amuse myself I started counting them, but I lost track. Still, his sighs have more personality than most actors’ dialogue.
The movie is sort of a mid-quel, as it takes place within the plot of the first movie. After his mother’s death, Bambi’s father reluctantly agrees to raise Bambi and teach him the ways of a prince of the forest. Things do not go that well, as Bambi is young, clumsy, and still struggling with his mother’s loss. But with the help of his friends and his own inner courage, Bambi begins to gain the skills to survive and thrive. There’s a subplot involving another fawn who’s bullying Bambi but the rival is never developed beyond a cardboard character which is too bad, because it would have been a nice mirror to find out that he was also struggling with a loss from the fire and handled it a different way than Bambi.
The music is okay but nothing that sticks in my head. The Blu-ray edition has more extras than the regular DVD edition, including some computer games. I’d recommend the movie but with the note that while it will entertain them for an afternoon, it’s not something your kids will probably fall in love with. There are funny sequences as Bambi stumbles around in the forest that will make the younger ones laugh but nothing in the story that resonates.
Huh. Maybe Disney knew what it was doing with the original. It certainly worked in The Lion King.