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Bambi

A Disney Tale: A deer, Bambi, is born in the forest, the heir to the Prince of the Forest.  He meets a rabbit, Thumper, and a skunk called Flower and they live through the seasons of the forest learning about life and love until Bambi becomes the Prince himself, protector of the forest.

Disney Hero: Bambi is a young deer full of innocence and naivety.  As a 'hero' he is terribly ineffectual.  The events of the film simply happen to him.  He is passive for almost the entire story.  Even in the climactic forest fire he is rescued by his father.  One aspect Bambi does share with many, many Disney heroes, though, is losing or not having his mother.  This recurs in so many Disney films to the heroes or heroines.  Already we have had Snow White and Dumbo (although only temporarily), and Pinocchio was from a single parent family.  After Bambi there is: Cinderella; Peter Pan, Wart in The Sword in the Stone; Mowgli; Penny in The Rescuers; Taran in The Black Cauldron; Olivia in The Great Mouse Detective; Oliver in Oliver and Company; Ariel; Belle; Aladdin; Pocahontas; Tarzan; Lilo; Nemo; Chicken Little; Remy in Ratatouille; Anna and Elsa; Hiro in Big Hero Six (although he does have an Aunt in the 'mother' role); and Brave's entire story is based around Merida potentially losing her mother to a curse.  An absent mother or the loss of a mother is central to so many Disney films right back to their very first animated feature.  Many cite the death of Bambi's mother as a traumatic memory; although this isn't something I feel I agree with and will discuss a little later.
 
Disney Heroine: For the first part of the film, the heroine is Bambi's mother.  It is she who is teaching him the ways of the forest in the absence of his rather imperious father.  Her death should be a turning point in the film, but I have never really felt it has the impact it needs to.  She dies (off-screen), Bambi doesn't understand where she's gone, his father turns up and then it's spring.  After her death, the role of heroine is taken by Faline, a female deer he meets earlier in the story.  Faline becomes Bambi's mate and there is a tense sequence towards the end of the film where Bambi battles a pack of hunting dogs to protect Faline.  She ultimately gives birth to Bambi's heir.  Faline is more confident than Bambi, illustrated in their first encounter, but otherwise there is little to particularly say about her.

Disney Villain:  Bambi lacks a central villain but there is a clearer antagonist than we had in Dumbo.  Man is Bambi's villain.  Man hunts the deer.  Man shoots Bambi's mother.  Man is the cause of the forest fire.  Man owns the hunting dogs that attack Bambi and Faline.  What's interesting is that Man is off-screen for the entire film.  We only ever see the impact of man, never Man himself.  We see his camp, his campfire, his dogs.  We hear his gunshot.  It is a different, more subtle way of treating the dangers faced by the main characters of this film and it isn't one which is repeated in the Disney canon (as far as I can remember).  

Apparently, there was an initial plan to show Man but any scenes involving his actual physical presence were cut at the early stages.  Various fan theories have appeared since linking Man to other Disney villains such as Gaston (which doesn't work due to Bambi being set in the USA and Beauty and the Beast in France) and, more credibly, Amos Slade from The Fox and the Hound.  It is also the case that an early draft of Who Framed Roger Rabbit revealed that Judge Doom, that film's central villain, was responsible for shooting Bambi's mother.  Despite his intangibility, though, Man is still ranked as one of Disney's most hated villains as well as coming 20th in a ranking of the top 100 Heroes and Villains list from the AFI (American Film Institute).

Disney Sidekicks:  Thumper is perhaps one of Disney's most famous sidekicks.  The loveable rabbit with a habit of bashing his foot on the ground is a highly recognisable Disney image.  Alongside Thumper is Flower, a skunk.  One issue I've always had with Bambi is identifying the male and female characters.  

With a name like Flower it is difficult to convince my brain that he is a boy.  Even with Bambi I've sometimes struggled to make my brain accept him as a boy - the naivety, the coyness and the slightly feminine nature of his name clash with the idea of him being the 'hero' of the story.  Flower, too, doesn't have any obviously male characteristics, unlike Thumper who has the brashness, confidence and mischievousness of a Disney male sidekick.

Disney Creatures: As a nature-centric film, Bambi is packed full of creatures from the animal kingdom.  It is the woodland creatures of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves write large.  The birds, the bunnies, the squirrels and chipmunks.  A wider range of animals are on offer although this is to be expected in a story fully focussed on the forest and its inhabitants.  Many are relatively 'faceless' but I was intrigued by the small group of partridges (or a similar bird) who become the focus of a scene where Man is hunting.  One of the birds panics and flies away against the urging of her friends, only to be shot and fall to the ground dead.  It is quite a graphic scene and contrasts with the cuteness present in a lot of the rest of the film, particularly where the other forest animals are concerned.

Disney Magic: Magic is absent from this film.  The only hint of it is in the depiction of the the Prince of the Forest who has an almost 'godlike' presence throughout the film, appearing and disappearing with an aloof nature.

Disney Land: Bambi's main setting is, as discussed, a forest.  We also see a meadow, a lake or river and rocky areas.  The forest is seen through the different seasons: spring, summer, autumn, winter with each depicted vividly, particularly the april showers of springtime.  I also think the forest fire is impressive and possibly the most effective part of the film.

Disney Songs: Bambi isn't blessed with a plethora of great songs although it does have one Disney classic in the famous Little April Shower.  The music, though, is all sung 'off-screen' as it were, rather than by the characters themselves.  We also have Love is a Song, Let's Sing a Gay Little Spring Song and Looking for Romance.  None of these particularly stick in the mind.

Disney Finale: I don't like Bambi.  Sorry, but it just bores me rigid.  I actually had to watch this a second time for this review because I couldn't remember enough about it to write it the first time.  Previously, though, I couldn't identify what it was I found so tedious.  A second, more focussed viewing, has helped me to do that.  Bambi is one of Disney's live nature films in animation form.  There is no plot.  It is simply following a deer through its life in the forest.  Nothing happens of any real interest.  The deer makes some friends.  Time moves on.  His mother dies.  Time moves on.  There is a fire.  Time moves on.  He fights another deer and then some dogs.  Time moves on.  He become the Prince of the Forest.  It is all so linear and uninteresting.  Bambi, as a character, spends far too much of the film in the same mould as the terribly ineffectual and passive Snow White.  Things happen to him for most of the film and as such he never really feels like a proper protagonist.

The death of Bambi's mother is always cited as a traumatic film scene but it simply has no emotional impact on me.  Maybe that is because I can't get invested in Bambi so feel no sorrow for him when this happens.


The music of Bambi is fine, but doesn't have the lasting power of the songs from Pinocchio, Dumbo or even the better songs from Snow White.    

Bambi has been cited as one of Walt Disney's crowning achievements as a filmmaker but I'll have to disagree with that.  I think it is possibly the least interesting, or even enjoyable, film in the Disney canon.

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