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Film Review: Bambi
In 1942, David Hand, James Algar, Samuel Armstrong, Graham Heid, Bill Roberts, Paul Satterfield, and Norman Wright released Bambi, based on the 1923 novel Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten. Starring Bobby Stewart, Donnie Dunagan, Hardie Albright, John Sutherland, Paula Winslowe, Peter Behn, Tim Davis, Sam Edwards, Will Wright, Ann Gillis, Fred Shields, Stan Alexander, and Sterling Holloway, the film grossed $267.4 million at the box office.
Growing up in the forest, the young deer Bambi encounters love and other challenges alongside his friends. However, they must always be wary of Man invading the forest.
Despite being a box office failure, Bambi does incredibly well in putting aside a traditional narrative in favor of episodic mood pieces containing the overarching themes of friendship and love. Doing so makes sense, too since nothing in nature follows cohesive narrative. Further, nature itself goes through episodes in the way seasons come and go. The “Little April Showers” sequence is a good example as it presents the suddenness of a spring rain and how the animals react to it, especially Bambi who’s never experienced rain before. The themes of love come into play showing all the animals shielding their young from the rain. A different type of love comes during Spring when Thumper introduces Bambi to everything, which is how he meets Flower and the three eventually become lifelong friends, even through meeting various mates. The death of Bambi's mother demonstrates a theme of love during the episodic season of Winter as well Man is in the forest and out of love for Bambi, she makes him go on without her knowing she would just drag him down. She dies so he may live. The way the film is framed is also done fantastically. Following the opening credits, Bambi's father is seen standing on a cliff looking down at the forest below and as the film ends, it closes on Bambi doing the same, watching Faline and his newborn children on the exact same cliff.
In addition to a great story, there are some well done characters in the film. While Bambi is docile, and innocent in the beginning, he grows and continues his docile nature, but with the ability to get pretty dangerous, seen in his choosing to engage Ronno in combat for attempting to separate him and Faline. The ensuing fight exhibits Bambi may not look like he can hold is own, yet he is quick enough to turn any battle in his favor. What's more is he seems to be a hardy deer, able to take a direct hit from a bullet as an adult and shake it off in order to outrun a forest fire. Fascinatingly, Bambi is best friends with Thumper, who is a notable foil to the deer. Where Bambi is calm and stoic, Thumper is easily excitable and much more talkative.
Man is portrayed as an interesting antagonist in this film. No human person is seen and in spite of this, all the animals are terrified of Him. This works well because Man has built up a reputation as a monster with the ability to kill at will from a distance and barely any animal who crosses his path comes out alive. The decision by the filmmakers to keep any physical attribute out of sight, including shadows, helps to maintain the feeling of dread upon finding out Man is in the forest. What's more is it brings a great deal of suspense. Likewise, displaying not every animal making it out alive when Man is involved, such as Bambi's mom, serves as a good reminder that crossing those who are feared does not always turn out for the better.
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Golden Globe Awards
- Special Award (For furthering the influence of the screen. For the Hindustani version of the movie.)
- Feature Film - Classic
National Film Preservation Board
- National Film Registry
Online Film & Television Association Awards
- OFTA Hall of Fame - Motion Picture
- Best Sound, Recording
- Best Music, Original Song (For the song "Love is a Song")
- Best Music, Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture
- Outstanding Youth DVD (Disney Special Platinum Edition)