Combustible Celluloid
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With: (voices) Hardie Albright, Stan Alexander, Peter Behn, Tim Davis
Written by: Larry Morey, Perce Pearce, based on a book by Felix Salten
Directed by: David Hand
MPAA Rating: G
Running Time: 70
Date: 08/08/1942

Bambi (1942)

4 Stars (out of 4)

Deer Sweet Thing

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

I saw Bambi in the theater in the summer of 1988, during one of its most recent theatrical re-releases and all I remembered was the sad bit about his mother getting shot by a ruthless hunter. I was understandably reluctant about popping the new DVD in for another look, but I'm glad I did. I had forgotten how utterly, astonishingly beautiful the film is, with its overwhelmingly cozy, insulated view of a pristine forest during all four seasons, and its lovable animal characters.

The film follows the story of a newborn "prince," Bambi (a deer) and his best friends Thumper (a rabbit) and Flower (a skunk) as he grows up, learns how to walk and talk, learns how to face danger and fear, and emerges as an adult. The 70-minute film can get a bit maudlin and cheerless as it goes, and one senses that the film doesn't care as much about the accomplished, adult Bambi, as it does about the silly, funny childlike Bambi. Nevertheless, Bambi does a great job of keeping things riveting throughout, especially during the amazing climactic forest fire sequence.

Disney's 2005 two-disc DVD set is easily their finest effort since Beauty and the Beast, boasting a gorgeously restored picture and sound. The many extras include "Inside Walt's Story Meetings," a reenactment of one of Disney's behind-the-scenes meetings, using stenographer's notes voiced by actors, storyboards for two deleted scenes, games and activities, "The Making of Bambi," "Restoring Bambi," and various other featurettes including "Disney Time Capsule: 1942 - The Year of Bambi," "The Art of Bambi," "Tricks of the Trade" (from a 1957 episode of the "Disneyland" TV show), "Inside the Disney Archives" and the original theatrical trailer. We also get a preview for the upcoming "Bambi" sequel ("Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest"), and, happily, the ground-breaking short cartoon "The Old Mill" (1937), which by itself is almost worth the asking price.

Disney issued their Blu-Ray release in 2011, including a couple of new extras. The Old Mill is still here, but has not been upgraded to high-def. The feature film, though, looks astonishing.

In 2017, Disney released a "Signature Edition," with updated box art and new menus -- calling attention to the art of Tyrus Wong -- although it appears that the video transfer and sound are largely the same. There's a pristine-sounding DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1 surround track, but I prefer the second option, the remastered original mono track. There are a few new extras here, most notably a vintage Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon, as well as a Wong lithograph included in the box and a digital-only documentary on Wong. Most, but not all, of the older extras are included in a section of "Classic Bonus Features," including the essential The Old Mill, which still resides in 480p and has not yet been upgraded to high-def. It's an outstanding release, though if you already own the 2011 edition, not entirely necessary.

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