Reviewed by: Brett Willis
Starring: Hardie Albright, Stan Alexander, Peter Behn, Tim Davis, Donnie Dunagan, Ann Gillis, Sterling Holloway, Cammie King, Fred Shields, Bobby Stewart, John Sutherland | Director: David Hand | Writers: Felix Salten (novel), Vernon Stallings
Perhaps Disney’s finest animated film ever, the story and songs of Bambi are truly engaging. And the artwork and attention to detail are amazing considering that everything was hand-drawn (no computer-generated art in those days). The artists studied everything from real deer to slow-motion film of splashing water droplets.
The plot follows the first two years in the life of Bambi the deer, the “young prince of the forest.” We see him and his friends Thumper the rabbit and Flower the skunk as newborns (= children), as yearlings (= teenagers) and as two-year-olds (= adults). Especially memorable are the first snowfall/ice skating scene, Thumper’s wisecracks, and the scene where all three friends get “twitterpated” and find romance.
On the more serious side, this is probably the first Environmentalist (read: “anti-hunting”) animated film. The scene where Bambi’s mother is shot, and the scene where a large group of hunters roam the woods shooting at everything in sight and also start a forest fire by leaving their campfire unattended, are too scary for very young children and are heavy-handed propaganda at any age. All the forest animals and birds (including meat-eaters such as Friend Owl) are shown as one happy family; “Man” (who is never actually seen) and his hunting dogs are the only baddies. If your children are too young to know fantasy from reality, I suggest a short explanation that all animals don’t really get along this way, nor do they all speak the same language-it’s just a cartoon.