Release Date: August 13th, 1924 (released August 21st nationwide)
Inspiration: “Bambi: A Life in the Woods” by Felix Salten
Domestic Gross: $102 million
Worldwide Gross: $267 million
Rotten Tomatoes Score: 90%
IMDB Score: 7.3/10
Storyline (per IMDB): It’s spring, and all the animals of the forest are excited by the forest’s latest birth, a buck fawn his mother has named Bambi. The animals are more excited than usual as Bambi’s lineage means he will inherit the title of prince of the forest. Along with his mother, Bambi navigates through life with the help of his similarly aged friends, Thumper, a rabbit kit who needs to be continually reminded by his mother of all the lessons his father has taught him about how to live as a rabbit properly, and Flower, a skunk kit who likes his name. As different animals, they have their own issues and challenges which may not translate to the others. Being similarly aged, Bambi, Thumper and Flower may have to experience the uncharted phases of their lives without the knowledge or wisdom unless gleaned from those who have gone through them before. Bambi has to learn early that the lives of deer and of many of the other forest animals are not without their inherent dangers, for deer especially in the beautiful albeit exposed meadow. Bambi will also find that his ascension to prince of the forest is not a guarantee as other buck deer and situations may threaten that ascension.
Pre-Watching Thoughts: We continue on through this trek with a pretty interesting film here in Bambi. This is one that I have seen a few times when I was younger, but it was never one of my favorites and this is another one that I have not seen in quite a long time. This film is unique because it is pretty beloved and considered by many to be one of the best in Disney’s film canon, but we will see if this can live up to that hype and if I end up enjoying it more than I ever remembered.
Voice Cast: For the first time and what might possibly be the only time though we will have to see as we keep going forward, we have multiple actors voicing a character at different points in their life. To start things off, we have four different actors voicing Bambi at different stages of his life and they are Bobby Stewart, Donnie Dunagan, Hardie Albright, and allegedly John Sutherland though there is some debate as to who was the actual voice of Bambi as an adult. For the character of Thumper, we had Peter Behn, Tim Davis, and Sam Edwards provide the voices and they were a solid trio for such a fun character, and for Flower we had Stan Alexander, Tim Davis also voicing this character, and the returning Sterling Holloway as he starts to become a fixture for Disney. The only other character to have multiple voices is Faline as she is voiced by Cammie King and Ann Gillis, and then we have Paula Winslowe in one of her final roles as Bambi’s mother as well as one of the pheasants. We then have Will Wright as the voice of Friend Owl as he acts as the grandfather figure in a way to the animals, and then we have Thelma Boardman who at the time was the voice of Minnie Mouse providing voices for various animals. Finally, we have Fred Shields voicing Bambi’s father and Disney writer and producer Perce Pierce voicing Mr. Mole, and even though the dialogue for this film was fairly limited these actors were good fits for these characters.
Hero/Prince: After the last three films where we had a hero and no prince, that changes here as Bambi is technically called a prince by the animals when he is born. His father is the protector of the forest and is referred to as the Great Prince, but it would make more sense for him to be called a King since Bambi is called a prince. While it does seem kind of weird at first, it would make sense that the animals of the forest would organize into a sort of kingdom and the deer would be considered the highest order in the kingdom. We see Bambi clearly being groomed to take over for his father and he proves his worth by saving Faline from Rollo, and then he helps his father save the animals when the forest is burned by Man. While he probably won’t rank high amongst human princes in the canon, Bambi is worthy of being included as a prince.
Princess: Obviously with Bambi being called a prince, whomever he ends up being with would become his princess of the forest and in this case that is the doe Faline. While we don’t see much of their relationship play out on the big screen, we know that Bambi is not real fond of Faline when they are young and it isn’t until they are older that he becomes attracted to her. He even goes as far as to fight with another buck for her affections and then he helps save her from the dogs before the forest burns, and she ends up being his wife and they give birth to twins who will take over for them. Much like how Bambi will rank pretty low amongst the princes, Faline will probably rank very low amongst the rest of the princesses though she does deserve to be recognized here.
Villain: This is an interesting one since this is the first film to come out that features all animals as the characters and we don’t see any humans at all, but we do hear reference to what the animals simply call “Man” and he is the villain of this film. “Man” is a hunter who hunts the animals and at one point ends up killing Bambi’s mother, and then he returns with more hunters along with a pack of dogs who go after Faline and Bambi has to save her. They then indirectly lead to the forest being set on fire due to their campfire and while nothing ends up happening to them, they end up being one of the more memorable villains in Disney history. We do have to make mention as well to Rollo, the buck that fights Bambi for Faline’s affection and while he makes a very brief appearance, he does give Bambi a good fight only for Bambi to vanquish him and win Faline’s heart. In the end, “Man” will definitely rank higher than Rollo on the list of villains and it will be interesting to see where “Man” ranks amongst the other villains in the Disney canon.
Other Characters: This is an interesting film in that there are a lot of characters involved, but the majority of them are simply background characters to fill out the space while there are only a few that have a larger role in the film. Obviously, we start out with both of Bambi’s friends in Thumper the rabbit and Flower the skunk, and Thumper is a lot closer to Bambi than Flower is though both of them remain close to Bambi as they grow up and become adults. We then have Bambi’s parents with his mother raising him by herself for most of his early life until her tragic death at the hands of hunters, and then his father who is the Great Prince of the forest taking him under his wing and grooming him to take his place. Finally, we have Friend Owl who as mentioned serves as a grandfather figure to the forest, and while all he wants to do is rest he is always there to help his fellow animals. The rest of the animals in the forest as mentioned are just background characters to fill out the space and they live out their own lives while Bambi grows up by them.
Songs: For the first time in the Disney canon and potentially the only time though we will see going forward, the songs that are performed in this film are not sung by any of the characters and are done by a mysterious chorus to serve as background noise. We waste no time as we start with “Love is a Song” which we hear during the opening credits to set the tone, and then we have “Little April Shower” which is a nice song to listen to during a rainstorm. Next we have “Let’s Sing a Little Gay Spring Song” to celebrate the arrival of spring, and finally we have “I Bring You a Song” which is essence a love song to celebrate Bambi and Faline’s relationship. While these songs probably won’t rank high amongst the other songs in the canon, they are fine songs nonetheless and are fitting for this film.
Plot: The plot of Bambi is about as simplistic as you can get as we see Bambi grow up to become the future Great Prince of the forest, and we see him as a young deer before becoming a stag and an adult deer. The beauty of the film is watching Bambi grow up as he learns about the world around him as well as the danger of man, and he gets a sobering dose of reality when he learns that his mother was killed and his father looks after him. We see him fall in love with Faline and fight off a challenge from Rollo before man returns to the forest, and he saves Faline from a pack of dogs before he and his father save the rest of the animals from the fire. We close out the film with Faline giving birth to twins as Bambi officially takes over as Great Prince of the forest, and while again the plot is pretty simplistic it works in this film and it is unique seeing this kind of film especially after what we have seen prior to this.
Random Watching Thoughts: I’m anxious to see when we stop seeing Radio RKO Pictures; So if you are wondering who Sidney Franklin is, he is a director and had originally purchased the rights to do Bambi as a live action film which would’ve been wild, but he ended up selling it to Disney which in retrospect was probably the right decision so that’s why he’s recognized; This was originally set to be released after Snow White, but it was shelved due to the difficulty of adapting a novel aimed at adults into a film aimed for children; Reading up on this film, it is amazing how many ideas that they had for this film and also interesting that Disney had to cut 12 minutes from the film due to production costs; Poor Friend Owl looks like he just wants to relax but can’t because of all the hustle and bustle of Bambi’s birth; That was one hungry baby bird as he ate all the fruit and left none for his siblings; Could you imagine what’s going on in Bambi’s mind when he wakes up and all these strange creatures are looking at him with awe?; He got tired awfully quick after waking up which I get because he’s still a baby essentially; I wonder what name Thumper was thinking of; Thumper is clearly someone that just speaks what’s on his mind without thinking first; So in what ended up being an oversight, if you pay attention when the bunnies run with Bambi you see Thumper because he is grey but when they slide down the little hill, he becomes the same color as the other bunnies; He let that “bird” out loud if he blew away all the animals; Considering that Flower is a male skunk, he is pretty effeminate; So a fun anecdote, in my Senior year of high school for Drama class we had to reenact a scene with at least three different characters and one of my classmates chose the scene where Bambi and Thumper meet Flower; It is real talent of the animators to match up the raindrops and the sounds of the storm with the song as it is being played; That’s a pretty thick thicket that Bambi and his mother are in if they are not getting wet by the rain; I do wonder where this forest would be located in real life; Bambi’s mother says that the meadow is a wonderful place and gets him so excited, but then freaks him out when she says that it is dangerous as well; It would be like Thumper to only eat the blossoms of the flower and leave the greens; We always hear Thumper’s mother tell Thumper what his father would say though we never see his father; Faline is clearly smitten with Bambi and it is love at first sight for her at least; I love the majestic music they play when the bucks come through the meadow; I wonder why Bambi’s mother didn’t tell him right there that the Great Prince was his father especially after he looked at him; So reportedly hunters spoke out against the film saying that it was an insult to sportsmen; I do love the crows that appear before “Man” does as they are a great foreshadow; That was a quick jump to winter and I assume it is still the same year; I will admit if I was little and watching this in the theater, I probably would start getting a bit bored by this point; So instead of being frozen, the water in the pond is stiff according to Thumper; It is pretty funny watching Bambi try to stand on the ice and Thumper trying to help him; So Flower is trying to hibernate and Bambi and Thumper decide to wake him up for a brief time; The deer cleared the bark off of those trees pretty quickly and left themselves nothing for the rest of winter; So apparently Disney wanted to show Bambi’s mother being killed by “Man” on screen, but they decided against it which was probably smart since you didn’t want to traumatize the children watching it; I still wonder why the Great Prince now decides to take Bambi under his care only after his mother is killed and acknowledges that he’s his father; Again, is this the spring immediately after winter or did we jump ahead a few years since Bambi grew up fairly quickly; Once again, poor Friend Owl just wants to sleep and is bothered by the racket, but if he knows this keeps happening how does he not just block it out?; So leave it to Friend Owl to tell Bambi and his friends about love or as he calls it “twitterpated”; I love how Bambi and his friends are confident that they will never fall in love, but then they quickly fall head over heels for their female counterparts; That’s a pretty intense fight between Bambi and Rollo especially since it is in the shadows; So they wouldn’t show Bambi’s mother being killed on screen, but they have no problem showing the pheasant falling back to the ground after getting shot; I wonder if those hunters are actually poachers since they are pretty much firing at anything that moves; What did those hunters do to those dogs to make them so aggressive?; Bambi does a great job in taking out all those dogs by himself; How many gasps were in the crowd when they saw Bambi jump across the gap and then you hear the gunshot, thinking that Bambi has been killed?; So in another interesting fact, they originally wanted the men to be killed in the fire that they in essence started, but that was changed when no humans were shown on screen; How dry was the forest that the fire was able to spread so quickly?; Quite handy that there is a small island in the middle of a lake that the animals can take refuge at; It is a beautiful metaphor that despite all the damage caused by the fire, the forest was able to recover and bloom once again; Did Friend Owl stay in his tree throughout the whole fire?; That is cute that Flower named his son Bambi after his best friend; I wonder if Bambi and Faline’s children were fraternal twins or identical twins because if they were both boys, that would be a good plot for a sequel to see which one would become Bambi’s successor; Considering that 12 minutes were cut from the film, I can’t imagine what those 12 minutes would’ve really added to the film.
Overall Thoughts: Overall, the film ended up being a pretty decent little film though it was a bit weaker than the other films aside from Fantasia. This was an interesting film in that it was almost in essence a nature film about the lives of deer, and when it first came out it was not well-received as many felt Disney had finally lost a step and apparently even his own daughter did not like it. It also didn’t do well at the box office though again that was more due to World War II going on, but the reception of the film has gotten more positive as the years have gone on with many considering it a classic. I don’t completely agree with that because I do feel it can be a bit boring and slow in some spots, but that doesn’t take away that it is well done in terms of a story and in the animation. We are now five films into the canon and all these films have been pretty solid, but it does feel we have been on a bit of a downswing since Pinocchio and we will see how that continues to pan out. As for Bambi, it is a solid film that may not be one of the greatest in the Disney canon, but it is still a pretty good film.
Final Grade: 7/10