Release Date: 14 August 1942
Director: David Hand
History: Walt Disney's fifth animated film had an interesting start as a movie. It originally was planned to be a live-action film for MGM. Producer/ director Sidney Franklin originally bought the rights to the original novel by Felix Salten in 1933, but after it was decided it would cost to much at the time for a live-action version, Franklin sold the rights to Disney, who was so excited about the story, he intended it to be the second animated film his studio made after "Snow White." But production for the Disney film version slowed down until 1939 as Disney worried that the original story was too dark and grim for a family audience, and then the studio got busy on other projects before finally returning to this one.
Disney wanted a very realistic look for his deer, and had his animator visit the LA Zoo often, had an animal painter, Rico LeBrun, come it to give lectures on how to capture realistic looking animals in art, and had a pair of fawns delivered to the studio from Maine. A small zoo was also established on the studio grands filled with rabbits, owls and ducks, as well as other small forest animals. But the realistic approached slowed down production as animators of the day were not used to drawing realistic animals. This ultimately lead to Walt Disney cutting 12 minutes of originally planed film to save on production costs and to get the film made faster.
"Bambi" proved to be a third financial loss for Disney in it's original release. A small reason for this was a national outrage from hunters who called the film"an insult to American sportsmen." But the biggest issues once again was World War II. This time Walt not only lost the international markets of Asia and Europe, but now he lost the North American markets as the US had entered the war. In years since, the film had become much more profitable, as well as very critically acclaimed. It also proved to be a much needed project for the Disney Animators who because of the film were now able to animated more cartoony characters like Mickey Mouse, or more realistic characters like Bambi, thus giving them far more range as animators and artists.. Likewise, a number of colors were invented for "Bambi" that would be used on future projects. It also served as a stepping stone for Walt Disney's "True Life Adventure" series later that pioneered the nature film genre.
My Reaction: I find myself mixed with this film. The growing nature lover in me simply adores this film, and seen from that angle, find it a very satisfying film. But the story teller in me, or the part of me that wants to be entertained with these films, finds it a bit of a bore at times, not always, but sometimes. I found that to be the case this last time I watched it, almost wishing that instead of the characters talking, we would get some kind of nature documentary narration. But I don't think it was necessarily the subject matter so much as it was the story. "Bambi" was a very "episodic" film, essentially showing various moments of his life, and life in the forest period. But I felt that many of these moments didn't feel very connect to the over all story, which I find myself still trying to figure out what that was, and felt more like the various package films Disney would make after this one, but with the same main character in each "short." But, the few "shorts" in the film that did deliver, delivered.
First and foremost was the scene where Bambi's mother dies. It wasn't the actual death itself that was so captivating, but rather the reaction young Bambi has right after. You can tell he is frightened and confused, and the Disney animators capture that moment so well. While maybe not animals being hunted, I think everyone who reads this or doesn't can relate to at least one moment like the one Bambi had after the death of a loved one. The Second moment that really catches my eye is the exciting climax, where we first find Bambi in a struggle to fight off the other male deer for the affection of his beloved Feline, and then when he fights off the hunters dogs and the devastation of the destructive forest fire caused by the neglect of the hunter(s).
I've always been amazed at the realistic drawings found in Bambi and the gorgeous forest backdrops. There are many animated film today, Disney or otherwise, that can say it benefited from this films realistic direction. It set new standards for the animated film that we can still see today.
My Wife's Reaction: She liked it. She, like me, has an interest in animals, so this film did a good job of tapping into that interest.
My Final Grade: (B) Similar to "Fantasia," but for different reasons, I have to be in the right mood for "Bambi," other wise it bores me. But, my growing interest in the natural world and animals seems to suck me into this film. If it was an animated nature documentary (which sometimes it feels like it wants to be), then I'd say it is wonderful. But as a film for entertainment value, it is not Walt's best work. But still, the gorgeous backgrounds and realistic animals are worth watching the film just on those merits alone.
All images copyright Disney. All rights reserved.