Disney’s “Bambi” (1942) Review

Image: Disney, Wikipedia.org

Actually, that wasn’t that sad at all.

Huh… Hm… All right then.

PLOT –

Bambi, the new fawn “Prince of the Forest”, learns how to walk, speak, and fall in love as he grows to adulthood. He meets several animal friends, a love interest, a rival, and encounters the most dangerous creature of all: Man.

This is more of a slice-of-life film. There is really not a plot as far as story goes, but more of following the life of a fawn as he grows up. The emotional transitions are jarring, going from the most extreme sadness (yes, during that scene) to the most extreme happiness took me out of the film. Events occur faster and pile up as the film goes on, and having some breathing room (preferably quickening some of the slow beginning scenes) would help this film have better pacing. There are also points where characters disappear and then reappear in the film at will (The Great Prince comes to mind…) which is quite jarring.

My PLOT Rating is 2 / 5.

CHARACTERS –

Bambi (Bobby Stuart, Donnie Dunagan, Hardie Albright, and John Sutherland) – Welp, we’re back to Pinocchio / Dumbo again! Another character without much agency and learns to fend for himself at the end, but I feel like he learns way more on his own than the other protagonists, at least, once he learns to walk and speak. His character progresses quickly, yet I would have liked to see a more balanced Bambi, showing similar character traits throughout the year we see him, and way more of the Bambi shown at the very end.

Bambi’s Mother (Paula Winslowe) – Somewhat timid yet protective of her child. She cares about Bambi more than anyone in the world, and it shows. While she does not get a song expressing this like “Baby Mine”, this sentiment is felt in the actions and words she tells her son, not so much relying on tone, but the meaning of the words spoken.

The Great Prince of the Forest (Fred Shields) – His character can be interpreted as a spirit guide or ghost, and the viewer is left questioning whether he is real or not at points. However, he often “appears” in scenes at will to help Bambi out of a predicament and this is just way too convenient. These scenes really rob Bambi of his own wit and intuition.

Thumper (Peter Behn, Tim Davis, Sam Edwards) – It’s kind of weird that we get a third version of the mentor character, but Thumper’s great in here. He’s more of a friend to Bambi later on as the mentor role wanes, and he provides nice contrast, being loud and boastful instead of meek and quiet.

Flower (Stan Alexander, Tim Davis, Sterling Holloway) – Flower is kind of the third wheel of the group, yet he’s just adorable all around. Personally, I almost forget that he’s a skunk during the film, and the irony of his given name is lost as the film progresses. He also is voiced by Sterling Holloway (for one line, at least), so I kind of automatically like him by default.

Friend Owl (Will Wright) – This mentor character in the second half of the film is a hoot! He provides some more comedic relief and probably has the most dialogue in the film. He also has a monologue about being ‘twitter-pated’ and he has several memorable moments where he just gets a little too close to the fourth wall (physically, in a personal space way). I personally like his design most out of the characters, it’s cute and cuddly like everything else in the film, yet wise.

Faline (Cammie King, Ann Gillis) – The love interest of the film, is cute and giggly, and later a damsel in distress, both times with very little development. They could have done a lot more with her but they kept the spotlight on the title character and his friends.

Ronno, Man, and the Dogs (all unvoiced) – These three get little character yet are threatening presences throughout, causing all of the conflict in the film. They are like forces of nature, acting towards a goal that happens to be opposite the protagonists. Ronno wants Faline to be with him, and Man and the Dogs want to kill or catch Bambi, and while Man is ultimately the most threatening of the three, the Dogs and Ronno leave a visual impact, as we can actually see them.

My CHARACTERS Rating is 3 / 5.

DIALOGUE –

The dialogue is nice and quaint in parts, and more serious than the previous films. There is a sense of gravity to lines. While the adults in the film (Friend Owl excluded) speak stoically and while the delivery may sound boring, it’s actually a refreshing change from the bouncy dialogue of the rest of the characters. Their innocence has been lost, and this is evident in the other characters as the film goes on. They lose the playful delivery that their child selves had as they move closer and closer to adulthood. Yes, the dialogue is stuck in many of the same 1940’s vernacular, and nothing is really groundbreaking, but I appreciate the difference in tone with the characters as they age.

My DIALOGUE Rating is 3 / 5.

EFFECTS –

The effects are stunning in this film. The opening is a wonderful showcase of the multiplane cameras that showcase the many layers of artwork that comprise the forest. The water and rain effects are always welcome, and the snow is obscuring and claustrophobic at times (especially during that scene). The fight scene between Ronno and Bambi is artistically depicted, and the fire is beautiful as it is horrifying.

My EFFECTS Rating is 5 / 5.

MUSIC –

The music in the film is great while watching, but isn’t really that memorable outside of it. I actually forgot that there were only three non-diagetic songs in this film, and not just an orchestral soundtrack. No characters sing here, it’s just background singers. The songs are about the forest, nature, and time, abstract concepts to put to memory. If a character sung these songs, or even if some new songs were written about a character in this film, they just may have been memorable almost a hundred years in the future.

“Love Is a Song” – Quite depressing, and containing foreshadowing if you know what to look for. Given a reprise at the end, but it’s on more of a happy note.

“Little April Shower” – A catchy, bouncy tune that’s pretty fun, but escalates into cymbals and rising choirs signifying wind. Clever sound design.

“Let’s Sing a Gay Little Spring Song” – A fun, cute song that loops on itself and collapses in happiness, and is drowned out by a joke in the film, as the song is meant to be annoying. It’s mostly used as a palate cleanser immediately after that scene, and it’s, as before, still jarring.

My MUSIC Rating is 3 / 5.

OVERALL –

Bambi, oddly, is a film known mostly for it’s mid-plot twist rather than the beautiful artwork, fun characters, and light music contained within. The film holds up pretty decently, somewhat dated by the dialogue, yet strengthened by the visuals and characters. The music is standard but sub-par, containing three unmemorable songs, and has a plot that caters towards the convenient. It’s a good film, but is held back by the time it was made in.

Image: Disney, disneyworld.disney.go.com

My OVERALL Rating for Disney’s “Bambi” (1942) is 64%.

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