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In many ways, BAMBI is a redo of the themes Disney tackled in PINOCCHIO. At its simplest level this is a grand coming-of-age tale. It’s also bold like PINOCCHIO in that it wasn’t afraid to take its premise to emotionally challenging and deep levels.
Bambi (Hardie Albright), as a newborn, is a complete innocent. Bambi’s mother (Paula Winslowe) must teach him about the joys and dangers of the world. Bambi must make his first friends, first meeting the energetic rabbit Thumper (Peter Behn). When he meets his first skunk, he names him Flower (Stan Alexander). Pure innocence. But Bambi is shy when he meets his friend female, the pretty doe Faline (Cammie King). Through the course of the story, Bambi learns to get his feet under the icy paths of life.
For the woodland creatures, Man is a constant, unseen force that encroaches more and more on the forest. From the point of view of the animals, they are like a force of nature, bringing destruction with them. When the AFI made its list of the most memorable Heroes and Villains, Man ranked at #20. At it’s time of release, the film are criticized by sportsman who found the film an affront to them. In the U.K., the film’s most shocking moment was exorcised from the film for fears that it was too intense for children. But like all vintage Disney family films, they never spoke down to their core audience.
Artistically, BAMBI is one of the highlights of early Disney features. The film presented the first opportunity for the Disney artists to create more realistic looking animal characters. As the characters age, the character designers get a chance to mirror look to development, especially in the case of Bambi, who transformed from a spotted baby deer to a tall standing, antlered buck . The forest setting allowed the background artists to create lush landscapes throughout various seasons. And during a climatic forest fire sequence, the artists speak volumes toward mood with color and movement.
In its artistic way, BAMBI is a metaphor for the circle of life. Paul McCartney credited the film as a huge influence on his animal rights activism. In a profoundly moving way, the story touches on the universals that connect all living creatures. In capturing a baby’s first walk to first love to first death to new life, these are experiences that anyone can relate to whether they are animal or man. Through engaging character animation, the characters express the joy and sadness of living. In the end the story comes full circle and makes us respect all life.
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