Buy your inner child a front-row seat and don’t be embarrassed to wallow in the unashamed sentimentality of one of Disney’s best-loved and most finely drawn animations. Using the cycle of the seasons to tell the story of a fawn’s adventures from birth to full-grown deerhood, it pulls no punches in telling young children how life is. Birth, death and man’s inhumanity to animals - it’s all here.
Walt himself was said to be more fond of Bambi - which took six years to make - than any other Disney release. Along with Fantasia, it represents the peak of the company’s golden age. The animation is beautifully realised in warm, watery shades and there’s a graceful fluidity to the animals’ movements. The characters, by contrast, are sharply defined, their dialogue warmly witty and the film’s message - cherish life because it doesn’t go on forever - is delivered without condescension or excessive piety. It’s the sincerity of tone that makes this so effective.
The rawest nerve is touched by the tender relationship between the young Bambi (voiced by Stewart and Sutherland) and his mother (voiced by Winslowe). Predictably, the scene after the forest fire where she dies is the hardest to bear not just for children, but for the adults who have to explain why the mummy deer isn’t coming back.
Enlivening these stark realities are sweet moments involving stinky skunks, thumping rabbits and that gorgeous scene where the newly mobile Bambi strikes out on his own on the ice.
Hardie Albright, Stan Alexander, Bobette Audrey