feedingbrett’s review published on Letterboxd:
Included In Lists:
Ladies and Gentlemen: The Essentials -#66
Review In A Nutshell:
It seems maturity and wisdom has opened my eyes to Disney’s classic gem as Bambi was another film that I felt previously was a disappointing entry in their filmography. I was distant due to its lack of a narrative arc and the inability to provide memorable music; which is still a problem this time around but my feelings towards it is not as sour. The classics simply were a different breed to the beautiful and charming Disney animated films I grew up with, their stories felt more frank with its message, putting that in the forefront rather than the story. When I was younger, I didn’t care about the people behind the camera, I did not admire those who drew and brought these characters to life, all I cared about are the figures that move on my screen. As I have explored deeper in the depths of cinema, I have become more conscious of the artist behind the product, finding fascination in bringing their creative vision to the screen and doing so while maintaining a sense of integrity. Bambi is an example of a time where Disney was a company of integrity, who pursued to tell stories that would bring inspiration and development. It is a reminder of a time where animation had a sense of purpose besides provide an escape for its audience, one that touches the hearts of both the young and the old.
We walk deep into the forest, passing by the overshadowed trees, coming closer to the centre where its beauty resides. There we find a beautiful waterfall and slowly appearing animals of all kind, an owl flies through and sits on his nest, sleeping as dawn arrives. The other animals begin to emerge from their homes and nests, performing their daily rituals; wonderful news has arrived, a prince is born. Animals scurry on to see the prince; they find a deer resting on the sides of his mother, awoken by the sounds of his spectating audience. The young deer stares in curiosity, trying to understand their fascination for him. He attempts to stand but finds it difficult, he is wobbly on his legs, but a friendly and forward rabbit (Thumper) enters and provides him some support, while also making hurtful and unnecessary commentary. The young prince eventually becomes tired and decides to return to sleep; all the animals politely leave the prince and his mother in peace. Thumper looks back and asks for his name, the mother quietly thinks and politely speaks, Bambi.
As stated earlier, Bambi isn’t a film driven by a certain plot. Instead it plays like a document into the lives of its creatures, an opportunity for humans to gain an insight into their own world, hoping that by the end, we are able to find sympathy and happiness and in their beauties and struggles. The film follows the growth of the titular character, a reflection of a human child driven by curiosity towards the open world around him, trying to find understanding of the mechanics and rules that shape it. It is during this young stage that he finds and builds relationships, a young rabbit named Thumper and a skunk named Flower. He begins to learn new words to increase his vocabulary and finds new activities to participate to improve his confidence and physical growth. Slowly, brick by brick, he learns the essentials, his mind begins to grow, and his questions become more detailed.
Though the camera is constantly transfixed on Bambi, the film manages to let nature be a character on its own, an evolving being that brings four seasons, one that allows the audience to see how animals adapt to the conditions of nature, the hardships and beauty they endure with each passing season. It was in this interaction between animals and nature that allow the audience’s mindset to become grounded at their level, we never look at the characters or their surrounding from the eyes of a person, but from one that lives among them, one that is able to find the beauty in the falling rain hitting on the delicate leaves or the harsh snow pushing against the faces and bodies of the hiking animals. It provides an experience almost similarly of what a nature documentary could bring, except that Disney achieved it long before National Geographic.
In a Disney film, it is essential for an identifiable antagonist to be present, in order to create drama and tension in the story; but unlike Disney’s other films, the villain, which in this is case is humans, remains distant and hidden in the shadows, aiming down their rifle sights, hoping to catch some game. It was an intelligent choice for Disney to keep its villains physical hidden from our sights, a commitment to keeping its perspective in the eyes of its animals, where the natural response to their presence would be to flee and hide. It evokes a sense of defencelessness that makes it all the more frightening, an idea where a sudden move may be your last. Disney also ensures that the message of our presence in nature is pushed across to its audience at an emotional and intellectual level; it hits us hard in our hearts through the loss of a mother and leaving our titular character an orphan, it stimulates our mind by raising questions of our role in their tragedies and it poses as a reflection of our egotistical selves, driven to hunt for self-fulfilment, not for survival. At the end of the film, it is man again that has caused pain and destruction to the animals, but this time, their presence has caused such a destructive effect that it hurts to admit that we are to blame for their losses. It is almost as if Disney was pleading to us for a change, to save these animals and let them live their beautiful and valuable lives; lives that are just as significant as our own.
The film’s animation, as expected, is top notch; providing a magical experience from familiar elements, immersing its audience with its nature and placing our mindset to their vulnerable and humble level. In comparison to the animals that were drawn in Snow White, the animators behind Bambi are far more prepared and knowledgeable of their subjects, clearly intense research was conducted in making these animals move in their respective ways, avoiding that cartoon mentality and physics that drives many of the comedic animated shorts. The film achieves depth through the multiplane camera, a method that allows layers to be pulled away slowly as we reach deeper into its environment, a method that was touched on previous Disney films, but far from the heavy utilisation that was found in Bambi. This approach is essential to the animation of Bambi, this is a story that requires its audience to be placed into the heart of its forest, and for the film to achieve that with grace and realism, it must be done through a slow and patient burn, one that initially admires its exterior and slowly creeps in to find its beauty. The film’s music also plays a critical role in shaping the film’s beauty; it uses its score and limited soundtrack as a way to highlight the intricate qualities of nature, the elements that we take for granted due to our distant stature and nature. The film’s score swings from natural beauty to painful melancholy, as we go through the constantly changing conditions of the character’s surroundings and the personal emotions that they go through.
Bambi is a film like no other, one that provides the respect that its subjects deserve, bringing its audience down to their level, experiencing nature at its most purest and emphasised only through the method of animation. It may not be as engaging as Pinocchio or as empathetic as Dumbo, but it is a force of its own, one that finds appreciation to its environment and reflecting it back to shape its viewers, one that raises questions for audiences to contemplate, hoping to inspire changes in their destructive nature.