#5: Bambi (1942)August 2, 2011
I’m beginning to realize that I know nothing about Disney. There is the assumption nowadays that all Disney movies start with a birth/death, the main plotline is a love story, it all turns out happily ever after, and there’s a princess involved. After watching Disney’s first 5 films, these notions are now dead to me, and “Bambi” is the nail in the coffin. Let’s see why:
1) We all think Bambi’s mother dies at the beginning of the film, but she doesn’t get killed until 43 minutes into the 70-minute film.
2) The main plot line is not a love story. The love story is sub-plot C. The main plot line is…nature. All we need is Sigourney Weaver narrating.
3) It turns out happily ever after, but only after humans burn the forest down and Bambi gets shot (he doesn’t die, but he gets shot. WTF?)
D) Bambi is royalty, but he’s a prince (I know – he’s a boy. Who knew?)
Clearly our assumptions about Disney aren’t based in these original films. Walt was less concerned with princesses than with teaching children about animals, morality, growing up, and the world at large. This can be seen by his choice of source material as well – only one Brothers Grimm story in the first 5 films. The rest were children’s books, most of which were less than 30 years old at the time.
It seems I should approach these films with a few less assumptions and more of an open heart…
Bambi starts as an innocent romp in the forest. It opens politely and informative as we trot along nature’s tree lined paths, aquatinting ourselves with the creatures of the wood and discovering which animals make what sounds.
“Why hello little bunny,” I say with an inquisitive brow. “And hello to you, silly family of squirrels. I await our great adventure!”
Deeper into the forest we’re led, as nature’s tour guides jump from branch to bow. The sun’s beams filter through narrow trees and down on a clearing where we see the new born prince. Bambi.
Together we learn to walk, learn to run and have our first homosexual experience with an androgynous skunk whom is later confirmed to be male. Things seem swell.
Then, BAM. Like a gun shot heard in a deer-crowded meadow, the film does a complete 180. Hunters infiltrate the forest, mom dies, everybody grows up but then, oh wait, the forest burns down because man left his campfire burning.
I mean, what?!
It’s like I was watching an uncomfortably preachy wildlife PSA, and all I wanted was the sweet whispers of Morgan Freeman to comfort my apprehensions. But I received no such thing.
Not the Bambi you remembered? Yeah, me either.
Chris and Andy are sitting in the apartment watching “Nip/Tuck” on Netflix. The breeze blowing in from the balcony is cooling, and all is peaceful. It’s as if we were two deer grazing in a field. A sudden noise – someone is screaming in the stairwell. Our ears prick up, but we’re ok. Then it begins to smell like smoke – we get nervous and prepare to flee, but we realize it’s just the stoner next door. Then- the one thing we cannot cope with begins to intrude on our paradise: rain.
We have water damage in our bedroom, so when it rains the paint threatens to peel. We already have a hole in the wall about 2-inches in diameter. The only one who can fix this problem is the cruel humans who rule the forest: our landlords. But they refuse to respond to our cries. They’ve been so unresponsive that we’ve decided to fully immerse ourselves in animal culture and not pay our rent. Bambi didn’t pay rent, right? And look how it turned out for him…
“Bambi” was such an utter “what?” moment. It was so drastically not what we expected that we find it hard to comment. The characters are loveable and adorable, the animation is beautiful, and children could learn lots about the animal kingdom. But as an adult it is a bit bizarre. If you decide to watch it, release all expectations of what you think it’s about. You won’t be on edge for 43 minutes waiting for Bambi’s mom to die and you’ll probably enjoy it more.
3 out of 5 stars