Bambi: Diamond Edition (Blu-ray Combo Pack)
Directed by David D. Hand
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1 1080p AVC codec Running Time: 70 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1 English; Dolby Digital 2.0 English, 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, French, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: March 1, 2011
Review Date: February 18, 2011
Of the Disney Big Five (the first five animated features Disney produced beginning with Snow White), Bambi is its masterpiece. It’s a film which combines with utmost surety and finesse the amalgamation of story, song, and characterization that made it, and continue to make it, one of the most beautiful, elegant, and memorable movies in the history of animation and of movies in general. There isn’t a moment of the film that one would wish different, and from the voice actors to the songs which work so in synch with the story, the movie is simply magical with nary a misstep. Bambi is perfection.
When young fawn Bambi (Donnie Dunagan) is born, all of the forest comes running to witness his first awkward steps. Almost immediately he makes a friend in outspoken bunny Thumper (Peter Behn), and within the next few days, the young prince is introduced to many miracles of nature and makes some more new friends in Faline (Cammie King) and a skunk whom Bambi innocently names Flower (Stan Alexander). As time passes, Bambi enjoys the pleasures of the meadowlands, experiences his first winter with its joys (snow and ice) and discomforts (lack of food), and he becomes increasingly aware that one distinct enemy is man who makes abrupt entrances into his world and must be avoided at all costs.
Based on Felix Salten’s children’s book, the script for Bambi incorporates the book’s story plus adds some new characters. Through it all, the Disney artists have not done “cute” for cute’s sake but rather instilled distinct personalities into these creatures that make them lovable albeit flawed creatures. Dialogue is kept to a minimum while the artists allow the majesty of nature and the glorious Frank Churchill/Edward Plumb score to sweep the viewer through the episodic story that covers basically two years in the lives of these woodland characters. The impressionistic animation is some of the finest ever created, and sequences like Bambi’s struggling with an ice pond or the thunderstorm sequence which brings forth memories of Disney’s Oscar-winning short “The Old Mill” combined with the superb tune “Little April Shower” finds the studio craftsmen at their zenith. Bambi’s clash with a rival for Faline’s affections is done in masterful bold colors and expressionistic shadows symbolizing the dark, fiery emotions at play (most of the film has been drawn in softly pastoral pastels and watercolors) representing another superlative sequence in a movie crammed with them.
Bambi is not a musical even though it has a song score consisting of four numbers, the best of which comes after Bambi and Faline have mated, the beautiful “I Bring You a Song,” one of the most underrated melodies in the entire Disney canon. But music plays a more important role in helping the film achieve greatness than in some of the earlier features as no character sings in the film (Dumbo had begun this implementation with songs performed on the soundtrack to point up emotional peaks in the story, though there were also musical numbers in the film sung by characters; there is none of that in Bambi). The musical themes for the main characters and the ominous theme for man (who is never seen but whose presence is always felt whenever he’s near) give the film a depth of feeling that live action movies could be proud to possess. Indeed, one of the Oscar nominations for Bambi was for its original score for a dramatic picture.
And the geniuses who cast the charming and delightfully real children who voiced the animals in their youthful incarnations should have been given raises for their sterling efforts. They’re completely real in their line readings making the little bit of dialogue that is present some of the most memorable in all Disney films. Once the animals grow up, we recognize voices like Sterling Holloway, but the film’s early scenes with the animals at their youngest give the movie a lasting impact still as fresh and funny today as it was more than half a century ago.
The film’s 1.33:1 theatrical aspect ratio is faithfully reproduced in this 1080p transfer using the AVC codec. Boasting no artifacts of any kind (including banding or color fluctuations), the image is pristine. Lines are strong and colors are pastel when they’re supposed to be and bolder at opportune moments. And there is plenty of detail to be glimpsed in the drawings from tree bark to water droplets. The film has been divided into 25 chapters.
The disc offers two English soundtrack options: DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1 and the original theatrical track in Dolby Digital 2.0. The original track is louder in volume and much more forward sounding but can’t match the finesse found in the enhanced home theater mix. The bit meter reads this lossy DTS-HD HR track at a constant 2.0 Mbps, and it sounds beautifully rich as the orchestral score and some echo effects get placed in the fronts and rears for impressive impact. True, the thunderstorm sequence doesn’t contain the power that a modern soundtrack would have (the LFE channel isn’t going to be taxed much), and man’s gunshots which ring out occasionally don’t have great pop to them. But the dialogue comes through nicely in the center channel, there is no hiss or other age-related artifacts to spoil the presentation, and the final product is more than acceptable, even if it isn’t in lossless audio.
Diane Disney Miller offers a 1-minute introduction to the movie and the Walt Disney Family Museum in 1080p.
“Inside Walt’s Story Meetings – Enhanced Edition” is the interactive, overlaid presentation that has the movie playing in a succession of windows while we hear a dramatic recreation of story conferences about every aspect of the movie as it plays. At select intervals, the viewer may branch off from this experience with additional vignettes offering extended information about an aspect of the movie, cartoon shorts which offered ideas to the animators, deleted scenes (also offered separately elsewhere on the disc), and opinions about the film from current Disney animation executives. The 69-minute film will run closer to 95 minutes watching it through this program and selecting all of the available side-features. There is also a handy index which the viewer can use to go back and rewatch any of those featurettes or keep track of ones he may have skipped.
There are two deleted scenes which are presented in storyboard and temp track fashion. The “Two Leaves” sequence runs 3 ¼ minutes. “Bambi and the Reed” runs 2 minutes.
The deleted song “Twitterpated” is an audio-only track which runs 2 minutes.
Blu-ray exclusive art galleries offer hundreds of drawings in five categories: character designs, backgrounds, production pictures, storyboards, and visual development.
DisneyView once again is offered for those who don’t wish the black pillarbox bars on either side of the image. These are specially drawn artwork panels by Disney artist Lisa Keen to complement scenes in the movie.
Second Screen is a downloadable app which allows a viewer to synch up watching the Blu-ray to his laptop or iPad.
“Disney’s Big Book of Knowledge” is a children’s interactive encyclopedia/game narrated by the Friend Owl using scenes from the movie to impart information about the seasons, animals, and other elementary facts.
The following are features ported from the previous DVD release of Bambi. They’re all in 480i:
- The Making of Bambi: A Prince Is Born breaks down the production of the film in a six-part story which can be viewed in individual segments or in one 53 ¼-minute grouping. Some of this information was used in the interactive enhanced program, but much of it is not found elsewhere on the disc.
- “Tricks of the Trade” is a 7 ¼-minute excerpt from Disney’s television series filmed in 1957 explaining the workings of the multiplane camera and specifically how it was used in Bambi.
- “Inside the Disney Archives” finds Disney animator Andreas Deja visiting the Disney archives to look at artwork from the film, some of which didn’t make it into the finished work. It’s a very interesting 8 ¾-minute featurette.
- “The Old Mill” is the 1937 Oscar-winning animated short which marked the first extensive use of the multiplane camera and also revolutionized the portrayals of animals, rain effects, and other motifs which were used more extensively in Bambi. It runs 9 minutes.
- There are two deleted scenes here presented in storyboard form: “Winter Grass” which runs ½ minute and “Bambi’s First Snow” which runs 2 ½ minutes.
- The original trailer runs 2 ¼ minutes.
Included inside the case is a fold-out pamphlet which shows the organization of the feature and bonus materials on the Blu-ray and DVD discs.
The second disc in the set is the DVD copy of the movie.
4.5/5 (not an average)
Bambi the film is a perfect motion picture. This Blu-ray release isn’t quite perfect: it doesn’t have the RKO logo at the beginning, and it doesn’t have a lossless DTS audio track. Purists may object to grain removal or color variations from earlier releases. With the wonderful selection of bonus material and the pristine picture and far better than average sound available, I’m happy to add this high definition rendering of one of Disney’s greatest films to my collection. Highly recommended!