Talkie of the Week: Bambi
USA 1942, 70 minutes, Technicolor, Walt Disney Pictures.
Distributed by: RKO Radio Pictures.
Based on the story “Bambi, A Life in the Woods” by Felix Salten
Plot summary: When Bambi is born, the little fawn is surrounded by novelty and affection. As he grows up, he finds friendship and love, faces danger and loss – experiences that prepare him to eventually follow in the footsteps of his father, The Great Prince of the Forest.
Review: There are stories you fall in love with as a child that stay with you for a lifetime. Bambi is such a gem. Originally published in 1923, the book was written for an adult audience and made into an animated feature two decades later. Although not an instant hit with critics or American audiences alike, Walt Disney’s fifth feature production turned into a classic generations of children have grown up with. Equipped with a then-unprecedented love for detail and a new realism in animation and narrative style, Bambi ultimately learned to stand the test of time. Re-released to theaters six times until it conquered nurseries and family rooms around the world on VHS, DVD and Blu-ray, Bambi’s story is now an essential part of many vintage movie collections.
Introducing us to the lives of fawn Bambi, hare Thumper and skunk Flower, Disney’s adaptation stayed true to the essentials of Felix Salten’s popular book. Criticized for depicting the grim realities of forest animals in our modern times, the film addressed human negligence and hunting as two issues Bambi and his friends have to cope with in their young lives. Although a lot less colorful in its description of the loss Bambi has to face, the film hit a nerve at the time of its release and still does today. Memorable and haunting, Bambi does what fairytales used to do: it wraps a tough lesson in a charming tale that remains relevant beyond your childhood days. Like many of its live action peers from Hollywood’s Golden Age, the film had a message without being preachy. Paired with masterful character animations and an Academy-Awards-nominated score, Bambi still resonates today and looks as beautiful as ever, 71 years after its original release.
Melanie Simone is a writer with a degree in American Studies and English. On Talking Classics, she savors her love for vintage Hollywood.