Blu-ray Review: Bambi Signature Collection


THE SET-UP
The classic book by Felix Salten comes to life in this 1942 animated film by Walt Disney Studios. A young fawn named Bambi, with his friends Thumper and Flower, learns the realities of life in the forest.

THE DELIVERY
One of Walt Disney’s earliest animated feature films is perhaps his best, although it rarely receives its due credit.

Bambi was the fifth animated feature film to be released by Disney, but it heralded a new standard of animation techniques and styles. On a technical level, Bambi stands apart - the level of sophistication in the design and animation of realistic woodland creatures is unrivaled.


On an artistic level, Bambi built on the reliance in symphonic music that Fantasia established. To that end, Bambi is believed to be one of the first films to feature songs whose performers were not seen on screen. The effect, which gives an added level of human emotion to the already dramatic story, is evident. 75 years after its original release, Bambi still connects on a emotional level, highlighted by the unforgettable scene in which Bambi’s mother is killed. It may have emotionally scarred generations of children, but it remains one of the most dramatic scenes in cinematic history, animated or otherwise.

The film’s use of impressionism to recreate the forest is an ingenious technique, and can be traced back to Disney concept artist Tyrus Wong. He is credited with establishing the look that set a trend for many Disney animators, and he passed away just last year. His contribution received a nice tribute with the Blu-ray release, as a small lithograph of his work is included with the disc as a pack-in.    

Even after 75 years, Bambi remains an affecting movie experience. Many prefer to recognize other Disney animated films when talking about the studio’s finest works, but Bambi deserves to be considered as one of Walt’s greatest artistic achievements. The Signature Collection Blu-ray certainly provides the opportunity to revisit the film and appreciate it once again.


VIDEO AND AUDIO
The Signature Collection Blu-ray appears to use the same video transfer from the previous 2011 Blu-ray release. That doesn’t appear to be a bad thing, because even though the high definition image has seen some digital cleanup, the detail is very good.

The film is presented in the original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, so it leaves some significant black bars on either side when viewed on a widescreen TV (we are assuming everyone has one now). To aid in the visual experience, the disc includes “DisneyView,” in which those black bars are filled in with artwork that compliments the image on-screen. Disney animator Lisa Keene, whose credits include Beauty and the Beast, The Lion King, and Frozen, provides the artwork. It is reminiscent of Tyrus Wong’s work on the film.

The audio is a solid 7.1 DTS-HD soundtrack, and even though the original source material has limitations, the film sounds fantastic. For film purists, the original mono soundtrack (restored to eliminate noise) is included as well.

SPECIAL FEATURES
Some new features are mixed in with extras from past home video releases to provide a nice look at the creation of the film. Perhaps the highlight of the new features is the inclusion of a long-lost Oswald The Lucky Rabbit short.

Extras on the disc include:


*“Studio Stories: Bambi” featurette. Archived audio interviews with Walt Disney from 1956 chronicle the creation of the film. Footage from behind the scenes in the animation studios is shown. Running time: 4:56

*Deleted Scenes. Two deleted scenes are included: “Bambi’s Ice and Snow” and “The Grasshopper.” The scenes can be played together, with introductions by Disney animator Floyd Norman. The scenes are shown through conceptual art and storyboards, with an actor recreating Walt Disney’s voice, speaking from his notes about the scenes. Total running time: 7:25

*Oswald the Lucky Rabbit “Africa Before Dark” animated short. Perhaps the most fascinating bonus feature on the disc isn’t related to Bambi at all. This 1928 Disney-directed short, starring Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, was long thought to be lost. In 2015, however, a print of the cartoon was found in a German archive, and it finally gets a home video release as a bonus feature here, nearly 90 years after its release. The cartoon is restored, with a new score provided as well. Running time: 5:50

*“The Bambi Effect” featurette. The groundbreaking concepts of Bambi began several Disney traditions in storytelling, which continue today. Those concepts are covered here.
Running time: 3:00


*“Bambi Fawn Facts” featurette. This fact-filled educational short is a primer (of sorts) about deer and the other animals featured in Bambi. Running time: 3:34

The following bonus features are under a section called “Classic Bonus,” and include extras included on earlier home video releases of Bambi.

*Classic Deleted Scenes. Scenes include “Two Leaves,” “Bambi Stuck On A Reed,” and “Winter Grass.” Disney Historians Charles Solomon and Paula Sigman introduce the deleted scenes, which are shown in storyboard form.

*Deleted Song: “Twitterpated.” A new recording of a song written for the film, but never used, is included. It is set to scenes from the film. Running time: 1:52


*”The Making of Bambi: A Prince Is Born” documentary. This hour-long documentary includes six chapters: “Story: Telling the Tale,” “Characters: Drawn to Nature,” “Actors: Giving Voice to Animals,” “Art Design: Impressions of the Forest,” “Music: Nature’s Symphony,” and “History: Back to the Beginning.” Made in the mid-1990s for a home video release, this fantastic documentary features interviews with current and former Disney creators, who provide their memories and insight into the making of the film. Rarely-seen behind-the-scenes photos provide a backdrop for the stories that are told. Some of the film’s animators and concept artists are featured, as are Donnie Dunagan (voice of Bambi), Cammie King (voice of Feline), and Peter Behn (voice of Thumper). Be sure to watch this if you are a fan of the film. Running time: 53:15

*“Tricks of our Trade” excerpt. This promotional short, taken from the classic “Walt Disney Presents” television show, features Walt himself discussing the “multi-plane” camera, which provides the 3D effect to 2D animation. Running time: 7:18

*“Inside the Disney Archives” featurette. This look inside the Disney Animation Studios archive reveals sketches and artwork used in the film’s creation, as well as unused concepts. Running time: 8:39

*“The Old Mill” Animated Short. This Disney-produced short from 1937 won the Academy Award for Best Short Subject (Cartoon) and introduced the multi-plane camera technique, which was used to full effect in Bambi. Much like Bambi, it focuses on realistically-animated animals to tell a story. Running time: 8:58

*“The Golden Age” featurette. Bambi represents a significant leap forward in Disney’s animation technique. The progression in style and technique from Snow White to Pinocchio to Fantasia to Bambi is explored. Disney animators and historians discuss Bambi’s innovations. Running time: 6:24

*Original Theatrical Trailer. The original 1942 trailer for the film is included. Running time: 2:12

*Digital Copy. A code for a digital copy of the film, compatible with Disney Movies Anywhere, iTunes, and Ultraviolet, is included.

*Tyrus Wong lithograph. Packed in with the Blu-ray is a small lithograph of a concept painting Tyrus Wong created for the film. He died last year at the age of 106, and the lithograph is a nice tribute.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Bambi is a Disney classic that deserves a revisiting.
Beautifully animated and presented with an artistic flair missing from modern Disney fare, Bambi deserves a new viewing and a renewed appreciation. With an excellent restoration and a nice selection of special features, the Signature Collection of Bambi is a title worth adding to the library.

BLU-RAY SPECS
Release Date: June 6, 2017
Rating: G
Running Time: 70 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 1.33:1
Audio: English 7.1 DTS-HD High Resolution, English Restored Original Mono Soundtrack, French Dolby Digital 5.1, Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English for the Hearing Impaired, French, Spanish
Special Features: *“Studio Stories: Bambi” featurette; Deleted Scenes; Oswald the Lucky Rabbit “Africa Before Dark” animated short; “The Bambi Effect” featurette; “Bambi Fawn Facts” featurette; Classic Deleted Scenes; Deleted Song: “Twitterpated;” ”The Making of Bambi: A Prince Is Born” documentary; “Tricks of our Trade” excerpt; “Inside the Disney Archives” featurette; “The Old Mill” Animated Short; “The Golden Age” featurette; Original Theatrical Trailer; Digital Copy; Tyrus Wong lithograph.
Label: Walt Disney Home Entertainment

Click here to order the Bambi: Signature Collection Blu-ray from Amazon!

Victor Medina is a freelance writer based in Dallas. He is the editor of several websites, and his writing credits include The Dallas Morning News, Yahoo News, Cinelinx.com and SportsIllustrated.com. He has served as a Dallas County election judge and on the Board of Directors of The Sixth Floor Museum at Dealey Plaza in Dallas. You can follow him on his blog, VictorMedina.com or on Twitter at @mrvictormedina. He can be reached by email at vic@victormedina.com.

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