Way back in 1942, exactly 75 years ago this August 21st, Walt Disney Pictures released their fifth animated feature film, Bambi. Just the mention of that title probably conjures one specific memory for Disney fans who last watched this beloved classic years and years ago, a memory of a traumatic death that occurs roughly halfway through the film’s 70-minute runtime. But there is so much more to the story of Bambi, both in the on-screen retelling of Felix Salten‘s 1923 novel and in the behind-the-scenes drama of the production that weathered labor strikes, technical challenges, and the horrors of World War II. Luckily, the 75th anniversary Blu-ray of Disney’s Bambi does a solid job at providing context for everything from the film’s story, to its technological and artistic achievements, to the minor miracle it ever got made at all.
Bambi is the fourth Disney film to be released as part of the company’s Walt Disney Signature Collection, succeeding the Platinum Edition and Diamond Edition lines. Fans and collectors will get much more than the feature film with this Blu-ray/DVD combo; it comes packed with special features that reveal never-before-seen characters, plot lines and side-stories that never made it into the final film, and featurettes exploring the incredible achievements made by the studio’s artists and technical staff. And rather than simply acting as additional material or trivia, watching these bonus features actually changes the way you’ll approach the film itself, having gained a new respect for its cutting-edge animation and use of an impressionistic art style courtesy of Chinese immigrant and artist, the late Tyrus Wong.
For a glimpse behind the scenes of Bambi‘s 75th anniversary edition, be sure to check out Christina’s interview with the film’s two leads: Donnie Dunagan (the voice of “Young Bambi”) and Peter Behn (the voice of “Young Thumper”). You’ll certainly find out more about them and other cast members in the Blu-ray’s special features, but it was a rare treat to be able to talk with two octogenarians about their experiences acting under Walt Disney and how that film has affected their lives going forward. Still more good news is the fact that video interviews Bambi artists, actors, and writers have been archived over the years and have been gathered together on this Blu-ray in order to provide fans with incredible insight into the history of the film.
And the film itself is nothing short of amazing, either! If it’s been a while since you’ve seen it, it’s time to give Bambi another watch with fresh eyes. It really is refreshing to see how much time the animators took with the film; there’s no rush to force the story from one beat to the next, no hyperactive characters–okay, Thumper is a little hyper–taking over the scenes, and no desire to give audiences an easy out by avoiding difficult subject material. In other words, it stands out from the majority of today’s animated feature films.
There are a lot of ways to enjoy Bambi, either with your friends and family, or as a solo watch. The story may be well known, but do yourself a favor and take time to just focus on the film’s musical score throughout the picture; it’s not only phenomenal in its own right, it also perfectly matches up with the story’s pivotal moments and acts as a sort of narrator for the film that’s largely devoid of exposition. Even the very specific use of silence during two climactic moments in the film are masterfully arranged, a fact pointed out to me by the bonus feature that focused on the film’s music. You can even mute the picture completely and just allow yourself to be drawn in by the film’s technologically advanced (for the time) presentation of depth using the Disney-engineered multiplane camera or the sweeping, emotionally resonant backgrounds painted in Wong’s impressionistic style. There’s so much to love and enjoy here that it makes Disney’s Signature Collection edition of Bambi an easy sell.