movie film review | chris tookey


© Walt Disney Pictures - all rights reserved
  Bambi Review
Tookey's Rating
8 /10
Average Rating
9.13 /10
Voices: Peter Behn, Paula Winslowe, Bobby Stewart
Full Cast >

Directed by: David D. Hand
Written by: Perce Pearce, Larry Morey from book by Felix Salten

Released: 1942
Origin: US
Colour: C
Length: 72

Horrific coming-of-age drama in which hero’s mother dies in shooting tragedy. Traumatised, initially dyspraxic orphan’s social life revolves around rabbit and skunk.

Reviewed by Chris Tookey

Bookmark and Share

A classic horror film. It starts out cosy, cute and secure. Then, three quarters of an hour in, the unthinkable happens with the death of Bambi's mother; for the last 25 minutes, most children are in a state of traumatic shock.
It's surprising to look at Bambi with adult eyes and discover that this supposedly "cute" cartoon paints so dark, visceral and elemental a picture. Probe beneath the storybook surface, and you can see many of the tough, cynical, survivalist attitudes which made the 1940s the heyday of film noir. It's a movie permeated with the sense of a dangerous world outside, of man's incomprehensible viciousness - though no human is ever seen in the film, only the effects of his destructive presence on the world around him. No picture has captured better, in the sense of making you actually feel, the randomness and desolation of bereavement.
The sexual stereotyping is of its day. The does are left to look after the children, bond with them, give everyday advice and protection. The stags are distant: their job is to gallop around in formation, look magnificent, fight and turn up in moments of crisis. A young stag's duty is to conform to society's expectations, compete for a mate, and procreate.
Ever since the film's first appearance in 1942, some critics have found the picture too anthropomorphic. True, Disney cut out many of the more bestial sides of Felix Salten's novel, which dealt as much with the predatory nature of animals within the forest as it did with the conflict between nature and man. But a modern audience expects a Disney forest to be twee-ridden as well as tree-ridden, and is more likely to admire how skilfully human and animal nature have been reconciled. Thumper the rabbit's natural characteristics are, for example, merged with an infant's voice, appearance and attitudes, to make one of Disney's most endearing characters. Everyone will identify with Bambi's tentative attempts to walk, make friends, conquer fear and loneliness. Not only are the early scenes amusing and "cute": they bring back universal memories of growing up.
The film loses some of its oomph when its leading characters - Bambi, Thumper and Flower the skunk - discover sex and romance, and become (in their friend Owl's terms) "twitterpated". But in the later part of the film, there are marvellously stark set-pieces: Bambi's battle with another young stag for the deer Faline demonstrates that even a nice, peace-loving chap like Bambi has to struggle and fight for what he wants. Green, the film may be; hippie, it definitely isn't.
On visual grounds alone, Bambi would deserve to be considered a classic. To see it today, in another Golden Age of Disney animation, is to be reminded that Bambi remains a high-point in motion-picture technique and originality.
"I think back to 1942 when we released that picture and there was a war on, and nobody cared much about the love life of a deer, and the bankers were on my back. It's pretty gratifying to know that Bambi finally made it."
(Walt Disney)

Key to Symbols