Saturday, January 21, 2017

#589: Bambi

Directed by: DAVID HAND
1942, TSPDT Rank #568

It takes all kinds of movies to make a list of the 1,000 Greatest Films. Because of this, violent Hong Kong action films can easily sit alongside the early animated features of Disney Studios on this blog. Bambi isn't the first of these early Disney features that I've covered - Fantasia and Dumbo both received reviews in the early days of the blog, and Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Pinocchio are among the many films from the TSPDT list which I have seen, but which for whatever reason have flown under the radar of this blog (more on these "undocumented" films to follow in the near future).

Bambi, however, is a film which I had not seen since I was very young. Now that I have more knowledge of how it fits into the larger picture of Disney's early film history, it seems primarily like an attempt to import some of the more pastoral combinations of image and music seen in Fantasia (released two years earlier) into a simple narrative framework. From what I remember, connections could also be made some of the more surreal sequences of Fantasia and Dumbo (the first Disney film to be released in the wake of Fantasia), but in Bambi the focus is much less on narrative and more on creating sequences of pastoral beauty. Parts of the film actually seem like they might have been originally developed for Fantasia before someone had the idea that they could be developed into a standalone feature.

What narrative there is here follows a young deer named Bambi, as he grows up and comes of age, learning the facts of life (and death) in the process. There's also a running line of commentary on the intrusive and destructive effect of humans on the animal world. This theme is expressed in a much more blunt fashion than the Disney/Pixar films of today, with the death of a parent being shown as a normal occurrence for the animals who inhabit this cruel world. While this point of view is sometimes taken to a melodramatic extreme, it is effective nevertheless, and makes the story compelling enough to hold the viewer's attention for an hour and change. However, the film's primary attribute is its incredibly rich hand-drawn animation - which has become possibly even more impressive with time, and the advent of the computer animation era.

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