Bambi, the Diamond Edition, On Blu-ray
Disney's 1942 classic could almost be considered a little bit "Fantasia" leavened with a little bit of "The Lion King." But at heart it's its own film, and it's a truly marvelous one.
Bambi was Disney's fifth full-length animated classic. It's a delightful story that follows the life and growth of the "new prince of the forest" from birth to his ascension as the alpha buck.
Anyway, the gorgeous-looking Bambi (the film, not the critter) opens shortly after the birth of the young fawn named Bambi. Hailed, as mentioned, as the new "Prince of the Forest," the other forest creatures fawn over him (we certainly aren't about to let a chance for a pun like that pass by!) and, helped by such little friends as Thumper the rabbit, and Flower the skunk, he takes his first wobbly steps into the exciting world of the forest.
But the forest isn't just home, and a place of delightful friendships, it's also a place of unknown dangers – including one unease-generating scene in which "Man is in the forest." And Man isn't the only problem – though it turns out to be a big one as far as Bambi is concerned. Mother nature unleashed (as it turns out, thanks to Man again in one instance) is even more dangerous as we find out in the climactic forest fire scene in which Bambi and all the forest denizens are forced to run madly for their lives. We also see the power of nature during a harsh winter in which Bambi is forced to learn some fine points for survival.
It's a marvelous story in the grand Disney tradition, a lovely tale told through some fine classic animation and with fantastic – or "Fantasia-like" dialogue-free musical sections that almost make the movie look like a living and breathing work of art, a music video before there were music videos (except for Fantasia).
The animation is first rate. Animals, for the most part – especially the deer – move like they should, like forest creatures and not (for the most part) like the personification of critters that you might expect considering they talk and interact like humans. Well, never mind the thumping...
And at a short 70 minutes, there isn't a lot of time for creatures to interact, just time enough for the story to unfold in front of us, amazing us, making us feel joy and making us feel deep sadness within a few minutes of each other. It's a bit of a roller coaster ride, emotionally.
In short, Disney plays the audience like a violin, and we loved being played.
And, thankfully (and as usual), Disney's Blu-ray does the film justice. The package came with both a Blu-ray and a conventional DVD and the studio says the film has been restored digitally for this presentation.
It shows. For a nearly 70 year old film, Bambi looks fantastic! The 1089p/24 image, at its original "full frame" aspect ratio, features rich colors and an ultra-clean transfer, with no scratches or other garbage that we could notice. Detail is spectacular; you can actually make out brush strokes and textures in the backgrounds, it's so good! We were blown away.
We were even impressed by the 70 year old audio quality. It's a remixed dts-HD High Resolution soundtrack – which is a little weird since we're used to the lossless dts-HD Master Audio format. In fact, we can't remember a dts-HD HR soundtrack on any other feature.
One might think that move to a "lossy" format would affect the sound, and maybe it does. But to be honest, the age of this soundtrack means it probably doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things. It just seems like a strange move.
The soundtrack has been remixed into 7.1 channels, from its original mono, but for the most part it remains mono. Most of the time there's no surround (though we did notice some surround effects and they fit in very well), nor is there even a lot of left/right use up front. But dialogue comes through beautifully and there's even a bit of low frequency effects channel use to provide a bit of extra oomph when needed.
So even though it appears Disney went cheap on the audio, the end result is fine.
The Blu-ray features Disney’s new "Second Screen" technology, introduced for the first time on Bambi's Blu-ray. What it does, according to Disney, is "Further transform the at-home movie watching experience by empowering viewers with the ability to engage with film content on multiple media platforms and bring them to life in their own hands at the touch of a button." Uh huh.
What you do is download a Disney Second Screen App onto an internet-connected computer or iPad and, after synching it to the movie, you can dive deeper into the film by engaging with "Fun interactive elements like animated flipbooks, galleries, photos, trivia and more."
Fine, but we generally are more interested in the movie itself and would rather go in depth when we aren't splitting our attention between screens. We like concentrating on the movie and looking up other stuff afterward. Perhaps that's just us - or maybe we just can't multi-task…
There are of course many extras on this Diamond Edition Blu-ray. Disney usually puts so much supplemental stuff on their discs that you can effectively use them as babysitters and take a trip to someplace warm, leaving the ankle biters in front of the TV till you get home.
Extra material is always a bonus, though we would generally give up all of it for perfection in the movie's presentation. Fortunately, Disney usually gives both.
Here we get the Disney View feature that fills in the black bars to the side of the 4x3 picture with artwork designed to match the look and feel of the film. They've done this before, and we have to admit we like it, though the artwork for Bambi doesn't seem quite as good a match to the film as it was on, say, Pinocchio or Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. We still liked it better than the black bars, though.
There are also some deleted scenes: "Two Leaves" and "Bambi Stuck on a Reed," which are newly released and are shown in high definition, as well as a deleted song. "Inside the Disney Archives" is about nine minutes worth of a Disney animator visiting the Disney Vault to pore over some of the original artwork.
You can also take a look "Inside Walt's Story Meetings," a Picture in Picture track featuring Disney and his crew planning Bambi, including archived footage and transcripts of the meetings themselves.
There are also Interactive Galleries, and the kiddie-oriented "Disney's Big Book of Knowledge" that lets the kids tour Bambi's woodland home and meet his fuzzy critter buddies.
It's a typically full and typically Disney presentation, and it's hard to fault that.
But as usual it's the movie we're interested in and the Disney studio has once again done justice to one of its fantastic classic animated features. We recommend Bambi highly.
Jim Bray's columns are available from the TechnoFile Syndicate.