Blu-ray of the Week: Bambi
Disney remasters one of its animation masterpieces
"Bambi: Diamond Edition" (Disney)
Graceful and gorgeous, gentle and fierce, delicate and majestic, Walt Disney’s "Bambi" is often cited as the greatest animated film ever made and the crown jewel from the golden years of Disney animation. Agree or not, the fifth full-length animated feature from Disney is a magnificent piece of animated storytelling and a cinematic landmark that has lost none of its wonder or power over the years. Adapted from the novel by Felix Salter and directed by David Hand (under the close supervision of Walt Disney), the story follows the life of a small fawn over the course of four seasons as he develops from childhood innocence (with a menagerie of delightful animal friends) through adult responsibility. Like the best of Disney, the animal characters burst with personality with every perfectly animated every movement and the colors are painted with a delicacy unseen in contemporary animated feature filmmaking. AV Club critic Noel Murray wrote in 2005 that the film "isn't so much animated as illustrated like a vintage children's book, with elegant painted backgrounds occupied by simplified faces." The multi-plane photography is amazing, giving the painted cels a sense of depth and the camerawork a graceful fluidity. And it is the rare children’s movie that broaches the subject of death in a meaningful and profound way.
Film Archivist and Home Theater Forum guru Robert Harris likes the new Blu-ray, but as you can read in the comments thread of this forum, Disney's decision to rejigger the colors for a brighter, more modern palette is still the subject of much debate and criticism. As Harris writes, "The re-imagining of the Disney classics has taken its toll, frustrated many who love the originals, and will continue to stir controversy." But home theater critics across the board have given this their seal of approval, including Gary Tooze at DVD Beaver. And, to add my voice to the choir, me. This is a gorgeous and lush Blu-ray presentation.
The "Bambi Diamond Edition" Blu-ray debut is a Blu-ray+DVD Combo Pack, which gives parents the ability to set aside the Blu-ray for special screenings and still have a DVD for the kids to use on their own. A separate, DVD-only will be coming out in a couple of months, but this is a superb bargain, even if you don't have a Blu-ray player yet. The way prices are coming down on the players, this is a good way to go with an eye to the future.
The Blu-ray, which offers two menu options, features the supplements from the 2005 DVD release, most importantly "The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born," a superb hour-long documentary that traces the film's production history from creation to legacy, plus "DisneyPedia: Bambi's Forest Friends" (about the real-life animals that inspired the "Bambi" characters). The two deleted scenes from the original release can be found on the DVD disc.
New to this release is an "enhanced edition" of "Inside Walt's Story Meetings," a mix of documentary and picture-in-picture commentary created from story conferences between Disney and his crew (read by actors like a radio drama), run with the film and further illustrated with stills, sketches and production art and branching sequences that the viewer can follow to delve further into various aspects. While this was also part of the 2005 DVD, it was one of the most innovative and informative supplements then and it's even better in the Blu-ray remix, offering tremendous insight to the creative process of creating a Disney masterpiece.
Also new is the "Disney Second Screen" mode, an interactive process that involves a second device—a laptop or iPad—that can download apps that allow it to synch up with the screening experience. Other supplements include two additional, never-before-seen deleted scenes (in animated sketch and script form only), a deleted song (recorded anew for this release), interactive galleries of sketches, storyboards and art (which are a little tricky to master the navigation options), and "Big Book of Disney Knowledge," a collection of games and activities for kids.
The drama of Disney's "Bambi," in a screen capture taken directly from the DVD (courtesy of DVD Beaver)