Historically, there is a certain charm that Bambi holds since it was the last film of the so-called 'Golden Age' of Disney animation, released in 1942 to widespread acclaim. By this point, we see many of the studios loyal animators hitting a new level of confidence in their beautiful renderings of nature - hitting a fine line that Disney always strived to achieve; "realistic fantasy". And this is to be expected after studying the creatures first-hand, in the studio! But in a word, Bambi beautiful. More-so than any release before (VHS/DVD), it can reduce a grown man like myself to tears for its sheer artist perfection.
Of all the five 'Golden Age' films, Bambi is significant in being labelled, often harshly, as a beautiful-snore, since its calm and often gentle pace is only countered by lush artwork. Personally, I think the term sounds negative, but then again only the patience of the viewer can determine how much action and dialogue is required. Given Bambi neither strives to be an action film nor a laugh-a-minute, it is a venture that holds sincerity that we so-miss today.
As referred in the title, Bambi really was the original 'circle of life'. We have nothing more than a journey throughout all the realities of nature: birth and death throughout both creatures and seasons. On one level, the harsh reality of nature that is depicted in Bambi would be too daring for the modern Disney to reproduce - perhaps even so much that this product has an edit in it. The removal of the line "Man took her away" (following "Your mother can't be with you anymore") signals that the P.C brigade feel we shouldn't be shedding bad light on human beings. Our 'darling' children might get confused, afterall...
Although the soundtrack throughout Bambi is integral to the general structure of the narrative, the standout scene is no-doubt "Little April Showers", in which the sweet protagonist watches rainfall in synchronisation with the most beautiful song of the film, and arguably, one of the best of the Golden Age. Significantly, it was one of the first major uses of collective vocal recordings and is completely original in its ability to mimic the delicate nature of water falling.
As-per-usual, the Lowry restoration is completely flawless. Backgrounds are scrubbed and reveal the most delicate water-colour work I've ever seen in a traditional animation. Likewise, the cel animation reveals gorgeous line work (as well as new line work I have never even noticed before on Bambi himself) and finally the correct colour timing, which as with every Lowry restoration, 'completes' the original experience, and gives the film that rich Technicolor glow that is simply unique to the first five Disney films.
In fact, when one views many of the original character Cels in the 'Interactive Art Gallery', we see that the Technicolor production process brightened these purposefully darker images so that, once photographed, they became the intended colours. Genius!
On the topic of Extra Features, we would expect such a Diamond Edition (marketing tool for Disney's most prestige titles, which makes one wonder why Fantasia was left out...) to be packed to the brim with all kinds of wonderful documents. Unfortunately, it does NOT contain 3 discs as-have previous Diamond Editions and Platinum Editions. Rather, Bambi is the first Diamond release to have just 2 Discs - 1 a Blu-Ray (Film and Extra Features), and a DVD (Film). This is most likely because the unfortunate lack of extras could fit onto the Film disc. Hopefully this doesn't become a future trend, but given that even Disney B.D Live isn't an option on the main menu, I'm more than baffled at how even their 'Special Editions' have sometimes had more features/options.
One possibility (just briefly) is that Disney are simply releasing too many titles for their own good per-year. Since Blu-Ray is a relatively new format thats taken off, the company is taking every step to rush out as many releases as they can, but obviously at the compromise of recording less content for each release. This means that, apart from a daft commercial for the Walt Disney Family Museum, many of the latest products have had little 'new' extra content, and perhaps to save money, they've skimped on an extra Blu-Ray disc for both Fantasia and now Bambi.
The product also contains no up-coming trailers. Very odd for a Disney film!
Regardless, Bambi is a true classic of Disney story telling that, whilst may be slow-paced for some, ultimately offers a higher degree of heart and realism than the studio have released in a very long time. What it lacks in action and gags makes up for in a genuine beauty that has possibly never been surpassed in its appreciation of nature, and the way that humans overlook other circles of life. It took almost 5 years of research, planning and development just to produce, and the resulting product is a treasure that teaches a definitive moral; life can arrive and leave, but it will always return. The Diamond Edition is a welcome arrival, and although continuing the trend of little new documentation on disc, the film is a significant improvement over its previous restoration.
5 Stars for the film, 4 Stars for the product.