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For, Friday, June 23, 2017

EDITOR’S NOTE: Disney has reissued one of its great classic animated films in a new Blu-ray edition for its 75th anniversary. Here’s my review, published in the Deseret News on July 15, 1988, for one of its theatrical revivals back in the day.

Hunters beware! Perhaps the most successful propagandistic anti-hunting movie ever is back in theaters Friday, and your kids will be wanting to know if you’re one of those guys that goes out and kills Bambi’s mother.

Walt Disney’s classic animated-feature “Bambi” has returned, and it’s as good as — maybe even better than — you remember it.

From the opening moments, as the camera pans through the forest and animals are shown innocently going about their early-morning routines, it’s apparent that this is a movie loaded with charm and wit and superlative art.


Thumper doesn't get why 'Bambi' can't stand up on the ice.

The most popular elements, of course, have always been the opening scenes where Bambi, as a newborn, meets for the first time his friends Thumper the rabbit and Flower the skunk, along with many other creatures of the forest. Along the way Bambi is introduced to rain, lightning, snow and other forces of nature. And, ultimately, in the film’s most infamous moment, when Bambi has a very serious run-in with “man” and his mother is killed.

The scenes of discovery are wonderfully illustrated so that children immediately identify with what they are going through in their lives right now, and adults identify with nostalgia what they remember as their faded youth.

And though there may be some question about whether the lifestyle of these wild animals — with absentee fathers, completely domestic full-time mothers, and the violent world that surrounds them — is something we want our children to think of as reality, there’s no denying that this “Bambi” touches a lot of recognizable nerves. (And perhaps can open up some parent-child discussion that might prove most worthwhile.)

As a film it is much less broad, and in many ways more realistic than most other Disney animated features, accurately portraying human characteristics (particularly as “children”). But it’s also quite real in the way it depicts animal movement and interaction. A curious, fascinating combination that ultimately works perfectly.


Thumper, for example, reciting what his father has told him about behaving in public, is the child we’ve all been, and the way he sees his father is the parent we all become.

“Bambi” is funny, touching, exciting and wondrous — a textbook case of how to align action with music, how to develop characters we recognize and come to love, and how to utterly entrance an audience.

And, needless to say, the full, classical animation is wonderful.

What this film demonstrates perfectly is what is often called Disney “magic.” It has never been so magically in evidence as with “Bambi.”