Bambi marked Disney's first environmentally conscious film. (The Little Mermaid was going to be their second, but Walt Disney decided to change the storyline—the fact that Ariel was caught in a tuna net and ground up was deemed slightly too traumatizing for young audiences.) While planning this first scene of a North American forest, Walt Disney probably said, "Let's freakin' show them some mind-blowing 'mation!" And it's truly one of the most gorgeous scenes in any animated film ever.
The forest suddenly comes alive as birds spread the news: the new Prince is born! The deer calf's first sound is elicited from the slightly Satanic Owl, a character whose mate appears in The Fox and the Hound (or so I surmise).
The King of the Forest and Bambi's mother have a very standoffish (literally) relationship. They never speak and hardly ever share the same meadow. While this is probably realistic, it seems a bit sad. I mean, are they divorced? Was Bambi the result of a one-night stand?
The next day, Queen of the Forest and Bambi run into the rabbit family, of which little Thumper is the most outspoken. When Thumper rudely comments on Bambi's underdeveloped walking skills, Thumper's mother asks him what his father told him this morning, and Thumper replies, famously, "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."
Still, Thumper's dad could be a myth—we never see Daddy Rabbit. Are invisible dads a new thing?
Bambi learns to talk fast. (This is probably because he knows that the average lifespan of a deer is only three years and he needs to enjoy it while he can.) In this scene, Bambi and Thumper meet Flower the skunk, the most flamboyant closet gay in all of Disney. Watch this clip; you may not have thought of it when you were a kid, but this guy's every action seems flirty towards Bambi. I mean, heck, the guy's name is Flower!
A storm comes. This movie is moving faster than it did for me when I was a kid. When I was eight, nine, I just wanted the whole storm scene to get over with, so we could get to the good part with the dogs! Let's hear it for the dogs!
Now, I can appreciate the score and the artistic efforts so much more. (But I still can't wait to see the dogs. They're like the Hunger Games muttations years before Collins ever thought them up! Let's hear it for the dogs!)
We fast forward perhaps days or weeks; the only time-counter is Bambi's speech. It's improved to the level of a 9-year-old. Bambi is what we at Harvard call a genius deer. Of course, we don't actually get to see any other creature's learning curve. Bambi could be really stupid.
Bambi and his Mom go to the meadow, where Bambi runs through puddles and splashes ducks.
Duck: Oppressive royalty.
Bambi soon meets an obnoxious female deer named Faline. She tortures him for a while before he runs into the Jock Squad; a bunch of male deer prancing around, leaping off boulders and butting heads. Everyone stops when the King of the Forest enters the meadow.
Bambi's mother tells Bambi that that's his Dad. She also tells him that the King of the Forest has lived twice as long as any deer in the forest. Does that make the King of the Forest twice as old as Bambi's mother? Cradle robber! He shouldn't be going out with deer half his age. He should solicit the interest of more appropriate woodland animals, i.e. cougars.
The King of the Forest comes back to warn all the deer that Man is coming. Panic spreads. The King saves Bambi by leading him out of the field while under fire.
Summer changes to fall. Fall changes to winter. I bet Disney sold lots of refrigerator calendars based around this movie.
As Bambi and his mother gather around the first spring grass, she senses something. They both run, and Bambi makes it back to their home, looks behind, sees no one. Searching for her in the snow, he runs with a shock into his father, who tells him, "Your mother can't be with you anymore."
I don't care if you think PETA is a biased organization, this scene is one of the saddest in any movie, ever.
Spring comes. All the birds are singing mating songs, and crotchety single (or perhaps not) Owl is woken. He tries to scare them away with little success, and soon Bambi comes along.
Bambi has grown into a young buck with horns, and Thumper and Flower are older, too. Owl describes the complexity of mating season to the three, and they decide not to let "twitterpation" happen to them.
Watch this scene, and keep in mind the hypothesis that Flower is gay. It's hilarious, especially when Owl advances on the three saying "it could happen to YOU," to Bambi, "or YOU," to Thumper, and then, with a looooong pause..."Yes, it could even happen to you," to Flower.
Surprisingly, though, feminine Flower is the first one to find a girl. Thumper is the next, caught by a surprisingly skanky Playboy bunny. Too bad she looks like she has a beard.
Mrs. Thumper (Mumper): Hellooo.
Bambi is the last one; he reunites with Faline and after some initial awkwardness, she licks him in the face and he's in heaven. You know that annoying girl you knew when you were kids, who turned out to be really cute at 17? It's like that for Bambi.
Of course, the deer are also jealous creatures. Bambi has to contend with a chauvinistic pig-deer in a dramatic fight scene.
Everybody was kung-fu fighting...dananana, nana.
Bambi throws the presumptive deer in the river, shouting "This. Is. SPARTA!"
Bambi wakes up the next morning next to Faline. His deer-sense flicks on. (If Spider-Man had been bit by a radioactive deer, he would be able to know when Man is around, and where Man's camps are, and when Man leaves his cinders around and accidentally starts a forest fire. Spider-Man would also be called Deer-Dude, run fast, have spots, the hair on his scalp would form into horns, and sometimes he would get hit by cars because headlights just scare him to death.)
The King of the Forest tells Bambi that Man is back in force. He tells Bambi they must escape "deep into the forest." Bambi runs to get Faline and can't find her. Elsewhere, the hunters we never see close in on a field of frightened animals. A pheasant has a nervous breakdown and flies into the air; the hunters shoot her and all the animals make a dash for it. Bullets fly everywhere, none that we can see hitting their mark. These hunters are wasting a lot of ammo.
Then come the dogs! The dogs are scary! The dogs are fairly monochromatic! Let's hear it for the dogs!
Running from the dogs, Bambi leaps across a gorge and in a seemingly impossible turn of events, the hunters shoot him. Wow, guys. All I have to say is you should NOT be wasting your time hunting animals.
Hunter: One time out huntin', I turned around real fast and I saw a deer flying through the air. I thought "Tain't no escape for Santa this time!" and I shot from the hip.
Marine Corps Recruiter: Dude! You should've been in SEAL Team Six!
Hunter: Naw. I strictly hunt deer. No seals.
Fire begins spreading throughout the forest as the wounded Bambi is visited by his father, who tells him, "You must get up." Gee, thanks, Dad. I've got bullets inside of me, Dad. Bullets.
The King of the Forest and Bambi escape the fire, as the hunters are mauled by a grizzly bear who rears up on his hind legs and roars, "ONLY YOU CAN PREVENT FOREST FIRES."
Maybe not really. Life comes to the forest once more, and everyone rushes to see the new prince(s) that Faline gives birth to. Meanwhile, Bambi and the King of the Forest watch from a safe distance.
Bambi: This just feels kinda emotionless.
King of the Forest: Take it from me, Bam, kids just bring bad stuff. The King of the Forest's royal robes are pride, honor, and protection. They protect from anarchy, chaos and disunity, but they do not protect from baby puke. Listen well, Bam.
King of the Forest: Chyeah, kid. You might actually want to change your name now that you're the king. Something like King Kickyerface. Or Gore Horns. Horny Beast. Or Mauler. Or Thumper! Man, Thumper. That's a great name for a king. I'd follow someone named Thumper.
Why Kids Should Watch This Flick: All joking aside, Bambi is one of the most cinematically stunning films of all time. Joking not aside, Bambi teaches kids that it doesn't matter how amazing you are, even if you have fearsome dogs and you can shoot deer in mid-flight fifty feet above the ground, it's not okay to start forest fires.
Next week: A lesser known volume in the history of Disney known as "Fun and Fancy Free."
Did you know deer kill more people per year than sharks? Scott knew that, and before you, we might add. Check him out on Facebook!
Related Post: Blogging Disney