Bambi (1942)

Sovereign Cervine
Bambi is born and all the woodland creatures come to celebrate and congratulate Bambi’s mother on the birth of the little prince. Wait, what? Why is Bambi a prince? How does this add to the story? Isn’t it just telling us that this story is more interesting/important because Bambi’s a prince? Isn’t a regular life story worth exploring and telling? Why couldn’t he have come from the family of the deer equivalent of a cobbler or a cooper?

The presence of a reigning prince also makes it clear that the woodland animals organize government into the form of a principality. What need the animals have for a system of government is not clear seeing as the animals are entirely self sufficient with no need for organization. Even if the Prince’s role is purely ceremonial it does not explain why the other species revere him so. Why not a mole king, or a rabbit viscount?

Bambi: One Effed up Little Fawn
Bambi has an awkward relationship with his dad. When Bambi was born, his father, The Prince (or Prince, Sr. or the Deer Formerly Known as Prince), was looking on, from a distance.

The next time Bambi meets his father is in a meadow full of deer. He and his mother are there with a bunch of other deer, kind of in a herd, and then everybody’s like, ‘whoa’, because they noticed The Prince majestically strutting into the group. [Cue majestic music…or Raspberry Beret. Whatever.] He then stops next to Bambi and publicly snubs him.

What an ass. Way to mess with the kid.

Bambi: He stopped and looked at me.

Bambi’s Mother: Yes, I know

Bambi: Why was everyone still when he came on the meadow?

[What he really means to ask is, why did he slight me in public? Why isn’t he present in my life? Why am I not good enough for him? Why doesn’t he love me?! *sobs*]

Bambi’s Mother: Everyone respects him. For of all the deer in the forest, not one has lived half so long. He’s very brave and very wise. That’s why he’s known as the great prince of the forest.

[HE’S ALSO YOUR DAD! And, by the way, we did it over there, in that bush.]

After Bambi’s mother is killed by a hunter, his dad suddenly appears and tells him that his mother won’t be with him any more. We don’t know what happens in the intervening period between this scene and Bambi becoming a young man. The only logical conclusion is that during this lapse of time Bambi trained in his father’s dojo.  This is evidenced by Bambi’s mad fighting skills displayed a couple of times later in the film.

Dude, is Bambi just another Edmond Dantès?

Death of Bambi’s Mother
Why is it that the main, and sometimes only, criticism of Bambi is that his mother dies and how awful it was for Disney to include that? We’re going to be a little controversial here and say that this isn’t the travesty that some make it out to be. Yes, it’s sad. Yes, it induces tears. (Unless you’re Klingon.) But it adds interest and reality to the story. Our criticism of this aspect of the story is not that his mother dies, but that Disney chose to cut from little Bambi, presumably shocked and numb, hearing of his mother’s death, to Bambi, as a well adjusted young buck. How does this honor the grieving process? Perhaps it’s implied, or perhaps they didn’t want to belabor the whole ‘death thing’, but really if you’re going to include such an element as, little fawn’s mother is brutally murdered, then perhaps there should be some mention of a healing process.

Here, the Disney artists belie their innermost nerdy, awkward selves by creating a vision of love, or mating, or hooking up in which they, the males*, have to do very little, and the super hot females are forward and frisky. For example, each of the females pairs off with one of the males and very quickly goes in for a smooch. Here’s what happened to Flower, the skunk, when he got kissed:

*While there were female animators working for Disney at this time, it is our understanding that the story development team was entirely male.

Friend Owl
Friend Owl is a peculiar character in Bambi. In real life, owls hunt furry woodland creatures. They swoop down, usually under the cloak of darkness, grasping their prey with their talons, where the prey dangles and is usually afforded some time to contemplate the beauty of the scene beneath them and horror that awaits. They are then ripped apart.

Or consumed whole. Owls are awesome.

Apparently, this natural owl behavior was deemed too gruesome for Bambi, so the owl character became Friend Owl; a likable, though at times grumpy, old codger. He likes things quiet, but will occasionally dispense sage advice, because you know, owls are wise and all. He’s old fashioned, too, and disapproves of the licentious avian orgy outside his door one spring. It could also be that he just wanted to sleep.

Nature vs. Man Conflict
Bambi: What happened, Mother? Why did we all run?

Bambi’s Mother: Man…was in the forest.

Why is it that Friend Owl can’t engage in natural owl behaviors, but ‘man’ shooting deer, pheasants, etc. is unquestionably natural? In early discussions, a Disney team member working on Bambi offered a word of caution against giving the audience the impression that ‘man’ shouldn’t be in the forest [hunting]. Do you think the deer want ‘man’ in the forest trying to kill them? No. And, ‘man’, while you’re at it, you can leave your maniacal dogs at home. Sure, ‘man’ can be in the forest, but ‘being’ in the forest and ‘shooting things’ in the forest are two different things. In sticking to the safety of their anthropocentrism, they failed to sympathize with the plight of the peaceful hunted.

There’s also no exploration of why ‘man’ is hunting; is it because they will be using the animal for food, clothing, etc. and honor the sacrifice of the animal, or is it because they enjoy killing animals for ‘sport’? Or is it for monetary gain? Why didn’t they opt to have the mother fall off a cliff or get attacked by a bear?

The third time ‘man’ appears, we see adult Bambi and his dad.

Bambi’s Dad: It is man, he is here again. There are many this time. We must head deep into the forest. Hurry! Follow me!

‘Man’ starts shooting at little furry creatures and pheasants and is basically indiscriminate at this point. ‘Man’ is also responsible for the forest fire near the end of the film. Good job, ‘man.’ Way to promote chaos and fear. It should be noted that ‘The Man’ is clearly implied by ‘man’.

Life Lessons from Bambi:
Lesson 1: You might not understand your parents’ relationship. This does not mean you can’t have good relationships with both of them.

Lesson 2: The Man is out to get you, and cute furry woodland creatures.

Lesson 3: Sometimes awkward stuff happens with friends. Don’t worry. These things can usually be worked through.

Thumper: Geewhiz, what happened that time?

What happens in the forest, stays in the forest.

Potent Ponderables

  • Why is Bambi male in the movie, but human Bambi’s are female?  Weird.
  • Why is Thumper’s mother always saying, ‘What did your father tell you?’ Doesn’t she have any authority in her own right? Sheesh.
  • Young Faline was voiced by Cammie King, who also played Rhett Butler’s little girl in Gone with the Wind.  Weird.
  • By the way, why is there no animated placenta scene? Now that you’re picturing that…

The animation techniques in Bambi are really quite something. Walt and his team spent about five years working on Bambi; starting as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was in its final stages of editing. (Notice too the improvement in the animation of the woodland creatures between the two movies.) Here’s a short video explaining one of the neato techniques used in Bambi; multi-plane animation. The last 2 1/2 minutes deals with Bambi specifically. Where’s our multi-plane birthing scene?

We think Bambi is definitely a worthwhile watch.


Rating:  14/17
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs up.

Rating:  20/24
Rating versus Joe versus the Volcano: Thumbs up.