Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Bambi: Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review

This classic movie is Walt Disney’s fifth full-length animated film and was based on based on Felix Salten’s book Bambi – A Life in the Woods.  It was originally going to be Disney’s second release but Walt’s desire for realism delayed the movie considerably.  The movie was finally released in 1942 and has finally gotten its turn for an exhaustive restoration and a release in high definition.

Bambi is a touching coming of age story about a young deer that has to grow up too fast when faced with mankind.  The movie’s lessons about loss, friendship, love, and the miracle of life are among the most poignant of any of the Disney movies and it’s without a doubt a true masterpiece.

Bambi was nominated for three Academy Awards for Best Song (“Love Is a Song,”), Best Sound Recording, and Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture. To date, Bambi is number three on the list of American Film Institute’s Top 10 Animated Films of All Times.

Film (5 out of 5 stars)

Bambi is a deceptively simple film both in it’s storytelling and its design.  It contains the least amount of dialogue out of all of the Disney movies (including Pixar) which gives it a more naturalistic feel than all of the other Disney efforts. When its impressionistic backgrounds by Chinese animator Tyrus Wong that are dream-like and intangible are combined with realistically drawn animals, the result is a magical nature study.

Bambi is a huge step away from Disney’s previous release of Dumbo and more like one of the FantasiaThe Lion King have liberally taken ideas and even sequences from Bambi and updated them for modern tastes to great success. nature scenes in tone and style. It’s powerful yet simple plot works wonderfully well with the more realistic approach taken to the movie.  I really don’t think anyone would make the same choices today because the studios think they have to add in a ton of pop culture references and songs which in my opinion bloat the final product in most cases.  However, it must be said that some movies like 

The movie opens with all of the forest creatures excitedly going to meet the new and Prince of the Forest named Bambi, who has just been born.  They are amused to see the baby deer try to stand up and walk and one of them, a brash little rabbit named Thumper immediately decides to help Bambi out and they become good friends.  They soon meet up with a bashful little skunk hiding in some flowers which makes Bambi call him Flower, much to Thumper’s amusement.  It isn’t until his mother takes him to the meadow that Bambi sees another deer.  The meadow is a dangerous place as it’s out in the open and it’s our first glimpse into the dangers that these animals face from both other predatory animals but mostly from mankind.

In the meadow, Bambi meets a female doe his age named Faline and is unnerved by her aggressive playfulness.  For her part, Faline thinks Bambi is adorable shy and likes teasing and chasing him around.  It is also in the meadow that Bambi first sees his absent father who leads the other animals and is constantly on alert to keep them all safe.  Sure enough, some hunters come into the meadow and start shooting at the animals and it’s up to Bambi’s father to get them all to safety.

Time passes and seasons change, and with winter comes a shortage of food and the prospects of starvation for the animals.  By the time spring arrives, we’ve watched the animals struggle to survive the long winter which only makes future events even more sad when the hungry animals risk venturing back out into the meadow to eat the newly arrived grass.  I know most people have either seen this film or have heard about it but since I don’t want to reveal anything to readers that haven’t seen the movie yet so I will just leave it at that.

This is a film that I am convinced has made some people think twice about hunting. For many people it’s hard seeing the animals run in confused terror at the presence of Man, especially after the time we’ve spent watching them grow up and struggle to survive.  Mankind isn’t featured in a favorable light at all and is instead shown as a destructive force that brings death and ruin to the animals and the forest alike.

Video (5 out of 5 stars)

This is another perfect restoration effort from Disney!  As usual, this 1080p transfer (1.33:1) is absolutely gorgeous and looks like a movie that was made last year rather than sixty-eight years ago.  Colors are vibrant and pop off the screen especially during the springtime sequences.  From the lush forest to the ice covered landscapes during winter, this transfer is simply amazing and a far cry better than previous releases.  Contrast and detail are outstanding and the black levels are so black and deep that you will be amazed. All traces of age have been removed and there’s no sign of the picture being excessively scrubbed with DNR. While watching the special features, there’s a scene of the movie shown to explain the multi-plane process and I was shocked at how different that looked compared to this restored edition.  I cannot say enough good things about this restoration.

Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)

The movie’s  DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1 audio track is also a fantastic restoration and I think this is about as good as it’s going to get considering the film’s age. The sound-scape has been widened considerably and some scenes like the spring showers or even the winter’s icy wind will make you feel like you are there.  Some of the sound effects show their age but this new track sounds great and the effort that was put into to it really shows.  Dialogue is clear and the songs and score by Frank Churchill and Edward Plumb are well balanced with it.  Special mention must be said about the awesome choral vocals that accompany the score as they are emphasized for dramatic scenes and swell along with the score across the channels.

Special Features (5 out of 5 stars)

This is another top notch effort from Disney to provide us with a ton of extras that will keep viewers busy for a long long time.  The Blu-ray has all of the extras as the DVD with the exception of the DisneyPedia: Bambi’s Forest Friends extra.  Here’s the list of all of the goodies to be found:

Blu-ray Extras:

Backstage Disney:
  • Introduction by Diane Disney Miller – Walt’s daughter talks about the movie and plugs the Walt Disney Museum which does look pretty cool.
  • Inside Walt’s Story Meetings – Enhanced Edition – A multi-tiered, interactive story-telling experience with voice re-enactments of the moments with Walt Disney that led to the creation of this classic film.  This is basically a visual commentary track with everyone involved in the movie accounted for.  In some ways, this is even better than the traditional commentary track as those are basically people’s recollections from awhile ago, while this track is from transcripts that were captured immediately which gives the viewer a first hand view of the movie coming to life.  This track offers a ton of information and insights into the movie and I highly recommend it.

  • Disney Second Screen – Bring content to life in your hands using your laptop or iPad while you watch the movie.  Disney’s new “Second Screen” technology, which is being introduced for the very first time on the Bambi Diamond Edition release, will further transform the at-home movie watching experience by empowering viewers with the ability to engage with film content on multiple media platforms and bring them to life in their own hands at the touch of a button. By simply downloading the new Disney Second Screen App onto an internet-connected computer or iPad and synching it to the movie, consumers will instantly be able to dive deeper into the film by engaging with fun interactive elements like animated flipbooks, galleries, photos, trivia and more.  (Not available at the time of this review).  Visit this website for more information after the movie is released.

  • Disney View – Instead of the black bars on the side of the picture you can choose to see some additional artwork by Lisa Keene that complements what’s on the screen and provides a 16×9 viewing experience.

  • Deleted Scenes – There are two never before released deleted scenes.  The first one is  called “Two Leaves” and it’s a sobering look at life and death as it pertains to a pair of leaves that are about to fall off a tree in the winter.  A lot of time and effort was put into this sequence and it’s a mature look at the nature of loss and acceptance with death.  It was very touching but it didn’t belong in this movie but could have worked wonderfully in something like Fantasia.  The  next deleted scene is called “Bambi Stuck on a Reed” where Bambi gets stuck on a reed that contains a mouse’s nest.  Bambi’s efforts to get free provide some humorous bits.  This is basically an extended scene from the movie but wasn’t necessary to keep.

  • Deleted song – We get to hear the deleted song about falling in love in the forest called “Twitterpated.”  I think they made the right choice for cutting it since it really doesn’t fit in well with the movie.

  • Blu-ray galleries – A collection of images originally created as part of the design process for Bambi which will provide hours of entertainment for those that are interested.
Family Play: Games & Activities:
  • Disney’s Big Book of Knowledge: Bambi Edition – An interactive educational gaming experience that uses the film as a learning tool. Players can customize their own Big Book of Knowledge and learn all about forest creatures, seasons and more. Each time a player completes a task, they are rewarded with new stickers to decorate their Big Book of Knowledge.
Bonus features from the previous DVD edition:
  • The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born – A look at the making of Bambi covers the story, the characters, the actors, the art design, the music and the history of Walt Disney’s classic film using behind-the-scenes footage, production stills, animation, artwork and multiple interviews with performers and behind-the-scenes participants.  This is a very thorough look at the making of the movie and probably will do the trick for most of the viewers except for hardcore Disney fans like me.

  • Tricks of the Trade (excerpt) – In an episode from the 1957 Disneyland TV show, Walt Disney narrates the story of the multi-plane camera, an animation innovation crucial to the production of Bambi.  Not only is this well done and very interesting, but the clip used to show the completed process shows just how amazing the restoration project was compared to the old prints.

  • Inside the Disney Archives – Disney Supervising Animator Andreas Deja guides viewers through Disney’s Animation Research Library, where artwork from past Disney animated feature films is stored, including early story sketches of Bobo the rabbit, (who became Thumper), glass paintings made for the multi-plane camera and more.  Another inside look for Disney fans who like me would love to just go through that entire facility to see all of the beautiful original artwork made for the movies.  I am glad that Disney cares so much about their heritage to have an archive facility such as this.

  • Deleted Scenes – Two deleted scenes that were previously released on DVD.  The first one is called “Winter Grass” and the second is called “Bambi’s First Snow.”  Both are cute and could have easily been included into the finished movie.

  • The Old Mill – Winner of the 1937 Academy Award for Best Short Subject/Cartoon, The Old MillBambi, including the multi-plane camera, animating realistic animals and experimenting with such natural occurrences such as wind, rain and lightning.  This is another short that could have fit right into Fantasia as well and it’s moody and evocative choices in lighting and techniques contributed a lot to Bambi and other productions too.  I also saw that it was also effectively included in the new World of Color show at Disneyland! was a testing ground for several techniques for 

Final Thoughts (5 out of 5 stars)

This is most likely Disney’s most harrowing and unflinching movie that they’ve released.  It’s so powerful that it’s made people believe that they saw a death in the film that wasn’t even shown and also inspired a generation of movie-goes and movie directors including such luminaries  as Steven Spielberg and Guillermo Del Toro.  The movie brilliantly combines realism with a dream like setting and shows how life comes full circle despite tragedy and that nature will always eventually triumph over anything connected to man.  This is an outstanding restoration effort and it’s a must have for any collection.

Order yours today!

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