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|Kevin Krock, editor|
Bambi is one of those perennial Disney animation classics that I now enjoy watching and appreciating for its artistry, beauty, and flow. However, I will admit that I do not remember being a particularly big fan of the movie when I was younger. Outside of knowing the characters and vaguely recalling the more notable scenes, I never felt compelled to watch it when I was young.
As my appreciation for animation and art developed over the years, my appreciation for the technical and artistic achievements made in Bambi grew. Eager to share my continued appreciation of this masterpiece of animation with my two young boys, I popped in the disc and we started watching.
As the credits were rollingbecause remember that the credits came first back thenI started getting my first this is boring comments, but then something would happen on screen, like the wonderful multiplane camera shot through the forest, and they would both sit there quietly watching. I was encouraged by their attentiveness, but the cycle continued every few minutes right up to Little April Shower. After only about 15 minutes or so into the film, I lost them completely.
As contemporary fans of animation, my boys appear to be a bit tainted towards the splashy and fantastic rather than the quaint peacefulness of a forest. With the persistent interruptions gone, I then continued to watch and appreciate the movie in relative peace and quiet. We will try watching it again some day, especially now that it has been beautifully preserved on DVD, and maybe as their artistic talents grow, they too will appreciate and enjoy Bambi for the artistry and not just remember it as a boring movie that lacked spaceships, aliens, monsters, silly warthogs, or talking toys. Hey, a dad can dream, can't he?
So what is it about Bambi that sets it apart from the other Disney movies? As most of you know, at its core it is a simple story about growing up. The movie follows Bambi from taking his first steps, to befriending his pals Thumper the rabbit, Flower the skunk, and Owl to meeting his first love, Faline. As Bambi begins to grow up, he must also deal with the tragic death of his mother as well as other growing pains that we have experienced in one way or another. Throw on top of all that the destructive threat that humans bring to the forest, and all the early character development really pays off in the latter half of the movie as the adventure builds. Then, set this carefully crafted story in beautiful environmental artwork along with skillfully executed character animation, and you have an enduring classic, even if your young children currently disagree with you.
The Video, Audio, and Interface
When you think about it, the original nitrate prints of this film are over 60 years old, and even though they have been stored under optimum conditions at the Library of Congress for decades, age ultimately takes its toll and can literally make beautiful art disappear. Enter one of the most ambitious restoration efforts in Disney's history, which has returned this animation classic to a level unseen since the artwork was originally photographed. The original nitrate prints were scanned into a computer system for digital restoration, and after more than 9,600 hours of tedious frame-by-frame work and over 110,000 frames film, most of the scratches, dust, color imbalances, and general degradation have been removed without impacting the artistic intent of the original animators and artists.
The video transfer on this disc is indeed impressive, especially when compared to the last VHS transfer. Where the VHS transfer is dark, muddled, and often distractingly aged, this DVD truly highlights the beautiful colors, delicate shading, and artistic details that make Bambi such a lovely film. It is clear that restoring the film in its original, intended state for future generations was the primary goal of the effort, and it now generally looks great. There are a couple of spots, though, that still look a bit aged and others that look a bit blurry, but those are fleeting moments that do not seem to detract from the viewing experience.
The same excellent restoration and transfer also holds true for the audio. The audio on the DVD is presented in both a remixed Disney Enhanced Home Theater 5.1 surround soundtrack as well as a digitally remastered theatrical stereo soundtrack. The new 5.1 soundtrack primarily utilizes the surrounds for music and environmental sound effects, like the fire, but the character voices still remain primarily in the center channel. It is a nice mix that works well, but it is not as dynamic or active as the recent Lion King Enhanced Home Theater mix, for example. The digitally restored theatrical stereo soundtrack is also included, and more faithful to the original
This two-disc set contains plenty of bonus material for everyone in the family. There are several items on the set that I found both interesting and entertaining, and even though my boys were not completely enamored by the movie, they did enjoy several of the goodies found on Disc 2. Here is a quick rundown of the items that we particularly enjoyed:
Inside Walt's Story Meetings This interesting goodie is featured on Disc 1, and it is essentially a reenactment of the meeting notes taken during the production of Bambi. As actors give voice to the notes taken from Walt and his staff members, the viewer is treated to early artwork and clips of the movie. The whole feature closely parallels the movie, but it provides a fresh spin on a full-length commentary.
Deleted Sequences On Disc 2, we are treated to two never-before-seen deleted sequences that were recovered from the Disney vaults, and Disney animator Andreas Deja introduces the two reconstructed clips. One sequence involves Bambi's first encounter with snow, and the other one is a short encounter between Bambi and Faline. They are both pretty short, but it is interesting to see how pieces or ideas contained within these storyboards show up in the final film.
The Making of Bambi The highlight of Disc 2 for me is the 53minute documentary on the making of the movie. It covers a wide range of topics, including the story development, the art and character design, the voice actors, and the music, and it is done with sufficient depth and analysis that I felt that my time was well spent watching it. Beyond the expected areas of coverage, there is also a neat section on the history of the movie and the events that were going on at the studio throughout development. Throughout the documentary, there are interviews with animation historians, animators, and production staff, and we are also treated to tons of development artwork as well as behind the scenes film footage of the studio and staff. It is very well put together and definitely worth your time.
Forest Adventure Game The highlight of Disc 2 for my boys, however, is the series of set-top games that make up the The Forest Adventure. The game consists of a series of eight activities with multiple difficulty levels, such as musical memory, trivia, numbers games, and others. They have become quite familiar with DVD set-top games, so they did not have any problems figuring out how to play them. The variety of activities and the variable difficulty levels also helps maintain children's interest.
Restoring Bambi Featurette This short featurette, hosted by Patrick Stewart (Star Trek: The Next Generation), is a glimpse at the amazing process of restoring a film. We are introduced to the Bambi restoration team via interviews, behind-the-scenes video, and comparative restoration clips. After seeing what kind of condition the original nitrate prints were in after obtaining them from the Library of Congress, it truly makes you appreciate the criticality of restoration projects like this, and it is impressive to see how they can save these literally disappearing classics.
Bambi And The Great Prince Of The Forest : Sneak Peek This brief featurette takes a look at the production of the upcoming movie, Bambi And The Great Prince of the Forest . This movie takes place just after Bambi's mother is shot and he must then be raised by his father. The background of the story and sneak peeks of the movie are interspersed with interviews with the animators, voice actors, and production staff. It sounds like the team is dedicated to maintaining the look, feel, and quality of the original Bambi, so we will see how things turn out next year.
Disneypedia this version of the Disneypedia features a few minutes of educational material on deer, rabbits, skunks, and owls. It is pretty short, but there is just enough interesting information and video clips to keep children's attention.
The Final Evaluation
With the extensive and impressive restoration of this film and the good selection of bonus material, this set is indeed a must have for your collection. Once again, the success of Disney's Platinum Edition DVDs has been upheld, and I look forward to the next two releases, Cinderella (October 2005) and Lady and the Tramp (March 2006).
Thoughts, questions, or comments? Contact Kevin here.
Kevin Doc Krock is been a long-time animation buff and home theater fan. He's been following the rise of the DVD format in the home market since its introduction, and he hopes to help you make the most of your family's home theater viewing time and video collections.
You can contact Kevin here.
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