Making the Grades
"It is widely believed that Bambi has had the greatest impact on viewers of any Disney film," declares the information in the press package I received from the studio with this famous fawn flick.
I'll say! They don't have to provide statistical evidence to convince me of their claim. Do you know any child who has seen the movie that wasn't traumatized when Bambi's mom got shot by the hunters?! (Oops, would that be considered a spoiler?)
Released to theaters countless times since its debut in 1942, the tale has been passed from generation to generation, severely affecting the palatability of venison I'm sure! Yet despite this dark moment (and a few others including a threatening forest fire, some stags who lock horns over a pretty female, a nervous bird downed by a gunman, and a pack of persistent dogs) Bambi's lighter side and simple charm has left an equally indelible impression on the hearts and minds of most fans.
Based on a novel by Felix Salten, the story follows the life of the Prince of the Forest. Beginning with his regal arrival to a soft-eyed doe, the movie takes as much time as an adoring new parent to watch the wobbly-legged creature learn to walk, sniff blossoms, chase butterflies, and make friends with Thumper the rabbit, a skunk called Flower, and a wise old owl. At first bashful, the young deer grows in confidence while discovering trees offer safety, meadows can be frolicking good fun, girls are giggly, and ice is slippery. Even on the days when he faces nature's harsher realities, like a thundering rainstorm or the scarcity of food in the winter, Bambi doesn't know fear until he crosses tracks with Man.
Having Human Beings cast as the enemy helps to remind viewers of our need to treat the world with respect, making Bambi one of the earliest films to promote an environmental message. It also provides a touching example of a mothers love and sacrifice. As the fawn trades his spots for antlers, moving from birth to twitter-pated to raising offspring of his own, the story imparts a greater understanding of the circle of life. But perhaps its most memorable lesson is the one we (and especially our mothers) can quote by heart: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say nothing at all."