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Bambi: Diamond Edition Blu-ray & DVD Review

Bambi (1942) movie poster Bambi

Theatrical Release: August 13, 1942 / Running Time: 70 Minutes / Rating: G

Director: David D. Hand / Writers: Felix Salten (original story); Perce Pearce (story direction); Larry Morey (story adaptation); Frank Churchill (songs); George Stallings, Melvin Shaw, Carl Fallberg, Chuck Couch, Ralph Wright (story development)

Voice Cast: Donnie Dunagan (Young Bambi), Peter Behn (Young Thumper), Stan Alexander (Young Flower), Paula Winslowe (Bambi's Mother), Cammie King (Young Faline), Hardie Albright (Adolescent Bambi), Tim Davis (Adult Thumper, Adolescent Flower), John Sutherland (Adult Bambi), Sam Edwards (Adult Thumper), Sterling Holloway (Adult Flower), Ann Gillis (Adult Faline), Fred Shields (Great Prince of the Forest), Will Wright (Friend Owl), Bobby Stewart (Baby Bambi), Margaret Lee (Mrs. Rabbit), Mary Lansing (Aunt Ena, Mrs. Possum), Thelma Boardman (Mrs. Quail)

Songs: "Love is a Song", "Let's Sing a Gay Little Spring Song", "Little April Shower", "Looking for Romance (I Bring You a Song)"

Buy Bambi: Diamond Edition (1 Blu-ray Disc, 1 DVD) from Amazon.com in...
Blu-ray Packaging • Deceptive DVD Packaging / New Standard 2-Disc DVD (available April 19)


BLU-RAY BONUS FEATURES

When Bambi was first released to DVD in 2005, it was considered the lightest Platinum Edition set to date. That tradition continues with Bambi' s Blu-ray debut six years later, which is the first Diamond Edition to have only one Blu-ray disc. That's largely due to Bambi's length, age, and the fact that there's simply less material to mine than with the more celebrated Snow White.

Diane Disney Miller greets us from the Walt Disney Family Museum, where she proves that all members of the Disney family share the same likeness. The Enhanced Edition of "Inside Walt's Story Meeting" shows off some snazzy new editing.

Fortunately, there's still a wealth of really first-rate supplemental content included, some it ported over from the Platinum Edition, and some of it brand new. The first item we encounter is under the Play menu (which also includes a couple of duplicate entries from the Bonus Features menu discussed below). "Disc Introduction by Diane Disney Miller" (1:06, HD) meets up with Walt's only living daughter. She talks a bit about Bambi but much more about the Walt Disney Family Museum, which is where we find her. I don't think any Disney fans will mind that; in fact, it's neat to get a glimpse at its interior. More than anything, it's just nice to hear from Ms. Disney Miller.

Moving on, we next reach the Bonus Features menu, divided into four sections: Backstage Disney, Family Play, Classic DVD Bonus Features, and Sneak Peeks. (There's also an Info section, which merely contains legal disclaimers).

Backstage Disney: Diamond Edition

First and most substantial is "Bambi: Inside Walt's Story Meetings - Enhanced Edition." You might recall this feature from the old Platinum Edition, but the "enhanced" in the title here makes a whole world of difference. This is an audio commentary of sorts in which a cast of voice actors re-enacts Walt's various conferences with the Bambi production team using verbatim transcripts. Skillfully edited to match the movie's flow, this develops a level of appreciation in the listener that a regular commentary never could have. We have a chance to hear Walt and his fellow legends actually debate decisions that will have a lasting cultural impact -- like whether to actually show Man in the forest, for instance. We should be this lucky with all classic films.

The actor playing Walt does most of the talking and he sounds uncannily like Mr. Disney. The timbre in his voice is a bit lower than Walt's, but I found myself snapping back to reality and suddenly remembering that these are not actual recordings of the filmmakers.
They're really that good. Dozens of other people chime in, and to help you keep track of them, their names and pictures appear on screen when they're speaking.

Also new in the Enhanced Edition of "Inside Walt's Story Meeting" is a curious postage stamp motif.

Also on-screen is a collection of archival photographs and developmental artwork. On the 2005 DVD, these were displayed in a rudimentary, picture-in-picture fashion that already feels dated. They've been entirely reworked and expanded so that they now zoom in and out and fly around the screen, constantly negotiating frame space with the movie itself. These new enhancements are considerably more engaging and entertaining. I didn't notice any changes in the actual audio, but there are other major additions.

Last fall's Beauty and the Beast Diamond Edition introduced a new, revolutionary kind of bonus feature in "Beyond Beauty." The highly interactive documentary took nearly four hours to watch and made use of sophisticated transitions that weren't possible on DVD. This new Bambi release applies that same technology to "Inside Walt's Story Meetings."

Now, as you watch, you'll occasionally be prompted with an optional, ancillary video supplement that relates to whatever's being discussed at the time. Select it and a countdown clock runs until you seamlessly break away from the film track and into a new featurette.
Watch a clip from "Inside Walt's Story Meetings: Enhanced
Edition" featuring the voices of Thumper and Faline:
Just act fast, because the option doesn't stay there for long.

As with "Beyond Beauty", this does have its limitations. The transitions back into the main commentary aren't very smooth, for example. You still can't fast-forward or rewind at all, nor can you access any runtimes. That makes it difficult to estimate the duration of the whole process, but I'd wager it took me somewhere in the neighborhood of three hours. Unlike Beauty and the Beast, there is no separate menu listing all of the extra content, but you can always use the chapter skip button to jump immediately from one feature prompt to the next.

So what's included in these sub-segments? There are twelve in total, most of them calling again on the voice actors to recreate additional transcripts (whether these were recorded and unused in 2005 or made anew now, I can't be sure). If you want to know more about all of this great content, the next six paragraphs will break them down in detail.

"Learn More About Walt's Story Meetings" is the first video option and it explores the structure and purpose of the very meetings we're hearing reenacted. After that is "Hear More About the Chipmunk and Squirrel", in which we learn about a funny animated bit that Walt felt strongly about but ultimately cut from the picture. The third interlude is the 1941 Mickey Mouse cartoon Canine Caddy, making its Blu-ray debut here with a new talking-heads introduction. Walt actually makes direct reference to the short in one of the story meetings, so its inclusion is aptly timed.

The fourth offering is a deleted scene called "Bambi Stuck on a Reed." After an introduction, we start at the point in the movie where this extra scene would have begun. The film freeze-frames, fades to gray, and scales out to reveal original, black-and-white storyboard sketches. Accompanied by dramatically reenacted Walt Disney narration, the sketches are brought to life through creative camera panning and occasional flip-book animation. The effect is very cool.

Next is the more conventional featurette "See How Disney's Animators Prepared for Bambi", a look at the research methods used to study woodland animals' behaviors. After that, we have "Hear a Personal Story from Walt." Led first by an introduction, this is another performance of Walt's transcribed words, hailing from a 2/1/1940 meeting in which Walt shared an epiphany. Then there's "Learn About the Groundbreaking Visual Style of Bambi", another standard featurette. The emphasis here is on the impressionistic styling of Bambi's backgrounds and the legacy they've had.

The second deleted scene, "Two Leaves", was inspired by one of the most highly acclaimed passages in Felix Salten's original novel. Pieced together with dramatic dialogue and sketch animation, the scene is devoted to the last two leaves on a tree as heavy winds welcome winter. Knowing that their time on the tree is drawing to a close, the leaves reflect on their lives together and share their apprehension about the afterlife. An introduction explains why Walt ultimately chose to cut the scene, but it makes an immediate emotional impact. That's a lot to say for unfinished and discarded animation, but it is undeniably powerful.

Then comes another Mickey Mouse cartoon, 1935's On Ice. Walt makes mention of this one too, which also makes its Blu-ray debut with a new introduction. "Hear How Walt Disney Chose the Animators on Bambi" pays tribute to Walt's ability to pair talent with assignments.
Watch a clip from
"Learn More About the Music and Songs of Bambi":
"Learn More About the Music and Songs of Bambi" stays with that same style to interestingly explore the film's amazing score and original numbers. "Hear More About Walt Disney's First Female Animator" provides a nice look at Retta Scott, a Disney legend who got her first film credit for her work on Bambi.

Finally, "Learn About the Lasting Legacy of Bambi" is the one part of Backstage Disney that really makes a point of singing Bambi's praises. I don't say that with even a hint of annoyance because the movie's earned the acclaim. This is a very nice way to end the epic "Story Meetings" experience and enhances appreciation for the film.

Believe it or not, we've only talked about one Backstage Disney bonus feature so far. That's how chock-full "Story Meetings" really is! It's worth noting that the '90s Disney blue castle logo precedes the movie in "Story Meetings."

Backstage Disney next takes us to Second Screen, something you already know all about from Page 1 (both Second Screen and "Story Meetings" are accessible from multiple menu screens). There's also a short explanatory video entitled "What is Disney Second Screen" (0:42), made in the same style as the digital copy how-to we're all used to seeing. Backstage Disney gives the two deleted scenes previously discussed their own listings on the menu, which means we get runtimes (including the introductions): "Two Leaves" (3:07) and "Bambi Stuck on a Reed" (1:56). There's nothing else different about them, so if you've gone through all of "Walt's Story Meetings," you've already seen them.

Something you haven't seen before is a deleted song, "Twitterpated" (1:53). There's no animation for this, just audio and a still screen. The song is rather catchy and had it made sense for Disney to leave it in the film, it would no doubt be a song we all know today, instead of one we're just now hearing.

Bambi bones are on display in the Blu-ray's Interactive Galleries (this cap represents the Platinum Edition gallery, but the image appears on both releases).

Finally, Backstage Disney ends with "Bambi Interactive Galleries." Welcome to the next generation of home video image galleries. There are so many ways to browse through the many pictures here, my favorite of which is to set them to auto-playback at 3x speed. This turns them into a featurette of sort, and you can even set them to play with Bambi's beautiful score. Like one? Zoom in on it, save it to your favorites, or even give it a star rating. Search by category or alphabetically by title. If you'd rather see lots of thumbnails at once, just opt for the far-back gallery view.
I used to be annoyed by the cumbersome process of viewing hundreds of DVD stills. Now I'm totally won over by this new experience. Here are the individual galleries you'll find and the number of images in each: Character Design (54), Backgrounds (38), Production (35), Storyboards (75), and Visual Development (151).

All bonus features in the Backstage Disney section are presented in HD.

Family Play: Games & Activities

Surprisingly, there's only one bonus in this section. There were so many on the Platinum Edition, and none of those are carried over. Instead, we get "Disney's Big Book of Knowledge: Bambi Edition." This high-definition game holds three storybook featurettes ("Spring," "Winter," and "Night"), made with an educational angle. After each, there is a virtual game. For "Spring," you're given the incredibly easy task of matching child animals to their parents. For "Winter," you move Bambi around so that he catches as many falling snowflakes as possible. After "Night," you're allowed to decorate various Bambi landscapes with the stickers you've earned during gameplay. You can even save them for when you return later!

I've never been a fan of home video gaming, but as easy as these are, they're all far more functional than anything I've seen on DVD. The controls are only occasionally slow to respond to command. The biggest disappointment is that the games don't make use of any of the knowledge learned during the seasonal featurettes. What's education without application? Of course, if you want to skip the videos and go straight to the games, you can.

"Winter Grass," a scene deleted from Bambi, is included in rough animation form on the Diamond Edition. Walt leads a storyboard conference in this production still, seen in "The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born." Walt Disney explains the multi-plane camera in "Tricks of the Trade." An excerpt from this "Disneyland" episode is included on Bambi: Diamond Edition.

Classic DVD Bonus Features

This is the home to content that previously appeared on the Platinum Edition. As you'll see in the next section, not everything survived the transition to this Diamond Edition. Those items that did haven't been retouched in any way and are all presented in standard definition.

First among these is a pair of deleted scenes: "Winter Grass" (0:36) and "Bambi's First Snow" (2:31). Neither of these feels as special as the deleted material in Backstage Disney, but it's always neat to look at what might have been.

After that is something much more important, "The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born", probably the second most substantial offering on the Blu-ray, just behind "Walt's Story Meetings." The feature-length documentary looks at five aspects of Bambi's production and legacy: story, characters, actors, art design, music, and history. You can watch those as individual featurettes or altogether as a comprehensive feature, which runs just over 53 minutes. I recommend the latter if you have the time for it. Each segment flows nicely into the next. This is the first Diamond Edition not to offer a brand-new feature-length documentary, but between this and all the new content added to "Story Meetings," there really isn't need for one.

"Tricks of the Trade" (7:18) is a wonderful excerpt from the "Disneyland" TV series, originally aired in February 1957. This ranks among the more famous "Disneyland" episodes because it's the one where Walt explained the all-important multi-plane camera to the public. That genius invention belongs to the Disney studio and was chiefly important to the production of Bambi. Walt spends a lot of time talking about the movie and we get amazing behind-the-scenes glimpses at its filming. There's some fun Mickey Mouse animation too!

Andreas Deja talks art and more in "Inside the Disney Archives," one of the Classic DVD Bonus Features found on Bambi: Diamond Edition. This shot really captures the atmospheric moodiness of Walt Disney's classic short film, "The Old Mill." Long before Oprah, the Disney Studio was using Book of the Month Club status to promote its newest film, Bambi.

"Inside the Disney Archives" (8:39) follows animator Andreas Deja through the sacrosanct Disney Archives. The curators and employees there guide him through the Bambi-related art in their files as he explains how they would have been used in the animating process. Deja is one of the great animators of the day and still he seems genuinely awed by the 1940s talent.

Now comes 1937's The Old Mill (8:58), one of the most well-known short films in Disney's Silly Symphonies series. Memorable for its haunting illustration of a fierce evening storm, shown from the perspective of animals nesting inside a dilapidating mill, the cartoon was the very first to use the multi-plane camera. That fact is the reason it's included alongside Bambi, which was already going into production when The Old Mill was made. Note that the short is preceded by an A.M.P.A.S title card labeling it as "A Fully Restored Academy Award Winning Animated Classic" and a '90s-era blue castle logo, replacing the RKO title that would have been seen in theaters.

The final recycled bonus feature is the Original 1942 Theatrical Trailer (2:12). I think you'll find it interesting, the way the studio casts Bambi as a love story. The trailer also makes big claims about Walt Disney being "the world's greatest entertainer", despite the fact that two of his three feature films had not performed well at that point. Of course, history was clearly on his side.

Sneak Peeks

The last section on the Bonus Features menu merely plays one single reel of previews (11:48), with no separate menu for selecting them individually. They are: 2011's Winnie the Pooh, Tangled, The Lion King: Diamond Edition, a Disney Movie Rewards promo, a Disney Parks commercial, Bambi II: Special Edition, Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure, Spooky Buddies: The Curse of the Howlloween Hound, and Tinker Bell and the Mysterious Winter Woods.

One can easily dream up all kinds of new bonuses Disney could have created: an updated documentary, a publicity gallery, trailers from the many theatrical reissues over the years, and more. Still, there's so much here that it's hard to complain. Aside from its premiere in theaters and the early reaction from the public, the supplements cover every other facet of Bambi in great depth.

He's not Oswald, but if an animal's fortune is measured in food, that is one lucky rabbit!

DVD BONUS FEATURES

The combo pack's DVD includes only four bonus features. With 7.64 GB on the disc, there is room for a little more content, but not a lot. Fortunately, the most important item is here: "Inside Walt's Story Meetings - Enhanced Edition." This is the same version seen on the Blu-ray, with all of its new and fantastic editing. The only difference is that all of the optional breakaway content is missing. That makes sense, because the interweaving of that material makes use of Blu-ray-specific technology.

Next up is "DisneyPedia: Bambi's Forest Friends" (4:07), a fun little feature that first appeared on 2005's Platinum Edition but for some unknown reason isn't also included on the Diamond Edition Blu-ray. At least we have it here. A very Disney-riffic narrator matches characters from the movie with their real-life counterparts in this delightfully breezy piece of edutainment.

The disc introduction by Diane Disney Miller is included under the Play menu as well.

Finally, the DVD has its own Sneak Peeks reel (14:02), similar to the Blu-ray's, but with a few differences. The Spooky Buddies preview is dropped in favor of Beauty and the Beast: Belle's Magical World - Special Edition, Dumbo: 70th Anniversary Edition, and an ad for Disney Blu-ray.

WHAT'S MISSING FROM the BLU-RAY?

Even though Bambi's extras platter is comparatively light to begin with, and even with a designated menu for Classic DVD Features,
a number of supplements from 2005's release have been dropped in the upgrade from Platinum to Diamond. Some omissions make more sense than others. Here they are:

• A brief introduction to "Inside Walt's Story Meetings" by actor Patrick Stewart, as well as his closing remarks
• Andreas Deja's introduction to the Platinum Edition's two deleted scenes
• "DisneyPedia: Bambi's Forest Friends", which is at least included on the Diamond's bonus DVD (see above)
• "Disney Time Capsule", an effort to put Bambi in the context of both the Disney Studios and American culture in the 1940s
• "Virtual Forest", a pretty cool screensaver of sorts in which a forest changes from one season to the next, with cool 5.1 surround sound effects to match
• The Patrick Stewart-hosted "Restoring Bambi" featurette, which specifically pertained to the 2005 restoration
• "The Forest Adventure" game, which contained seven mini-games
• "The Legacy Continues" - a promotional featurette that sought to hype up and justify the then-upcoming Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest (later renamed Bambi II)
• "Disney's Storytime: Thumper Goes Exploring" read-along
• "What's Your Season?" personality profile quiz
• An introductory screen before The Old Mill with an explanatory note on its connection to Bambi
• The DVD credits that had previously appeared at the end of the film (as explained in our Video and Audio section)
• Educational "docent audio" for the image galleries
• A "Disc 2 Preview"
• THX optimizer
• A collection of now-outdated Sneak Peeks

The Platinum Edition's image gallery had 209 still images, while the Diamond's now has 353. Most of the Platinum's made the cut, but not all are retained. Perhaps most notably, a gallery of Bambi posters is missing.

While the outmoded previews, games, and anything tailored specifically to the 2005 DVD have understandably been shaved, there was no reason for Disney to drop worthwhile features like "DisneyPedia," "Virtual Forest," and the "Time Capsule" from the Classic DVD Bonus Features section. Even Stewart's introduction is missed, as are those early theatrical posters.

The main menu screen for the bonus DVD of the Diamond Edition Blu-ray combo displays a lot more effort than Beauty and the Beast's did. Bambi's Bonus Feature menu on the Diamond Edition DVD is surprisingly animated.

MENUS and PACKAGING

Bambi's Blu-ray menu scheme is a big departure from the insanely elaborate one used for Beauty and the Beast. The main menu screen peacefully scrolls through still backgrounds from the film, occasionally panning across them, while new environmental animation like rain, snow, fireflies, or butterflies brings them to life. Pleasant score and sound effects play behind them.
DisneyStore.com
Transitions to the sub-menus are graceful. This is a menu I don't mind leaving on for a while. A Screen Saver feature will help prevent burn-in if you happen to leave it on for too long, and you can customize the delay time for its activation or just turn it off altogether.

The DVD's 16x9 main menu is more playful and less serene. A film montage plays inside an ovular window with menu animation playing all around to the sound of upbeat score. Score accompanies sub-menus too, one of which is actually animated! While I still prefer either the Blu-ray or Platinum Edition's tranquil menu schemes, this evidences so much more effort than Disney put into Beauty and the Beast's Diamond DVD menus. Sounds like somebody at Disney Home Video is listening!

Both discs use Disney's FastPlay and on the Blu-ray, you can custom-build playlists for it. Why anyone would actually access the main menu screen and use it to build a playlist all so that they can then watch the movie and bonuses without the menu is beyond me. But for the counterintuitively minded, it is an option.

The Blu-ray's Scene Selection menu offers not only the traditional Bookmarks and Chapters features, but also "Seek," a superior feature that lets you speedily scroll through the entire film to quickly arrive at the very frame or second you want to start at. Little things like this make me love Blu-ray all the more.

As they always do with Diamond Editions (and sometimes other titles), Disney releases this combo pack in two different packaging options: one in a standard Blu-ray case, the other in a standard DVD case. Everything else about the two releases is identical; the only difference is the size and shape of the box. (As previously mentioned, a separate 2-Disc DVD set will also be released next month, so don't get that confused with the Blu-ray combo packs.)

Fortunately, Disney sent the Blu-ray packaging for review. Both discs are housed inside the slimline blue case, which is covered with a glossy, embossed, cardboard slipcover. Bambi's head is bigger than his whole body on the cover, but I still find the design pleasing. The two discs have different label art on them, and both are handsome. The DVD's is especially classy. Inside is a booklet of Disney ads, a Disney Movie Rewards Magic Code, an offer for a free reproduction of the Bambi poster, and a six-panel Blu-ray Guide that highlights some of the supplements and provides a map (incomplete but still helpful) of the two discs.

Love is a song that never ends, yes it goes on and on, my friends. Some people started singin' it...

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Bambi is unquestionably a masterpiece. I consider it a benchmark of great cinema. If you don't own it, you should, and this Diamond Edition is an almost perfect way for you to bring it home. Remember that these releases tend to get locked back up in the Disney Vault before long, so get it before you regret it!

What about those who already have Bambi on the shelf? Well, if you own a Blu-ray player or plan to at any point in the future, then you absolutely want to upgrade. These Disney Diamond Editions are ushering in the next generation of bonus features, and they're good enough to tip the scales for anyone still on the fence about going Blu... as if the stellar, revelatory, and flawless HD transfer wasn't enough.

However, if you're still a DVD devotee, you're better off holding tight to your Platinum Edition... at least for now. The slight improvement in the new restoration and the enhanced edition of "Inside Walt's Story Meetings" might be enough to warrant an upgrade to the new 2-Disc DVD coming in April.

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Related Interview: Donnie Dunagan, voice of Bambi (February 2011)

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Reviewed March 1, 2011.


Screencaps of film and common bonus features are taken from 2011 Diamond Edition Blu-ray's Bonus DVD; others taken from 2005 Platinum Edition DVD.