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Bambi: It always comes up when people are comparing their most traumatic movie experiences: "the death of Bambi's mother," a recollection that can bring a shudder to even the most jaded filmgoer. That primal separation (which is no less stunning for happening off-screen) is the centerpiece of Bambi, Walt Disney's 1942 animated classic, but it is by no means the only bold stroke in the film. In its swift but somehow leisurely 69 minutes, Bambi covers a year in the life of a young deer. But in a bigger way, it measures the life cycle itself, from birth to adulthood, from childhood's freedom to grown-up responsibility. All of this is rendered in cheeky, fleet-footed style--the movie doesn't lecture, or make you feel you're being fed something that's good for you. The animation is miraculous, a lush forest in which nature is a constantly unfolding miracle (even in a spectacular fire, or those dark moments when "man was in the forest"). There are probably easier animals to draw than a young deer, and the Disney animators set themselves a challenge with Bambi's wobbly glide across an ice-covered lake, his spindly legs akimbo; but the sequence is effortless and charming. If Bambi himself is just a bit dull--such is the fate of an Everydeer--his rabbit sidekick Thumper and a skunk named Flower more than make up for it. Many of the early Disney features have their share of lyrical moments and universal truths, but Bambi is so simple, so pure, it's almost transparent. You might borrow a phrase from Thumper and say it's downright twitterpated. --Robert Horton
Bambi 2: A sequel to the 1942 Disney classic, Bambi, is laden with expectations since audiences are justifiably protective of this beloved tale abounding with enchantment and nostalgia. Rest assured: Bambi II rises to the occasion, succeeding at every turn. Brian Pimental directs the 70-minute direct-to-video release, which seamlessly integrates the beauty, subtlety, and essence of the original film. The new tale is actually a "midquel" as it takes place in the middle of the original film's story line, exploring Bambi's coming-of-age challenges. The saga begins soon after Bambi's mother has died--and for viewers who shudder at the thought of having to relive that traumatic movie experience, you won't. With gentle inferences to her passing, Bambi (voiced by Alexander Gould, Finding Nemo) is left to the clumsy-though-well-meaning care of his father, the Great Prince (voiced by Patrick Stewart) who faces the difficult task of raising a son while silently mourning his own loss. Yet the weighty subject of death is soon overshadowed by the wonders of forest life. Through skillful storytelling, the film takes an early turn toward levity. After all, it's spring and Bambi's familiar friends, Thumper and Flower, are ready to play. Especially charming are the scenes where the forest animals give each other lessons in bravery and soon have a chance to test their mettle in scuffles with a newcomer to the mix, a blustering bully named Ronno (voiced by Anthony Ghannam). A strong soundtrack includes selections by Martina McBride, Michelle Lewis, Alison Krauss, and Anthony Callea. There is even a nostalgic nod to the original composer, Frank Churchill, with "Let's Sing a Gay Little Spring Song." The film's strength, however, is in its well-crafted humor: simple one-liners and animated antics that refrain from 21st century trends to cloak inappropriate innuendoes and double entendres in G-rated clothing, hoping to pander to an adult audience. This is vintage Disney; it panders to no one yet pleases all--delightfully worth the wait. The DVD's bonus material includes a "making-of" featurette, Bambi trivia, and a mini-tutorial with a Disney animator. (All ages) --Lynn Gibson
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