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Bambi: Platinum Edition

Walt Disney's 1942 adaptation of Felix Salten's woodland fantasy novel is one of the entertainment mogul's most enduring works of art, combining the fanciful storytelling of earlier Disney features like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937) with the episodic structure of the vignettes in 1940's Fantasia. More then other most other Disney cartoons of its day, Bambi found a way of lingering in the subconscious, owing to its unconventional, poetic style and its frank dealing with death and danger. Less a narrative than a series of animated ballets on a running theme, Bambi follows the life of the eponymous deer prince, from his birth into the lively forest, his friendships with an obstinate rabbit named Thumper and a precious skunk named Flower, his romance with doe Faline, and the threat posed to wildlife by predatory and careless Man. The hand-painted animation is lush, layered, and exquisite in a way that few of today's digitally animated movies seem capable of approaching, and fans of the form are certain to devour every frame of Bambi's visual mastery with due awe. Most of the movie's other qualities, however, while perfect for children under six, may leave adults with fond memories of the movie feigning satisfaction for old time's sake. Bambi's original music (by Edward Plumb, Robert Sour, Helen Bliss, Frank Churchill, Henry Manners and Larry Morey) works nicely as a score, but the songs are syrupy and forgettable. The first half of this 70-minute feature, with its childlike awe and sparse dialogue, while graceful and pleasant, is as likely to tranquilize adults as it is to amuse their children. Even so, Bambi does manage to build from its slow start to a more engaging second act and an emotionally satisfying climax for those with the patience to stick with it. Parents who don't mind the story's lurking, idealized, animal-worshipping didacticism should find it a wonderful antidote to the busy and often flat contemporary kid's programming, but one they won't necessarily want to watch themselves, except to momentarily take in the beautiful scenery.

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That said, the extra materials included in Disney's two-disc set are extraordinary. Accompanying the feature on Disc One is the 70-minute mirror featurette "Inside Walt's Story Meetings," which offers a commentary alongside the movie (with glimpses of the art in various stages of development) in the form of voiceover re-enactments from the creative team's story meeting transcripts. It's so much more interesting than most DVD commentary tracks, you'll cross your fingers that it sparks a new trend in DVD production. Disc Two of this Platinum Edition features even more in-depth materials. In addition to two brief deleted scenes (3 min.), "The Making of Bambi" (53 min.) affectionately reflects on the movie's story, art, voice actors, music, and history, while "Restoring Bambi" (5 min.) gives a quick overview of its digital preparation for this DVD release. "The Art of Bambi" features 11 art and stills galleries with optional docent audio, and "Disney Time Capsule" (4 min.) recaps the notable cultural environment from which Bambi emerged. "Tricks of the Trade" (7 min.) is a fascinating 1957 short in which Walt Disney offers a peek at the animation process. "Inside the Disney Archives" (8 min.) is a hosted tour of the Disney animation vault. "The Old Mill" (8 min.) is a 1937 short that served to test some production techniques used in Bambi. Also included are the kid-oriented "Forest Adventure Games," "Virtual Forest," "DisneyPedia: Bambi's Forest Friends," "Disney Storytime: Thumper Goes Exploring," and "What's Your Season Personality Profile Game." Bambi is presented in a newly restored transfer (1.33:1 OAR) and a Dolby Digital 5.1 Enhanced Home Theater Mix. The original monaural soundtrack is optional. A few of the extra features are introduced by Patrick Stewart. Keep case with two-disc insert, in papeboard slipcover.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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