Bambi appears in an aspect ratio of 1.33:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. I’d be hard-pressed to find any real problems here.
Across the board, sharpness seemed strong. The movie never suffered from any undue softness. Instead, it looked appropriately well-defined and distinctive; a few multiplane shots showed a bit of fuzziness, but those were inevitable and not a distraction. I saw no issues with jagged edges or shimmering, and I also noticed no edge enhancement. Despite the movie’s advanced age, it displayed no source defects. The film lacked any specks, marks or other flaws, as it always stayed clean and fresh.
As one might expect from a flick that takes place in a forest setting, Bambi stayed with a naturalistic palette, and a fairly subdued one at that. The movie used restrained tones that looked full and rich here. They didn’t exactly leap off the screen, but they weren’t intended to do so, and the Blu-ray reproduced the colors well. Blacks also seemed dense and deep, while shadows were appropriately thick but not overly dark. Ultimately, Bambi looked very good.
The Bambi Blu-ray came with a DTS-HD HR 7.1 soundtrack. “DTS-HD HR”? In my years of Blu-raying, I’d only heard of DTS-HD MA, so the presence of an HR mix sent me to the Internet for answers.
As far as I can tell, virtually no other American Blu-rays offer a DTS-HD HR track. Apparently it’s a lossy format that stands between standard DTS and MA. It seems to offer greater resolution than the former but not as much as the latter. So why did Disney opt for it here? I have not the slightest clue.
In any case, I found the modern mix to offer a tasteful expansion of the original monaural. The track didn’t exactly go nuts with ambition, as most of the audio remained oriented toward the center channel. Music showed the most activity, as the songs and score gently emanated from the sides and rears at times. They stayed in the middle for the most part, though, and the effects came from the same realm. A few elements like thunder and gunfire popped up in the sides, but that was about it. The track largely stuck with it is one-channel roots.
As for quality, the audio sounded quite good given its age. Speech was slightly thin but usually appeared surprisingly full and natural. I noticed no issues with intelligibility or edginess and thought the lines came across well. Effects demonstrated moderate dimensionality and kicked in decent low-end response for some of the louder elements. Music also showed somewhat surprising range, as the highs were acceptably vivid and the lows demonstrated pretty solid presence. This wasn’t a stunning track, but it was definitely above average for a movie from 1942.
Note that the Blu-ray includes the movie’s original monaural audio as well as this multichannel remix. While I think the 7.1 track works pretty well, I prefer to check out movie’s with their theatrical sound, so I’m happy we have a choice here.
How did the picture and audio of the Blu-ray compare to those of the 2005 DVD? I thought the two soundtracks were a wash. There’s only so much that can be done with nearly 70-year-old material like this, so expect both mixes to seem awfully similar.
On the other hand, the visuals showed the expected improvements. Most of these revolved around sharpness, as the Blu-ray demonstrated the standard step up in terms of definition. Colors were a little stronger as well, but sharpness became the main jump found here. The DVD is a nice product, but the Blu-ray’s better.
Most of the DVD’s extras appear here as well. The first offers an expanded version of one from that set: Inside Walt’s Story Meetings. This 70-minute and 24-second piece acts as a form of audio commentary. It takes transcripts from story meetings for the film and has voice actors re-enact the remarks made by a mix of participants. We hear from Disney, story director Perce Pearce, consultant Don Graham, story developers Harold Miles, Bill Cottrell and Ted Sears, artistic consultant Sidney Franklin, animal anatomy consultant Rico Lebrun, supervising animators Eric Larson, Frank Thomas, story adaptor Larry Morey, story developer Ben Sharpsteen, supervising director David Hand, art director Thomas H. Codrick, sequence directors James Algar and Samuel Armstrong, story artist Joe Grant, animator Marc Davis, and supervising animator Milt Kahl.
“Meetings” essentially follows the elements of the movie in the order they appear on screen. We hear issues related to the graphic depiction of the forest and recreating animals, liberties taken with the source novel and storytelling concerns, character development, cinematic techniques, casting and vocal characterizations, musical themes and sound design, choices for character names, animation styles and choices, conveying the change of seasons and new personalities, the depiction of Bambi falling in love, the use of color in his fight, how much of “man” to show, and structuring the climactic hunt/fire. In addition to the comments, we see movie clips, development materials and sketches, and a few other useful snippets. For example, when Walt refers to a Pluto short used as an influence, we get to check out that clip compared to the shot from Bambi. We also watch rough animation, photos and research footage.
Initially I felt disappointed that Bambi didn’t include a traditional audio commentary. However, after about five minutes of “Meetings”, I was totally entranced with this fascinating compilation and didn’t miss a commentary at all. “Meetings” gives us the impression that we’re there with Walt and the others, and it follows the movie’s development in an absolutely fascinating manner. It allows a “fly on the wall” feeling and shows us concepts and discussions in a concrete and rich way. Virtually every part of it works, though some are better than other, such as the discussion of how to depict the demise of Bambi’s mother. Disney fans should have a blast as they listen to this terrific program.
Note that the Blu-ray boasts an “enhanced” version of “Meetings”. This offers branching video at times during the film. I counted 13 of these clips, and they featured notes from Disney artists Tyrus Wong and Mel Shaw, animators Will Finn and Eric Goldberg and Disney historians Paula Sigman, JB Kaufman, and Charles Solomon, and animation art restorer Ron Barbagallo. In addition to the featurettes, we found two deleted scenes – also located elsewhere on the disc – and two full-length animated shorts: “Canine Caddy” and “On Ice”. The “enhanced” elements pop up a little less frequently than I’d like, but they add some useful information. (They’re also “user friendly” in that you can skip from one to the next with your remote, so you don’t have to sit through the whole “Meetings” piece to get to them.)
We can watch the film with or without an introduction from Diane Disney Miller, Walt’s daughter. In this one-minute, six-second clip, Miller talks about the Disney Family Museum and Bambi. It’s a minor addition but it’s not unpleasant.
One unusual “bonus”: something called the DisneyView Presentation. Also found on the Snow White and Fantasia Blu-rays, it provides complementary artwork to fill the black bars on the sides of 16X9 TVs. This sounds tacky, but it actually works pretty well. The art meshes nicely and doesn’t distract from the film. It also helps avoid potential “burn in” problems on your set; the art remains dark, but it’s not black and it changes. It’s a clever way to frame the movie.
Next we find a pair of deleted scenes as well as a deleted song. We see “Two Leaves” (3:07), “Bambi Stuck on a Reed” (1:56) and “Twitterpated” (1:53). The first is genuinely odd, as it provides a discussion of the afterlife between the titular leaves. Even in a movie with talking animals, it’s weird to hear leaves speak – they do so at no other point in the film – and it’s a long digression that comes out of nowhere.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, “Reed” is a cute comedic piece. I don’t know if it would’ve fit into the final film, but it’s amusing. “Twitterpated” would’ve come during the “blooming of love” sequence; we see an image of the owl and hear a modern piano-and-voice rendition of the tune. It’s hard to judge how this one would’ve worked, as the singer is too light-voiced and smooth to remind us of the crotchety old owl. It’s still nice to find as an extra, though.
Under Interactive Galleries, we find stills from the film. We discover 353 of these across five subdomains. These show concept art, character designs and other drawings. All are good to see, and this adds up to a fairly comprehensive collection.
The “Family Play” area includes one component: Disney’s Big Book of Knowledge. Intended for kids, this provides information about the forest and various animals via narration from the “owl”. It also tosses in a few games. It seems like it’d be informative and fun for youngsters.
Within “Classic DVD Bonus Features”, we get the materials from the 2005 DVD. This area includes two more deleted scenes: “Winter Grass” (38 seconds) and “Bambi’s First Snow” (two minutes, 32 seconds). Animator Andreas Deja introduces the clips with a quick comment about what to expect. Neither presents any form of animation. Instead, they come as story reels, which are filmed storyboards accompanied by dialogue and music. Neither seems scintillating, but they’re fun to see. “Snow” is the more amusing of the pair; it seems unnecessary, though, as the existing winter fun sequence works better.
Next comes a documentary entitled The Making of Bambi: A Prince Is Born. In this 53-minute and 20-second program, we find the usual complement of movie clips, archival materials, and interviews. We get notes from author/film historian John Culhane, Disney producer Don Hahn, Pixar Director and Executive Vice President John Lasseter, animator Andreas Deja, story developer Mel Shaw, author/historian Paul F. Anderson, animation historian Charles Solomon, environmental historian Dr. Ralph H. Lutts, clinical psychologist Dr. Maxine Harris, story artist Joe Grant, supervising animators Eric Larson, Ollie Johnston, Frank Thomas and Milt Kahl, animator Marc Davis, supervising animator Milt Kahl, Disney art director Ric Sluiter, background artists Rob McIntosh and Tyrus Wong, Disney Feature Animation director Aaron Blaise, Disney Feature Animation art director Cristy Maltese, Disney Toon Studios animation director Dave Bossert, animation art historian Ron Barbagallo, film historian Miles Kreuger, composer/author Ross Care, conductor John Mauceri, and actors Peter C. Behn, Donald R. Dunagan, and Cammie King Conlon.
The program discusses story issues and parallels with The Lion King, Walt’s involvement and discarded concepts, the depiction of various scenes, character development, particulars of the animation and art, voice acting, the film’s depiction of backgrounds and the environment, the use of the multiplane camera, the film’s use of music, the adaptation of the original book, issues at Disney Studios during the period and the effects of a strike, and general thoughts about the project.
“Prince” works in spurts. The opening segment about the story seems somewhat superficial since we’ve already listened to the excellent story meetings program; the parts about deleted segments are good, but otherwise there’s not much new on display. However, the program picks up well when it looks into the art and animation, especially when the original animators discuss their work. The section about the actors also is terrific, with some great stories like Dunagan’s fear as an adult that his Marine buddies would find out he had played Bambi.
I don’t think any of the remaining parts are quite so interesting, but they still offer quite a lot of useful information. It seems odd that they discuss the book and Disney’s choice of it at the end, but that’s nonetheless a good section of the documentary. Though “Prince” doesn’t become an exhaustive look at Bambi, it covers the production well and presents an entertaining piece.
Taken from the Disneyland TV series, we get an excerpt from a show called Tricks of the Trade. Broadcast February 13, 1957, this seven-minute and 20-second snippet illustrates the use of the multiplane camera. Walt shows the limitations of usual animation photography and demonstrates the extra depth offered by the multiplane system. It’s old hat for longtime Disney fans, especially since we’ve seen this particular clip elsewhere.
Nonetheless, it remains a concise way to inform people about the working of the multiplane camera. I know when I first started to learn about Disney animation, I found text descriptions of the multiplane to confuse me. This more visual demonstration makes matters very clear, so it’s a valuable piece.
When we go Inside the Disney Archives, we find an eight-minute and 41-second featurette. Andreas Deja digs into the studio’s files to check out some storyboards for unfilmed segments, art done to establish mood and setting, backgrounds and other drawings. We’ve already seen some of this work elsewhere, but Deja’s perspective helps make this a fun glimpse of the original material.
In addition to the film’s original theatrical trailer, we get a classic animated short. 1937’s “The Old Mill” focuses on life in the titular building. Already found on the Silly Symphonies “Walt Disney Treasures” set, this cartoon marked the debut of the multiplane camera, and it does offer some interesting visuals. However, it seems a little bland and not very interesting, though it comes across like an early test for 1940’s Fantasia, which worked on similar lines.
The disc launches with ads for Winnie the Pooh, Tangled and The Lion King. These also appear under Sneak Peeks along with promos for SpookyBuddies: The Curse of the Howlloween Hound, Bambi II, Shapay’s Fabulous Adventure, Tinker Bell and the Mysterious Winter Woods and Disney Parks.
On a separate disc, we find a DVD copy of Bambi. This is a standard retail version with a few supplements in addition to full movie options. It even tosses in an extra absent from the DVD: the DisneyPedia about “Bambi’s Forest Friends”. From the original DVD, this one takes the format of a four-minute and 13-second featurette. It lets us know facts about fawns, rabbits, skunks, and owls. Though the information remains basic, it’s a fun program since we get to see some nice shots of real animals.
Does animation get any better than Bambi? Nope. Do animated films get more entertaining? Yup, but Bambi remains a delight nonetheless. The Blu-ray offers excellent picture quality along with very good audio and a strong complement of extras highlighted by an insightful look inside the film’s preparation meetings. This becomes a terrific release for a classic movie.
To rate this film please visit the Platinum Edition review of BAMBI