The Great Prince of the Forest: Your mother can’t be with you anymore.
Beware: Spoilers may follow
Disney’s fifth film is one that is remembered by many for one scene. That scene is the death of Bambi’s mother. This was the first real Disney protagonist death in Disney’s history and despite them not showing the body in comparison to something like Mufasa’s death in Lion King it still made a heavy impact. We just hear a gunshot and Bambi reaches the thicket and happily thinks the two are safe before he realizes his mother isn’t with him before looking for her and ultimately comes across his father who informs him that his mother can no longer be with him. However, this death is not the only aspect that makes this film noteworthy.
The story involves the young deer Bambi with his friends, a rabbit named Thumper and a Skunk as they explore the world of the forest. As a young fawn growing up he learns the dangers and beauty that the forest has.
This was Disney’s first attempt at a coming of age story. In their previous four movies, Disney often had a penchant for fantasy worlds and villains. Here however that isn’t utilized. The villain is merely Man and there is no personification of him. Just the mere threat and the way the animals react in fear to his presence makes him intimidating.
Much like Dumbo before him Bambi is very innocent and childlike. But unlike Dumbo he does speak in this movie and he’s not just relegated to being an observer of the world around him. Over the course of the film he absorbs various emotions such as love, bravery, etc. which shape him into becoming his father’s successor as the Great Prince of the Forest.
When you have a character such as Bambi on a journey of learning the way of the world around him there isn’t a need for clarity about certain matters. Many questions and answers this movie poses towards its audience are left to audience interpretation. Any film that can do that in a thought-provoking way can easily cement itself as a good movie. Sometimes just the life of a character is enough as any life can be interesting as not everything in life has a definitive answer to problems. Just seeing the bond between Bambi and his mother before her death is what makes it hit hard when she ultimately meets her end at the hands of man.
Another interesting aspect of the movie is the father. We barely see him and when we do see him Bambi is almost afraid by him. And his design and voice make him a believable forest leader. He is very stern and intimidating and often didn’t show vulnerability. This, like, many other aspects of the movie raises thought-provoking questions.
The greatest strength of the animation is the backgrounds. Just the seasons such as winter do a great job in building upon the emotions of a character and make you feel at one with nature.
Bambi doesn’t have much in the way of complex characters but it does have an interesting slice of life and a heavy atmosphere. This easily cements it as a great in Disney’s Golden Age.