With the help of a smooth talking tomcat, a family of Parisian felines set to inherit a fortune from their owner try to make it back home after a jealous butler kidnaps them and leaves them in the country.
Bambi (1942) is often sneered at by contemporary film goers my age. In their minds, outside of the death of Bambi's mother, the film is a cutesy little joy ride about a happy little deer and his happy little forest friends frolicking about grassy meadows. They also find it much too slow and lacking in plot for their interests, instead switching on the film's spiritual successor The Lion King (1994), which most of my generation holds up as the greatest animated film of all time.
No offense to The Lion King, but it doesn't even come close to touching the greatness of Bambi. Outside of a few whimsical moments, this is a dark film about the cycle of death and life. It's more of a meditative piece than a traditional narrative, which will not appeal to those who absolutely require a detailed plot. The animation and backgrounds are breathtaking. Like the other early Disney features, there's strong traces of German expressionism in there (ex. the fight between Bambi and a rival deer is mostly shown in silhouette and violent colors, Bambi and Faline's dreamlike run through the meadow, etc.).
The atmosphere is not as cutesy as people recall. There is an undercurrent of dread to the whole thing, a sense of danger. As beautiful and enchanting as the forest can be, it is also dangerous. The way man is handled in the film is surprisingly mature: instead of putting the main characters against a laughable caricature, mankind's presence is unseen and feels more like a natural disaster than a living entity. In fact, Bambi might be one of the most adult films in the Disney animated canon. Ignore its saccharine reputation and give it another look.
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