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Arguably the most precious Walt Disney treasure, the animated tale of Bambi follows the life of the deer prince as he lives, learns and grows up in a forest of best friends including Thumper the rabbit, and Flower the skunk, and is taught by his loving mother how to survive and prepare himself for the trials of adulthood. One day after a horrible accident, Bambi is forced to leave the forest with his father and, after many years away, he returns home where he falls in love with fellow deer, Faline. But when Man finds their forest sanctuary and threatens to destroy everything, Bambi must be strong if he is to safeguard Faline and protect his home.

Review by Craig Miller:
When people talk of Disney classics and the wonderful world this prolific animator created, it's usually about 1920s to 1940s, when he inked some of the most loved characters and animated features in entertainment history. While I place heavy stock in his work with "that mouse" and "that duck", the film that resonates with me the most is Bambi.

Disney's original circle of life/coming of age film is a sweet example of finding your place in the world and, with Bambi now more than 60 years old, this newly released double disc DVD looks set to be the perfect digital make-over for cinema's most treasured fawn.

Bambi's life is the film's journey. As the seasons change and he grows from young animated venison (sorry) into a full-grown deer, we witness all his life has to offer, from his menagerie of friends to his troublesome, heart-breaking ordeals. It's a beautiful world and as he uncovers the charms of his forest home and of his place in life, so do we.

Much of Disney's magical world looks amazing on screen. From the frenzy of the forest fire finale to the subtle droplets of winter rain, there are very few imperfections in the restored print, and the richness of the film and the animation itself is enchanting; drawing us into a world where life is at its most beautiful.

The music score, art design and the cinematography from Maxwell Morgan, (in fact everything) is striking, serving up a deliciously sweet layered look and feel to the film. But it's the harmony of all these facets working in unison, along with the meticulous work of the animators and Walt Disney's development ideas that makes it a sentimental, idealistic classic.

There is no question that Bambi, the film, is the main focus of this impressive special edition release and, after nearly seven decades, that story is well and truly known. However exploring the Bambi world on DVD is all too new and worthy of much more than passing, flippant commentary.

The film has undergone an extensive restoration process (nearly 10,000 hours of work), including the intricate frame-by-frame detailing. Equally impressive is the selection of extras on offer. Disney really unlocked the vaults for this one.

"Inside Walt's Story Meetings" hosted by ex-Star Trekker Patrick Stewart, serves as the disc's commentary, and is one of the best DVD extras available.

To understand it fully we have to go back all the way to 1936 and, while still in production with Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Walt Disney and his creative team began pre-production on Bambi, a full six years before it found its way to cinemas. Over the years creative meetings were frequented by a stenographer who recorded the conversations and these exact transcripts detailing the film were kept as reference material during production. Lucky for us! This unique journey into the minds of the men and women behind this beautiful feature is absolutely fascinating, with the highly detailed notes now used as an audio re-enactment of the creative meetings; voiced by actors.

The featurette on the restoration process, which is again hosted by Stewart, is a glimpse at the rigors of dealing with ancient film stock, and it's well worth the time. You may well be wondering why Mr Stewart has appeared as often as he has throughout this double disc and it's basically because he is now part of the extended Bambi family. Due for release later this year (straight to DVD and video), "Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest", features Stewart as the voice of one of the lead characters, Bambi's dad. This may seem a little strange (Bambi's father and Bambi himself come to think of it, should now be in that great forest in the sky), but the sequel takes place during the "missing years" of the original picture, shortly after Bambi's mum is shot and when his father comes to take him away. There's also a sneak peak of this sequel included.

The games and activities section includes a "Disneypedia" of Bambi's forest friends and and how they live; a season profiling game, an interactive story time adventure with Thumper, and a 1937 animated short, The Old Mill. It's all wonderful stuff.

Bambi is the children's animated equivalent of The Godfather; a true classic. Whether introducing it to your kids, or re-introducing it to yourself, you won't be disappointed with the way Walt Disney's classic still gets to you and, thanks to this superb DVD release, it should hopefully be getting to you for many more years to come.

Published March 17, 2005

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(US, 1942)

VOICES: Hardie Albright, Stan Alexander, Peter Behn, Thelma Boardman, Tim Davis, Donnie Dunagan, Ann Gillis, Sterling Holloway

DIRECTOR: David Hand

SCRIPT: Story adaptation by Larry Morey

RUNNING TIME: 68 minutes

PRESENTATION: Full Frame, Dolby Digital 5.1

SPECIAL FEATURES: Disc One: Bambi: Inside Walt's story meetings;[BREAK]Disc Two: Deleted scenes, The Forest Adventure game, Disneypedia: Bambi's Forest Friends, What's Your Season? - Personality Profile, Disney's Storytime: Thumper Goes Exploring, Virtual Forest activity, The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born, Restoring Bambi featurette, The Legacy Continues: A sneak peak at the all-new Bambi movie, Disney Time Capsule featurette, The Art of Bambi featurette, Tricks of the Trade featurette, Inside the Disney Archives featurette, Animated short: The Old Mill, Original theatrical trailer.

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista Home Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: March 2, 2005

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