Toon Talk: Bambi II DVD
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by Kirby C. Holt
Sixty-four years is a long time between a movie and its sequel. The original must have become a beloved classic that has been passed down from generation to generation, a film that has passed the test of time to become that rarest of treasures, a true motion picture classic, in order for a follow-up to be considered so long after the fact.
However, if that is the case, many will wonder: a) "Why mess with a classicâ€?, b) "If there was something worthwhile to say, it should have been said by nowâ€?, c) "Why bother after all these yearsâ€? or d) all of the above.
Bambi (1942) is indeed an undisputed classic in the canon of Disney, animated and family films, and, in my opinion, is the best of the early years of Disney feature films - if not the best, period. So it was with extreme trepidation that I approached Bambi II, the clunky titled video premiere sequel now available (Disney marketers should have stuck with the more elegant original title, Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest). Although, like last year's Tarzan II, this film is not exactly a sequel; the events take place in the midst of the original story, thus making it a "midquelâ€?. Verbiage aside, II does manage, against all odds, to create a charming yet moving "lost chapterâ€? of the original story without treading irreparably on our memories of the legendary original.
Bambi II hauntingly picks up the story right after the infamous death of Bambi's mother and the immortal line "Your mother can't be with you any more.â€? Bambi's father, the Great Prince of the Forest (now regally voiced by Patrick Stewart) must now care for his son (Finding Nemo's Alexander Gould), a job he finds no patience or time for. Friend Owl (Keith Ferguson) wisely advises the Great Prince to wait until springtime to find Bambi a surrogate mother to care for him, a sly move on the part of Owl, who knows that their time together will allow the two princes to bond - whether they want to or not.
Preoccupied with his duties as protector of the forest, the Great Prince at first attempts to teach his son of his future role in their wooded kingdom; but while dad is getting all Mufasa on him, Bambi's youthful enthusiasm gets the better of him, and the Prince is only too happy to allow him to go romping unsupervised with his buddies Thumper (Brendon Baerg) and Flower (Nicky Jones). The trio's playful adventures reunite them with the young Faline (Andrea Bowen) and introduce Bambi to his future rival for her affections, the braggart Ronno (Anthony Ghannam), as well as such new forest inhabitants as a groundhog afraid of his own shadow and a porcupine with the personality of a crazy next-door neighbor (both voiced by director Brian Pimental).
Of course, man is still a constant predatory presence affecting all who live in the forest, brought to near fatal consequences when Bambi literally freezes (like the proverbial "deer in the headlightsâ€?) when he is besieged by a pack of hunting dogs. He is rescued then berated by his father, which leads Bambi to want to prove himself worthy of his father's stature, setting off a series of events that only lead to more danger ... and betrayal.