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The Walt Disney Signature Collection continues with Walt Disney’s fifth animated classic, Bambi. Now celebrating its 75th year, this “Anniversary Edition” restores the original RKO title card, offers some new bonus features in addition to the majority of previously released content, making it pretty close to the definitive version of this true classic.

Based on the classic novel by Felix Salten, Disney’s animated version tells an honest story about life, death, love, and the balance of nature that is constantly in play. Bambi is born a prince of the forest and grows up under his mother’s care, learning about the world around him while befriending a loud bunny named Thumper and a shy skunk named Flower. Destined to take his father’s place, Bambi’s upbringing is challenged by harsh changes of seasons, the ever-present danger of man in the forest, and other bucks who wish to challenge is birthright.

Through the supplemental features, viewers can learn about the struggles faced in bringing Bambi to the screen as well as the leaps in animation that were required to pull off the breathtaking visuals. It’s a lost artform that is hard to replicate, even in today’s digital world, and Bambi is a breath of fresh air, now more than ever. Like previous entries in the Walt Disney Signature Collection, this release collects some of the best previously available bonus features while adding a few new features.

The legacy of Bambi is significant and its place in animation history is critical. It was the last feature produced in the first golden age with feature animation production halted by a combination of World War II and an animation strike that forever changed Walt Disney’s relationship with his artists. For these reasons alone, animation and Disney fans should consider Bambi a must-own. Fans of the modern era of animation should also give it the credit it justly deserves, for The Lion King is essentially Bambi in Africa with a little Shakespeare thrown in for good measure.

This review covers the Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital HD combo pack. It makes its debut on the latter format, with this being the 2nd Blu-Ray release and third outing on DVD. Current owners can decide for themselves if a rebuy is warranted based on the following specifics of this release, while those who don’t currently own the film are encouraged to get this version on Blu-Ray or digital as it is the most complete release thusfar.

Bonus Features

Bambi’s Signature Collection features the first physical bonus in the series in the form of a “lithograph” celebrating the life of Tyrus Wong. This sturdy matte finish card is slightly smaller than the inserts inside the case and features concept art of Bambi meeting Thumper by legendary artist Tyrus Wong. The back of the card is black and says “In loving memory Tyrus Wong 1910-2016.” The back features a pop-out stand in case you want to display it on a shelf.

Three viewing modes allow viewers three different experiences while watching Bambi:

  • Original Theatrical Version (1:09:50) – The film presented the traditional way.
  • DisneyView Version (1:09:50) – Watch the film with pillarbox artwork that matches the scenes, filling in the black space on the sides of widescreen TVs.
  • Inside Walt’s Story Meetings: Extended Edition (1:35:55) – Story meetings from production on Bambi are recreated as a commentary track and this feature presents accompanying visuals, often shrinking or covering the film to present concept artwork and behind-the-scenes photos. The film occasionally pauses itself to play additional bonus material that can’t be found elsewhere on this disc. All of the material here was found on the Diamond Edition Blu-Ray disc, the only difference is in that “Enhanced Version,” viewers would choose whether or not they wanted to play the additional material or just watch the film straight through.

New Bonus Features

  • Studio Stories: Bambi (4:56) – Archival recordings from 1956 of Walt Disney discussing Bambi are played over videos from the film as well as rough animation and rare behind-the-scenes footage of the studio during this era.
  • Deleted Scenes (7:25) – Two newly recreated deleted scenes are presented with introductions by Story Artist Floyd Norman and recreated Walt Disney story meetings to explain them.
    • Bambi’s Ice and Snow (4:27) – This alternate version of Bambi discovering snow was replaced with the iconic skating sequence.
    • The Grasshopper (2:57) – A grasshopper character was developed for the film, but cut out to simplify it. This deleted scene offers Bambi’s introduction to the cantankerous bug.
  • Oswald the Lucky Rabbit: “Africa Before Dark” (5:50) – This Oswald short was believed to be lost until a complete copy was discovered at the Austrian Film Museum. Fully restored with new musical score, this silent short is officially available here for the first time. Unreleased Oswald shorts have become a tradition with the Walt-era Signature Collection releases.
  • The Bambi Effect (3:00) – This quick feature traces the recurring elements of classic Disney animated films back to Bambi. It’s good as a quick introduction into animation 101, but is fairly juvenile for well read Disney aficionados.
  • Bambi Fawn Facts (3:34) – This kid-oriented bonus feature educates viewers about the animals featured in the film with a dubstep remix of Bambi’s score.

Classic Bonus Features

  • Classic Deleted Scenes – Three previously released deleted scenes are presented, all in storyboard form. You can play them all together or individually.
    • Two Leaves (3:07) – Based on a memorable sequence from the book, these talking leaves didn’t make sense in the grander scope of the film.
    • Bambi Stuck on a Reed (1:56) – An omitted gag from the beginning of the film finds shaky legged Bambi getting stuck on a reed with a mouse nest attached.
    • Winter Grass (0:36) – This short scene finds Bambi and Faline discussing some brown grass they found in the winter.
  • Deleted Song: “Twitterpated” (1:52) – With no explanation, this jazzy recent recording brings to life a song that could have been in the film. Visuals are from the film, mostly involving Wise Owl talking to the teenage characters and shots of them falling in love.
  • The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born (53:15) – This revealing making-of documentary is very honest about the talent at the studio in the early 1940’s, the groundbreaking innovations made, the talented voice cast and musicians, and the strike that changed Disney animation forever after. It can be viewed as a feature, or split up into individual segments.
    • Story: Telling the Tale (8:59)
    • Characters: Drawn to Nature (8:59)
    • Actors: Giving Voice to Animals (6:44)
    • Art Design: Impressions of the Forest (9:56)
    • Music: Nature’s Symphony (8:06)
    • History: Back to the Beginning (10:28)
  • Tricks of our Trade (Excerpt) (7:18) – A segment of an episode of Disneyland that breaks down the multiplane camera process. It specifically covers the opening sequence of Bambi.
  • Inside the Disney Archives (8:39) – Disney animator Andreas Deja provides a tour of the Animation Research Library (not the Walt Disney Archives) and shows off some unused artwork from the film.
  • The Old Mill: Animated Short (8:58) – The Academy Award winning Silly-Symphony from 1937 was the first use of the multiplane camera and is included because Bambi is synonymous with this animation effect.
  • The Golden Age (6:24) – Animation Historians discuss the significance of this era of Disney animation, from Snow White in 1937 to Bambi in 1942 and how the innovations made during this short period are the foundations of modern animation. This features comes from the Platinum Edition and was absent on the Diamond Edition.
  • Original Theatrical Trailer (2:12) – This original trailer from 1942 highlights the success of the book and focuses on the adult relationships from the film, barely showing the more iconic young characters.

Digital Exclusive – The digital copy included comes with all of the bonus features listed above, plus an exclusive:

  • Celebrating Tyrus Wong (8:56) – This retrospective featurette explores how artist Tyrus Wong found himself at Walt Disney Productions, how he rose from an in-betweener to designing the backgrounds on Bambi, his late-in-life kite hobby, and how he and Diane Disney Miller connected as adults and their collaboration for the Walt Disney Family Museum.

The included DVD disc doesn’t contain any bonus features, only the film.

What’s missing? Off the Diamond Edition, we lose the Disney Second Screen app connectivity and interactive galleries, in addition to the Big Book of Knowledge game. From the Platinum Edition DVD, a Patrick Stewart introduction to Walt’s Story Meetings is absent, a feature about the 2005 restoration, a Disney Time Capsule on 1942, four games and a virtual forest.

Video

This re-release of Bambi uses the same video transfer and restoration from the 2011 Blu-Ray release, but with one modification. The modern Walt Disney Pictures logo has been replaced by the original RKO title card, thus restoring the film to its true original theatrical version. The restoration is glorious with all of the amazing artwork presented in vivid detail. Colors are soft, as was the design intent, and the balance is well blended. The included DVD reveals a slight loss of detail and the color spectrum feels slightly compressed.

Audio

By default, the film is presented in English 7.1 DTS-HD High Resolution audio on Blu-Ray. Other audio options include the Restored Original Soundtrack (mono), plus French and Spanish 5.1 surround tracks. The surround mix stays mostly in the front speakers, with score elements and occasional sound effects filling the rear. The DVD presents these same audio options, but substitutes the 7.1 English mix with an English 5.1 track.

Packaging & Design

Bambi is housed in a standard Blu-Ray case with both discs attached to the interior of both sides (no disc art, but the Blu-Ray uses a darker shade of blue than normal). Inserts include the previously mentioned Tyrus Wong lithograph, a digital copy/Disney Movie Rewards code, and a flier for Disney Movie Club. The case fits inside a foil embossed slipcover and the style matches the previous Walt Disney Signature Collection releases.

The menu is reminiscent of Snow White’s Legacy Collection release, with paint strokes revealing a mix of Tyrus Wong concept art and scenes from the film set to score from “Love is a Song.” Both discs open with trailers for Cars 3 and Beauty and the Beast (2017). Selecting “Sneak Peeks” from the main menu plays an additional ad for Disney Movie Rewards before repeating the first two previews.

Final Thoughts

The Walt Disney Signature Collection release of Bambi is the most completed to date, finally restoring the original RKO title card and offering the most relevant classic bonus features, plus a few new ones. While this release may not give current owners many reasons to upgrade, anyone who doesn’t own Bambi yet is strongly encouraged to pick up this winning release.

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