Hello and welcome to In Too Deep Into Disney, where I over-analyse each- BOOM!
Yes in a spoiler that’s now over seven decades old, Bambi’s mum dies. It’s the big thing of the film. The bit everyone remembers. But is there really more to the film than that? Controversially I’m gonna say no, and have it be that the film isn’t as great as people remember it. Why? Because at the end of the day there is a lack of substance to it.
So what little can I glean from this movie? Well the first question I have to ask is: Why is the prince of the forest a deer? I mean, is there something about deers in Austria that are particularly noble? Perhaps it’s because the deer live the longest out of all the collective animals. I’m no zoologist, so perhaps it makes sense for Bambi to be a teenager whilst Thumper sounds a lot older. Regardless it strikes me as odd that the Great Prince (how can there be both a ‘Prince’ and a ‘Great Prince’, since shouldn’t he be King or something?) is a deer. But on the bright side, this is the first time we see a Disney Princess die.
Okay so that’s a stretch, but Bambi’s mum is a princess for all extents and purposes. And part of the great Disney tradition of making its protagonists comes from single parent homes (face it ladies: Having a kid in a Disney film is a death sentence). But is the film ruined because Bambi’s mother dies? In the original trailer for the film, the only footage is from after the 40 minute mark, aka after Bambi becomes an adult. So almost a reverse Psycho. At the time audiences had no idea that Bambi’s mother even existed going into this film, so her death would have been quite a clever shock. But what about nowadays? Sure kids probably don’t know about Bambi’s mum, but it’s hardly a twist to the older audiences. That one scene outweighs everything else about the film. But is the film still as good if the twist is already known?
I’d argue no. Bambi is the story of life, and no story of life is complete without death. But death is often senseless and sudden, not something seem from a mile away. People don’t have expiry dates, they just die randomly. So to go into this film knowing that the key moment is that Bambi’s mum is gonna die removes the tension from it. It rids the danger. We know her death is foretold, thus it loses impact when we already know that it’s about to happen. We spend 40 minutes waiting for the inevitable. So does that then make Bambi Disney’s first proper tragedy? Is Bambi the tragic protagonist, doomed to suffer in an uncaring world? Well no, not exactly. There is a lot of bright and happy cheer before and after. Whilst there is some tension-filled scenes, most of it is just cute little padding showing Bambi reacting to the world. Hence why Bambi’s mother’s death originally is such a clever twist to through audiences off guard. To show how life and death are intermingled. To know that makes the rest of the film seem tragically ironic. You see Bambi happy, knowing the sadness about to come. The death loses all shock because we, the well-aware audience, already know that the shock is coming and adjusted to it. By making it such a famous scene, it damages the impact the rest of the movie has. Ergo Bambi is a film that suffers when you know the plot twist in the middle.
So what else is there to say about Bambi beside the big one? Well there’s the other crucial element of this story, Man. Probably the most complex villain Disney has ever created since he has no clear motivations, save for what the viewer puts onto him. If you view Man as the villain, then you are probably more likely to be a supporter of animal rights or condone hunting. If you see him as just an average hunter that is no more evil then anyone else, you’re probably the sort of person that supports hunting. Again, broad generalisations, but for the first time Disney has given us a villain whose villainous nature solely depends on how the viewer interprets it. Is Man evil, or is he just an average man? Likewise the movie, unintentionally or otherwise, paints hunting in a bad light. There’s no way you can have the hunter of the film kill Bambi’s mum and wound Bambi himself without making the story seem very anti-hunting. But again, is that a direct reference to how Man himself is neither good nor evil, since actions can be interpreted differently? As stated before, Man is the most complex character of the film, simply because he has no character beyond what we give him.
And that’s all I can say about the threadbare Bambi. What you see is what you get with this film. If you disagree with anything, or have anything to add, feel free to leave a comment. Next time: Sauldos Amigos, Or How The Cinema Experience Has Changed.