Bambi 1 & 2
Bambi (March 27/05)
Though it might be a touch overrated, Bambi is nevertheless a thoroughly engaging and uncommonly mature effort from producer Walt Disney. Given that it is, nowadays, impossible to conjure up an image of a Disney cartoon without thinking of wacky sidekicks and lavish musical numbers, Bambi comes off as antiquated and irrelevant by comparison. But with its emphasis on images and artfulness, it's hard not to be impressed by Bambi (and the murder of Bambi's mother remains one of the most disturbing moments in animated film history). A synopsis seems somewhat superfluous at this point, but essentially, the movie revolves around the titular deer - an expectedly adorable creature who grows from a clumsy fawn to a confident adult within the space of the film's 70 minutes. There are a few periphery characters - most notably Bambi's sidekick, a hyperactive rabbit named Thumper - but generally speaking, the focus remains on Bambi. Featuring a voice cast comprised entirely of unknowns, Bambi moves along at a brisk clip - incorporating the changing seasons into the progression of the storyline. With an emphasis on character development over plot, the film isn't quite as accessible as some of Disney's more recent efforts; kids raised on plot and gag heavy productions such as Aladdin and The Lion King will likely express confusion at Bambi's relatively docile vibe. And though there are a few elements within the movie that feel incredibly dated - ie the Greek chorus that opens and closes the film - there's no denying that Bambi remains an engaging and surprisingly moving animation classic.
Bambi II (February 12/06)
Though it's occasionally quite touching and features some admittedly gorgeous animation, Bambi II never quite comes off as anything more than a needless sequel. The emphasis on individual vignettes over a vibe of linear cohesion only cements this feeling, and by the time everything's said and done, it's clear that we haven't learned much more about these characters than we did in the original. The story is actually set during the events of Bambi, after the titular fawn's mother is killed but before he becomes a full-grown deer. With nobody to care for him, Bambi finds himself placed under the reluctant care of his father - the foreboding Great Prince (voiced by Patrick Stewart). The two slowly grow to respect each other, though Bambi retains his penchant for getting into a variety of troublesome situations with his friends (including Thumper the rabbit and a doe named Faline). While Bambi II sports a more more polished look than its predecessor, the filmmakers have effectively replicated the style and spirit of the original - right down to the exclusion of overly quirky supporting characters (the lone exception being an unusually mean-spirited, Biff-like bully). But like the '42 classic, Bambi II moves at a slow, reflective pace that'll probably leave smaller children squirming in their seats - though it's clear that certain portions of the film have been designed to appeal solely to that age group (ie Bambi's encounter with a neurotic groundhog). Having said that, the underlying theme (revolving around the tentative father/son relationship between Bambi and the Great Prince) is difficult to resist and there are a number of genuinely compelling moments spread throughout the film (something that's particularly true of the thrilling finale). Bambi II may not be essential, but it's a heck of a lot better than some of Disney's other direct-to-video sequels.