A review by Shlomoh Sherman
March 13, 2019
Read about Bambi On the Internet Movie Data Base
Directors: Clyde Geronimi, Wilfred Jackson
Stars: Barbara Luddy, Larry Roberts, Peggy Lee
Plot Summary: The story of a young deer growing up in the forest.
Plot Keywords: bambi - deer - animals - hunter - forest
Taglines: 5 happy song hits to warm your heart! (1966 re-release); Love Comes To The Forest Folk and to you, in one of the world's greatest love stories; BUBBLING WITH Laughter! TINGLING WITH Excitement! SPARKLING WITH Delight! (1966 re-release)
Genres: Animation - Drama - Family
Parents Guide: See below
Release Date: August 21, 1942 (USA)
Filming Locations: Walt Disney Studios, 500 South Buena Vista Street, Burbank, California, USA
Opening Weekend USA: $2,096,384, 27 June 1982, Limited Release
Gross USA: $102,797,150
Cumulative Worldwide Gross: $165,200,000
Production Co: Walt Disney Productions; RKO Radio Pictures (1942) (USA) (theatrical)
Runtime: 70 min
Sound Mix: Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color: Color (Technicolor)
Nominated for 3 Oscars; 5 wins and 4 nominations: See below
Of course, as a child, I saw all, or almost all, of the Disney animated films. Most were released during the 1940s when I would have been at the appropriate age to view them. And, of course I saw Bambi, as a child.
My inspiration comes from reading a book given to me by my dear friend Dietz: BAMBI'S JEWISH ROOTS by Paul Reiter, Bloomsbury Publishing Inc, 2015
The Bar Kochba Association was an organization of Jewish university students in Prague, founded in the late 19th century by students of the Prague German University. It became a focal point of the newly emerging Zionism, engaged in intellectual Zionist activities.
In 1909, the association began a series of "festive evenings" to which the best Jewish intellectual minds were invited to participate and deliver speeches. One such individual was Felix Salten, a Jewish Austrian author and critic in Vienna. His most famous work is BAMBI, A LIFE IN THE WOODS (1923). Salten was born SIEGMUND SALZMANN in Pest, Austria-Hungary, the grandson of an Orthodox rabbi. He was a prolific writer and published an average one book a year; plays, short stories, novels, travel books, and essay collections. He also wrote for nearly all the major newspapers of Vienna.
His most famous work is BAMBI (1923). It was translated into English in 1928 and became a Book-of-the-Month Club success. In 1933, he sold the film rights to the American director Sidney Franklin for only $1,000, and Franklin later transferred the rights to the Walt Disney studios, which formed the basis of the 1942 animated classic, Bambi. Salten himself, sad to say, was an avid hunter. I say sad because hunting and shooting animals is frowned upon by the Jewish religion. It is also ironic in that the film shows several scenes where hunters pursue and kill deers, including Bambi's mother, and later in the film, start a huge forest fire which burns down large areas of Bambi's homeland.
In 1936, Hitler had Salten's books banned. In order to escape the Nazis, Salten moved to Zurich, Switzerland, where he spent the rest of his life. He died in October, 1945.
Salten composed another book based on the character Bambi, entitled BAMBI’S CHILDREN: THE STORY OF A FOREST FAMILY (1939). His stories PERRI and THE HOUND OF FLORENCE inspired the Disney films PERRI (1957) and THE SHAGGY DOG (1959), respectively.
Salten is now considered to be the anonymous author of a witty, celebrated erotic novel, JOSEPHINE MUTZENBACHER: THE LIFE STORY OF A VIENNESE WHORE, AS TOLD BY HERSELF (1906).
Naturally, the Bar Kochba Association did not choose Salten for his pornographic dabblings but for his support of Jewish causes. Of all the Jewish intellectuals in Austria at the time, he was the only one to devote himself actively to the Zionist cause, writing many articles in its defense.
Salten often voiced strong disapproval of those Jews who tried to hide their ethnic identity. He also wrote bold criticism of antisemitism which was ever rife in Austria. Upon the death of Theodore Herzl, Salten composed a short article about his life, praising him for creating the cause of a Jewish homeland in Ottoman Palestine.
In 1924, he traveled to Palestine and wrote a positive book about what he witnessed there of the growing Jewish community.
Over the years, in Europe and elsewhere, critics downplayed the artistic value of Salten's animal stories, and whenever referring to BAMBI, tried to read into it, affinities between the deer story and Salten's one time venture into the erotic, comparing some of the animals in the Bambi story to some of the characters in the prostitute story. Some critics actually said that some of Salten's animals in Bambi represented certain prominent figures in the Nazi Party. The same critics gave a negative slant to Salten's preoccupation with the Zionist cause, claiming that the old deer Prince of the Forest represents Herzl.
Critics of the Bambi tale focused in on the fact that Salten calls butterflies WANDERING flowers, that the deer are portrayed as helpless victims; they point out that one deer asks another deer about humans: "Will they ever stop persecuting us?" The response, "Humans have given us no peace and have murdered us for as long as we have existed. Why should we expect them to act otherwise?"
Because of Salten's ardent Zionism, it is not hard to see that some people would see in Bambi, the themes of Jewish persecution and Zionism, and not necessarily as evil themes. As I look back at the Bambi movie that I watched last week, it just might be possible that Bambi has more Jewish roots than we realized.
Reitter ends the Bambi essay with the following words: "In the end, BAMBI may be Austrian schmalz - this no doubt facilitated its assimilation into American kitsch - but it is a book with complicated roots, which go back to and beyond Bar Kochba's first festive evening."
Disney's BAMBI is a watered-down version of Salten's novel, or, to put it less negatively, a simplified version. The forest animals are excited by the birth of the fawn who will be the next Prince of the Forest. Bambi, as a fawn, has much to learn about life in the forest, and along the way, he gathers friends who will aid him in the discovery of the world that will be his domain as a prince. These include Thumper the rabbit, and Flower, the ironically named Skunk. Bambi and his friends each have their own issues and challenges to deal with. They and Bambi learn early on that the lives of forest animals are not without their dangers, for deer especially as they are under constant threat from human hunters and have to find an escape after the hunters set the forest on fire. Eventually, Bambi's mother is killed by one of the hunters after which his father, the current Prince, bonds with him to continue his education as the next royal member of the deer kin.
Bambi is also a love story, the story of his falling for the daughter of another deer, the doe, Faline. Of course, Thumper and Flower have their own romances as they all become Twitterpated, to use the expression of the wise owl who tells them that when they do become Twitterpated, they will feel that they are walking on air, that their heads are in the clouds, that they can't think or sleep.
As the movie progresses and moves past all the danger scenes, we see Bambi and Faline and their friends grow into adulthood. Bambi "marries" Faline and she becomes the mother of the next Prince. As the film ends, we see Bambi and his father standing majestically on a mountain top, their antlers proudly raised.
As I watched the film with my friend Lorraine, she pointed out the marvelous 3D effect that the Disney artists were able to create in the film, even noticeable when seen on a TV screen. The colors, music, and storyline make Bambi the great children's entertainment that we have come to associate with Walt Disney.
THE APPEAL OF THE DEER
I have always been attracted to deer because of their beauty and grace, and consequently, I tend to forget that they are great tick carriers. Since moving to a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio, my home and backyard are frequently visited by deer, and I have often had the opportunity to photograph them there. Photos of an often visiting doe can be seen on this website. [http://shlomohsherman.com/family/august2017/]
Additionally, I named my daughter ZVIAH, which is the Hebrew word for DOE.
As usual, I include a review by one of the movie reviewers on IMDB. Here is an excerpt from the March 18, 2001 review by Doylenf
Disney's Truest Masterpiece--Man Is In The Forest!
DISNEY AND ANTI-SEMITISM
Disney has been accused of anti-Semitism, although none of his employees — including the animator Art Babbitt, who disliked Disney intensely — ever accused him of making anti-Semitic slurs or taunts. The Walt Disney Family Museum acknowledges that ethnic stereotypes common to films of the 1930s were included in some early cartoons. Disney donated regularly to Jewish charities, he was named "1955 Man of the Year" by the B'nai B'rith chapter in Beverly Hills, and his studio employed a number of Jews, some of whom were in influential positions. Gabler, the first writer to gain unrestricted access to the Disney archives, concludes that the available evidence does not support accusations of anti-Semitism and that Disney was "not [anti-Semitic] in the conventional sense that we think of someone as being an anti-Semite". Gabler concludes that "though Walt himself, in my estimation, was not anti-Semitic, nevertheless, he willingly allied himself with people who were anti-Semitic [meaning some members of the MPAPAI], and that reputation stuck. He was never really able to expunge it throughout his life". Disney distanced himself from the Motion Picture Alliance in the 1950s.
Disney has also been accused of other forms of racism because some of his productions released between the 1930s and 1950s contain racially insensitive material. The feature film Song of the South was criticized by contemporary film critics, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and others for its perpetuation of black stereotypes, but Disney later campaigned successfully for an Honorary Academy Award for its star, James Baskett, the first black actor so honored. Gabler argues that "Walt Disney was no racist. He never, either publicly or privately, made disparaging remarks about blacks or asserted white superiority. Like most white Americans of his generation, however, he was racially insensitive." Floyd Norman, the studio's first black animator who worked closely with Disney during the 1950s and 1960s, said, "Not once did I observe a hint of the racist behavior Walt Disney was often accused of after his death. His treatment of people — and by this, I mean all people — can only be called exemplary."
One more thing comes to mind as I end this review.
Bambi was released in 1942. As thousands of American children were being entertained by the antics of cartoon animals, thousands of Jewish children were being fed into the gas chambers and crematoria of Nazified Europe. Along with Salten, each of us might remark: "Humans have murdered us for as long as we have existed. Will they ever stop persecuting us?"
"Man is in the forest" was a code phrase used by Disney's employees when Walt Disney was coming down the hallway.
Unusually for the time, Walt Disney insisted on children providing the voices for the animals when they were young, instead of using adults mimicking youngsters.
The first and one of the few Disney features where the songs were not sung by any of the film's characters. Each song was either sung off screen by a soloist or a choir.
Bambi (1942) was Walt Disney's personal favorite of all his animated features.
Disney animators spent a year studying and drawing deer and fawns to perfect the look of Bambi and his parents and friends. Deer are notoriously difficult to render in human terms as their eyes are on either side of their face, their mouth does not lend itself to speech and they have no real chin. Ultimately animator Marc Davis resolved these difficulties by infusing the character of Bambi with the traits of a human baby.
There are approximately only 1,000 words of dialogue throughout the entire film.
The last full-length animated feature made by Walt Disney until Cinderella (1950). The gap was due to the lack of film workers (who were in military service) and materials necessary to make films when WWII was going on.
Disney's perfection and quest for realism delayed the project significantly, so that Pinocchio (1940), Fantasia (1940), The Reluctant Dragon (1941), and Dumbo (1941) were released earlier than Bambi.
Austrian writer Felix Salten (real name Siegmund Salzmann) - an insurance clerk who began to write out of boredom - got the inspiration for his novel during a trip to Italy when he became fascinated with the Italian word "bambino" which means small boy.
One key scene of the novel missing of the film is Bambi's realization that man is neither all powerful, nor immortal. It comes when the Prince of the Forest shows Bambi the corpse of a man shot by a fellow human.
The original novel "Bambi, a Life in the Woods" (1923) is not a work intended for children and Walt Disney toned down much of the material. By one description of the novel, it consists of 293 pages packed with blood-and-guts action, sexual conquest and betrayal. The forest characters include cutthroats and miscreants, including six murderers.
The copyright status of the Bambi character and other Disney characters based on the original novel by Felix Salten have been in dispute. Salten copyrighted the novel and characters. He sold the film rights to Sidney Franklin but retained all other rights. Franklin passed his rights to Walt Disney who did create a film based on them. However, Disney went on to use the character in comic books and other media which were not explicitly covered by the original deal. Salten and his family, who continued to hold the rights to the novel and characters until 1993, never challenged this practice. In 1993, the Salten family rights were sold to publishing house Twin Books. The new owners soon sued the Disney company for copyright infringement. While several trials have resulted from the dispute, they were inconclusive. Both companies maintain rights to versions of the same characters.
In the original novel, Bambi and Faline are first cousins. Faline is the daughter of Aunt Ena, the sister of Bambi's mother. Walt Disney probably discarded this detail because a mating of first cousins would be considered incest.
One of the discarded ideas for the film was to depict Bambi's mother death on screen. It was regarded as too dramatic to include.
Selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in the National Film Registry in December 2011 as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."
The world premiere of this film was scheduled to be in the tiny Lincoln Theater in Damariscotta, Maine, USA. However, the State of Maine objected, fearing that hunters would be offended by the film, and the actual world premiere was elsewhere.
In December 2018, a Missourian poacher was sentenced to one year in prison for illegally killing deers for trophies. As part of his penalty, he was required to watch this movie once a month.
The Disney film is the first of two adaptations of the original Bambi novel. The other is the Soviet film Bambi's Childhood (1985). It received its own sequel, Bambi's Youth (1987).
The death of Bambi's mother is often considered to be saddest and most heartbreaking moment of any film in the Disney canon. It's only rival in that respect is in The Lion King (1994) when title character's father dies.
Many movie-watchers in the 1940s were not prepared to see killing in any Disney movies at that time. Which is pretty common nowadays.
PARENTS GUIDE FOR BAMBI (1942)
SEX AND NUDITY
VIOLENCE & GORE
ALCOHOL, DRUGS & SMOKING
FRIGHTENING & INTENSE SCENES
AWARDS FOR BAMBI (1942)
Golden Globes, USA 1948 Winner Special Award Walt Disney For furthering the influence of the screen. For the Hindustani version of the movie.
DVD Exclusive Awards 2006 Winner DVDX Award Best Games and Interactivities Walt Disney Productions For "Forest Adventure Game" in "Bambi Special Edition" Nominee DVDX Award Overall DVD, Classic Film Walt Disney Productions For "Bambi Special Edition" Best Menu Design Walt Disney Productions For "Bambi Special Edition"
Genesis Awards 1988 Winner Genesis Award Feature Film - Classic
Hugo Awards 1943 Nominee Hugo Best Dramatic Presentation - Short Form Perce Pearce Larry Morey David Hand (director)
National Film Preservation Board, USA 2011 Winner National Film Registry
Online Film & Television Association 2015 Winner OFTA Film Hall of Fame Motion Picture
Satellite Awards 2005 Nominee Satellite Award Outstanding Youth DVD (Disney Special Platinum Edition).
Read about Bambi On the Internet Movie Data Base
Uncredited voices cast:
Hardie Albright ... Adolescent Bambi
Stan Alexander ... Young Flower
Bobette Audrey ...
Peter Behn ... Young Thumper
Thelma Boardman ... Girl Bunny / Quail Mother / Female Pheasant
Janet Chapman ...
Jeanne Christy ...
Dolyn Bramston Cook ...
Marion Darlington ... Birds
Tim Davis ... Adult Thumper / Adolescent Flower
Donnie Dunagan ... Young Bambi
Sam Edwards ... Adult Thumper
Ann Gillis ... Adult Faline
Otis Harlan ... Mr. Mole (unconfirmed)
Eddie Holden ... Chipmunk (unconfirmed)
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