Director – Brian Pimental, Screenplay – Alicia Kirk, Story – Brian Pimental & Jeanne Rosenberg, Producer – Jim Ballantine, Music – Bruce Broughton, Animation Supervisor – Pieter Lommerse, Art Direction – Carol Kieffer Police. Production Company – Disney.
Alexander Gould (Bambi), Patrick Stewart (The Great Prince), Brendon Baerg (Thumper), Nicky Jones (Flower), Anthony Ghannam (Ronno), Andrew Bowen (Faline), Keith Ferguson (Friend Owl)
After the death of Bambi’s mother, his father The Great Prince is asked to care for the orphan Bambi. The Great Prince feels that he should be concerned with more important matters but reluctantly agrees to look after Bambi until a substitute mother can be found. As winter becomes spring, the animals emerge from hibernation. Bambi starts to learn the ways of being a prince from his father. At the same time, he meets a new rival in the cocky and bullying Ronno.
Bambi (1942) is one of the undisputed classics of Disney animation – one of the masterpieces that came from the studio’s Golden Age between 1937 and 1942. Here, Bambi is inevitably subjected to Disney’s cynical practice in the 1990s-00s of making cheap dvd-released sequels to the studio’s classic films. These have so far include the likes of The Return of Jafar (1994), Aladdin and the King of Thieves (1996), Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas (1997), Pocahontas II: Journey to the New World (1998), The Lion King II: Simba’s Pride (1998), The Little Mermaid II: Return to the Sea (2000), Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp’s Adventure (2001), Cinderella II: Dreams Come True (2002), The Hunchback of Notre Dame II (2002), Atlantis: Milo’s Return (2003), 101 Dalmatians II: Patch’s London Adventure (2003), Stitch! The Movie (2003), Mulan II (2004), The Emperor’s New Groove 2: Kronk’s New Groove (2005), Lilo & Stitch II: Stitch Has a Glitch (2005), Tarzan 2 (2005), Brother Bear II (2006), The Fox & the Hound 2 (2006), Leroy & Stitch (2006), Cinderella III: A Twist in Time (2007), The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning (2008) and TinkerBell (2008). This practice has become so prevalent that these sequels have started to become theatrical releases with the likes of Fantasia 2000 (1999), Return to Neverland (2002) and The Jungle Book 2 (2003), while Bambi II also enjoyed theatrical release in some parts of Europe.
Bambi is such a loved and classic work among the Disney pantheon that one imagined there would have been howls of outrage if Disney had consigned it to the same quick throwaway process of their other animated sequels. To such wit, Bambi II looks as though it has had much more care and attention lavished on it than most of these other abovementioned sequels. The animators even went and scanned the backgrounds of Bambi in order to replicate them here. As such, Bambi II does a fine job in approximating the animation style of the original – the backgrounds have the same soft watercolour look, while the characters come with the same endearing cutsie anthropomorphism and high-pitched voices.
It is confusing trying to work out where Bambi II comes in the original film’s chronology of events. Most of the original centred on the child-like Bambi, although in the end coda he was allowed to grow up to adulthood and sire his own family. Here, though Bambi II is purporting to be a sequel, it is clearly set before the events of the coda. In fact, it appears to be set in the immediate aftermath of the death of Bambi’s mother – we still have the youthful Bambi rather than the adult one and we see him learning the lessons of adulthood. What we have is not so much a sequel but a story that seems to hide in the margins of the original.
In its best moments, Bambi II comes with the pure and unalloyed innocence that the original did. Even far more than the original, you can see that Bambi II is a film (figuratively) about children at play. The finest scenes in the sequel are those with the ingenuous Bambi receiving life lessons from the magisterial prince (given an absolutely perfect and dignified voicing from no less than Patrick Stewart). The scenes with the two of them moving through the forest and eventually coming to play together have a wonderful tenderness that flawlessly matches the mood of the original.
Towards the end, the film throws in a pack of hunting dogs pursuing the deer as though it felt it had to create something dramatic to beef up the climax – the scenes with the pursuing dogs feel like they are transplanted from Disney’s The Fox and the Hound (1981). The main problem for me was that Bambi II was incredibly slight – it only has a 72 minute running time, which is extremely short for a theatrical release. Not much happens – it didn’t in the original either, but that climaxed with the emotionally shattering shooting of Bambi’s mother, which fairly much eclipsed everything else. Alas, Bambi II lacks an equivalent climactic capper and only fades out into a traditional Disney happy ending.