Once again, we can view Bambi’s 1.33:1 image with specially commissioned artwork on either side to mask the black borders … and, once again, I recommend this option whole-heartedly.
This 1942 film looks terrific on Blu-ray, and the AVC transfer has delivered an extraordinarily faithful picture that may not reveal anything new in terms of previously hidden detail, but presents Bambi with a rich smoothness that allows every hop, flick, bound and pivot to move with a serene grace and vitality against a background that has never looked so painterly or engrossing. The film still retains that gorgeous organic quality, something that I felt was missing from the recent of Alice In Wonderland. The image looks textured, even sans grain, and is in healthy promotion of visual depth and three-dimensionality. The vistas and landscape shots are simply immaculate. To me, however, there is still something of a marked difference between the appearance of the settings and the characters inhabiting them. Now, obviously, the style of the animation – bringing the animals to life and investing them with such glowing characteristics – is always something that is going to stick out with these early Disney pictures, but the hi-def makeover, as with Alice, though to a much lesser degree here, I should add, tends to sharpen and brighten the stars of the film, making them stand out far more than they ever did before. But, as I have said, the organic quality that makes these earlier animated films so damn appealing is still very much in evidence. In fact, the sheen of the characters and the texture of the settings and backdrops makes for an image that is teeming with energy and swooning beauty.
I doubt that this is how the colour scheme looked back when the film was released, but then I'm positive that you will be more than pleased with the results. There is smart variance in the shades of the forest, terrific blues in the twilight or during the rainstorm. The primaries won't smack you in both retinas, but they still appear solid and bold and satisfying. The film has always erred towards the pastels, but it can be effectlvely earthy when the time comes. Orange for the aftermath of the storm and for the burning woods are bright and gorgeous. Water-effects are suitably transclucent and enticing. The greys of the pre-dawn light when Bambi is about to take his first walk in the meadow do not look ill, or dry. There are also a lot of subtleties - eyes, feathers, flowers - that are picked out with accuracy and add a lovely diversity to the image.
Three-dimensionality is in abundance. The multi-plane shots add an enormous amount of depth to the image, and none of it looks artificial or enhanced. That introductory tracking through the forest is an immediate attention-grabber that boasts immaculate shading, smooth motion, lovingly rendered detail and that super-entrancing feeling of genuine visual depth. This attribute is in evidence right the way throughout the entire film. All of this is encapsulated to a breathtaking level during the fiery finale that follows the mad flight of Bambi and his father, helter-skelter, through the woods, down rivers and even over a waterfall with clean lines, tremendous vibrancy and a speed and dexterity that the transfer copes with spectacularly. Contrast is sublimely handled. There are many jolting scene changes – from the depths of a tragic Winter to the bright colours of Spring, and from a dreamy, creamy cloud-scape to a sinister face looming out of the green and the brown of the foliage – and these hold no problems for the disc, which maintains such shifts effortlessly. Blacks are certainly deep enough for this image. I've seen deeper and blacker, but then … do they need to be deeper or blacker here in Bambi? Well, no. They look just fine to me.
As you no doubt expect by now, the transfer is utterly bereft of edge enhancement, unwanted noise, banding or smearing – not even in the misty, grey landscape that Bambi and his mother walk into - and there is no aliasing taking place. The print is in pristine condition with no trace of dirt or debris, wear and tear anywhere to be seen.
This is how Disney now want the film to look ... and I don't think you could possibly ask for more.
This US disc contains a new DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1 track that, if I’m honest, is a touch of indulgence that isn’t strictly necessary. It is great that the engineers have developed the overall spread and the ambience of the soundtrack, and it is indeed a wider, deeper and fuller sounding experience, but a more contained 5.1 configuration may just have handled this equally as well, and not given the impression that we may have been getting something a little extra. The rears are impacted upon often, but rarely with anything that stands out as being special or unique. The musical score, which is probably the one element that always comes out on top with these vintage Disneys, is bended around the full set-up, but the panning is seamless and natural, if a touch sedate.
But even if it is the frontal array where most of the action emanates from, there are some bravura moments when the soundfield is delightfully ignited.
The rainstorm is great early showpiece. The thunder that signifies that the storm is coming rumbles across the front array and then tails off with precision. Then the subsequent rumbles impact in front of us, but reverberate smoothly and naturally over the top and bleed into the surrounds. All of this sounds terrific. It won't blow the roof off the joint, or disturb the neighbours, but this is still a fantastic piece of mixing that sounds completely flowing and believable. The gunshots sound suitably heart-stopping, and there are a few of them, and there are some great thickening swells to the guttural echo that they produce. Thumper drumming his paw against the ground is also well established with clarity and timbre, enough to become a little percussive delight in its own right. The rock-fall is also kitted-out with more orchestral clamour. But you are going to notice and hopefully savour the new movement and clarity of the frequent birdsong, some of which really seems to flutter in a dancing figure-of-eight around the front of the set-up.
The score is perfectly picked up by the extra channels and blended into the warm overall mix. The choir during “Little April Shower” comes through with much less of that hollow tweeness that we associate with ditties of the period. When they wail as the winds pick up, their voices are carried over into the rest of the speakers to help effect a smooth surround that definitely does aid in placing you in the middle of rainstorm. In what has now become quite common for these Disney discs, instrumentation is keenly reproduced with careful attention to separation, clarity, timbre and positioning. Cymbals, percussion, and especially woodwinds have a tremendously clean sound. Piano and strings are suitably versatile in both delicate moments and during more forceful occasions. The extensive brass section, and the tuba, bed the score with a robust vigour.
It may not be lossless, but this High Resolution mix is very enjoyable indeed. The original mix is also included and has been properly restored. This sounds excellent, as well, but the warm spread and engrossing nature of the surround mix is certainly the way to go.
Well, this region-free US Diamond Edition release contains both the Blu-ray and the DVD of the film. The Blu-ray disc also carries something called Disney Second Screen, which means you have to download an App that enables you to synch up the film with interactive features on your laptop or Ipad.
There is a wonderful PiP track called Inside Walt's Story Meetings (Enhanced Edition) which allows you to play the movie with the almost constant accompaniment of box-outs, commentary, sketches and artwork. But the best thing about this feature are the little featurettes within it, which drop you out of the film and exhibit fascinating background and trivia on various aspects of the production. There are interviews, cartoons and talking heads aiding this feature, and actors recreating the ideas and instructions that arose at Walt's production meetings with his animators, in which themes, music, characters, action and a hundred other things are discussed. This is an excellent feature, folks.
Another terrific and all-encompassing feature is the 52-minute Making Of Bambi: A Prince Is Born, which comes in six highly revealing and detailed section, covering everything from the conception of the project, the art design and story, to the characters and the vocal artists and the use of music and the impact of the film.
We get to see a selection of unfinished Deleted Scenes, and hear an audio track of the unused song “Twitterpated”.
Original artwork from the production is revealed to us down in the Disney Archives, and you can spend a day or two perusing the gargantuan Interactive Galleries which house images of storyboards, character concepts, backgrounds, paintings, sketches and production stills.
The kids can amuse themselves with Disney's Big Book Of Knowledge, which allows them to play a few games in Bambi's forest.
There's the 1937 Silly Symphony, The Old Mill, that you can enjoy, and we can learn a little bit about the multi-plane camera that brought the film to such splendid visual life from Walt Disney, himself, in the vintage promo, Tricks Of The Trade.
Finally, there is an array of trailers for forthcoming titles, and the theatrical trailer for Bambi, itself.
Whilst not as exhaustive a collection of extras as can be found on other Disney discs, this is still a thoroughly outstanding line-up of quality over quantity. It is at least worth it for the PiP track and the big making-of.
Well, it's the deer's antlers, isn't it?
Bambi is one of those eternally cherished titles that will never fade from public adoration. The story is simple, but epic in terms of what it is saying about the cycle of life and love … and death. The characters are heart-warming without being trite or saccharine. The humour is all there, but none of it ever feels forced or contrived, and the pathos is deeply affecting, though surprisingly understated at the same time. Bambi, therefore, feels like one of Disney's less manipulative sagas. And the animation, groundbreaking at the time, what with that multi-plane camera and sheer attention to authentic detail, is still achingly sublime. The thing to remember is that Bambi is also full of action. We may remember the little faun and the big footed rabbit having fun in the woods, the rosy-cheeked mating ritual, or the devastating killing of Bambi's sacrificial mother, but there are some blistering set-pieces in here, as well, that bristle with excitement.
Unsurprisingly, Disney have housed their 1942 masterpiece in a superlative package that brings the classic film to a new generation with a scintillating AV transfer and some gloriously thoughtful supplemental features. The House of Mouse continues to do their inimitable back-catalogue sterling service … and Bambi is very definitely an entry that no film collection should be without.
This comes with high recommendations, folks.
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