Disney // 2006 // 72 Minutes // Rated G
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Patrick Bromley // August 23rd, 2011
A father's love. A son's courage.
Ah, yes, the Disney direct-to-video movie. First created as a way to move VHS tapes, then further enabled by the popularity of the sell-through DVD format, the wicked stepson of the Disney Classics vault begins its inevitable roll-out on Blu-ray with the release of Bambi II.
Though released 64 years after the original Bambi, 2006's direct-to-video sequel Bambi II picks up shortly after certain events of the first movie: Bambi's mother is gone, leaving him alone with his father the Great Prince (voiced by Patrick Stewart of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame). The two have little in common and don't understand one another: his father wants Bambi to be a prince like him and protect the creatures of the forest, but Bambi is young, sensitive, and not quite ready to take on that kind of responsibility. While the young deer works hard to impress his father, he is forced to confront a bully, escape the dangers lurking in the forest, and eventually come to terms with what happened to his mother -- a fact that is being kept secret from him by his grieving father.
Confession: I have never seen any of Disney's direct-to-video sequels to their classic properties. Never seen The Lion King 1 1/2, Tarzan II, Cinderella II: Dreams Come True, The Lion King 2: Simba's Pride, Mulan II, The Fox and the Hound 2, Cinderella III: A Twist in Time or...well, you get the idea. Part of the reason I've avoided them is because they've always rubbed me the wrong way -- nothing more than cynical cash grabs designed to dump some brand-name product on young audiences that, as a result, sully the name and reputation that Disney animation took decades to build. An even larger reason, though, is because they are so clearly not made for me. These are movies directed at very young audiences, who could care less about sullying the Disney brand and are just excited to have another Lilo and Stitch movie to watch on a Saturday afternoon. Whereas the true Disney classics are, in fact, "classics" because they appeal to audiences young and old alike, these direct-to-video movies have always struck me as little more than kiddie product.
Again, I say this having never sat down to watch one -- until now, of course. As a foray into this less-respected genre of animation, the new-on-Blu-ray Bambi II could be much, much worse. It's a relatively inoffensive -- though wholly unnecessary -- sequel that, if it didn't have the name Bambi attached to it, would be totally harmless. That's not to say that the movie is harmful as it is, or that it takes anything away from the original Bambi. That movie will remain an enduring classic, while Bambi II will more than likely be forgotten even by the families that pony up and purchase the Blu-ray. The whole thing is just an obvious attempt at trading on a beloved property; there's nothing about Bambi II that really explores the characters or stories further in any meaningful way. Bambi, as we all know by now, has lost his mother. Now what? He lives with his dad, and they don't quite understand one another. That's it. Gone is the sense of discovery found in the original film, as well as the sense of fear and danger. Bambi can be intense and scary for young viewers, and that's part of why we all remember it. The movie teaches some valuable lessons for kids. Bambi II teaches us little more than that if you put a "II" at the end of a beloved movie, lots of people will want to buy it.
I'm being harsh, and I don't mean to be. If all you want from Bambi II is a time filler for kids, you'll get your money's worth. It's nice to look at and agreeable, in a generic kind of way. The story is aimless and the music is saccharine, but that's pretty much par for the course. The best thing that can be said about Bambi II is that it isn't a complete disaster. The animation is good enough (more on that in a minute), even if most of the focus does seem to be on big-eyed "cuteness." Where Bambi II falls short is with its screenplay, which is slight, repetitive, and never really cracks the question "Is this a story that needs to be told?" Bambi has issues living up to the expectations of his father, leading to a lot of "Princes do this" and "princes don't do that" and Bambi saying "I'm not you, Dad! I'm never gonna be you!" I'm paraphrasing, of course, but that's kind of the gist of it. There's a silly little romance thrown in and some deer bullying, because that's what Walt Disney originally had in mind for the character. He wanted to see Bambi get picked on by other deer.
Like most of Disney's HD releases, Bambi II looks tremendous on Blu-ray. The 1.78:1, 1080p image is striking in its clarity and richness of color; everything looks clean and sharp and pristine. If I take issue with the visuals at all, it's not because of the HD transfer, it's with the actual source. There's something too clean about the look of Bambi II -- it feels like the work of computers and machines, rather than hand-drawn quality, lacking the density and texture of the original Bambi. But that's to be expected, I suppose. The lossless 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track is strong, too, offering clear dialogue in the center channel and a lot of good atmosphere. It's downright subtle, which cannot be said of the rest of the movie. Overall, this is a stellar technical presentation of a movie that's not quite stellar itself.
The selection of bonus features is something of a disappointment, particularly coming from Disney, a studio known for packing their HD releases with supplemental material that appeals to a wide range of audiences (kids, animation enthusiasts, students of film). Most of what's here is geared towards kids, which I guess is appropriate for Bambi II. There's a short featurette on the film, "The Legacy Continues," designed to make Bambi II a good idea and a movie worth making. A second, even shorter, featurette gives a short overview of the animation process. There's a deleted song, "Sing the Day," that's as generic and forgettable as the rest of the film's songs, as well as a few different interactive games for kids and a pop-up trivia track that can be played over the movie. A second disc, containing a standard def DVD copy of Bambi II, is also included.
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't a bit disappointed that Disney has seen fit to give something like Bambi II an HD upgrade when a number of their legitimate classics sit on the shelf gathering dust, waiting to be remastered. Still, I understand there is an audience for this kind of thing, and that anyone sitting down to watch a movie called Bambi II pretty much knows what to expect. Pick this one up only if you're looking for a break in the kids' usual rotation of Disney movies.
Good presentation, disappointing supplements, inconsequential movie. Where's Peter Pan already?
Review content copyright © 2011 Patrick Bromley; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 72 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated G
* Trivia Track
* Deleted Song
* Interactive Games
* DVD Copy