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Bambi is a towering artistical achievement

Discussion in 'Visual Arts' started by Matheus Bezerra de Lima, Jan 9, 2021.

  1. Matheus Bezerra de Lima

    Matheus Bezerra de Lima Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Brazil, Pará
    I see Bambi as a film that's neither character-driven or plot-driven. Story and characters are very thin, not particularly remarkable outside of Bambi's mother death (deservedly iconic, it has such a chilling cold and dark atmosphere with the mournful choirs and thick snow, it's a brutally unsentimental scene), and the fim may be too cutesy at times for some people's tastes (though it gets very intense, dark and epic in most of the scenes after the moment that Bambi's mom dies, specially in the climax). I'm not surprised that some people easily dismiss the film as boring.

    But I don't think that's a fair statement about the film. While I still significantly prefer Pinocchio as the crowning achievement of Walt Disney due to significantly more compelling characters and plot (the animation, music and visuals still being at least as amazing as Bambi), I still see Bambi as one of the absolute towering artistical achievements ever in history of animation, in the history of all arts actually, despite often being more respected than loved. A lot of the reason for this is that the bulk of the greatness of Bambi doesn't really lie in the realm of what we as mainstream audiences are used to seek for and enjoy in films. Same reason why this is not usually the film that I put on if I just want to have a fun relaxed time, I would rather watch Pinocchio instead, for example. I need to prepare myself to immerse in it, to acclimatize with the film's methodical pacing.

    So, where does the film's brilliance lies and why I see it as such a towering artistical achievement? I'll answer now: the visuals, animation and music (the songs themselves aren't iconic, but the orchestral score playing in the entire film is an absolute marvel) of Bambi are absolutely breath-taking. By themselves, each one of these elements is awesome. But the way that the movie combines all of them together is nothing less than genius.

    Bambi is ultimately an atmosphere-driven film, seeking to cause strong emotions and wonder in the viewer through this combination. Who said that every movie needs to be mainly driven by narrative anyway? The artistry is awesome, truly awe-inspiring. Bambi is at its best in the long, quiet and contemplative moments. Seeing from this perspective, the thinness of plot, characters and sparse dialogue become somehow a plus for the film, they really put the big focus on the pure poetry of the storytelling done with visuals and music. They tell more about the characters and story than any dialogue.

    Bambi is truly about the cycle of life and the grandeur and wonder of nature. Any plot and characters are ultimately not that important compared to nature itself. Nature shows the characters' feelings. Lion King gets all the fame as being about the cycle of life and how often that is said throughout the film. But if actions are far more worthy than words, then Bambi is the actual ultimate "cycle of life" movie that Disney Animation Studios ever made.

    If I had to select only four sequences that best define the Bambi, I would choose the film's opening shot of the forest, extremely lush, detailed and layered with magnificent use of the multiplane camera, I would select the Little April Shower sequence, which makes me recall the Silly Symphony The Old Mill, I would choose I Bring You A Song and the climax fire scene, specially with that chilling wide shot of the forest on fire. The ending with those glorious Disney's choirs also always sends chill to my spine!

    Bambi is also a good representation of Walt's artistical philosophy. He didn't care for complicated storylines. He liked very simple stories, often very episodic and thin too, that served as a very flexible blank page for the creativity of the animation. The early Disney films often valued the art animation for its own sake, using the visuals to its full potential to do most of the job in creating humor, strong emotions and wonder more than any dialogue. There are many sequences in those films that exist only because they are beautiful, fun, scary, surreal and so on. You could even cut or reduce them, but they still exist. Disney was often ruthless against filler, but he didn't really think of truly great sequences as filler, specially if they enhance characters and make the audience more endeared to them and closer to their heart.

    In The Jungle Book, the last film he worked one and also one in which he was very actively participative in the production, he discouraged the animators from reading the original book. He didn't want anything from the book contaminating the ideas of the staff of how the film should be and encouraged his staff to think first about characters and fun or captivating sequences rather than story. No wonder The Jungle Book is more like a variety show of Mowgli going through all kinds of silly and fun situations in the forest rather than a cohesive story (I still feel salty about Screen Junkies' Honest Trailer for Jungle Book).

    And Fantasia was Disney pushing that philosophy to its absolute extreme. Why even bother to have a plot at all? He wanted Fantasia to be not just a film, but the birth of a whole new form of art and entertainment. It would elevate animation as a fully adult and mature medium without bounds. Fantasia would be re-released every new year with at least one new segment replacing one from the previous year. But it wasn't the big commercial sucess that it needed to be. So, Disney lost a lot of money and discontinued the project because it wasn't financially viable.

    In conclusion, the most admirable thing about many Walt-era films is the purity of their artistical approach with animation and cinema as primarily a visual medium. It's a strong and interesting difference to the style of the Renaissance films or the 2010s ones. Walt also often wanted to achive a timeless feel in the movies, so he discouraged references to any present pop culture and kept the time period of the films, and also any specifics about how the society shown in any of these films function, as vague as possible and also stayed away from political discussion. Films such as Aladdin, Hercules, Big Hero 6, Wreck-It Ralph and Zootopia would be unthinkable in Walt's era.

     
  2. Matheus Bezerra de Lima

    Matheus Bezerra de Lima Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Brazil, Pará
  3. Matheus Bezerra de Lima

    Matheus Bezerra de Lima Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Brazil, Pará


    This is a great video essay on the high artistry of Disney's Golden Age (1937-1942)
     
  4. beccabear67

    beccabear67 Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Victoria, Canada
    Reading an English translation of the 1923 Felix Salten book Bambi when I was young, I felt I got a sense of what the world might look like through the eyes of a deer. This is something I think the many artists involved managed to also convey through the 1942 Disney film as well. The animators studied real deer brought in live for them to make sketches of and to study their movement. The color palette used, especially on the backgrounds, is of very naturalistic hues.

    Bambi is my favorite of the Disney films.
     
  5. Holerbot6000

    Holerbot6000 Forum Resident

    Location:
    California
    I've always thought Bambi was Walt's masterpiece. It's like a lush, living painting.
     
  6. Bambi is so sickly sweet it has always made me want to vomit.
     
    showtaper and Rocker like this.
  7. Raylinds

    Raylinds Resident Lake Surfer

    Your Macho is duly noted.
     
  8. Matheus Bezerra de Lima

    Matheus Bezerra de Lima Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Brazil, Pará
    I understand that the film might be too cute in spots for your tastes. But, like all Disney films from this era, it's not all sweetness. Bambi can get really dark and intense too. One of the cores of Walt's philosophy is to create strong emotions alternating between great sweetness with great darkness, sadness and horror. Like blogger Unshaved Mouse said, these were the tar and sugar films.



    Maybe Man's Theme influenced the Jaws theme
     
  9. boyjohn

    boyjohn Forum Resident

    Bambi is a beautiful looking film. The story seemed to be a little over the top with the pathos as I recall, but I haven't seen it in a long time.

    Don't think I have ever seen the word "artistical" before. But I guess it's just a more uncommon variation of "artistic".
     
  10. Kinda like testicular...
     
  11. forthlin

    forthlin Forum Resident

    Bambi is beautiful, Thumper is in the running for all-time goddam cutest Disney character ever.
     
  12. ralphb

    ralphb "First they came for..."

    Location:
    Brooklyn, New York
  13. rswitzer

    rswitzer Forum Resident

    Location:
    Golden, CO USA
    I use this video in my math class to demonstrate how to project 2 dimensional objects into 1 dimension.
     
    ralphb likes this.
  14. Manapua

    Manapua Forum Resident

    Location:
    Honolulu
    "Godzilla was in the forest".
     
    ralphb likes this.
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  16. delmonaco

    delmonaco Forum Resident

    Location:
    Sofia, Bulgaria
    Bambi (together with most of the Disney animated features while W. Disney was alive) is an example that exquisite, high level artistry could also have mass appeal.
     
  17. Manapua

    Manapua Forum Resident

    Location:
    Honolulu
    The cuteness and sweetness is warranted in the first half of the film as it deals with the various young animals and Bambi's initial interactions with them. It also leads the audience down a false path that hits a wall when man enters the picture. It's also telling that humans are never seen but only represented by gunshots, terror and ultimately, death.
     
  18. Matheus Bezerra de Lima

    Matheus Bezerra de Lima Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Brazil, Pará
    I love this!
    I agree! These early Disney overall often contrasted strong sweetness and happiness with sadness and horror. You explained well.
     
  19. Manapua

    Manapua Forum Resident

    Location:
    Honolulu
    Hey thanks! Nobody puts Bambi in a corner!
     
  20. beccabear67

    beccabear67 Musical Omnivore

    Location:
    Victoria, Canada
    It may have had a bad influence in terms of overly humanizing/anthropomorphising animals depending on your viewpoint. My grandfather must've killed uncounted numbers of deer for the family freezer and table, and I ate some of them, but I never think of them, nor the deer that pass by around here, as 'Bambi'. Nor would I think of rabbits as Thumper or the characters of Watership Down which I also enjoyed a lot. I can appreciate that from a deer's point of view man would be evil, but I suppose also a mountain lion would be just as much. Bears are beautiful, and yet they can rip apart a salmon alive and scarf on it while it's moving, which is worse than how we dealt with them fishing with my grandparents and only much later gutting, scaling and canning. In 1923 and in 1942 most children were more directly connected to the food chain, plucking chickens and skinning rabbits were chores kids did, whereas now knowing a vegetarian or three is not at all unusual and there are R rated cartoon animal comics for adults.

    I once met Marv Newland who did Bambi Meets Godzilla; he also did other very entertaining animation shorts and comics. I remember him saying something about how that one single joke short was going to be what he was always remembered for, and that he had probably said that line many times! :)
     
    Scott222C likes this.
  21. musicarus

    musicarus Forum Resident

    Location:
    Saratoga, NY
    Nah, more like analytic/al, classic/al...often unnecessary 'als' also see preventative and orientate
    Bambi was a nice cartoonial.
     
  22. Matheus Bezerra de Lima

    Matheus Bezerra de Lima Forum Resident Thread Starter

    Location:
    Brazil, Pará
    I'm brazilian. Sorry for my mistake.
     
  23. musicarus

    musicarus Forum Resident

    Location:
    Saratoga, NY
    Don’t apologize! It’s a subtlety that English first language speakers fall into. More of a pet peeve of mine than any reflection on you. Peace!
     
  24. Rachael Bee

    Rachael Bee Miembra muy loca

    I like Bambi Meets Godzilla. Bambi deserved it! Bambi and kin have damaged so many automobiles. I've never had a serious strike but I nicked Bambi once upon a time and had a small running light on my Opel kicked out. That had me thinking, how would my Opel GT look with a deer catcher on it?
     
    James RD and musicarus like this.
  25. Beyond Mania

    Beyond Mania Well-Known Member

    Location:
    Los Angeles
    @Matheus Bezerra de Lima I really enjoyed reading your write up on this film. It's one I never reach for when I'm in an early Disney mood and I'm not sure why. It's time for me to give this a good viewing again after all these years. I like the way you write and would love to see you do a write up for all the early Disney films.
     

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