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Bambi II (2006)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 8/23/2011
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 8/25/2011
The word "unnecessary" is often bandied about during the discussion of sequels, and in many cases, it's accurate. If a movie tells a solid, self-contained story, then perhaps it should be left alone. (Of course, pre-planned series don't fall into this category.) But, money talks in Hollywood and if it worked once, then it may work again. It's been very easy to label the direct-to-video sequels to animated Disney films as unnecessary, as the majority of them have been limp and unable to capture the magic of the original film. Bambi II is clearly unnecessary, but the movie is surprisingly well-made and satisfying.
Those who have seen Bambi clearly remember the scene where Bambi's mother is killed and the young deer is suddenly left all alone. In the following scene, Bambi's estranged father emerges from the snow and escorts Bambi away. The film then leaps ahead to spring, and we see that Bambi has matured into a young stag. Bambi II takes this situation and asks the question, "What happened between Bambi and his father?" As Bambi II opens, Bambi (voiced by Alexander Gould) is still reeling from his mother's death and adjusting to the fact that he'll be living with his father, The Great Prince (voiced by Patrick Stewart). Unsure of what to do with the youngster, The Great Prince asks Friend Owl (voiced by Keith Ferguson) to find a doe who can raise Bambi. Owl agrees, but in the meantime, The Great Prince will have to look after his son.
As if this arrangement weren't stressful enough, Bambi now feels pulled between two worlds. He wants to play with his friends, Thumper (voiced by Brandon Baerg) and Flower (voiced by Nicky Jones), and act like a kid. He also enjoys being around the young doe, Faline (voiced by Andrea Bowen). A new bully named Ronno (voiced by Anthony Ghannam) enters the picture and begins to make life difficult for Bambi. At this same time, Bambi wants to be with his father and learn more about The Great Prince and the services which he provides in the forest. As Bambi begins to mature, his is faced with a series of challenges which will allow him to help his friends and prove himself to his father.
I can only imagine that one day, a Disney executive will come forward and explain to us why Disney movies are fascinated with the concept of single-parent families. Until that time, we can only speculate while watching movies like Bambi II. The plot concerning The Great Prince suddenly being saddled with a child is an interestingly complex one and it plays out like something that one would find in a live-action drama. The Prince must feed Bambi, provide shelter for him, and decide what to do with him while he's at work. The relationship here is very touching and it's clear that the writers of the movie have (or spend a great deal of time around) children, as Bambi's behavior clearly mirrors the activities of real-life kids. Even when the movie strays from this central story, such as showing Bambi playing with his friends, it always comes back to the relationship between Bambi and his dad. In many ways, the film is much more playful and lively than the original, but the father-son dynamic rings true and adds dramatic weight to the movie.
Bambi II is impressive on a technical level as well. The Disney animated sequels always look OK, but rarely match the brilliance of their theatrically released brethren. With Bambi II the animation is very detailed and the backgrounds look great. No, it doesn't compare with the hand-painted look of the original, but there is still a surprising amount of care given to the overall look of the movie.
Allow me to say it again, I was shocked by how much I liked Bambi II. At just over an hour long, the movie is short and sweet and contains a maximum amount of entertainment during it's duration. The movie nicely balances the bittersweet tale of young Bambi learning to live with his father, with the often silly adventures that he has with his friends. (As in the original, Thumper steals many scenes.) The film offers some laughs, some poignant scenes, and an exciting finale. My only complaint about the film is that it contains two musical montages, both of which felt tacked on and both of which I fast-forwarded through. So, like a chocolaty dessert, Bambi II is unnecessary, but that shouldn't stop you from enjoying it.
Bambi II matures on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 1.78:1 and the Disc carries an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 28 Mbps. The image is incredibly sharp and clear, showing no grain or defects from the source material. This must have been taken directly from a digital master, as it's spotless. The colors look fantastic, most notably the greens, and the image is never too dark or bright. The level of detail is good, but it doesn't reveal any flaws in the animation. The Disc offers a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 4.5 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The first thing that I noticed was the detailed stereo effects and how they were cleverly used. When a character comes on-screen from the side, they begin talking while off-screen and this sound is nicely placed in the left or right channel. The surround sound effects are good as well, as we get many different sounds from the forest. The subwoofer effects don't really show up until the finale, but they make their presence known.
The DVD contains a few extras. "The Legacy Continues" (8 minutes) is a making of featurette which contains comments from the filmmakers and the voice actors. We see animators studying real deer, and get a brief overview of the voice recording and animation process. "Bambi's Trivia Tracks" offers on-screen "Pop-up Video"-like tidbits which detail the making of the film and other facts. There are also two set-top games -- "Thumper's Hurry & Scurry Game" and "Friend Owl's Forest Fun Game". There is a "Deleted Song" called "Sing the Day" (2 minutes), which is presented in animated storyboard form. "Disney Sketch Pad" (4 minutes) has animator Andreas Deja demonstrating how Thumper is drawn.
Review Copyright 2011 by Mike Long