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"Bambi II": The Potential Was There

by on August 31, 2011

Bambi is one of Disney’s most beloved classics. Naturally, some five years ago the company decided to cash in on it with an unnecessary sequel, which has recently been re-released to Blu-ray. Bambi itself was a story about the circle of life, and it ended in a place that didn’t leave much room for a continuation—not if it were to feel anything like the first movie, anyway, unless it were to reprise the first movie. So we got a midquel. Of course.

Like the recently re-released The Fox and the Hound II, Bambi II takes place in the middle of the original film, using the younger, more marketable versions of the characters. Unlike The Fox and the Hound II, which was doomed from the start, Bambi II had real potential. It opens just after Bambi’s mother has been killed, and Bambi finds himself in the care of his father, The Great Prince. Unfortunately, The Great Prince is torn between his duties to all the deer in the forest and raising his son; not to mention he has no idea how to connect with Bambi, who is still trying to come to grips with his mother’s death. Had the movie just focused on this, it could’ve been an incredible film. Instead, it gets distracted, focusing (or rather, not focusing, as it jumps all over the place) on Bambi dealing with some bully named Ronno, another deer who we know Bambi fights and beats in the original film. It also focuses (or not) on silly, pointless animal moments that pander to young children, employing a neurotic groundhog, a mean porcupine, a sickeningly cute Thumper, and (sigh) fart jokes. And it’s such a shame because half of this film is really, really good, but the other half ranges from pointless to annoying. I find myself both loving and really disliking this film at the same time.

The voice cast for Bambi II is spot on. Every character sounds as they should, and Patrick Stewart does an absolutely fantastic job as The Great Prince. One can really sense the emotion (or in some cases lack thereof, when necessary) whenever he talks. The songs are also enjoyable—not fantastic, but then, the original Bambi was not a musical masterpiece either. The score is nice, though it borrows quite a bit from the original film, but that’s to be expected and encouraged. All in all, when it comes to sound, be it voices, song, or score, Disney did not drop the ball.

Bambi II is fantastically well animated too, with some of the best work I’ve ever seen on a direct-to-video feature, no doubt due to the involvement of Disney Feature Animation animator Andreas Deja, and it looks absolutely gorgeous in high definition. Included on the Blu-ray is a deleted song (and it was deleted for a reason); a well-made, informative, entertaining featurette titled “The Legacy Continues”; and a four-minute “Sketch Pad: How To Draw Thumper” with Andreas Deja. Also included on the disc is an informative trivia track and two really stupid kids games (“Can you tell me which flowers are the red flowers?”).

Bambi II was obviously made for children, but that’s no excuse not to put effort into it. The truth is, I can tell effort went into it, and that’s what’s so frustrating. All they had to do was try a little harder. This film is just a missed opportunity. It isn’t a bad film, but it isn’t really good either. It’s biggest crime though, is that it could’ve been great.

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