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Bonus Points: DVD Reviews

'Bambi': Nature's Beauty, All in Platinum

By Jen Chaney
washingtonpost.com Staff Writer
Tuesday, March 1, 2005;

"Bambi: Platinum Edition" (Rated G; List price: $29.99)
Release date: March 1

As a child, I was banned from seeing Walt Disney's "Bambi." Concerned that the heart-wrenching mother's death scene would traumatize me for life, my own mother instead steered me to less-weepy animated fare like "Cinderella" and "Pinocchio."

Bambi is back in platinum-form thanks to a new Disney DVD release. (Courtesy Buena Vista Home Video)

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Fortunately, this platinum-edition release gave me the opportunity to see this 1942 deer drama in its entirety for the first time. Turns out Mom was right: The scene where Bambi grapples with his loss remains a crusher. But it's also a beautiful moment, occurring in near-silence as a single tear drops from Bambi's eye and immediately mixes in with flakes of falling snow, symbolizing nature's ongoing cycle of grief. It's one of many gems in a beloved tale that unfolds with an old-fashioned, gentle elegance, something all too rare in most animated family fare these days.

As for the quality of the DVD, it looks as lovely as a sunny, spring day, with restored visuals that convey all the vibrancy of the forest without sacrificing the classic quality of the animation. Since this is a Disney platinum release (a designation the studio attaches to its most cherished films, such as last year's "Aladdin" DVD), plenty of extra features are included in the two-disc package.

For younger viewers, there are several fun games and activities, including a sweet short about real-life deer and skunks. Meanwhile, those old enough to remember seeing "Bambi" when they were kids will enjoy the documentary "The Making of 'Bambi': A Prince Is Born" and a feature that looks back at the events of 1942. The studio has made much of "'Bambi': Inside Walt’s Story Meetings," a pseudo-commentary track that features voice actors reading from newly discovered transcripts of discussions among "Bambi’s" creators. It’s an interesting concept, but not particularly interesting to watch or hear.

In keeping with other Disney home-video releases, there’s an easy-to-read guide to the special features in the accompanying booklet. And there’s also some unpleasant cross-marketing in the form of a documentary about "Bambi and the Great Prince of the Forest," a straight-to-DVD release coming in 2006 that explores the relationship that develops between Bambi and his father (voiced by Patrick Stewart) after his mother's death.

Fans of this sweet original will undoubtedly see the sequel as borderline blasphemy. Fortunately, this platinum version of "Bambi" is here to remind viewers that Disney got it exquisitely, heartbreakingly right the first time.

Most Revealing Bonus Point: Though the story meeting feature is mostly a snooze, Walt Disney and his colleagues (or rather, the actors impersonating them) occasionally make some noteworthy comments. If anyone wondered whether "Bambi's" tear-jerking was intentional, Disney clears that up: "You'll tear their hearts out when the guy comes back yelling, 'Mother!'" he says.

Most Pointless Bonus Points: The two deleted scenes use sketches and recently recorded vocals to re-create sequences excised from the movie. But neither is particularly amusing or illuminating.

Bonus Point Most Worth Watching: The 53-minute "Making of 'Bambi'" documentary is the best feature on the DVD. Among other tidbits, it includes a peek at the storyboards of Bambi's mother being shot (they were ultimately deemed too disturbing for inclusion in a children's film) and an introduction to the voices of Faline (former child actress Cammie King Conlon, who also appeared in "Gone With the Wind") and Thumper (Peter C. Behr). Behr was just 4 when he began recording vocals for the exuberant bunny, easily one of the most lovable characters in the Disney canon. As the doc explains, he often forgot his lines, which is why the rabbit sometimes speaks a little slower than his woodland friends.

Also on DVD This Week: "The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie."

If you have feedback about "Bonus Points" or want to suggest a DVD for review, e-mail Jen Chaney.

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