The classic wine in the Walt Disney vault, "Bambi," will be served up Thursday when the animated fable of the little fawn and Thumper, the floppy-eared, foot-stomping bunny, becomes available on home video for the first time. Orders from dealers up to Aug. 29 exceed 9.8 millon cassettes. So, before the first customer has stepped up to the video counter, "Bambi" becomes Disney's best-selling video, and No. 2 on the all-time list behind the nearly 15 million sales of "E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial." A year ago, Disney's "Cinderella" sold 7.5 million cassettes. "Bambi," which runs 69 minutes, is priced at $26.99. Rebate offers from advertising tie-ins and video club discounts lower the price by $3 to $5. Ronnie Gunnerson, editor of Video Marketing Newsletter, believes "Bambi" will top out a bit behind "E.T." when it is pulled from market in early April, as is Disney's practice. It will probably nip "Who Framed Roger Rabbit?" (due out by Disney's Touchstone Video on Oct. 12 at $19.99), Gunnerson predicts. A third video that will be in the Christmas sales picture is "Batman" ($24.98), which Gunnerson feels will likely wind up ahead of "E.T." as No. 1. The Disney fall and holiday package of 51 titles, of which "Bambi" and eight others are new releases, pre-sold 14.7 million cassettes. That's an industry record for both units and gross revenue. Last year Disney's Christmas package pre-booked 7.4 and sold a total of 11.5 million units when the promotion ended in April. "Bambi" is Disney's highest-grossing film, and one of the top five all-time money-making movies. In current dollars, it has grossed $490 million. The film's initial release in 1942, after five years in the making, did not have an impressive gross. There were no foreign markets at the time, and domestic markets were curtailed due to World War II. But, in true Disney fashion, there were six re-releases (1947, 1957, 1966, 1975, 1982 and 1988) and each time it grossed more than before. Like good wine, this 47-year-old movie improves its stature with age. "Bambi" stands apart from other Disney classics for its pioneering artistic achievement in animating and capturing the natural beauty and drama of the forest. It is a powerful fable of this delicate setting, told in a script of but 900 words. (Felix Salten's novel was 10,000 words.) One story being passed along by animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston is that Walt Disney, after watching some early footage (a butterfly landing on Bambi's tail and Bambi trying to jump over a log but falling) was moved to tears and said to the animators, "Fellas, this is pure gold." Disney wanted a change of pace from the styles of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" and "Pinocchio" and sought to instill a sense of awe and respect for this project. He also sought a sense of realism. Artist Jake Day was sent to Maine on a five-month "photographic safari" to shoot footage that would ensure realistic backgrounds and settings. To provide inspiration -- and guidance -- in the animation of animals, assorted creatures were kept on the Disney lot outside the animation studio including two fawns (Virginia red deer), two skunks ("only partly descented") and squirrels, rabbits, chipmunks and birds. At one point Disney was not satisfied with music that was offered for the forest fire scene. He suggested some music from a sequence in "Fantasia." The musical director protested, "But, Walt, that's Beethoven." Disney replied instantaneously, "Well, go ahead, write some Beethoven." The "Bambi"/"Roger Rabbit" promotion is backed by a $60 million marketing package, the largest video promotion ever. Some dealers are offering T-shirts for early orders. There is a $3 rebate offer in conjunction with Crest toothpaste, and a free Bambi plush toy in conjunction with M&M/Mars candy beginning Nov. 15. As is Disney practice, no dates were given on when, if ever, "Bambi" will be seen on any of Disney's television outlets. A year ago the same was true with "Cinderella." Now Disney has announced that "Cinderella" will have its world television premiere at 7 p.m. on Oct. 14 on the Disney cable channel, with encore dates scheduled Oct. 19, 24, 27 and 30. The complete Disney package contains three new "Winnie The Pooh" titles: "The Great Honey Pot Robbery," "Newfound Friends" and "The Wishing Bear." There are also three Rescue Rangers titles: "Crime Busters," "Undercover Critters" and "Double Trouble." The final two new releases are in the Ducktales series, "Seafearing Sailors" and "The Accidental Adventurer." All are priced at the new Disney standard of $12.99 (down from $14.94), except for the six full-length films that accompany "Bambi," which are listed at $26.99. They are a re-release of "Bedknobs and Broomsticks"; newly packaged "Dumbo" and "Sword in the Stone"; "Mary Poppins," celebrating its 25th anniversary; "Alice in Wonderland" and "Three Caballeros." The remainder of the titles are in the following series: Mini Classics, Sing-Alongs, Ducktales, and Cartoon Classics.