Blu-ray Review: Bambi - The Signature Collection - Anniversary Edition

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It has been 75 years since Walt Disney's Bambi first graced silver screens, on its way to an initial $3 million gross (according to Box Office Mojo). That's about $100 when adjusted for inflation, which is still relatively modest by the numbers we see from modern Disney animated films (see 2016's boffo Zootopia and Moana). Movie demographics were considerably different in 1942, with less adults willing to take kid-oriented films seriously. Of course, over the decades it was successfully re-released the cinemas regularly—by 1988 it was giving Disney's then-new Oliver & Company a run for its money.

As is standard practice for Disney, Bambi has also been issued on home video many times, with long moratoriums in between. It was first released on Blu-ray in 2011 (Diamond Edition), slipped out of print, and now returns as part of The Signature Collection. Right upfront, be aware that the technical specs are the same as the Diamond Edition. That's not really a problem, since the original high definition restoration of Bambi was already flawless. A twinge of disappointment will likely hit Disney buffs with the repeat of a DTS-HD High Resolution 7.1 mix. Strange that six years after the original Blu-ray, Disney didn't see fit to upgrade to lossless Master Audio. It still sounds good, to be sure, but that doesn't mean it's not a missed opportunity.

Hard to imagine adding anything fresh to the long-held consensus that Bambi is a classic. It's such of model of restraint for its form, it might be seen as too quaint by young viewers seeing it for the first time. For those with the requisite patience (considering the total absence of modern razzle-dazzle) it will likely hit home on an emotional level just as it has done for every generation of children since 1942. The very thought of the slaying of Bambi's mother likely even puts a lump in many adults' throats, much like the collective memory of Old Yeller. The story is so beautifully simple yet emotionally weighty, Bambi continues to resonate. Bearing little resemblance to the noisier Disney product of recent years, it's a still-vital relic from a gentler era.

The new Blu-ray offers a bunch of supplements, some old and some new. There are a handful of relatively minor pieces from the old Diamond edition that didn't carry over. That's frustrating for completists, but who missed out on the original release. It's up to each individual to decide whether a few introductions, a couple short featurettes (one covering the restoration of Bambi), some games and quizzes, and a still gallery are worth worrying about.

As for what is brand new to the Signature Collection edition: "Studio Stories: Bambi" featurette (five minutes), two deleted scenes (seven minutes), "Bambi Fawn Facts" informational piece aimed at very young viewers (three minutes), "The Bambi Effect" featurette (three minutes), and a 1928 Oswald the Lucky Rabbit cartoon short, "Africa Before Dark" (restored in 2015, the short was believed lost until 2009).

The meat of the old supplements are present, including the 53-minute "The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born. The feature presentation can be watched in "Inside Walt's Story Meetings: Extended Edition" mode which extends the 70-minute film to about 96 with additional behind-the-scenes material. There are also four featurettes and several deleted scenes carried over as well.

The Bambi Signature Collection offers an excellent presentation (as did the 2006 Diamond Blu-ray). Those who missed out the first time, grab this for your collection before Disney locks it back up in the vault.


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Chaz Lipp writes for The Morton Report.

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