Bambi 2By Jane Louise Boursaw
MPAA Rating: G
When I heard they were making a sequel to "Bambi," I cringed. How could someone try to re-create the magic of the 1942 Disney classic? But this straight-to-DVD animated movie delivers on all levels.
"Bambi II" isn’t so much a sequel as it is a "midquel." The story takes place in the middle of the original movie, picking up shortly after Bambi’s mother dies. (And if you’re shuddering at the thought of re-living that trauma, don’t worry. This movie includes only gentle references to her passing.)
When Bambi (voiced by Alexander Gould, also the voice of Nemo), is left in the care of his father, The Great Prince (Patrick Stewart), the two must figure out how to relate to each other. After all, the Prince is facing the difficult task of raising his son alone, while also mourning the loss of Bambi’s mother. Blind to the little deer’s needs, he focuses instead on shaping him into a good prince. Likewise, Bambi is trying hard to win the approval of his father, and in the process, teaches the elder deer a thing or two about parenting.
A second theme explores the meaning of courage, following a rivalry between Bambi and an older fawn named Ronno (Anthony Ghannam), a bully who tries too hard to impress everyone. Thumper and Flower, our familiar friends from the original movie, help Bambi with some lighthearted lessons in bravery.
The animation in this movie leans more toward a classical style, rather than the CGI (computer-generation images) trend of many new movies. It also matches the lush quality and detail of the original Bambi, and themes of confronting your fears, moving beyond loss, and the importance of family are prevalent.
No animated film will ever take the place of "Bambi." Still, this is one of the best sequels -- or rather, midquels -- produced not only by Disney, but other studios, as well. Overall, this movie is a big success at preserving the spirit of the original story.
Special features include:
- "The Legacy Continues:" This making-of featurette includes interviews with director Brian Pimental and stars Patrick Stewart, Alexander Gould, and Brendon Baerg (Thumper)
- "Thumper’s Hurry & Scurry Game:" A game which lets kids navigate through the forest to find Thumper (which might prove a little frustrating for preschoolers)
- "Disney’s Sketch Pad:" A feature which teaches kids how to draw forest animals, and also includes advice on how to get into the animation industry. Inserting the DVD into a DVD-ROM on a computer lets you print out pages of the animation, allowing kids to compare their drawings with the originals. "Bambi’s Trivia:" Watch a steady stream of pop-ups with fun facts as you view the film.
PRE-SCHOOLER (ages 2-5): While some scenes are a little scary for preschoolers, they’re nowhere near as scary (or traumatic) as the original movie. At 70 minutes, this movie is just the right length for little ones, although kids younger than four might not understand the coming-of-age themes (overcoming fears, forging family bonds). Still, kids of all ages will love the bright colors, talking animals, cute songs, and funny scenes with Thumper and Flower.
GRADE-SCHOOLER (ages 6-10): This movie is a pleasant change from some of the action-packed films aimed at kids this age. Instead, it relies on well-crafted humor, loveable characters, beautiful landscapes, and life-lessons with no inappropriate innuendoes or double entendres. How refreshing! The life-lessons are subtle, but kids will easily absorb them: being a bully is never cool; real friendships are forever; and sometimes it’s best to work through loss by moving forward with grace. This isn't simply a coming-of-age movie about Bambi. We see him grow as he works through his fears, and there are several moments where Bambi and his father start to connect, but it doesn’t quite work out -- just like real life.
TWEEN/TEEN (ages 11+): This movie is geared towards younger kids, but nostalgic tweens and teens might enjoy seeing the beloved characters from their own childhood. It also boasts a wonderful soundtrack with songs by Martina McBride, Michelle Lewis, Alison Krauss, and Anthony Callea. There's even a nod to the original composer, Frank Churchill, with "Let’s Sing a Gay Little Spring Song," performed by the movie’s director, Brian Pimental. If life gets too heavy for your older kids, sit ‘em down for a dose of innocence with this movie.
Jane Louise Boursaw is a freelance journalist specializing in the movie and television industries. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.