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What parents need to know
Parents need to know that despite the decades since Bambi's initial release, Walt Disney's animated masterpiece can still be haunting at times for young children. The violence portrayed, unlike in most contemporary animated movies, is realistic -- hunters fatally shooting Bambi's mother (off-screen, but still the first thing most viewers remember even decades later), a fire spreading throughout the animals' forest habitat, and Bambi and a fellow buck fighting over a potential mate -- and packs an emotional punch. With its mood-shifting color palette and intense sequences of thunderstorms, fires, and angry hunting dogs, this is a more intense movie than parents may remember. Very sensitive kids may not be able to handle the death of Bambi's mother, but otherwise, this is a Disney classic -- a direct precursor to The Lion King -- that families can watch together.
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What's the story?
Based on the 1928 children's book by Felix Salten, BAMBI came out in 1942 and was heavily influenced by the making of Snow White, Fantasia, and Pinocchio, borrowing elements from preceding Disney features while pushing animation to a new level of realism and drama. Told more with music and animation than dialogue, the story is a simple one of forest creatures who play and live joyfully even as they fight to survive. At the center of the story is wide-eyed deer Bambi, who must find a way to endure after hunters kill his mother. Supported by his friends, Thumper (a rabbit) and Flower (a skunk), Bambi faces the dangers of the forest, woos a delicate doe named Faline, and eventually grows into a strong buck and a leader of the forest.
Is it any good?
Many fine artistic choices add grace and elegance to a film that hasn't lost its impact in nearly 70 years. Supervised by Walt Disney himself, the animators closely studied the movement and anatomy of real animals, working for six years to perfect the personalities of the characters and find just the right children's voices for them. No people actually appear in Bambi, but they're instead the unseen menace. Symphonic and choral pieces accompany the animation, which might seem odd to kids today who are used to Disney characters breaking into song-and-dance numbers.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about how people can respect and protect nature. Kids may indeed be awakened to the wonders of nature after seeing Bambi, and may delight in a walk in a real forest or a trip to the petting zoo.
Talk about the impact of the mother's death in the movie. Why do you think the writers made the choice to include this element in the story? Does it help the movie's message?
What is the movie's message?
- In theaters: August 21, 1942
- On DVD or streaming: May 23, 2017
- Cast: Hardie Albright, Peter Behn, Stan Alexander
- Director: David Hand
- Studio: Walt Disney Pictures
- Genre: Family and Kids
- Topics: Book Characters, Friendship, Wild Animals
- Character strengths: Curiosity
- Run time: 70 minutes
- MPAA rating: G
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.
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