I return to the Ten Bad Dates with De Niro book, plunging back into the chapter on movies that cause trauma, and find myself face to face with Bambi.
The classic Disney films has no doubt scarred viewers since its debut in ’42. People were used to cartoons being fun, delightful, occasionally frightening, as moments in Snow White proved, but no one was prepared for the whole circle of life thing this film released on unsuspecting viewers.
The tale follows the newly born prince of the forest, Bambi (voiced by Donnie Dunagan and Hardie Albright) as he learns about life amongst the trees with his new friends, Thumper the rabbit (Peter Behn and Tim Davis) and Flower the skunk (Stan Alexander and Davis (again)).
As we journey through the seasons, and discover the beauty of the world around the young deer and his friends, tragedy isn’t lurking too far away in the form of man, a hunter. And considering when this film was released it can’t really be a spoiler anymore that Bambi’s mother is his target. The death happens off screen, with a horrible rifle shot, but it’s impact is devastating even now.
The film, gorgeously hand drawn and animated, has brought these creatures to wonderful life. We’ve established relationships, and how everyone seems to live in balance among the trees. Until man interferes.
This moment has the same impact as Mufasa’s death in The Lion King. It’s stunning that we, as an audience can be made to feel empathy, sympathy, and even relate to the cartoon animals. It’s set up, established, and utterly horrifying in its effect.
Yes, Bambi, the deer, is hurt by this event, but he also demonstrates that death is as much a part of life as any other aspect of existence. He carries on, he grows, he meets a girl, he falls in love, he laughs with his friends, and one day he will assume his position as the Great Prince of the Forest.
Bambi was nominated for three Oscars (Best Sound, Best Original Song, and Best Musical Score), though it didn’t win any of them. Still it shows that the calibre of work the creative minds at Disney put into their art.
Now, I never saw this one as a child, I came to it as a movie lover in my twenties, by then a devoted Disney fan, and while THAT moment definitely affected me, I was lucky enough not to be scarred by it.
Rewatching it for the blog was a complete joy, it still looks beautiful, and the story can move you. There’s a reason Disney films endure, and it’s the attention to detail, character and story.
I can’t wait to see what trauma Ten Bad Dates will try to inflict on me next.