ALL THIS AND "BAMBI 2" @ 1 September 2011 10:36 PM
It seems that no one who embarked on creating a sequel to one of Walt Disney's most celebrated animated classics went forward with a foolish sense bravado -- as if it were possible to recapture the circumstances that combined Walt himself with a "perfect storm" of artistic talents to bring the 1942 Bambi to the big screen. Add to that, a direct-to-DVD budget that would never match modern-day dollars it would have taken to reach the level of the original. Fortunately, the sequel's creative team were not that foolhardy and instead approached the project with respect, affection and reverence.

What the makers of Bambi 2 did have, however, was digital technology allowing them to fashion vivid settings very much in the painterly style of the first film; some very elaborate animation (particularly for a direct-to-DVD release) and most of all, the supervision of master animator Andreas Deja to keep the standards as high as possible.

The results are remarkably effective. It cannot summon the power and majesty of the original (and it would be outrageous to expect that in any case), but Bambi 2 is one of the most solid and satisfying of the much-maligned Disney video sequels.

In addition to the very sincere adherence to the visual style, it is the sound track that impresses, with the great Patrick Stewart voicing the Great Prince and a spot-on voice cast clearly chosen for their accuracy in reproducing the original cast instead of relying on a lot of celebrity names. The young boy voicing Thumper is especially amazing. It is a triumph of smart voice casting over marketing demands.

Also notable is Joel McNeely's score, which interpolates themes from the landmark music by Edward Plumb and the melody of the Oscar-nominated "Love is a Song." New songs, particularly "There is Life" sung by Alison Krauss, are fine complements to the new story, as were the songs in the original. One might object to the easy-listening contemporary style of these songs, but the 1942 songs were performed very much in the style of their time, as well.



On Blu-ray it all looks even better. But you'll definitely want to pair this with the Walt Disney classic and not worry too much about making comparisons. Just revel in their respective merits.

My only real issue is with the title. "Bambi 2" simply invites comparison and suggest the inherent misgivings of a sequel. I'm sure there was much discussion before the title was selected, but I would have preferred the alternate, Bambi and the Great Prince. Maybe there was a concern that this title might have made some expect that Bambi was going to encounter a rock star or a box of elbow macaroni.

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