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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Bambi II (Blu-ray)
Bambi II (Blu-ray)
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment // G // August 23, 2011 // Region Free
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Adam Tyner | posted August 22, 2011 | E-mail the Author
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Highly Recommended
E - M A I L
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Wait! Wait! Don't be scared off by the title. Disney deserved the bad rap they got back when they were churning out direct-to-video cheapquels to some of their most classic films -- dreck that was dragged down by
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sloppy animation and even sloppier storytelling -- all in the name of making a fast buck. Bambi II isn't one of those movies; it's a very respectful, wonderfully crafted followup to one of Disney's most enduring films.

"Sequel" isn't exactly the right word for it. Bambi II is actually set in the middle of the original movie, shortly after the death of you-know-who. (Do I need spoiler warnings about what happens in a nearly seventy-year-old classic?) At first, Bambi's father -- The Great Prince -- is certain having to look after the entire forest will make it awfully tough to give his son the attention he needs, and he tries to have a doe found who'll raise Bambi as her own. It's turning out to be kind of a grueling winter, and with food so scarce, there isn't a family of deer with enough extra to take Bambi in. Grudgingly, The Great Prince agrees for at least the rest of the winter to take Bambi under his wing...or hoof, I guess. You know what I mean. At first, the two really can't relate. The Great Prince is regal, aloof, and has to shoulder the burden of looking out for every critter for miles and miles; he's kind of forgotten what it's like to be a kid, and he alternates between sternly spelling out the rules of princehood and trying to keep his son out of the way as he carries out his duties. The Great Prince is trying his best to set a good example but isn't exactly the most affectionate father in the forest. Bambi just wants to impress his pop, but
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meeting his dizzyingly high standards winds up being quite a hurdle to clear. If it seems as if I'm taking too long to get to what the plot is, then...well, it's probably because Bambi II doesn't really have that kind of story. There's no moustache-twirling bad guy to knock down a peg or two. It's not up to Bambi to save everyone and everything in the forest. Really, the movie just wants to follow Bambi as he grows into the prince you eventually meet in the first movie, and that simplicity and character-centric focus play a big part in what makes it so great.

I know what you're thinking. Is this a story that desperately needed to be told? No. Is it as good as the original Bambi? Of course not. After all, it's not tough to argue that Bambi stands strong as the greatest of all the classic Disney animated films. That said, even with as leery as I was when I first popped the disc out of the case, I wound up really, really, really liking Bambi II. This is clearly the work of an immensely talented group of artists with a deep, abiding love for Bambi who set out to honor it as best they could. For one, it's a very, very character-focused movie, and it doesn't get distracted by any sort of overbearing plot. Bambi II feels like such a natural extension of the original film, building off what made the first one so great. Because I already know and love these characters -- and because Bambi II has clearly taken great pains to reproduce them as perfectly as possible -- it's so easy for me to lose myself in the movie, and I mean that as the highest compliment possible. The craftsmanship is also wonderful straight across the board. The backgrounds have the same breathtakingly gorgeous handpainted look to them as the original Bambi. The animation is fluid, expressive, and terrifically polished...nothing about the look of Bambi II would lead you to think that it went straight to video on these shores. Bambi II wisely doesn't aim for a moment as devastating as the original movie, but it still stirs some pretty powerful emotions at times, particularly when it comes to the father/son relationship between The Great Prince and Bambi. Geez, and it sure doesn't hurt to have a colossal talent like Patrick Stewart fielding the voice of Bambi's father. I really can't say enough good things about Bambi II, and if you're like me and shrugged it off when the movie first came out on DVD a few years back, this new Blu-ray release gives you a chance to see what you've been missing. Highly Recommended.

Bambi II is kind of a knockout on Blu-ray. Culled directly from the original digital source files, the linework is consistently crisp and clean, and its palette is lush and vibrant. It really shouldn't come as any surprise that this Blu-ray disc easily outclasses the DVD release, but if you'd like a comparison just the same, click on any of the thumbnails below to get a better look:

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The aliasing from the DVD is nowhere to be found in high-def, and this Blu-ray release doesn't suffer from any artificial sharpening, clunky noise reduction, or hiccups in the compression either. Bambi II is presented at its original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and has been encoded with AVC. The movie and its extras arrive on Blu-ray on a dual-layer disc. This two-disc set also includes an anamorphic widescreen DVD.

I'll admit to being
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surprised by how spry and lively this 24-bit, six-channel DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is. Bambi II is a movie that was clearly mixed with 5.1 audio in mind, and this direct-to-video title takes better advantage of the surround channels than some big-screen animated films. Its forest setting offers plenty of atmospheric color: claps of thunder, torrential downpours, snowfall, and the snarl of an icy winter wind. I'm really impressed by how much directionality there is to the dialogue, wonderfully establishing a sense of place. The sound design also roars to life during the more action-oriented sequences, with cracks of gunfire and growling hunting dogs filling the rears. The voice acting is consistently rendered cleanly and clearly throughout, and dialogue never once struggles in the mix. The orchestral score also sounds rich and full-bodied, filling every speaker at its fingertips. The sound effects do seem kind of meek and undistinguished, not emerging with the sort of distinctness and clarity I'm used to hearing on Blu-ray. They come through well enough, but many effects just seem to lack the same presence as the score and dialogue. That's really the only complaint I can muster about Bambi II's lossless audio, and it otherwise completely exceeded anything I could've hoped to have heard.

Bambi II also features Dolby Digital 5.1 dubs in French and Spanish. Subtitles are offered in English (SDH), Spanish, and French.

  • The Legacy Continues (8 min.; SD): Bambi II's making-of featurette breezes through how daunting a prospect it was to make a sequel to one of Disney's most beloved films, trying to digitally replicate the painted style of backgrounds from the original Bambi, the animators learning to draw real animals before settling into the more stylized, iconic characters, and showing the voice actors -- both young and old! -- at work.

  • Deleted Song (2 min.; a mix of SD and HD): "Sing the Day" was snipped out of Bambi II before it could ever be fully animated. Polished HD animation is mixed in with heavily-aliased, low-res storyboards to give at least some idea how this musical sequence might've looked if it had been left in.

  • Thumper's Hurry and Scurry Game (SD): This carryover from the previous DVD release lets one or two kids play hide-
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    and-go-seek with Thumper.

  • Friend Owl's Forest Fun Games (HD): Exclusive to this Blu-ray release is a set of three games based around counting, addition, and subtraction. I have to admit that even though I'm a heckuva lot older than the kids who are likely to play these minigames, keeping track of all the different critters skittering in and out of Thumper's thicket was pretty tough. You're not able to choose which game you want to play at first -- counting Flower's flowers, keeping a running tally of Thumper's guests, and helping a bunch of squirrels collect acorns -- but after finishing all three, you unlock an index screen that'll let you pick whichever one you want.

  • Disney Sketch Pad (4 min.; SD): Longtime Disney animator Andreas Deja shows viewers how to draw Thumper.

  • Bambi's Trivia Tracks: Finally, this subtitle trivia track rattles off facts about how the forest creatures featured in Bambi II behave in real life, notes about the actors fielding the voicework, and even details about the songs on the soundtrack and the movie's stylized use of color. I particularly enjoyed some of the notes about how this sequel pays homage to the original Bambi, such as scanning in flowers from the earlier film and even subtly reusing some of the same dialogue.

If you missed it mentioned earlier, the second disc in Bambi II is a standard definition DVD. Bambi II comes packaged in a shiny, embossed slipcase.

The Final Word
I have to say that I was kind of uncomfortable with the idea of a sequel to Bambi, and I wasn't sure what to expect as I started tearing open the shrinkwrap. I'm thrilled to say that Bambi II is wonderful, though. Beautifully animated, stirringly emotional, and clearly trying to honor the memory of one of Disney's most enduring films, Bambi II is a very worthy followup to a classic we all know and love. Highly Recommended.
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