Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Disney Films: Bambi- Mankind is scum and your children now need therapy. You're welcome.

Oy. I intentionally put off this post for as long as I could. I'm a big Disney fan. I love the majority of the movies. There are some I'm rather ambiguous on. But there are only a handful that I out-and-out despise. This is one of them:



I'm expecting the enormous backlash to start any moment now. But I don't care. I absolutely hate this movie. For several reasons.

First, it's boring. I mean horrendously boring. This is basically nothing more than an animated nature documentary. If I wanted to watch a nature documentary, I would, oh, I dunno...watch an actual nature documentary! Nature all by itself is pretty interesting. There's no need to make it animated and cutesy. But even as far as nature documentaries go, this one is dull. Baby deer is born, baby deer loses mother, baby deer makes animal friends, baby deer grows up, battles alpha male for attentions of female, and evades danger. The. End. Meerkat Manor had more drama and action than this!

Second, there's the whole "traumatizing an entire generation of young psyches" thing. Now, a lot of children flipped out when Bambi's mom got shot (and I'm not posting a spoilers warning because EVERYONE already knows this). Heck, I'll admit that even as a kid, it troubled me a little bit (mostly because the sound of the gunshot woke me up from my nap, but I'm sure I felt a little twinge of sympathy...somewhere). It's a sad, poignant moment in the life of our hero, but it was still a pretty big deal, especially back in a culture that didn't show dramatic violence to children. Kids were used to slap-stick violence, Tom and Jerry or Three Stooges style. People got hurt. But people never died. For that to happen in a kids' movie back then was a huge deal. Almost as big a deal as it was in Snow White when the heroine was poisoned. But unlike that first film, there would be no happy last-second rescue from death for Bambi's mom.

The entire thing has become so ingrained in popular culture that it's now lambasted and lampooned. Like this clip from Animaniacs:


Cracks me up every time. A lot of people get mad at this. They think that parodies like this cheapen the severity of the scene in the original film. And they're right. But do you know what else cheapens the severity of the scene in the original film? The very next scene in the original film! Just like in Dumbo, where the extremely poignant and tender "Baby Mine" was immediately followed by the alcohol-induced cheeriness (or creepiness, depending on your point of view) of "Pink Elephants", the extremely tender poignant death scene in Bambi is immediately followed by happy singing birds who are obviously on Prozac.


Seriously. What kind of emotional whiplash is this? We just witnessed the (in essence) murder of the protagonist's mother, so "Let's Sing A Gay Little Spring Song". (I'm not kidding. That's the actual title of the song.) You would never get away with this in, say, Batman, after the Wayne's are murdered in front of young Bruce. Way to go, Disney. You just cheapened everything touching and intimate about the previous moment. I understand that you don't want kids to linger in the trauma (too late) but you could at least ease back into it a little bit. Show Bambi going through the healing process or something. After this sequence happens, Bambi's mother is never mentioned again. Her death doesn't serve as any sort of motivation, doesn't progress the plot, and only marginally serves as any sort of character development for our hero. So.... why even have that moment at all? I'll tell you why...

Third. Man is evil. And I don't mean this in the Biblical "we're all sinful and in need of a Savior" sort of way. I mean in the environmental "mankind are monsters for killing animals" sort of way. I'm not a huge advocate of sport hunting. I believe if you're gonna kill something, you should eat it. Now, the hunters in this movie are never really even shown in any large capacity. We don't know if Bambi's mom was turned into stew or just had her head mounted on a wall (or both). But regardless, we judge these guys without knowing their motivations. God gave us this planet. He expects us to be good stewards of it. But He also gave us the beasts of the earth for food. I don't know if the hunters in this film were hunting for food. They may have been hunting for sport. The point is, we don't know, but the film paints them in a negative light regardless. If they're not shooting animals, they're burning them with forest fires (that are obviously caused by accident, since they were spread by a strong wind). This movie could have worked as one big PETA/Smokey the Bear PSA. The ultimate message of this film is basically that human beings are dirt bags who murder innocent animals and nothing more. I have many reasons for hating this film. But this is probably one of my biggest. Even Wall-E didn't have this much in-your-face environmentalism. Wall-E made humans look careless and lazy. Bambi made us look downright diabolical.

It's interesting to note that Bambi came out in 1942. Why do I find this interesting? Because it would be another 8 years before Disney had another hit film. Maybe it was because an entire generation of children were so terrified, or an entire generation of parents who had just come through the Depression eating whatever they could catch were so incensed that they just didn't trust Disney with magical storytelling anymore. It wasn't until 1950 that Disney produced Cinderella and returned to their "dreams come true" formula and started endearing themselves to audiences again. In the interim, amidst WWII and a massive animator strike, the studio would produce a lot of weak, relatively plotless films. It was precious time that the studio would never recover. And that's a real shame. Had circumstances been different, who knows what magic the studio might have produced? As it is, his next two projects are nothing more than some animation mixed with vacation footage from Walt's trip to Brazil. But that's another post entirely.

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