When I received notification that I would review ‘Bambi II’ my mind took a little flight of fancy. Since the Walt Disney Studio now owns Marvel Studios I was kind of hoping that this sequel would take advantage of this corporate meager and Bambi would sport a rack of adamantium antlers and go off to track down the hunter who murdered his mother. Perhaps such an extreme treatment would be fun but the actual second Bambi movie is more in line with the usual direct to video animated sequels. Like many Disney direct to video follow up movies to the more illustrious members of the official Disney animated canon this movie is a midquel, filling in a previously overlooked tome period from the original film. This fits with the typical chronology for Disney movies that shoe the main protagonist as a young child skipping forward to the time just before becoming an adult. For Bambi the period of time glossed over covered his growing up after the hunter slaughter his mother. Bambi was the most famous example of a frequently employed Disney plot device; kill off the mother as early as possible. It happened in Cinderella, Dumbo and ‘The Little Mermaid’. A good case could be made that Walt Disney had some deep seated mother issues. This movie explores some heavier themes than most Disney animated faire. While most of their films contain a didactic component ‘Bambi II’ considers plot points that encompass such real life lessons as coping with loss and the tribulations of a single parent household. Both generations involved are represented here with Bambi voiced by Alexander Gould), representing the new generation and his father (Patrick Stewart), ‘The Great Prince’ the adults. Another aspect of the film common is the target demographic is skewed younger than the original. ‘Bambi’ was able to work across a significantly broader range of ages. The younger family members can get into the cute animals while the grownups could be enthralled by the
poignant story at the heart of the film. In ‘Bambi II’ the interest will drop significantly once the audience member has past double digit age. Still, with that noted considering the intensity of some of the themes present here it might be best to have an adult present to talk about some of the inevitable questions that will arise in young, curious minds.
The story begins soon after Bambi’s mother is killed by the much feared hunter. What hadn’t been considered in the original movie was the fact that that The Great Prince also lost his mate. Now he is force to put his personal grief aside and raise his son alone. He turns to the wisest denizen of the forest, Friend Owl (Keith Ferguson) asking for his assistance in find a suitable doe to help raise his son. Unfortunately, this winter is especially harsh so that no one is able to help raise an extra fawn. The Prince has no other option but to raise Bambi as a single father. Throughout the difficult winter the Prince does his best to provide for his growing son. As spring approaches the time is drawing near when Bambi will be old enough to leave his childhood home. The Prince allows Bambi to go with his friends Thumper (voiced by Brendon Baerg), the rabbit and a Flower (voiced by Nicky Jones), a skunk to visit the groundhog (voiced by Brian Pimental) for his annual prediction of the end of winter. Just as he comes out of his hole he is frighten back by a bully fawn, Ronno (voiced by Anthony Ghannam), the rival of Bambi. The two young males both have their eye on a beautiful young doe, Faline (voiced by Andrea Bowen). Bambi has known her since before his mother was killed but Ronno attempts to impress her with stories of how he has seen real live hunters. One theme underscoring the main plot is how the Prince is torn by his responsibility to his herd and the time he has to spend with his son. In one scene the Prince is angry that Bambi disobeyed him by leaving the den but exhibits paternal pride when the fawn makes a daring leap. This is one of many examples of how this flick pushes the situational similarities to human one parent households.
There is a lot going on here that might be over the heads of the youthful primary demographic. While not up to the production quality of the original you cannot deny the excellent message the movie offers. There are millions of one parent homes in this country and it is difficult for both the parents and children. The Prince realizes he needs help in raising his son but when that falls through he does the best he can. He also has to balance his career, leader of the herd, and his son. This is something that might not be fully appreciated by the kids in this position but it is nicely depicted here. The movie also covers the typical coming of age story as Bambi has to walk a line between finding himself, establishing his social position and the first blush of the mating instinct. Adding to Bambi’s difficulties is living up to the leadership expectations of being the Princes’ heir. Considered in the proper light this film works better than you might think.