Bambi was released in 1941 and is based on the book of the same name by Felix Salten. The film is unique amongst Disney classics in that it uses unknown children for most of the lead voices (as opposed to studio voice actors), and also in its focus on visual storytelling over dialogue. The film is largely regarded as one of Walt Disney's most beloved animated achievements, and the American Film Institute has rated it as the #3 animated film of all time.
Bambi is perhaps best understood in relation to Fantasia, which came out less than two years prior (interrupted by Dumbo and a prolonged labor strike). Both are films that find their voice more with music and visual storytelling than they do with more conventional plot structures. Both contain an experimental artistic vein, and both also draw their inspiration from the natural world. If you watch Bambi expecting something more akin to Snow White or even Pinocchio, you may be surprised at both the sparse use of dialogue and the free-form progression of a story. It's more centered on unfolding characters and plot through visual means, and yields some of the studio's most impressive animation. Not only is the artistic style breathtaking, but the technical means they employed continued to grow the craft.
However, the film suffers from its endless establishing scenes. Bambi's introduction to his new world is "established" for almost the whole first half of the film. The continuous parade of different animals frolicking in their natural world causes the film to simply become visual prozac in sections. At times it feels like a short subject was stretched too far under the guise of visual narrative, when really there are just scenes that simply don't serve to progress the story at all.
But the development does wrap up admirably, and in the end it's understandable why they would want to try such an unconventional approach to an animated feature. Bambi truly is an extension of both the silent film era and the experimental visual world that Walt Disney was continually granting his artists. It's an impressive and daring approach to storytelling that largely works, and in the process yields some of Disney's most stunning visuals.
Disney continues their tradition of superb restorations and transfers with Bambi. The detail and richness of the animation is truly beautiful, at all times the print is clean and free of artifacts, and colors are perfectly balanced. This is simply a stunning looking restoration. Everything from the more impressionistic brush-stroke backgrounds to the fine detail of characters is astounding. There is literally nothing negative to find with the visual presentation here.