A fun fact about Pixar: a number of its employees are big fans of Bambi. John Lasseter's already on the record about his love for the film, and now as the little fawn heads to Blu-ray Pete Docter has opened up about his Bambi fandom, and the influence that it had on Docter's Up. Here's what Docter had to say recently about the film's continuing importance...
"There are two amazingly striking things to me about Bambi.
“The first is how far Walt was willing to push the story -- or in this case, strip it away. The plot contains very few of the elements we recognize as ‘Classical Story Structure’ used in most films, even in later films produced by Walt. There's no bad guy (other than Man, never seen), nor does young Bambi even have a ‘want’, usually crucial to drive the story. Yet at every turn we are intrigued by what is happening and entertained by the characters. This is extremely difficult to pull off, and shows an amazing confidence on the part of Walt. On a film like Cinderella or Peter Pan, the unfolding plot and action could be made clear in story boards or storyreels, and the story could be honed, refined, and proven before the costly animation was produced.
“With Bambi, in almost all moments, it’s the charm of the character animation -- the charm and humour of Bambi slipping on the ice, for example, or the beauty of a rain storm, captured in paint -- which provides the hook that keeps us watching. Except for Walt's ability to have the film in his head, and the confidence he had in his artists to pull it off, there was no way to prove the film was working until final, expensive, footage was produced.
“The second thing that hits me is the art direction. It is simultaneously consistent and unified throughout the film, yet amazingly divergent depending on the specific needs of the sequence. The film opens on a naturalistically rendered, dimensional, tracking shot through the forest, featuring pools of light and dark, crisply delineated leaves, and even simulated depth-of-field as we pan past blurred foreground trees. Compare this to some of the expressionist streaks of orange and purple during the forest fire, or the striking, rim-lit battle between Bambi and his rival. Viewed out of context, some of the backgrounds don't even look representational. Yet they all work superbly for what is needed emotionally.
“There was something very honest and genuine about Thumper, stemming first from the voice casting and then informing the animation, which we referenced often when writing and casting the character Russell in Up.
“We also consciously tried to allow space for character moments, where the charm and quirk of the character personality grabs audience interest instead of the plot and what happens next -- which, as I mentioned, is done incredibly well in Bambi.”
Bambi: Diamond Edition is out now on high-definition Disney Blu-ray for the first time.
For more on Bambi and every other Disney animated feature, check out our comprehensive guide to all 50 here.