Disney has been churning out animated sequels to their popular films ever since someone had the bright idea for 'Return of Jafar' back in 1994. Along the way we've had direct-to-video sequels to 'Beauty and the Beast', 'The Lion King', Cinderella', 'Mulan', and… well, just about every other Disney movie out there. Some of these franchises have had more than one sequel. Most of them are regrettably far below par considering the legendary status of their parent films. Many of them seem haphazardly thrown together. Being DTV products, most of them seemed like cheap knock-offs of great films. So, while Disney may have a dark past when their DTV animated sequels are mentioned, at least 'Bambi II' is a somewhat bright spot in an otherwise dreary forest.
Is 'Bambi II' a classic animated film? Far from it. Is it even one of Disney's best? Not even close. It's saving grace comes in the fact that it's just innocuous enough to let it slide by without giving it much thought.
'Bambi II' isn't so much a sequel (or prequel) as it is a mid-quel(?). Meaning that the time that this movie's events take place can be stuck somewhere in the middle of the original 'Bambi' timeline – before Bambi grows up, but after he loses his mother.
'Bambi II' was produced in 2006, and has been updated for a younger, hipper crowd. It's a bit hard to imagine the same things that kept kids entertained in 1942 would be able to keep today's toddlers quite as interested. So, the characters have been livened up. They're a little more sassy and there are a couple more fart jokes (but it's okay because they pertain to a skunk). Essentially they've watered down the original story in order to mass market characters that would have a difficult time relating to the attention deficient audiences of today.
Bambi (Alexander Gould) has lost his mother, and is now spending time with his father The Great Prince (Patrick Stewart). His father intends to teach him everything about how a young prince should act. Bambi just wants to play with his friends, but his father seems to think that there is much more to life than that. Man plays another crucial role here, threatening the lives of the forest animals. Setting traps for the deer, and sending their ravenous hunting dogs chasing after them. Bambi must learn how to become the next forest prince, but his father must also learn his own lessons. A general, feel-good-all-around story. Lessons are learned. Characters realize their hidden potential, and there are a few laughs along the way.
'Bambi II' is harmless. It isn't overly offensive to the original source material. They haven't dressed it up too modernly. It doesn't have that dreaded "Disney Channel" feeling that so many of these DTV movies do. It still retains some of the feel of the old film. The animated backgrounds retain that cel animation quality that made the original movie such a treat to watch. However, the updated animation is a treat for the eyes. It's colorful, but not over-indulgent.
Kids should enjoy 'Bambi II', and there's enough substance here not to bore their parents to death. Thumper (Brendon Baerg) is especially endearing and funny. I chuckled a few times, particularly when Thumper is describing the ornery characteristics of a mean porcupine nearby. While it isn't up to snuff with compared to the original, it is much better than many of the borderline awful Disney DTV sequels.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Special Edition of 'Bambi II' comes packaged with a Blu-ray (BD-50) and a DVD. It's housed in a standard keepcase with one of Disney's snazzy, embossed slipcovers (which has the same artwork as the case's cover art).
There's not much to explain here other than for all intents and purposes 'Bambi II's 1080p high definition presentation looks immaculate. I love the animation here. Yes, it has that modern 'Brother Bear' look to it, but it's brightly colored, clean, and precise.
Clarity is top-notch. Edges are perfectly defined as fine detail in the tiny line art can be seen. The picturesque backdrops look like beautiful watercolor landscapes. Colors burst of the screen in a bright, dazzling affair of earthy browns, emerald greens, and vibrant pinks. Blacks are deep and inky and contrast perfectly with some of the bright whites presented on screen.
Even though this isn't considered "classic" Disney animation, it still has that Disney feel. They've gone to some effort to hearken back to the original while updating the look for newer audiences. I couldn't find a single thing wrong with this presentation, and in standard Disney fashion it's an all around demo-worthy visual presentation.
When 'Bambi' was released on Blu-ray it came with a DTS-HD High Resolution soundtrack instead of a DTS-HD Master Audio track. Thankfully, this time around with 'Bambi II' a lossless Master Audio track has been included, and it's quite a treat.
While much of the movie is Bambi sitting around talking with his friends, there are quite a few action oriented scenes where the audio mix is allowed to flex its muscle. As Bambi is being pursued by growling hunting dogs, the Bruce Broughton resonates with frantic action. Rears are fully engaged during these moments as the barks and howls from the pursuing K-9s can be heard as Bambi darts and dodges his way through the forest. Distant gunshots echo through the soundfield as man is close behind. LFE booms during these intense scenes drawing us into the action even further. A pounding rainstorm makes good use of low-end sonics, while also encompassing the viewer in a pitter-patter downpour which floods from the front to the rear speakers.
Directionality works perfectly here as Bambi's father yells at him to "run" or when a couple tadpoles dart across the frame one growling at the other. Most of the movie is harmless dialogue between Bambi, Thumper and the rest of the woodland creatures. Their dialogue is always clear and placed exactly where it should be in the front and center speakers. 'Bambi II's sound design is engaging, fun-loving, and perfectly dialed in. It may not be chockfull of wham-bam action, but it's nuanced enough to make for a well-rounded high-def audio experience.
While Disney may have a dark history when it comes to producing forgettable, lackluster sequels to their classic animated movies 'Bambi II' isn't half bad. It's a harmless little film that will keep kids entertained for its brisk runtime. It looks and sounds fantastic on Blu-ray. Recommended.