Thoughts On: Bambi - Man & The Circle Of Life


Bambi - Man & The Circle Of Life

Thoughts On: Bambi

Snapshots of the life of a deer, a young prince, taken over the course of a few select seasons.

Bambi is a pretty simple film. I believe that the main intentions behind this film are of creating an artistic ode to nature. I say this because this film is utterly stunning. Without much of a question, this is Disney's most beautiful film. However, beyond this, Bambi also provides social commentary. (Which we'll get to later though). The beauty of Bambi is arguably down to the inspiration and work of Tyrus Wong, who, with roots in Chinese impressionism, created astounding works that heavily influenced the style of the film:

The impressionistic look of wildlife and the forest implies shape and form, it allows the mind to fill in gaps. In other words, whilst we are merely seeing smudges of colour, vague shapes in the above picture, we perfectly understand that we are seeing trees, leaves, fog, sky, grass, shrubbery. What this does is simplify, unclutter the frame culminating in a natural style. This is slightly paradoxical as we are seeing unnatural implimence of shapes and form. But, what this film achieves can be explained with the infamous idea of this:

This is an attempt at realism that is just not real enough. Close, but in the end creepy, horrifying even. By implying shape and form, the frame isn't complex, it doesn't confuse the eye or look displeasing because it isn't quite realistic enough. Furthermore, this technique works so well because it allows focus to be directed. Reality is bent to produce artistic manipulation of mood and emotion. The opposite of this would be to create the perfect robot/human replication. We can analyze this by turning to Disney with the original Toy Story. If you watch this video clip, keeping an eye out for the trees...

... you will see an example of realism in animation. Hundreds, thousands (probably more) of individual leaves were animated onto the trees flitting by in the background. These trees are still stunning, despite this film coming out over 20 years (I know) ago. Another, newer example of realism can be seen in this...

... from Toy Story 3. Again, there is no impressionism here, everything is designed to look real, to trick the eye.

But, there is a timeless nature, a soothing beauty captured by fantasy, by impressionism in frames such as this. And for this, it is in my opinion, that Bambi is arguably the most beautiful Disney film ever made. The style perfectly captures the magic of Disney, the idea of fantasy, the philosophy of animation and cartoons - cinema even. Cinema and animation do not try to capture reality, they mean to imitate, to interpret it for the means of telling a great story. To convey my point simply watch the following clips of deer butting heads, locking antlers:


Whilst there is most defiantly beauty in both clips, one most clearly works better on an emotional, artistic and cinematic level. And this is incredibly important, but we'll get to why later. To do that we'll have to get into the nuts and bolts of what Bambi is all about.

Before we start the analysis, I'd just like to say that this is a film about hunting and human activity in nature (in the simplest terms). I neither completely disagree or agree with the points made by this film and what it implies (under my interpretation). So, what this means is that Bambi presents a very interesting debate. That's what I want to show - all so I can leave you with the questions it poses.

Ok, so as I said, this is a film largely about hunting. Its narrative follows the growth of Bambi and other animals of the forest to convey an idea of...

... yep, you guessed it, a circle of life. There is, then, two ways in which anti-hunting ideals are presented by the film. The first is by simply making an adorable and touching story with characters who die at the hands of hunters. This is why our emotional connection to the film and characters are so important - and is also why the film starting out so innocent is crucial. In short, this film aims to have us look at deer hunting and say 'Oh, no. They killed Bambi...' which... um... it kind of has, so, props to Disney. But, there is also a more intricate means of conveying this message - and it's all about you.

The personification of animals is probably the strongest tool Disney utilises to tell touching, poignant stories to children and adults alike. With Bambi, this device is used to comment directly on us. This is why 'the circle of life' is an idea better linked to Bambi than it is Lion King (in my opinion at least). Woodland animals in Bambi are all personified to be given ideal human traits. At the same time, humans are reduced to an image of terror, threat, violence - and all held by the rabble of savage dogs and the sound of gun fire. We never see humans in this picture. To make this a little clearer, let's look into the traits given to the animals. Firstly, they are utterly family orientated. Just like...

... (and kind of not like) in the Godfather, family is a writers device. What I mean by this is that we all love Don Corleone and can sympathise with his character because he holds a universal ideal of family. (For more on this click here). However, family isn't used to have us overlook crime in Bambi. So, on top of family, all animals are imbued with a sense of curiosity, love, bravery, strength, resilience, commitment, weakness and fear. These are all very human attributes. The idea of animals and emotion, higher thinking and cognition is incredibly interesting, but is not the debate I mean to bring up here. Deer, rabbits, pheasant, ducks, skunks, birds and so on are humanised to imply what humans should be - how we should act. In short, by splitting the negatives and positives of humanity between animals and humans, it is implied that we are losing something essential to our own nature. I'll say it again, all humans are conveyed to be is destruction and the sound of gun fire. By depicting a narrative centred on love in its constancy - as made clear with the opening song - Bambi makes the clear statement of us needing to appeal to our 'better' human side. The manifestation of this idea would be that we act like deer (in a metaphorical way). So, overall, we shouldn't hunt, should probably be vegans, love those close to us, and only be violent to protect our own. And it's in that, that we have our debate. Does humanity need to regress to become more human? This is a question posed constantly and in a myriad of forms. It is, in short, a question of how we define 'humanity'. Are humans hairless apes? Are we best represented by our intelligence? Are we best represented by what we create? Are we best represented by our emotional complexity? To apply this ideal to a human issue we can look at pollution and the destruction of natural habitats. If we can, if we have the know-how, the technology, the resources and man power, should we expand our population throughout the globe - maybe even expand out into space? Or does that make us bacterial pollutants? Moreover, if we have the intelligence, the compassion combined with technology, should we conserve, protect, pay attention, put an end to pollution, global warming, animal cruelty? It's your answers to this that replies to the questions presented by Bambi - do we need to appeal to our base, simpler, yet more compassionate tendencies instead of our more destructive ones?

It's the culmination of the above questions and ideologies with romance and an idea of men and women that Bambi holds overall. The romantic ideas are found with the beauty of the forest, of nature and the simple life of animals. The idea of gender roles, the mother looking after the children, the father looking after the family as a whole, are found in the idea of princes and the discussed themes of family. The idea of Bambi being a prince and his father being the great prince of the forest was always lost on me. Firstly, who's the king? And secondly, who decided deer rule the forest? The answer to the first question is left slightly ambiguous, but it's either the forest itself (the idea of nature) that is the king. Or, it is the humans - the apex predators, the lions of the forest. Except that would probably be bears - but, like I said, ambiguous. However, for nature to be in control makes clear the idea of harmony captured by the film. On the other hand, for humans to be kings, is to make us stewards, making it our job to care for the forest and the animals, hence, furthering the ideologies found in the film. The last question of rule is what we'll end on. For deer to be princes of the forest implies, again, an idea of rule, of civility and sovereignty. Deer are the most abundant species of prey in a forest, they are the crux of their habitat, making them the focus of the film because of, collectively, how important they are to the greater picture. It's human interaction with them both metaphorically and literally that this thus essential to our own greater picture.

To surmise, Bambi is about us being simpler, kinder creatures. This is what makes it a simple film. However, when you dig your heels in and ask 'what is kinder?' and 'do we need to be simpler to progress as a species?' there opens up a much wider set of ideas to be analysed. And so, it's here I end with the lasting question of - what do you think?

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