Saturday, April 22, 2017
I'd say spoiler alert, but who doesn't know about the demise of Bambi's Mother. Everyone seems to know it, whether or not they've seen the film. The funny thing is everybody talks about how sad the scene is, but not many people put Man on their lists of favorite Disney villains. I guess that mainly has to do with the fact that we never see man on screen at all during the movie, when with all traditional Disney villains we do, where we easily find ourselves overlooking or tossing this villain aside, since there's no design or personality to him (or more appropriately them). Furthermore, while "Bambi" is considered to be a Disney classic, most people don't necessarily talk about the film compared to many of Disney's other works, and only seem to talk about the most depressing scene in the movie since it hurts them so much. And being a Disney fan and having tons of friends who love Disney that are both old and young, not many have watched "Bambi" that much either when growing-up as a kids. Usually in a Disney film involving talking animals they usually watch "The Fox And The Hound" or "The Lion King" (that both seemed to have taken many elements from the movie), and I am just as guilty as they are. And while I don't watch "Bambi" often either, I do find more than plenty to admire from it, and the villain is definitely one of the top things that makes the film one of Disney's finest!
The first time we're ever introduced to the presence of Man is when Bambi's Mother takes him to the meadow for the first time, now that he is old enough, claiming it to be a wonderful place. When Bambi takes a look at it, it looks pretty, but there's an ominous vibe to it for how grey and blurry it is. But before an excited Bambi could even run in to have some fun, his Mother stops him telling him that it isn't safe and that they are vulnerable since they’re out in the open with no place to hide. So she decides to see if the meadow is safe before letting her son set hoof on the land, and as we watch her checking to see if it's safe we hear suspenseful music wondering if there is something evil lurking about. And even though this isn't the scene where she gets axed off, the music and animation creates a mood that still keeps you on the edge of your seat that I still find affective even when knowing when she's going to die. It's like the scene in "JAWS" how Quint's fishing rod catches the shark, but we don't see the shark nor does the shark do anything, but still comes across as an intense scene from the acting and how its directed, that's saving the surprise for later when you least expect it, and yet when you do know when it happens it still keeps you in terror. And that's how good suspense should be carried-out. Some who haven't seen the film but know about the Mother dying mistake this to be the scene where she gets axed off since it seems like that's what the scene is setting-up. Not to mention that one or two parody's of the movie that make fun of her death, usually happen during this scene instead of the winter (like "The Animaniacs" episode with Skippy crying over the death of "Bumbie's Mom, or that crazy old cartoon from Newgrounds "Bambee") which I don't know if it's intentional to keep her death a surprise, or a mistake, but either way it still doesn't give away when it happens (hhhmmm maybe I should've put a spoiler disclaimer for my post after all).
When the meadow is safe enough for Bambi to play and prance around, it suddenly loses its dark touch, and looks as cheery and colorful as the previous scenes in the movie were, as Bambi meets his first doe, and sees his Father for the first time, that makes you forget what a dangerous place it was built up to be. But when birds start flocking and crowing wildly, all the happiness is immediately sucked out as we now get dramatic music, and the pleasant colors now looking intense as the land is suddenly surrounded by colored shadows where we see the deer’s and animals fleeing for their life. And as this entire atmosphere begins to change, Bambi and his Mom are separated, but Bambi is found and saved in the nick of time by his Father. Once they are out of sight, we hear a gun shot, and learn a few moments later that the monster that they were running away from in the forest was MAN! What I find so scary about the villain is that we never ever see him on-screen, but we always feel his presence through the visuals, sound effects, and the dialogue (again just like the shark in "JAWS"), which I find very unique for a Disney villain, and more terrifying than actually seeing him. We know it's a hunter and that there's more than one of them hunting the animals in the film's climax, but we're never too sure if it's a poacher, a regular man doing it for sport or to feed his family, or if it's even the same person who killed Bambi's Mother. For all we know, each occasion Man appears in the film, could be a different individual. And that's what I find so incredible about this villain (or more appropriately set of villains) for how much he comes across as a genuine threat that makes you feel nervous and worried about the animal's safety despite never ever seeing him, that in my opinion comes across as one of the cleverest things that Disney has ever done when creating a villain.
One of the reasons why I think many kids and even adults have stayed away from the film, or don't seem to watch it as much as other Disney films, is for it being too cutesy and sugar-coated, and that the only real dark and depressing scene in the movie is the infamous death scene (and the first encounter Man). And yeah, the majority of the film is played on an innocent level, but not too many seem to talk about the film's epic and dramatic climax that's caused by Man. After Bambi's fight with another deer, and settles down with his love, he smells smoke and discovers that Man has returned to the woods and that there's more than one of them. This whole entire climax is a complete thrill ride! At first it starts out quiet and intense, where the animals are all shown to be hiding as they hear man coming closer and closer, but when one of them gets killed as she tries to flee (will talk about that scene later), all the tension comes to a halt and the animals start running for their lives trying to avoid the bullets that are being fired at them at almost every turn, where we can assume that some didn't escape. It only gets worse when their hunting dogs chase after Bambi's wife like a pack of savage wolves with deranged designs as if they are hell-hounds. Bambi protects her, but he gets hit by one of the bullets as he leaps for safety. And just when we think things can't get any worse, the fire from the campfire begins to spread all over the forest, where a wounded Bambi and his Father are surrounded by the flames as they try to escape while watching their beautiful land burn to the ground. So if you think that the film has little dark stuff going for it, watch this film again (or at least this whole climax) because there is more terrible things happening in the film then you give it credit for, and the reason why the film loses all of its cuteness (with the exception of the bully deer) is because of Man!
But obviously the most horrible act that Man has done in the whole entire movie that I've mentioned plenty of times, but didn't go into detail of why it's so tragic is of course killing off one of the lead characters of the movie, Bambi's Mother! Just as Bambi is getting sick of the winter and starving since the grass is covered in snow, he and his Mother spot some grass growing in the meadow discovering that Spring is near. The two begin to happily eat when all of a sudden the music begins to sound eerie where we only hear three notes being played over and over to build up tension signaling us that Man is near, that goes faster and faster as each time the three notes are played (just like the theme for "JAWS"). Bambi's Mother feels the presence of Man and the two start running for their lives as they are being fired at. The Mother tells Bambi to keep on running and not to look back, and when Bambi is out of the meadow, we hear the last gun shot, and cut to Bambi running through the woods and getting back to his home safe and sound. Being overjoyed that he and his Mother had made it; he turns around and notices that his Mother appears to be missing. Bambi then wanders through the dark and foggy woods just as a raging snowstorm begins to fall, looking and crying out for his Mother, where his voices echoes through the forest that's supported by a choir setting the depressing mood for the scene. Everything then goes quiet when Bambi stops and gasps at a shadowy figure staring at him, who turns out to be his Father calmly telling him that his mother can't be with him anymore, which causes Bambi to shed a tear, and take one more look at where his Mother had been, before he leaves with his Father.
What's interesting about the death that Man has caused that had many audiences and kids crying in a pool of tears, who still get depressed just by the mere mention of the scene is that this isn't the only animal that Man kills in the movie! During the climax as Man is drawing near, a nervous Pheasant (ironically voiced by the same woman who voiced the Mother) fears that she will die if she stays put, and flies away when Man is getting closer to her, but gets shot off-screen where we see her dead body hit the ground that causes the other animals to flee from their hiding spots. It's a very grim scene considering that we see her body, when with Bambi's Mother we don't. But why do many people who have actually seen the movie, talk and remember more about the death of the Mother, then they do about the Pheasant? Well a few reasons. The first reason is we don't see the Mother get axed off on-screen, or see Bambi look at her dead body. Now granted, seeing her die would probably be just as disturbing as seeing Mufasa getting killed in "The Lion King", in fact Disney already did animate a scene showing her death, but decided to cut it for being too grim, but since Man who is the film's main antagonist is never shown on-screen, it would make sense to have her die off-screen, where the depression of the scene is successfully provided through Bambi's reactions and it's gloomy atmosphere, as we can only imagine what Bambi's Mother must have looked like when she got shot by our off-screen killer, which is more disturbing than actually seeing it for ourselves.
But the main reason why many of us are so heartbroken about her death is because she is a leading character. The death of the Pheasant is disturbing, but we don't even know her to really feel bad for her. With Bambi's Mom, we do, and it's not just because she's his Mother. Disney has killed off many of the protagonist's parents in many of their film's that followed afterwards (Family friendly my ass), and while the majority of their deaths are sad and disturbing, I rarely hear anybody cry over them over these deaths the same way that people do about Bambi's Mother, or Mufasa for that matter. The reason why is because we actually got to know them, and see their son's bond with them so we can feel connected to their relationship, that way when their death does happen it would come off as a complete shock, and a depressing farewell to a character that we felt almost as close to as Bambi, and Simba were to them.
Man may not be an on-screen villain, but the ambiguity of who they actually are and what they look like, and how they affect the lives of the animals that we've grown attached too are more than enough to make them come off as one of Disney's most alarming, and hostile villains that they've ever created. As well as being the first actual villain to kill-off a lead that is related to our lead character. And despite killing off some of the animals, and burning down the forest, Man doesn't get punished for their crimes at all, thus making them one of the few Disney villains that gets away with their crimes in the end.
"Man was in the forest"