A Tale of Two Disneys… BEAUTY AND THE BEAST vs. BAMBI

I recently received review copies of both the new live action Beauty and the Beast and the Signature Collection Anniversary Edition of Bambi. Receiving Disney releases for review is always exciting, especially with two children in the house. And, while both of my children are superhero loving young boys and these aren’t exactly big action heavy superhero flicks, my boys are always equally pumped to see that Disney insignia.

My eldest son, Cash (whom you may have read on the site already), is working on his review of the new Beauty and the Beast, but he opted out of Bambi… as he found the Disney classic very boring. Frankly, I wish I could disagree; alas, I cannot, as I found my first repeat viewing of the classic Disney tearjerker a snoozefest, too. Why is one, a new Disney film, so different for us (my son and I) than the other, a classic from the studio?

A discussion with a friend of mine today really shed some light on the subject for me. “You know what film is really boring when revisiting it? Bambi,” I told him. He suggested that my son and I may be conditioned by the increasingly complex and more developed stories and subplots of the newer crop of Disney films. I think he’s right.

With the new Beauty and the Beast film, they are almost directly reenacting the animated film, but with a stellar live action cast. The 1991 film that precedes this one is one of the early films in a wave of Disney films that speaks to my generation, with 1989’s Little Mermaid being the first blockbuster of a new era of Disney, often referred to as the Disney Renaissance. While not as complex and dense as some of the more recent Disney films, the early Eisner era marked a new branding that appealed to cuspers like myself, as well as the generations we straddle (Gen X and Millenials). Updating this film with a brilliant live action cast and some more nuanced performances translates phenomenally to the new Disney era, one defined by interesting subplots, layered meanings, and pushing genre definitions.

The music is fantastic, with a bit of updating to an already strong modern musical soundtrack. The cast is strong, with even the second and third tier players showing strong nuance and great ability in their performances (Josh Gad is a delight!). The CG looks fantastic overall, never distracting from the realistic feel or hurting the whimsy of the magical tale. Overall, this translation of a great animated film that I grew up with may even be an improvement on the original and excites me for the updated takes on Little Mermaid and others of the Disney Renaissance era – the Guy Ritchie helmed Aladdin truly sounds amazing.

In short, it’s a great film that I really enjoyed and it looks fantastic on the new Blu-ray release.

On the other hand, nothing about Bambi could get me interested in the film itself. I found myself drifting off, first mentally then physically, throughout my viewing of the film. It’s slow, limited in terms of plot, and nothing more than a vehicle for sentimentality. However, it is worth noting that my younger son came in to watch the film in a very exhausted mood from a long day of swimming and playing (Summer break mode is in full effect); for him, this translated to a very relaxed and enjoyable experience with Bambi. This leads me to believe that even those of us programmed by the new era Disney films may be able to find something here to enjoy and put us at ease in this hectic world. Thus, my experience of boredom is far from universal.

What I did, however, find very interesting was the special features included. There are loads of featurettes that make this edition well worth the money, even if you – like me – aren’t a big fan of the film itself. We get to explore how innovative the film was for its time, a tons of behind the scenes moments and stories, a look at the concept art behind the film and the film’s main artists, deleted scenes that include one never before released, and much more. There are literally 15 to 20 different special features, which is a ton. It really creates a level of appreciation that the most dour or demanding among us can’t escape.

Bambi harkens back to a simpler time, both for Disney and for the world. Perhaps that’s something we really need to spend some time being reminded of. Beauty and the Beast gives a whole new take on a Disney classic that can win over new fans and old fans alike. The great thing about these two releases is that there’s something for almost everyone between the two.

Both are available at your favorite retailers worldwide.

Justin has been running websites since his first Geocities site in 1994, but only did he ever start covering anything of substance years later. After he stopped regularly running local concerts in Northern NJ and the greater Philly area, he knew he needed to step up his writing game if he expected to continue to get free music to listen to. He writes regularly here and at Cinapse, as well as contributing to a few other sites on occasion. He likes music, film, the Philadelphia Eagles, the 76ers, talking about Criminal Justice, reading Intelligence Report, and his family... not in that order. His beautiful wife is far more talented than he is and his kids far more adorable... and crazy.
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