Movie Review - Bambi

This movie has been reviewed in our new format and rating system.  To see the new review, click here.

David Hand
Walt Disney Productions

Bambi is one of the greatest animated films ever made. That isn’t because its story was so great, or its dialogue so amazing. Not one of the characters is complex. Bambi, however, has going for it what few movies with witty dialogue or intricate subplots—what few movies at all, in fact, ever had: beauty, as its highest priority.

Art hasn’t usually been enough to keep large crowds of average people enthralled for an entire movie, though. As incredible as the attention to detail was when Bambi was being animated, as realistic and yet endearing as the characters are, as much sheer class as the music has—audiences were so little captivated by the beauty of the movie that, contrary to fallen nature, they actually started looking for a worldview… and they were apparently so preoccupied with their own worldview that they missed Walt Disney’s point twice in the same movie. Ever since the first release to the public, there has been a widespread underappreciation of Bambi’s art, and, by and large, an overemphasis on its portrayal of Man, the hunter.

Of course, you always have to be careful when a movie is asking you to sympathize with the animal, rather than the human hunter, because we know there are many places where hunting is permitted, blessed and even commanded in the Bible, and because we know the prevalence of vegetarian, environmentalist thought in the western world. But identifying with hunted wildlife is not wrong… unless we want to say that it is wrong in the book of Proverbs, when Solomon—inspired by the Holy Spirit—wrote, “My son, if you have put up security for your neighbor, have given your pledge for a stranger… save yourself like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the hand of the fowler.”*

We know from experience, though, that Bambi’s cute woodland creatures have been a stumbling-block for children and adults who were not grounded in the biblical understanding of the relationship between man and animal. While Bambi was the immediate forerunner of Smokey the Bear in trying to persuade the public to prevent forest fires (a worthwhile endeavor), that message could also be twisted to present man as the hereditary enemy of nature: a chief tenet of environmentalism.

The worldview of Bambi requires caution not because of what it is, but because of where it could be taken.

Sexual Content:
The sexual content of Bambi—now that’s something that requires real caution. The Bible doesn’t warn us outright to beware of sympathizing too much with hunted animals. It tells us very plainly, however, to watch out for seductive females… like the lady loves in cute little cartoon movies.

For example, the rabbit Thumper’s femme fatale gives a display of giggling, primping, coy glances, batting of eyelashes and calculated sauntering—to clarinet music—that would be completely unacceptable for a human female. And, hopefully, the idea of a strange woman kissing a young man (like our son or brother) on the mouth in real life wouldn’t be as humorous to Christian audiences as it was apparently meant to be in the movie. Some of the other flirtation and physical affection is less humanized, and as long as young children understand the difference in the contexts, it probably won’t be a problem.

The verse of one of the songs, which says, “I want you to see, when you’re looking at me, that I’m looking for love,” is perhaps a trifle risqué, though not as much of a problem because it is sung off screen, rather than by the characters themselves.

Violent and Intense Content:
Bambi is one of those movies that is difficult to rate on violence, because different children will be bothered by different things, or to different degrees. The thunderstorm scene might be enough to frighten some little ones, and on the other hand, some children may not be alarmed by even the most intense scenes, when the deer are being chased by vicious dogs, or by—yes—the unseen hunters. The deaths of a few animals (usually inferred rather than seen, and never graphic) may get to little kids’ emotions.

There are two uses each of “Gosh” and “Gee whiz.”

When Bambi premiered, its audience wasn’t just supposed to be children who would think the animals were funny; its audience was supposed to be people who could be drawn to “a great love story,” the film version of a book meant for adults—people who appreciated beauty. Its audience was supposed to think as highly of art, detail and accuracy as Walt Disney did. Bambi is a movie that is visually beautiful. It’s simple. Its art, music and characters are delightful. From the very beginning of the movie until the very end, you can’t help thinking, “They just don’t make movies like this any more,”—and, for that matter, they didn’t make very many of them back then.

Bambi is appealing on so many levels that there are few people who couldn’t enjoy it; but the people who will enjoy it the most are people (adults, mostly) who know what beauty is, and who know that it’s worth rejoicing in—the people who don’t need fast-paced dialogue or a complex story to hold their attention—people who would, like Disney, put art among the top priorities.

Children will probably enjoy Bambi, as they have for decades. But Bambi is a tool that can be used either by parents who want to disciple their children in the biblical understanding of nature, hunting, human stewardship, and of course beauty; or by an environmentalist culture that’s been discipling children—for decades—in an unbiblical view of all those things. Children who are already enthusiastic about hunting probably won’t find Bambi more of a stumbling block than the loss of a pet dog; children who haven’t been exposed to the issue, or who are more sensitive about the deaths of cute woodland creatures, may need to wait a few years before braving the hunters of Bambi.

Learn More about
The Gospel of Jesus Christ >>