Saturday, 11 May 2013

Saturday Morning Cartoons - Mommy Deerest

Arguably, the mother of all animated mothers is Bambi's mom. But for all the wrong reasons.

Okay, let's all take a deep breath, grab a Kleenex and get this out of the way right off the top.

Sorry, uh...SPOILER ALERT?

The death of Bambi's mom is probably one of the most well-known scenes in film history. But most of us don't want to remember it.

Walt Disney's Bambi was released in 1942 to little success. It didn't become a hit until its re-release in 1947, and then in subsequent re-releases in 1957, 1966, 1975, 1982, and 1988. It was released on VHS in 1989, followed by numerous editions of DVD and Blu-Ray that came in and out of Walt's vault over the past 25 years.

The movie was based on an equally bleak 1933 novel by Felix Salten called "Bambi, A Life In The Woods". Disney filmmakers were concerned the tone of the book would be too dark for children. Good thing they toned it down, eh? (blows nose an eighth time)

Though the term didn't exist back then, it would be the first example of what would become known as the "Bambi effect". Children were famously escorted out of theatres in droves/tears. Moms couldn't believe that the family-friendly "house of Mouse" would put their kids through such an ordeal! Hunters, who were now the most hated people in America, dismissed the film for being "an insult to American sportsmen". Paul McCartney became a vegetarian. (seriously)

And soon it becomes apparent why the film wasn't an immediate hit.

In fact, SO beleaguered by the "Bambi effect" were the McCartney's, that Linda's daughter, Stella, did a photo shoot with some of the film characters back in 2009 for Vogue magazine, as a salute to her late "mum".

The Bambi poster boasts about "a great love story". Kind of misleading, but absolutely true. It's the love between Bambi and his mother that made this movie the revered classic it is today - a love that resulted in an ultimate sacrifice. (blows nose a ninth time)

The decision to show that sacrifice haunted Disney for much of his career. He was constantly paranoid about tackling the topic of mortality after that. For example in 1955's Lady and The Tramp, upon viewing the scene where a dog named Trusty is pinned and seemingly dead under a dog catcher's wagon, he later asked animators to insert him back at the end of the movie, to reassure audiences he was merely...unconscious?

This trend would continue long after Disney's death, until 1981's The Fox And The Hound, where Tod's mother is killed in a scene similar to Bambi.

Two other things made Bambi's mom stand out - her voice and the way she was animated.

Her trusting tones came from voice actor Paula Winslowe. She can also be heard in Bambi as the pheasant.

Paula's voice was everything you'd imagine a perfect mother to be - warm and passionate during quieter scenes, playful in some, brave and authoritative when the hunters threaten her son.

Paula was also heard in other Disney productions like Dumbo, and appeared as Greta Gravel in an episode of The Flintstones.

Thanks to Michael J. Ruocco's blog, 'For The Birds', I discovered that the famous scene where Bambi's mom lifts her head from eating grass was animated by Art Elliott. Michael's blog also helped me learn that Bambi's mom lives on, eating grass in various other Disney films, including...

The Jungle Book (1967)

The Rescuers (1977)

And Beauty And The Beast (1991).

In fact, Bambi's mom had a life outside of those movies as well!

She cameoed in Donald Duck's 'No Hunting' from 1955.

She made a brief appearance in the direct-to-video Disney sequel, Bambi II from 2006.

She teamed up with Smokey The Bear in 2004 to prevent wildfires.

She also appeared alive and not-so-well in an episode of MAD on Cartoon Network.


She also briefly showed up in 1988's Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but was originally meant to figure into the story more prominently. In the original Roger Rabbit script, it was revealed that villain Judge Doom was the man/toon who killed Bambi's mom. Disney wouldn't have it, and killed the idea.

But enough about this talk of senseless murder! This is supposed to be a post dedicated to our mothers! May they live on forever in a modest 2-bedroom bungalow in New Mexico!

(blows nose a tenth time)

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