Nightmares from Bambi

I was horrified as I watched the movie. I almost couldn’t look at my TV screen. It was just too terrifying. When would she die? How would he react? It was too much for me. And it was a Disney movie. A really bad, yet classic, Disney movie. Have you ever seen Bambi?

I am quite sure I saw Bambi as a child, many years ago. Clearly I didn’t remember it at all. I watched it with my kids on Sunday night, and it was awful. Maybe the problem was that I knew the plot. Or to put it another way, I knew that Bambi’s mother would be killed during the movie. But I didn’t know when.

Would she die soon after Bambi was born, the first time in the meadow, or a bit later, when they nibble on the first grass of spring? I know his mother’s death, by the gunshot of a hunter, was not the only focus of this 1942 film, but it’s all I could focus on.

Bambi’s friends, the furry bunny named Thumper and cute little skunk named Flower, are adorable, sure. The singing birds are sweet too. And oh, his love and devotion to the fawn, Faline, is admirable. But that’s meaningless.

I sat on the couch with my kids, and even they knew, from the first scene when Bambi was born, that his mother would die. We even made jokes about it.  All we could think about as we watched this classic cartoon, when will Bambi’s mother die?

When it finally happened, when Bambi safely made it back into the forest and his little voice called out over and over again, “Mother,” it got even worse. Bambi’s father suddenly appeared, scaring the poor little deer, he said, in his strong voice, “Your mother can’t be with you anymore.” So we started to yell back at the TV, “Of course not, she’s dead.”

 

I guess we all tried to deal with our feeling of utter horror as we watched the movie by using humour that was even worse.

And this is a movie for children? What? This movie is dark and kind of terrifying. What about the scene with the birds in the trees? They talk about feeling that the hunters are near. One bird urges another, who is clearly very agitated, to just stay quiet and still. But to no avail.

This very anxious bird can’t take it anymore and yells, “We better fly.” And it does. It flies into the air, then we hear a gun shot. Then a blood-soaked, dead bird drops to the ground. All in cartoon. I was traumatized. And I’m 41 years old!

 

Why do people automatically think that if it’s a cartoon then it’s a movie for children? Or at least maybe they did 75 years ago? This movie tackles some very mature and disturbing issues, most of which are way beyond anything a child should learn about in a movie. If my 7-year-old wants to learn about murder and guns, she can watch the 11:00 pm news with me.

Thank goodness Bambi has a running time of only one hour and ten minutes. Even that was too long. I’m glad it all ended in the usual happy Disney way, as Bambi mates with his love, Faline, and his babies are born. But the trauma of waiting for his mother to be killed still haunts me. Maybe next time I will just watch an episode of The Simpsons. They are a nice, normal family.

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