Bambi to celebrate 70th anniversary

DPA

The death of Bambi's mother will remain one of the saddest scenes in cinema, and Monday marks the 70th anniversary of the first time an audience saw the classic Walt Disney film.

The film doesn't even show the most famous Bambi scene, where the bullet of a hunter downs his mother. Despite that, her death is an indelible memory of film history as Bambi and his mother flee across a meadow and the shot is fired.

"Mama?" calls the little fawn in the next scene, as he looks desperately for her in the fast-falling snow.

Bambi's stag father, the Great Prince of the forest, steps forward with his deep voice: "Your mother can't be with you anymore. You must be brave."

The scene, coming about 40 minutes into the film, still brings viewers to tears and even sobs. It debuted on August 13, 1942, at the famed Radio City Music Hall in New York, the fifth full-length animated film from the Disney studios.

The story that takes viewers from the birth of the little fawn Bambi through the mother's death, a forest fire and finally to the point where he starts his own family, also broke a tabu for Walt Disney. It was the first of his films in which an innocent character dies, not just the witches and monsters.

Critics deemed the film much too heavy and sad for children.

Hunters complained about the negative characterisation.

But Disney defended his decision, saying that he was being true to the original book of the Austro-Hungarian writer Felix Salten, who published it in 1923.

Disney said in an interview that he did not believe that one should "play down" the substance for children, whether in film or real life.

Ex-Beatle Paul McCartney, born the same year that Bambi debuted, has testified to the long-lasting effect of the film, which he saw as a young child. It taught him that hunting was "not cool" and turned him into an animal activist, he once said.

The 70-minute film, opening in the middle of World War II, ran at a loss in the beginning. But in 1943 it was nominated for three Oscars and was revived in the cinemas in 1947, this time with much more success.

Bambi remains one of the most successful films of all time and was a milestone in cinema history.

The expressions on the faces of Bambi, Thumper the rabbit and the other characters closely mimicked those of small children, a drawing point for many. For the same reason, some critics panned the film for the extreme to which it went in painting animals with child-like innocence.

The real star of the film, which plays against the background of dramatic classical music, remains Thumper the rabbit, best friend to the curious and clumsy Bambi, always daring him to be brave and gossiping about events in the forest.

But Thumper himself has parents who wish he were more restrained.

Mrs Rabbit to Thumper: "What did your father tell you this morning?"

Thumper: "If you can't say something nice ... don't say nothing at all."

It's advice that has been passed down from parents to children through the decades.