One of Walt Disney’s masterpieces has arrived on Blu-ray in a gorgeous MPEG-4 AVC 1080p transfer. The restoration has removed all damage that may have plagued the nearly 70 year old film. The picture literally looks like you are watching the planes moving past you in the multiplane camera. The various planes have never had such delineation in a home entertainment release. These restorations elicit a lot of debate on whether they look too good, because when the cels were filmed originally, the artists knew how they would look when put to film and compensated for that and made cheats knowing it. This particular presentation finds a nice balance between its film origins and high-def digital presentations of the source artwork. The only complaint I have is that black level seemed off at times. Otherwise, the picture is nearly flawless. The beautiful forest paintings pop with vibrant greens and browns. There isn’t a hint of any digital distortion or compression anywhere.
The audio is presented in both DTS-HD HR 7.1 and Dolby Digital 2.0. As with any film of the era, the transfer is only as good as the source. The distribution of the original sound effects and score across the soundscape in admirable. The rear speakers provide a nice dose of ambience in the forest. During the epic fire, the track shines its best, using the bass effectively. Highs and lows are boxy, but the dialogue is crisp.
One of the main reasons to buy this disc is for the innovative commentary track titled “Bambi: Inside Walt's Story Meetings.” It recreates conversations held between Walt Disney and his artists over developing the story and visual direction of the film and its characters. It’s fascinating to see how they thought strategically about each moment and what it represented to the overall film. Their concerns ranged from how to introduce characters and not lose them during the course of the story and how realistic could they push the visuals and still get emotion out of the characters. Concept art appears side by side with the film and at certain points additional information can be watched in mini-docs with the film picking up right after they are over. This is one of the best commentary tracks I’ve ever listened too. A must for any Disney fan.
Debuting with the BAMBI Blu-ray is Disney’s new Second Screen feature. Users download an app to their iPad or laptop, which synchs additional behind-the-scenes info as the film plays. It’s kind of like Pop-Up videos for the 21st century. You get a commentary track that still allows you to watch the film unhindered.
For the Blu-ray, two new deleted scenes were included compiled from concept art. "Two Leaves" tells a side story of the two last leaves on a tree in the fall looking back over their life together like an aging married couple. It was from the book and Disney loved the moment, but couldn’t find a place to integrate it into the film. "Bambi Stuck on a Reed" is as the title suggests. In the scene, the deer prince has an interaction with a little mouse.
Also new to the Blu-ray comes a deleted song "Twitterpated,” which I have no idea where they would have put it, or why they even wanted to. “Disney's Big Book of Knowledge” is an interactive game that teaches players about the forest and its inhabitants, while presenting mini-games along the way. Disney artist Lisa Keene provides the art for this disc’s Disney View, which fills in the black bars on the side of the screen. I’ve always found this feature distracting. There are also hi-def art galleries.
The rest of the disc features material from past DVD releases. “The Making of Bambi: A Prince is Born” is a nearly hour-long making of doc that stood as an exemplary example of making of docs, but it’s still not as awesome as “Bambi: Inside Walt's Story Meetings.” Additionally, there are two other deleted scenes, “Inside the Disney Archives,” “Tricks of the Trade” (old school featurette on animation techniques), the first multiplane short film THE OLD MILL and the BAMBI theatrical trailer.