Thoughtful reviews, the Boulder film scene

" Never trust a woman who whistles for her own cabs "
— Woody Allen, Curse of the Jade Scorpion

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Moulin Rouge

Ambitious, daring, energetic, and entertaining —Marty Mapes (review...)

Everybody comes to the Moulin Rouge

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Millions of have seen Bambi. Despite Disney’s policy of putting its videos “into the vault” after a few months, there must be millions of Bambi DVDs out there. How do you get people to buy yet another version? Add more bells and whistles.

As with previous Blu-ray releases of Disney movies, the Blu-ray Diamond Edition brings back many of the bonus features from an earlier DVD release and adds a few new ones. This time, the folks at the studio have figured out a way to incorporate the hottest of the hot new gadgets — the iPad.

An interactive app for your iPad or laptop will synchronize with the movie. If you’ve seen Bambi too many times, Disney hopes this new application will keep viewers entertained. The app is well-designed and easy to use. Whether it actually enhances the viewing experience will depend on one’s ability to handle distractions and one’s interest in all things Bambi.

The Deer King

Bambi comes out of the vault and onto Blu-ray
Bambi comes out of the vault and onto Blu-ray

Before The Lion King, Bambi was Disney’s story of the circle of life, following the first two years in the life of a young deer. Bambi and his friends live in an idealized forest of misty glades, waterfalls and a profusion of flowers. It’s a place where the wise old owl lives peacefully with chipmunks and squirrels.

Just when we’re feeling comfortable with this nice little story, the filmmakers stir things up. Bambi loses his mother to Man, the movie’s only predator. The Man-caused peril continues in the movie’s second half, giving Bambi the survival skills he will need to take the place of his father, The Great Prince of the Forest.

Peaks and Valleys

The movie itself is a mixed bag — the shifts in tone between cuteness and tragedy are awkward at times. Consider the moments after Mama deer dies: young Bambi sheds a tear and walks off into thickening snowfall with his father, the movie then cuts to a bright spring scene with chirping birds and a peppy song on the soundtrack. It’s a jarring transition. I didn’t want to dwell on the sadness, but I wasn’t ready to be jerked back into cheerfulness.

Give the animators credit for maintaining the movie’s look. Behind the cute bunnies and skunks are impressionistic, painted backgrounds. The multiplane camera, which had recently been developed by the studio, is put to good use to give a sense of depth to the surroundings. It’s easy to understand why Bambi is mostly remembered for saccharine sweetness and a traumatic death, but there’s more going on in the movie for those who care to look for it.

Second Screen

The Second Screen feature assumes that viewers will be sitting in front of the television with an iPad or notebook computer handy. If you have an iPad, go to the app store and search for Disney Second Screen (the app is free); if you have a laptop, go to DisneySecondScreen.com, and follow the links from there. You’ll be asked in enter the code on the Disney Movie Rewards insert that came with the Blu-ray.

With the Blu-ray disc loaded and the app open on your device, follow the instructions on both screens. As the movie plays in your home theater, select Auto Sync on the app. The app will “listen” to the movie and synchronize with it. If it isn’t able to synchronize, there is a Manual Sync option.

The app largely consists of art — mostly drawings and paintings from various stages of Bambi’s development, as well as behind-the-scenes photos and bits of trivia. Symbols on the screen invite users to click for more information. Interspersed are games — you can unscramble a picture or ink your own Thumper. You can move through the features at your own pace and tell the app to return to the sync. You can also simply explore the app without watching the movie (provided you have the code).

On both an iPad and netbook, the app’s features were intuitive. The instructions were clear, easy to understand, and kept to a minimum. After about 10 minutes, Google Chrome crashed on my netbook. Attempts to relaunch the app in that browser resulted in an incomplete, frozen screen. I had no problems using it in Internet Explorer.

It’s all very slick and well-produced, even fun, but will it enhance your viewing experience? If you’re used to multitasking; if you want to know more about the movie; if you just want to keep the kids company and don’t feel like watching the movie for the hundredth time, you might appreciate this app. I found it distracting to divide my attention between the screen ten inches away and the screen ten feet away. Most, if not all, of the information about the movie is available in the other bonus features. If you prefer this mode of presentation, give the Second Screen app a try.

More Blu-Ray Extras

Bambi: Inside Walt’s Story Meetings is a holdover from the 2005 DVD release. While the movie plays on screen, the audio track has actors reading transcripts of story meetings between Walt Disney and the filmmakers. There are picture-in-picture photos, sketches and images from other Disney films. The Blu-ray features an enhanced edition. Every few minutes, you’ll be invited to learn more about some aspect of the film. Hit enter on your remote, and you’ll be taken to a mini-documentary or an animated short. The pop-up menu for this feature has an index page that will keep track of the additional material that you watched.

In the Classic Bonus Features section, a behind-the-scenes featurette (53 minutes) has no shortage of interviewees who are happy to talk about why they love the movie. Covering the technical aspects of animation is a segment from The Wonderful World of Disney television show about the multiplane camera, which was used to shoot Bambi. This camera, which was first developed by Disney studios, has several planes on which different elements of the image can be placed. This allows scenes to have a greater depth. Also in this section are two deleted scenes.

Brand new on the Blu-ray are two more deleted scenes, which never got past the storyboard stage. An audio recording of a deleted song, “Twitterpated,” is also in this section; the singer is not identified. Disney’s Big Book of Knowledge, Bambi Edition is for younger viewers. Listen to factoids about forest life, answer a few question, and you get a virtual sticker. The Blu-ray remembers which stickers you collected in your virtual sticker book.

The second disc in this set is a DVD, which has the enhanced version of Inside Walt’s Story Meetings, and Disneypedia: Bambi’s Forest Friends, four-minute educational feature with a self-explanatory title.

Picture and Sound

Bambi looks and sounds great, no doubt aided by the digital restoration of the film. For sound, viewers can choose between 7.1 DTS-HD or a restored theatrical mono soundtrack. French and Spanish surround sound and subtitles are also available.

The Blu-ray offers Disneyview option. Because the film is presented in its original 1.33:1 aspect ratio, widescreen televisions will have black bars on either side of the screen. Disneyview has paintings to fill the black space. The paintings extend the image on screen. Unless you find the black bars terribly distracting, Bambi is best watched in its original presentation.

How to Use This Blu-Ray

An exhaustive amount of information is presented here, and much of it is repeated in the various bonus features. Give the app a try, if it’s not your cup of tea, check out Walt’s Story Meetings.