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Stories behind the score: Bambi

In the third of our pre-concert blogs, we focusing on one of the best-loved animated features of the twentieth century, Bambi. Our orchestra will be playing a selection of music from the movie at our concert on Saturday 1 July at 7:30 pm, St John the Baptist Church, Burscough, L40 4AE.


£12 adults/ £5 U18 and students

£25 family (2 adults + up to 4 children)

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Bambi – the story behind the score

Even if we’ve never seen the film or heard the soundtrack, we probably all have a vague idea about what Disney’s Bambi is about. Bambi, a young deer, exploring the forest with his friends, learning about the dangers of the forest as well as its beauty, learning about tragedy and love.

But what do we know of the history of the film? Where did Disney get his idea from? How did he adapt them into a ground-breaking animation?

Disney’s 1942 film was based on a novel, Bambi, A Life in the Woods, written, in 1923, by an Austrian author and hunter, Felix Salten. The novel follows the story of Bambi, a male roe deer. He experiences the loss of his mother. He learns about life from his father. He finds love. But he also learns about the dangers of humans, particularly human hunters in the forest. The threat of persecution by the hunter is constant throughout the novel. To survive, Bambi must depend on no-one but himself.

At the time of publication, the novel was seen as a parable of the dangers and persecution faced by Jews in Europe. It was also seen as one of the first environmental novels to be published. In 1936, it was banned in Nazi Germany who viewed it as Jewish propaganda. The author, Salten, fled Austria following the German annexation in 1938.

Disney bought the film rights in 1937 but considered the novel to be too ‘grim’ and ‘somber’ for a young audience and work began to adapt the novel.

Thumper the rabbit and Flower the skunk were introduced as Bambi’s friends to give the film a lighter, friendlier feeling.

Care was also taken over the musical soundtrack. With very little dialogue, the musical score became even more important and Disney wanted it to match the visual splendour of the film. He wanted singable songs and memorable lyrics.

There are four songs included in the score. ‘Love is a Song’ is the emotional core of the film. ‘Little April Showers’ is about a rainstorm and begins and ends with raindrops. ‘Let’s Sing a Gay Little Song’ is performed by the birds of the forest, much to the annoyance of the owl, who just wants some sleep. ‘I Bring You a Song’ is the romance song for Bambi and Faline, though it is not sung by either of them.

The score stops twice, both times at crucial moments. The first time is when Bambi’s mother says ‘Man….was in the forest.’ The second time – after she dies the film’s most harrowing and iconic scenes.

The film has its critics. Some argue that Disney mutilated the novel, ignoring its political roots. Some argue that the film is overly sentimental, though Stephen King called it the first horror movie he ever saw.

However, the film has been praised for bringing serious environmental issues to a younger audience. Paul McCartney said it was Bambi that first made him aware of animal rights.

Bambi is now considered to be one of the greatest animated films of all time.

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