Here's where I normally mention that, aside from horror films, animated features are my true cinematic passion. But it seems a bit silly to try and explain why a movie freak would be so sincerely excited to sit down and rediscover the 1942 Disney classic 'Bambi' on Blu-ray ... so let's just get to the point: This is something special.

The film is, of course, one of the Disney studio's undisputed classics. Full of warmth and sweetness, but also danger and sadness, it's a film that's broken the hearts and lifted the spirits of kids and adults for almost 70 years. Much smarter film critics than myself have explained why 'Bambi' is an almost ethereally beautiful family film, as much for its visual and emotional beauty as for its now-infamous question of "is the death of a "cartoon" parent too extreme an idea for a child to handle?" And that's where much of the magic lies: in the Disney artists' ability to make animals seem (mostly) human and in their (amazing) ability to make us care about "cartoon animals" so darn much. For a hundred reasons, both simplistic and staggeringly powerful, 'Bambi' is a true-blue classic, not just of animation, but of filmmaking in general. We all know this.

But now we get to the goodies:



The film is the centerpiece, of course, but old-school animation buffs will always want to dig a little deeper, and the first stop for those folks will be the "Walt's Story Meetings" supplement. It's a split-screen affair, with the film on one side and a wonderful series of artwork in the other, and over the film we hear the actual story/animation meetings between Walt Disney and his numerous 'Bambi' collaborators. Part audio commentary and part time capsule (with numerous sidebars, too!), this is one fantastic piece of supplemental splendor, and Disney Home Video earns very high praise for delivering fascinating archival material in such a cool and accessible fashion.

Other treats on the blu-ray disc include a pair of previously unseen deletions ("Two Leaves" and "Stuck on a Reed"), a new rendition of the "Twitterpated" tune, and a massive collection of material inside the "interactive galleries." The big draw for the little ones will be a rather elaborate "Disney's Big Book of Knowledge" game, which offers all sorts of educational tidbits while letting kids play little clicky games and collect stickers. Pretty solid, as far as these things go.

Realizing that they have (many) repeat customers, Disney has wisely opted to include a bunch of extra features from the previous (standard) DVD release, such as another pair of deleted scenes, an hour-long documentary on the film, a pair of great retrospective pieces ("Tricks of the Trade and "Inside the Disney Archives"), a 1937 short called 'The Old Mill,' and several theatrical trailers. One minor gripe: aside from sections of the "story meetings" feature, there's nothing here in the way of Disney historian commentaries -- and those are just great. (Check out the 'Fantasia' and 'Alice in Wonderland' Blu-rays for examples.)



Also included on a second disc: a standard DVD version of the film, a shorter version of the "enhanced" experience, and a DisneyPedia feature for the kids.

Bells and whistles aside, this is surely the finest you've ever seen (and heard) 'Bambi' -- unless maybe you saw it in 1942 and remember it like it was yesterday. Lovingly remastered for high-definition, the film throws sumptuous colors and flawless animation at the screen with stunning consistency, while the audio pipes through in a frankly stunning 7.1 HD track. (Purists can opt for the original soundtrack as well.)

Best of all, Disney approaches blu-ray with lots of fancy goodies, but ultimately they're focused on treating the film right. Skip over the more superfluous tidbits (such as the pointless "second screen" feature), reacquaint yourself with a grand-daddy classic of animated cinema, and hope that the vibrant sights and sounds will trick your little ones into thinking that 'Bambi' just came out last year.

And please don't worry that the "sad stuff because of what happens to Bambi's mom" is too strong for your young ones. They can handle it ... especially if they've already seen 'The Lion King' and/or 'Finding Nemo.'