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Bambi (1942)

Family Rated G

Before kids could go on YouTube and stumble across, well, just about anything, Bambi was likely the first pop-cultural artifact to impart upon young minds the knowledge of good and evil. It’s not just Bambi’s mother – I’ll pause while you wipe that tear – but the film’s revelation that idylls don’t really exist. Hunters can arrive at any time. The movie is propaganda, of course; it has no room for such things as sustainable hunting or even carnivores. Yet it’s beautiful, powerful stuff. The Disney animators evoke a naturalism of such depth and detail that you feel shrouded by the forest. Then, just when it seems as if you’re watching a nature documentary, bursts of artistry arrive in the form of choreographed raindrops or a wildly impressionistic forest fire. There are memorable characters – Bambi, of course, and Thumper – but it was the movie’s message that became iconic. Bambi stands not only for a fawn. It’s also shorthand for tragedy that arrives too soon.