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Blink... and you'll miss it
A review by JAMES SOUTHALL
Music composed by
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Album running time
Album cover copyright (c) 2006 Disney; review copyright (c) 2006 James Southall
Disney's current habit of updating their old classics and releasing low-budget sequels shows no sign of abating, despite an inevitable backlash from the purists. Quality varies hugely, but the latest offering, Bambi II, attracted largely favourable reviews and, surprisingly, was released in cinemas internationally, though went straight to DVD in the US. The original film is one of Disney's most beloved; made in 1942, it remains extremely popular with youngsters everywhere, and a young lady of my acquaintance will still cry at the very thought of how sad it is, despite being in her mid-20s.
Musically, Bambi is probably not as well-remembered as other classic Disney films - songs and score by Edward Plumb and Frank Churchill are quite nice, but hardly iconic like those in Snow White or The Jungle Book. For the sequel, Disney turned to Bruce Broughton, one of Hollywood's finest composers, who has worked with them on previous animations The Rescuers Down Under and The Three Mouseketeers, as well as various live-action projects and all sorts of music written for their theme parks.
The thought of Broughton getting the chance to get his teeth into this sort of musically-demanding project after relatively minor efforts (precious few of which have been released) was mouthwatering for his fans... but sadly, this soundtrack CD is an absolute disgrace. There are three songs from the original Bambiwhich run for virtually ten minutes - fair enough. There are five new songs which run for another fifteen minutes or so - again, fair enough (and they're actually quite good, particularly the contributions from Martina McBride and Alison Krauss). So in theory that leaves 55 minutes of blank space on the CD for Broughton's score - right? Think again - in actual fact Disney has decided to release just nine minutes of it, spread across five very short tracks.
This means that Broughton fans will again be left frustrated that a big, sweeping, very beautiful score by the great man won't see the light of day (this is Disney, so any chance of a future release seems to be less than zero). The nine mintues that are here are very nice indeed and hint at a wonderful score overall - the music is playful, colourful and descriptive. The opening "Snow Falls in the Forest" is beautifully evocative of the scene conjured up by the track's piece, which florid winds, subtle strings and a female choir combining for a beautiful overall effect. "Bambi's Dream" is more playful, tweeting and fluttering like nobody's business in an unimaginably pleasant way before concluding with a glorious statement of the score's main theme, which is of course frustratingly brief. The two-part "Being Brave" introduces some old-fashioned music reminiscent of classic Disney, and Broughton apes that style with gutso and brilliance. The end credit piece "Bambi and the Great Prince" presents the sweeping main theme in its full glory and is the longest piece here, at 3:45.
It's a tragedy that, with new Broughton albums being so thin on the ground, one finally comes along and doesn't even give us ten minutes of his music. With the current trend for expanded releases (some scores going from 70 to 75 minutes, and being snapped up within moments of being released) this would be an absolutely prime candidate - ain't going to happen though, of course. Being such a fan of a composer like Broughton can be extremely frustrating - one longs for more of his music to see the light of day, but despite the best efforts of record labels, film companies remain determined to keep the music under lock and key so nobody can enjoy it. Such a shame. Bambi II's album as it stands is the reason things like iTunes were invented - you can download the Broughton, forget the rest, stick it on repeat and dream of longer things.