During my first viewing of Mary Poppins, I wanted to sing and dance too. The Aristocats brought a new appreciation for my grandmother's white Persian cat and during Jungle Book, I had to be restrained from dancing in the aisle to 'The Bare Necessities'. My parents, sometimes in tandem, on occasion one on one, often took me to the movies where a love of film and a taste for popcorn became forever intertwined. My maternal grandmother also sometimes took me to a matinee, usually Disney movies.

During my first viewing of Mary Poppins, I wanted to sing and dance too. The Aristocats brought a new appreciation for my grandmother's white Persian cat and during Jungle Book, I had to be restrained from dancing in the aisle to 'The Bare Necessities'. My parents, sometimes in tandem, on occasion one on one, often took me to the movies where a love of film and a taste for popcorn became forever intertwined. My maternal grandmother also sometimes took me to a matinee, usually Disney movies.

Recently, I saw a post on Facebook that posed the question of what was the first movie viewed in a movie theater.

I'm not sure which was the first for me, possibly Mary Poppins, but the first movie that made a lasting impression on me was the Disney classic, Bambi.

My dad took me to see Bambi on a Saturday afternoon at the Trail Theater in my hometown of St. Joseph, Missouri. The theater was packed with kids, most of them older than myself. I might have been five or six. We sat closer to the front than usual because of the crowded seats and from the first moment, I became entranced with the forest life of the young deer. The lovely and artistic animation, the songs, and the character of Bambi all appealed to me.

I was enchanted but my delight turned to fear and then outrage. The first interaction with the hunters provided me a different perspective from the animal point of view. My dad was a hunter and we often had game in the fridge. At the time, my favorite food was quail. The death of Bambi's mother was unsettling but the scene that disturbed me most of all was the forest fire.

As the fire crackled across the movie screen and Bambi ran for his life in terror, I was scared, perched on the edge of my seat. But, what puzzled me most of all was not the fire but the reaction of the audience. While I held my breath hoping Bambi would escape, most of the other kids laughed. They burst out in what I considered then and now to be inappropriate mirth. I was so outraged that I turned around and screamed at them to stop, that it wasn't funny. Of course, that made those close enough to hear me laugh more.

My dad told me to ignore them and although I asked him over and over why they laughed, he didn't know either although he speculated that maybe they were scared and upset too but didn't want to show it, because they were older than me. Perhaps but I still don't understand.

Despite some dark moments, Bambi remains one of my favorite Disney films. When my kids were small, I bought it for them, first in VHS format, then in DVD. I watched it again with them and enjoyed it from the perspective of an adult.

Disney's animated classic made its' film debut in August 1942. The story is based on a children's book by Austrian author Felix Salter (born Siegmund Salzmann). It was first published in 1923 and first published in English in 1928. Often hailed as the first environmental novel, Bambi is at heart a coming of age story. Bambi's early childhood, the tragedies he endures, the losses he overcomes, and the life he leads speak to humans of all ages. His growing up is not unlike the journey to adulthood for many of us, one of the reasons why the story has stood the test of time.

Those who have never watched Bambi should. Those who haven't seen it in years might want to watch it once again. It's a beautiful story brushed with realism, told with classic Walt Disney style.

 

Lee Ann Murphy writes a column and is a staff writer for the Neosho Daily News.