When I tell people I watched Bambi three to four times a day growing up, the common response is, “How tragic.” After all, the one key point that most people recall from the movie is that Bambi’s mother died. Suddenly. Violently. In a very non-Smile TV manner. What most people don’t understand, though, is that this key moment totally jumpstarted my imagination as a wee tot.
Unlike most young boys between age four and seven, I didn’t spend my time immersed in action figures or comic books but on stuffed animals and outdoor adventures. I wasn’t wholly ignorant of super powers; in fact I loved the idea of super powers. I just preferred my protagonists to be less… human. After all, irresponsible humans had done in Bambi’s mother and made me sad.
Since Disney did not dole out justice to these heartless hunters in the 70-minutes they had to tell the story, I took matters into my own hands. Gathering my legions of stuffed animals, I appointed myself Super Bambi, conqueror of poachers and defender of woodland critters. My little brother became Super Thumper. This was because I owned a stuffed Bambi and he a stuffed Thumper.
They became Bambi Junior and Thumpy. Naturally. Each referred to the other’s human counterpart as “Grandpa.” Doesn’t make sense? Good.
Together, Super Thumper and Super Bambi and all their friends traveled the world on a Magic Island, meeting and saving new and exotic animals from the ever-increasing danger of poachers. Their powers were limitless, drawn from nature, and they probably defeated 1000+ poachers a day. I like to think that, if they were alive today, the African elephant and Siberian tiger would be plentiful as coyotes.
As years passed, Super Bambi and Super Thumper lost their cosmic powers and became adolescent boys. The Magic Island sank into the sea, and our armies tucked themselves away into chests and boxes. The poachers took away the last Pyrenean Ibex, Baiji, Western Black Rhinoceros, Pinta Island Tortoise, Lagarto…
If Bambi were truly a tragedy, this is where the story would end. But long after we lost our superpowers to schoolbooks, my brother and I continued adventuring, sometimes together, mostly apart. We weren’t necessarily ordering trees to clobber a bunch of poachers, but we got outdoors and hiked, camped, and above all, developed an intense appreciation for the natural world, because it had been our place of magic growing up.
If more children grew up believing in the magic of nature, then perhaps there would be no more place for poachers. Perhaps we would keep this world beautiful. Then Super Bambi and Super Thumper could hang up their capes and become wild once again.