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Bambi originated as the main character in Felix Salten's Bambi, A Life in the Woods. He has made cameos in several Disney cartoons. In the Disney films, his species was changed from the roe deer to the white-tailed deer, which would be more familiar to American audiences. His image is a Disney icon comparable in recognition factors to Mickey Mouse, and he is even shown on Disney stock certificates.
Bambi is not very strongly characterized. Bambi ― as with most of his friends ― is similar to any deer in any forest. In his early youth, Bambi has the full measure of charm that many young mammals display, with his wide eyes, spindly legs, curious nature, and a good cute voice. As he grows he gradually becomes more mature, but even in young adulthood he always seems a very young buck, with a graceful build and a fairly naïve, shy nature. He was nicer than his mean rival, Ronno, who was jealous of poor Bambi. When he had two fawns, Geno and Gurri, he was a carefree father, happy and sweet to his children.
As a fawn, Bambi had a fur coat of safety orange and wheat spots and underbelly with a brown stripe that ran from his head down to his tail. He also had a grey stripe on each side under the top row of his spots. He had brown hooves and wide red eyes with tiny eyelashes. He had a large head with fuzz on it, and large ears with black tips.
When he is a teenager, Bambi remains the same except he no longer has spots or the grey stripes, his fur is a little darker, and has budding antlers.
As an adult, Bambi has darker brown fur, a slightly muscular frame, and black antlers with two points. The wheat stripe on his neck and underbelly now stops under his head and continues above his chest.
In the first film, the chronology of Bambi's life from birth to young adulthood is showcased. At his birth, all the inhabitants of the forest gather to greet the new prince with open arms. Among them are Friend Owl (who acts as an adviser to Bambi's father, the Great Prince of the Forest) and Thumper.
As the months go by, Bambi creates bonds with Thumper and a bashful skunk by the name of Flower, forming a strong trio. He also builds a weak friendship with Faline, a fawn who he fell in love with, despite being disgusted by her at first glance because of her overly bubbly personality. Aside from friendships and romance, Bambi's primary concern is his mother, who he loves deeply, often learning life lessons that stick with the young prince. One of those lessons involves being conscious of "Man"; the forest's most feared enemy. Man is known for being a ruthless hunter, killing animals for the sake of sport, having no regards for anything else. One day, while out during the winter, Bambi's mother is killed by Man; though the young deer manages to escape before he falls victim, as well. Without his mother to care for him, the Great Prince of the Forest arrives and raises Bambi himself, tragically confessing the loss of his mother and taking him from his old home.
Years later, Bambi grows into a strong young adult buck, dashing, but still as shy and somewhat clumsy as ever. He retains his friendship with Thumper and Flower and, as predicted, falls in love with Faline; or as Friend Owl likes to put it; becomes "Twitterpated". Now experiencing true love for the first time, Bambi began his life with Faline as his mate, exploring the forest together, proclaiming their love, and battling the vicious Ronno for her affections, eventually coming out victorious. This also signifies dominance and maturity on Bambi's part, which comes in use, as he's slated to take the role as Great Prince of the Forest, following his father's footsteps.
With life seeming as peaceful as ever, Man returns to the forest with more men and with a pack of bloodthirsty dogs. Several forest dwellers are killed by the invasion and Faline is attacked, but was rescued by Bambi before it was too late. Even so, back at Man's camp, a fire accidentally breaks loose, setting the forest ablaze. Bambi and his father rush through the woodlands to escape the devastation as the other creatures do the same, finding a small island off shore of the forest where they're sheltered until things settle down. And although they barely survive, Bambi and the Great Prince manage to escape the catastrophe, as well.
Some time after the forest's restoration, Bambi, now ruling the lands alongside his father, watches in the light of the sun as Faline gives birth to two young fawns, causing a celebration echoing Bambi's birth and ushering in a new chapter for the prince and his forest.
In Bambi II, Bambi is much more distinctly personalized. In this film, which fills in the gap between the death of his mother and when he was next shown as a young adult, Bambi finds himself faced with a number of challenges. First, there is the death of his mother and his consequential move to live with his father, the Great Prince of the Forest. Connecting with that, there is the fact that his father has no knowledge of raising children and is reluctant and slow to learn. In addition, Bambi begins to develop romantic feelings for Faline and comes into conflict with his present and future rival, Ronno.
Throughout all of this, he shows much more personality than he did in the first film. Whereas before he essentially followed life where it led him, now he grabs life by the horns in one attempt after another to bond with and impress his father. In the first film, Bambi's status as the young prince had little impact on the flow of the story. But now his rank becomes a key part of the situation as he sets out to prove to himself and others, most of all his dad, that he deserves to be prince and can live up to his father's name.
Close to the end of the film, Bambi has lost his spots and starts to grow antlers. He then gets prickled by the porcupine and kisses Faline. He then leaves with the Great Prince who takes him to the meadow where he and Bambi's mother first met as children.
Bambi and his mother make a brief cameo in the Donald Duck short No Hunting.
In the live-action True-Life Fantasy film Perri, an adaptation of another Felix Salten's books, a live deer is identified by the narrator as being Bambi.
Bambi appears in Kingdom Hearts, Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, and the latter's remake as a summon.
In this series, Bambi's unnamed (as of yet) world was destroyed by the Heartless. However, the strong sense of courage, innocence, and purity in the young fawn's heart allowed him to be preserved in the form of the Naturespark Gem. It somehow ended up in a torn page in the 100 Acre Wood.
After Sora seals Kingdom Hearts, Bambi's homeworld is restored, with Bambi himself returning to it. It is implied that he retains his memories of his time with Sora, as Mushu and Simba also recognize Sora from their time in his adventure.
Bambi's role in battle is to prance about the area, dropping huge amounts of MP orbs by hopping around the area. Any enemy defeated while Bambi is summoned drops more orbs than usual. Also, the more enemies Sora defeats while Bambi is summoned, the more orbs Bambi drops. If a certain amount of enemies are defeated while Bambi is in play, Bambi will make a great leap and drop a special item, usually mega-potions and elixirs, but also synthesis items that Sora can use back in Traverse Town had he been having difficulty attaining them from their respective Heartless.
Despite being warned of humans before his world was destroyed, Bambi already becomes Sora's friend as expressed in his cheerful expression and reaction to the Keyblade wielder's summoning. Bambi dances around Sora then approaches him and allows the boy to pet him on his head before continuing to assist Sora in a battle.
Bambi is similar to Simba in The Lion King in the sense that they learn the lessons of life and fall in love with their female best friends, as well as losing one of their parents to death at a young age. These similarities were noted by the filmmakers of The Lion King when the film was in development.
The name "Bambi" was derived from the word "bambino" which is the Italian word for "baby". The Italian translation for "baby girl" is "bambina". Ironically in a scene in Bambi II, Ronno sneers at Bambi's name criticizing it as a girl's name.
While Bambi regularly appears as both a fawn and an adult, his more iconic age is as a fawn. Both films go more into depth with his fawn personality. However, his adolescent appearance only lasted five minutes in the end of sequel, as the adult only appeared about less than a half.
A species of dromaeosaurid theropod dinosaur was named Bambiraptor after him.