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Is There a Bar Mitzvah in 'Bambi's' Future?

February 9, 2006 By:
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It's Deja's view all over again.

And fans of classical animated features are forever grateful that it is.

What Polish-born animator Andreas Deja has done is take the business of pencil-pushing and elevated it into high art. Because the pencils he's been pushing push the envelope of the animated world that is Walt Disney.

Sure, CGI has gotten the gee-whiz plaudits of late, but it is the wide-eyed wizardry of the daring that is Deja that has made him such a darling of classicist cartoonists.

The Polish prince is the line king; he has applied his handiwork and talents to such Disney legends as "The Lion King," "Beauty and the Beast," "The Little Mermaid" and "Aladdin."

His magic carpet of a career ride now heads into the woods, where he's taking on "Bambi II" - the sequel to the 1942 feature dear to so many baby-boomers on the hunt for a classic to call their own - which has just come out on DVD.

Is this the artistic equivalent of a "deer John" letter? How else to explain why a titan in the industry such as Deja would lock antlers with history, coming out with part two of a story that needs no introduction, to say nothing of an epilogue?

"That's exactly what I thought," recalls Deja of his reaction to being asked to fast-forward on the story of poor Bambi after his mother was killed in the woods by a hunter.

Now raised by his regal father - the Great Prince of the Forest - to buck up and face the future without forgetting his mother's presence, Bambi goes from bambino to bulwark.

And Deja's art is right on the doe: "When I saw where the story was going, I knew it was the right thing to do."

After all, isn't attempting to improve upon perfection a perfect example of a lost cause?

"I was 12 or 13 when I first saw 'Bambi,' and I just couldn't believe how a group of artists could accomplish what they did," says Deja.

An Impossible Dream?

But … jettison the venison? Ditch the doe? Deja assumed the challenge as the film's artistic consultant with Brian Pimental at the helm as director.

It doesn't take a Friend Owl to wise up to the world that makes up so much of today's animation. But is the writing on the wall in the house that Disney built all computer-generated?

Even with Disney merging with Pixar - the CGI company that has seen its way through to success stories with "Toy Story" and "The Incredibles" - and other studios due to turn out some two-dozen computer-generated features in the next year, no one is doubting Deja.

The hand-drawn animated film still gets a hand for its artistry - and still has a future. What it needs is someone with a creative edge, and in that, Deja edges many others out.

Indeed, he has this idea … "I've always wondered why nobody has taken Woody Allen-type characters and made them into anthropomorphic animals," he says.

Jewishly jaded jaguars? Guilt-laden gorillas? Kvetching coyotes?

"Absolutely!" declares Deja.

"I've always wanted to do relationship films," and the Jewishly neurotic New Yorkers of Allen's world translate well into the animal kingdom, he states.

Anime Hall? "I'll have to talk to Robert Iger about that," he says of Disney's new chief.

At a theater near you: "Bambi III" or - "Benny the Bar Mitzvah Bear"?

Pencil it in.


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