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Psychologist Who Warned Of Bambi Trauma Surprised By All The Fuss

July 21, 1988 GMT

NEW HAVEN, Conn. (AP) _ A psychologist who contended that the 1942 Walt Disney classic ″Bambi″ may be too upsetting for some very young children to watch says she didn’t expect her comments to create such a stir.

″I don’t have a vendetta against Bambi. I really don’t give a darn. It was just my personal opinion,″ Louise Bates Ames, associate director of the Gesell Institute of Human Development, said Wednesday.

Ames, who for 25 years wrote a syndicated column on child behavior, told USA Today last week that she personally would not take a child 5 years or younger to see the G-rated animated movie, which has drawn large audiences since its recent re-release.

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For very young children, ″possibly their worst fear is they would lose their mother, or father,″ she said.

That is exactly what happens to Bambi, the young deer and prince of the forest whose mother dies off-screen at the hands of a hunter.

″It’s a movie in which a child loses its mother and there is no resolution. The mother (is just) gone,″ she said.″I felt it would be too hard for many children.″

Howard Green, a Disney spokesman in Burbank, Calif., said the film contains many moral lessons about life and man’s relationship to animals which ″outweigh any possible complaints″ anyone might have.

″Clearly the film is one of the most respected and critically acclaimed of all animated films,″ Green said. ″Children have been seeing it since 1942 and I don’t think any damage has been done.

″Every Disney film has an element of fright to it, which makes them so powerful and emotionally involving,″ he added.

After the newspaper article appeared, Ames said she was bombarded with telephone calls from all over the country.

″The personal calls were from parents who agreed with me,″ she said. A Boston rabbi who is an authority on how children relate to dying also was quoted as saying it might be harmful for very young children to watch the film.

Some Bambi fans objected, however. Ames participated in a radio call-in show from Phoenix, during which she received several angry calls.

″One man from New York was very angry. ‘What do you know about all this?’ he asked. I said this is not a big issue on my mind. I don’t really care,″ Ames said.

Some callers said that because a deer and not a human died, the film provides a way to introduce children more gently to the topic of death.

But Ames said a young child will not depersonalize the film. ″A mom is a mom,″ she said.

Green countered that the death of Bambi’s mother is an example of ″classic understatement. You hear a shot but you don’t see anything.″

When Bambi realizes his mother has not returned home with him after telling him to run, it is left to his father to tell him what happened. The father tells Bambi that his mother won’t be with him any more because man has taken her away.

Green said the sixth re-issue of ″Bambi″ produced the second biggest opening last weekend for an animated Disney re-issue - $7.2 million.