The character of Bambi fell into the public domain on January 1, 2022, 99 years after the publication of Felix Salten’s Bambi, a Life in the Woods, the story on which the beloved Disney movie was based. And, just like Winnie-the-Pooh, there was apparently somebody out there with a Bambi horror story just waiting to be told, because filmmaker Scott Jeffrey is going to bring us Bambi: The Reckoning, the story of a deer out for blood following the murder of his mother. The film will be executive produced by Rhys Frake-Waterfield, who directed Winnie-The-Pooh: Blood and Honey.
Frake-Waterfield’s next planned movie is a horror adaptation of Peter Pan, firmly entrenching him in a very specific niche of the movie world. He is also reportedly developing a story centered on Loki, the Norse god of mischief.
“The film will be an incredibly dark retelling of the 1928 story we all know and love,” Jeffrey told Dread Central. “Finding inspiration from the design used in Netflix’s The Ritual, Bambi will be a vicious killing machine that lurks in the wilderness. Prepare for Bambi on rabies!”
The original Bambi film itself, released in 1942, is not in the public domain. Just like with Pooh, the filmmakers will have to steer clear of any elements introduced to the story by Disney, including Bambi’s specific character design. Disney’s Bambi remains one of the least-merchandised of their animated classics, with fewer toys and clothing on the shelves then something like Snow White or Cinderella. Disney made a direct-to-video sequel to the film in 2006.
Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey is the first major release featuring the characters since Pooh, Piglet, and the other characters from A.A. Milne’s original novel were released into the public domain on January 1, 2022. There are some elements, like recognizable designs and wardrobe, that remain under copyright by Disney, and characters introduced later (including Tigger) are not yet in the public domain. With no other projects yet announced, it seems likely Bambi: The Reckoning will similarly be the first major project featuring the Bambi characters.
After a certain amount of time, which is different depending on national laws, classic works are considered no longer owned by any one person or entity, and instead become property of the larger culture, allowing them to be adapted, performed, repurposed, or reprinted without any additional cost.
“Due to differing copyright laws around the world, there is no one single public domain – and here we focus on three of the most prominent,” the Public Domain Review explained earlier this year. “Newly entering the public domain in 2022 will be: works by people who died in 1951, for countries with a copyright term of “life plus 70 years” (e.g. UK, Russia, most of EU and South America); works by people who died in 1971, for countries with a term of “life plus 50 years” (e.g. Canada, New Zealand, and most of Africa and Asia); and works published in 1926 (and all pre-1923 sound recordings), for the United States.”