Watership Down (1978)

Fiver (left) and Hazel (right) from "Watership Down

 I’m sure quite a few parents out there remember seeing this animated film, however, I feel there is an entire new generation of kids who have not seen Watership Down. Based on the Richard Adams classic novel of the same name, this English production takes us on the dramatic journey a warren of rabbits takes amid the backdrop of a pastel colored countryside. What is nice about this tale is the timeless plot and characters and the writer’s adaptation of life in a rabbit community.

 The film was originally released in 1978 and became the sixth most popular film of 1979. The backgrounds in this film were treated with care to bring emphasis on the characters and breathe a child’ storybook-like quality to the landscape. From the beginning one is given a taste of the somber life the rabbits live and from there it’s one hurdle after another for this poor group who must make their way across the meadows to search out a new home. The story revolves around a small rabbit named Hazel (voice of John Hurt) and his companions who live in a field that is marked to be developed for humans. A prophetic rabbit named Fiver (voice of Richard Briers) predicts the demise of their home and insists they leave before it’s too late. The small group of rabbits begin a trek across the countryside where they run into a number of characters and problems on their way to discover a new place to call home. While watching this one begins to get a real feel for the perils wild hares must face in our world and of course the societal dialogue included is humorous, and sometime haunting. This film captures the last film appearance by acclaimed actor Zero Mostel who is the voice of a cantankerous gull named Kehaar. Other notable voices include Harry Andrews as the voice of the sadistic General Woundwort and Sir Michael Hordern as the voice of Lord Frith.

 The very young may find this film too disturbing as there are some very unsettling scenes of small cut creatures being attacked but the story is well worth the watch and sure to continue on as a classic.

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