The Velveteen Rabbit Movie Poster Image

The Velveteen Rabbit

Family film lacks frills but has sweet message for kids.
Parents recommend
  • Rated: G
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2009
  • Running Time: 88 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

A father temporarily passess his young son off to a stern grandmother who at first seems more inconvenienced than overjoyed about her grandson's visit. But the main characters undergo a transition and in the end are the better for it.

Violence & scariness

Some intense scenes involving a fire and a noble act of self-sacrifice, but no violence.

Sexy stuff
Not applicable
Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that although this engaging live-action/animated feature (based on the classic children's book) deals with some themes -- like neglect and death -- that may need explaining, it does so in a way that's gentle enough for young viewers. There are a couple of tense scenes involving a fire, and the main character's mother has died (it happened before the events shown in the movie). But ultimately this is a crowd-pleasing story with a heartwarming, family-centric message.

What's the story?

Sent to spend Christmas with his grandmother -- who has little tolerance for messes, noises, and most anything associated with children -- while his workaholic father logs yet more time at the office, 10-year-old only child Toby Morgan (Matthew Harbour) finds solace in an attic filled with forgotten toys. Among them is a soft rabbit that comes to life -- along with his pals, Swan (Ellen Burstyn) and Horse (Tom Skerritt) -- and injects much-needed whimsy into Toby's daily existence by showing him a world of imagination. The animals believe that being loved will transform them into living, breathing creatures, and Rabbit is hopeful that he'll soon be hopping on all fours like bunnies are supposed to do. But trouble looms: Life feels so much more joyful in make-believe land that Toby starts to think he might not want to leave. A bout of scarlet fever might make this wish come true -- but then what will become of his grandmother, whose rough edges have softened during his stay, or his father, who may have realized a little too late that what matters most is (as Rabbit and his friends also discover) not just love, but loving?

Is it any good?


Inspired by Margery Williams' classic children's book, this live-action/animated hybrid will please audiences of all ages. The animation is relatively rudimentary, but no matter: The story is full of heart. The animals pose the film's existential central question -- what makes you real? -- in a graceful way that younger audiences can understand but older viewers can contemplate, too. (That's a tricky feat.)

The cast is charming, especially Harbour, who manages to convey both childlike wonder and world weariness at the same time. His rapport with Una Kay, who plays his grandmother, is wonderful, transforming believably from distant to devoted as the story moves forward. Movies these days are often jaded or sardonic, so it's a treat to find a gem like THE VELVETEEN RABBIT that doesn't try too hard to be either. It's happy to just be.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the movie's central question: What makes someone/something real? Is it love? If so, why? Why were Toby's father and grandmother so distant from each other? Are their reasons understandable? How do their actions -- and their relationship -- affect Toby? How would you feel in Toby's position? And what did Rabbit bring to Toby's life (and vice-versa)? Is the change that comes over the family believable?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 27, 2009
DVD/Streaming release date:March 17, 2009
Cast:Ellen Burstyn, Jane Seymour, Tom Skerritt
Director:Michael Landon Jr.
Studio:Family1 Films
Topics:Magic and fantasy, Book characters, Friendship
Run time:88 minutes
MPAA rating:G

This review of The Velveteen Rabbit was written by

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Parent of a 4 year old Written bygrammar cat November 11, 2009

Very very sad

This is a nice movie, but so sad. My son cried big heaving sobs 2 times that he watched it. His Dad cried with him the second time, so my son felt better, I think! Yes, great animation/mix
Parent of a 1 and 5 year old Written bykyliecportland December 8, 2012

A little too real & sad for an emotional 5-year-old.

I wanted to speak up... it is a sweet story... but my emotional 5-year-old daughter cried for an hour afterward. There is a scene where the mom who had died (not in the film) comes back to the boy in a vision and they have a sweet moment... and then she rides around on a carousel and disappears while he screams for her to come back. This raised a lot of questions for my daughter... she hadn't considered that moms could die before, and she was sad for the boy. Also, the fire scene where the whole woods burn down was quite scary (and she LIKES scary shows - no problem with Beauty & the Beast, etc.), and the part where the bunny almost burned in the fire. Even though all ended well, it was still a little too real & sad for my emotional girl. I wouldn't recommend it if your kids THINK about movies... maybe after age 7. Or find another version.
Parent of a 2 and 3 year old Written bymom2AnE April 1, 2011

Good message, but may be scary for little ones

It may be a little confusing in that it kept going back and forth with reality and imagination. However, the reality scenes are with real people and the imagination ones are animated. There are 2 dramatic scenes involving fire. In both scenes someone is harmed but the viewer doesn't know that the character survives until later. I discussed with my 3 year old how only 'stuff' was burned and not anything truely alive. My child was fine with it, but some children may be disturbed by the scenes.
What other families should know
Great messages