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Watership Down (1978)
A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, although there are animated bunnies, this is no cartoon. Kids who watch this movie will see battles among rabbits and with other animals (and humans) that result in bloodshed, serious injury, and occasional death. Rabbit characters die onscreen. A dog attacks and kills several rabbits in the climax. There is a recurring character known as the Black Rabbit of Death.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
This feature-length theatrical release based on Richard Adams's book, Watership Down follows a group of rabbits, led by Hazel (voiced by John Hurt), Bigwig, and the hyper-sensitive Fiver. They leave their endangered warren (earmarked for real estate development) in search of a new home and female rabbits with whom to mate. Their journey is laced with numerous obstacles, including a dog, a cat, rats, men, cars, birds of prey, and other rabbits. In the final stage of their quest, they find a secure habitat but incur the wrath of a militaristic band of rabbits led by the dictatorial General Woundwort. A deadly battle ensues as our heroes attempt to secure their new home.
Is it any good?
A rare British-produced animated feature, WATERSHIP DOWN is an original drama with realistic animation, sharp characterizations, and brutal honesty about the territorial imperative. This is a stellar alternative to the glitzy musical numbers, cutesy characters, sentimental excesses, and merchandisable sidekicks of Disney movies.
For older kids and adult fans, the story offers plenty of drama, suspense and action as the rabbits make their way through an idyllic landscape that turns out to be quite treacherous. It's all set against beautifully designed backgrounds and enacted by realistically drawn rabbits, all convincingly differentiated from each other. The superb voice acting is performed by a notable cast who treat their characters with as much gravity as they would Shakespearean roles. Complementing the drama is a music score that subtly and effectively accentuates the emotional twists and turns of the proceedings.
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