Watership Down - 1978
Watership Down - Released Nov 1, 1978. Directed by Martin Rosen
It looks like a children's animated movie, but the harrowing experience of a desperate group of rabbits trying to make it through a hostile countryside is told with frequent episodes of violence and terror, and not the kind of violence of a Looney Tunes cartoon, but a more grim and dark brutality probably not suitable for young children.
A small group of rabbits at an oppressive underground warren realize their location is about to be destroyed by human development, but the leadership of the warren will not listen and instead seeks to imprison them. They escape, with rabbit-guards in hot pursuit. That's just the beginning of an epic exodus to a far hillside where the group (which grows and decreases as they come into contact with other rabbits along the way) believe there will be ample food and freedom. Strategic thinking, visions, and sheer speed are the tools they use to get from one harsh place to another as some from their group are killed. There is humor provided in the tale, and the animation is often inventive and usually colorful (the underground world of the rabbit warrens is however a muted and dark place). Occasional songs assist the storytelling.
Somewhat like the 1951 animated film Animal Farm, there is a level of political awareness among the creatures (more shown than stated in Watership Down) about how their rabbit world is run by strong-arm leaders and force. Also, there is a regular narration about a rabbit god referred to as Lord Frith, and how this being - - usually represented by a glowing sun - - gave the rabbits a 1,000 enemies but also extreme speed and powerful legs.
Original Page January 15, 2015