Watership Down (1978)


Okay, the animated adaptation of Watership Down from 1978… it is not a movie to show your children. I think I might be having nightmares tonight.

The fourth film in the DailyView binge for today (usually won’t do this many in a day) was Watership Down on HBO Max. I think I kind of knew that this would be a difficult watch, but I had no idea. Bloody. Violent. Heartbreaking.

Watership Down is based on the 1972 novel by Richard Adams. In the film, a rabbit seer named Fiver (voiced by Richard Briers) has a vision of an apocalyptic devastation of the rabbit’s warren and he convinces his brother Hazel (John Hurt) to talk to the tribal chief. When they are rebutted, several of the rabbits decide to leave on their own, facing the dangers and deadly threats that face them in the world.

You can tell almost immediately that this was not going to be a typical animated movie. The British film showed the desperation and the dangers to the rabbits, sometimes in graphic, albeit artist, detail. There are a few sudden moments that act like a kick in the gut to the audience and the attempts to survive are edge of your seat moments.

There is a strong, British voice cast that bring the power to the beautiful imagery being shown. John Hurt and Richard Briers are joined by Michael Graham Cox, John Bennett, Roy Kinnear, Denholm Elliot (aka Marcus Cox from Indiana Jones series), Nigel Hawthorne, Clifton Jones, Harry Andrews, Simon Cadell, and Mary Maddox. The cast also included the final film performance of Zero Mostel as Kehaar the sea gull.

The animation took a painting style and had multiple moments of gorgeous imagery that brought both an impressive design and, honestly, at times horror. It had a watercolor feel to it and brought to mind the children’s picture books. Although the animation felt in this style, the darkness definitely came through in the scary moments as well.

This is well done and excellent animated movie, but it does have times when the imagery or the story beats are disturbing or frightening. The horrors of the outside world threatened these rabbits and you’ll feel it.

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