Watership Down

Watership Down ★★★★★

A masterclass in mature animation - this classic and oft discussed adaptation of Richard Adams groundbreaking novel about country side rabbits and their struggles with overpopulation, political treachery and most importantly - survival - is a must see. Not for the faint of heart - this film contains not only intense scenes of violence and animated gore - it also explores metaphors of religion and pagan ideologies through the different belief systems of the rabbit "warrens" - or societies so to speak.

The film begins with a parable about when the world was young and all animals were herbivores who lived peacefully together. However the Rabbit King El-Arhiarhah and his rabbits are breeding too quickly and are told by Lord Frith (the sun) to mind their numbers- they disobey, prompting Frith to give many of the animals teeth, claws and a blood lust for rabbits- leading the rabbits to evolve speed, cunning and awareness in hopes to survive. We then follow the tale of two brother rabbits, Hazel and Fiver - the latter being the runt of the litter but given the gift (or curse ) of foresight - leading he and a small band of rabbits to flee the warren after he has a vision of destruction and death to come. Along with his brother Hazel and a chief of the rabbit military - a rabbit named BigWig - they make their way through the perilous countryside to a hill with a view that is perfect for their new home - except that they have no does to populate this. After meeting an eccentric Seagull named Keharr (voiced by Zero Mostel) - he finds a warren filled with does that appears to be overpopulated - however retrieving does will be difficult as the warren by a sinister dictator named General WoundWort - who is hellbent on destroying Hazel and Bigwig's warren after discovering their intention. This leads to a thrilling climax where the two warrens fight for survival.

Directed and Produced by Martin Rosen- the film team was intent on making as realistic a setting for the film as possible - basing the backgrounds and locations of the films on actual English landmarks. Though crude by todays standards, the character animation achieves a perfect blend of natural animal behavior and anthropomorphic emotions to keep you truly invested in these characters. The luscious backgrounds are achieved with watercolor- creating an almost dreamlike state that the film exists in. The film was praised for its accomplishments, but criticized by some conservative groups for its startling amount of violence and gore - something rarely seen in an animated film - a topic which is discussed to this very day. An absolute triumph in storytelling and animation - this is a must see for any appreciator of animation and film.