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By Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Directed by Martin Rosen
Warner Home Video 11/78 DVD/VHS Animated Film
Love the animals. God has given them the rudiments of thought and joy untroubled. Don't trouble them, don't harass them, don't deprive them of their happiness, don't work against God's intent.
A group of rabbits are warned by Fiver, a visionary, that they must move from their burrow to higher ground. Led by Hazel, they embark on a series of adventures including staying with some hedonistic rabbits who are unaware of approaching doom, making friends with a wacky seagull named Keehar, and helping a contingent of female rabbits get away from General Woundwort, a militaristic ruler. Eventually they reach higher ground Watership Down.
Producer, writer, director Martin Rosen has treated Richard Adams' best-selling novel with respect. In an interview he stated: "What makes Adams' vision so special is its characters their daring, their thirst for freedom, their wonderful legends, and perhaps most of all, their boundless good humor." This screen version steers clear of interpreting the story in either a cute Disney fashion or a heavily allegorical way.
Tony Guy's animation is visually delightful and lively enough to maintain our interest. The vocalizations of the characters are all top-notch: John Hurt as the stalwart Hazel, Michael Graham-Cox as the macho Bigwig, Sir Ralph Richardson as the august Chief Rabbit, Harry Andrews as the villainous General Woundwort, and Zero Mostel as the loveable Keehar.
Only one tactical error seems to have been made by Mr. Rosen. For some unknown reason, several of the rabbit battle sequences are extremely gory. Parents be forewarned. Despite this one questionable aspect, Watership Down out to appeal to all age groups.
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by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
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