ANIMATION BREAKDOWN 2014: Watership Down

An unlikely film became one of 1979’s biggest box office smashes in Britain: a gritty, sometimes violent fable of a band of brothers who, guided by myth and psychic visions, must flee genocide to found a new, utopian community in a promised land. They are brave, shrewd, politically savvy, honorable, heroic — and they are also rabbits. Based on Richard Adams’ wildly popular book, Watership Down is an incredible artifact from an era when animated films could be frightening and complex while still being released to broad audiences (including kids) without dumbing down. Watership’s flawless allegory plays out with a harrowing stillness not only anomalous from today’s kid fare, but from much of contemporary cinema, thanks to the work of animation legend John Hubley (who passed away before the film was completed), and the film’s producer/final director Martin Rosen. Immersive, rich and uncompromising, Watership extrapolates such a meticulously detailed culture from real rabbits’ authentic drives and instincts that it’s easy to see why the film is revered as one of the greatest animated features of its era.
Dir. Martin Rosen, 1978, 35mm, 101 min.

Watch the trailer for “Watership Down”!
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