Howdy all you Supercultists out there on the interwebz! I’m Bad Movie Professor Cameron Coker (BS in “UPA” with a minor in “Parental Guidance Suggested”) and I’ll be posting my hype-tacular speeches every week along with some long lost speeches from past Supercult Shows!
This week Supercult cries big, manly, hypocritical tears while cooking Rabbit Stifado with rosemary, cinnamon, and a red wine sauce all while watching Watership Down.
When the rabbit Fiver has an apocalyptic vision, he and his brother Hazel lead an exodus away from the supposed safety of their warren in search of Watership Down, a hill that promises safe haven for a new colony free from tyranny and human intervention. When all the world is your enemy, you must use your wits to survive. An animated journey of bravery, hardship, and hope, this is Watership Down.
Based on the classic 1972 adventure novel of the same name by Richard Adams, Watership Down is a British animated film released in 1978 and was the first animated film to be presented in Dolby surround sound. Although faithful to the novel, several changes were made to improve the pace and flow of the plot and the order of several events are rearranged.
Featuring the voice talent of great film and theatre actors such as Sir John Hurt, Richard Briers, Harry Andrews, Sero Mostel, Denholm Elliot, and Michael Graham Cox, Watership Down is a harrowing tale of a group of rabbits who must endure perils and temptations to escape their doomed warren and establish a new home.
But let’s not beat around the bush any longer…
Watership Down is F*#&-ed UP! Not only are the main characters routinely maimed by man-made traps, devoured or maimed by predators, or simply shot by farmers, they also have to contend with being beaten to death by their own kind! Featuring blood, death, apocalyptic visions, and themes of tyranny, genocide, and slavery, Watership Down is the kind of movie that scars children for life in the first 15 minutes.
Unlike many animated features *cough-cough-DISNEY-cough* the film does not shy away from the dark and violent sophistication of the novel and as a result Watership Down is considered to be the most violent animated PG-rated film ever made. Many reviewers took to warning parents that children might find the content disturbing. When the film was first submitted to the British board of Film Classification (BBFC), they passed the film with a ‘U’ (suitable for all ages), deciding that “whilst the film may move children emotionally during the film’s duration, it could not seriously trouble them once the spell of the story is broken and a ‘U’ certificate was therefore quite appropriate.” However, in 2012, the BBFC admitted that it had “received complaints about the suitability of Watership Down at U almost every year since its classification”, more than 33 years after it was released.
The film was originally to be directed by John Hubley, the veteran animation and art director known for his work with United Productions of America (UPA), Mr. Magoo, and Gerald McBoing-Boing, but sadly Hubley died in 1977. His experimental, yet highly emotional animation style can still be found in the opening prologue of the film. Martin Rosen, the producer for the film, took Hubley’s place as director. Watership Down was Rosen’s directorial debut, being a theatre and animation producer by trade. The success of Watership Down must’ve given Rosen a confidence boost though, because he would later produce, direct, and write the screenplay for another animated feature based on Adams novel, The Plague Dogs in 1987.
Most of the locations in the movie either exist or were based on real places in Hampshire England and surrounding areas and many of the backgrounds and locations, especially Efrafa and the nearby railway, are near-perfect matches to the diagrams and maps in Adam’s book. In December 2011, however, property developers announced that they were planning to develop Sandleford Park, near Newbury, Berkshire, in a real-life parallel to the fictitious development of this area, which prompted the rabbits to leave the warren in the story. Adams, plans to organize stiff opposition to the development, saying, “I’m going to oppose it tooth and nail. It’s a beautiful piece of open country and the most beautiful area south of Newbury. The very idea of building on it makes your gorge rise.”
Watership Down was an immediate success at the UK box office. Financed by a consortium of British financial institutions, it was said that investors saw a 5,000% return on their investment. In 2004, Total Film Magazine named Watership Down the 47th greatest British film of all time and it was also ranked 15th in the “100 Greatest Tearjerkers” category. Did I also mention that Watership Down is part of the Criterion Collection and was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1979?
With the patient, plodding pace of a Homeric epic, Watership Down’s strength is in its timeless ideas, which make it more akin to Animal Farm than Bambi. With a 7.7 on IMDB and an 82% on Rotten Tomatoes, Watership Down is anything but a bad movie. It’s a relentless, poetically moving, critically acclaimed classic of British animation, that has gained popularity in with adult midnight movie-goers! Just don’t bring your kids or they might never speak to you again…
You’ll never look at a pasture the same way again…
The Supercult show is proud to present, Watership Down!