WATERSHIP DOWN (1978)

The Unenthusiastic Critic Podcast - Episode 36

It's Wabbit Season here at The Unenthusiastic Critic, as we sit down for Nakea's first viewing of the 1978 classic Watership Down. 

First, we're starting out with an animated discussion of the art of animation, and discussing some of our favorite films in the medium.

Then, Michael is introducing Nakea to a film that traumatized his entire generation, Martin Rosen's beautiful and brutal adaptation of Richard Adams' classic novel about leporine refugees in search of a new home.

Nakea says that, when it comes to animated movies, she likes the handmade ones, the sad ones, and the ones with good villains. Place your bets now as to whether Watership Down could possibly meet her standards.

Program

0:00: Prologue: from Warner Bros' "Fresh Hare" (1942)
0:51: Intro and Preliminary Discussion: Animation
18:58: Interlude: Scene from Watership Down
19:30: Cultural Osmosis: Pre-Viewing Discussion of Watership Down
24:34: Interlude: Original Trailer for Watership Down
25:59: The Verdict: Post-Viewing Discussion of Watership Down
1:06:24: Outro and Next Week's Movie
1:08:15: Outtake

Notes and Links

—Movie Reviewed: Watership Down (dir. Martin Rosen, Avco, 1978).
—At one point Michael shows Nakea pictures, which always makes for good audio. The two pictures he shows her are the original Watership Down one-sheet, and this DVD cover.
—Prologue audio is from Friz Freling's Warner Bros. cartoon "Fresh Hare" (1942),  which is an okay Bugs Bunny/Elmer Fudd short until it gets extremely and randomly racist at the end.
—Articles Mentioned and Resources: Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud; "Watership Down: Parents 'horrified' as Channel 5 airs 'traumatising' film on Easter Sunday," Jess Denham, The Independent; "BBC remake Watership Down with Less Violence to Avoid Scarring Children," Hannah Furness, The Telegraph; "Passion Project: Martin Rosen on Watership Down," Criterion Interview, filmstruck.com; Guillermo del Toro on Watership Down," Criterion interview, filmstruck.com.
—Tweets from @jenqoe@coffeemeoften@lauraeweymouth@angelacleland,
@jh_arch@florilegia, and @mattzollerseitz.
—Read The Unenthusiastic Critic in prose form at unaffiliatedcritic.com.
Email us, or follow us on Twitter and Facebook. (Suggestions of movies to watch for future episodes are very welcome.)
—"Warm Duck Shuffle" by Arne Huseby is licensed under CC BY 3.0.

The Unaffiliated Critic

Michael G. McDunnah is a freelance writer, a recovering lit major, a pop-culture junkie, and an unaffiliated critic. He lives in Chicago.

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2 thoughts on “WATERSHIP DOWN (1978)

  1. Four years later, Martin Rosen adapted another Richard Adams novel, "The Plague Dogs," into an animated film even more brutal and downbeat than "Watership Down." John Hurt returns to voice one of two dogs who escape from a lab and struggle to survive in the outside world while suffering the lasting effects of cruel experiments to which they have been subjected.

    Don Bluth's "The Secret of N.I.M.H.," also involving animals escaped from a lab, came out the same year, but the comparison ends there. There are no super-intelligent rodents or magical stones to save the heroes in "The Plague Dogs."

    There are, however, reasons to also see "The Secret of N.I.M.H.": animation of a quality that Disney was no longer producing, a mouse heroine who finds her bravery, and a score by the great Jerry Goldsmith.

    Speaking of music, a classic animated film that is a must-see if you have not seen it is "Fantasia."

    1. We've both seen Fantasia, of course. The Secret of NIMH—and the whole Don Bluth Disney split and oeuvre—is one of many things I meant to mention in this discussion, but just didn't get around to. (Off the top of my head, I also forgot Rikki Tikki Tavi and Charlotte's Web, surely two favorite animations in my own childhood.) These conversations are as meandering and disorganized as they sound; I have notes, but I seldom get around to everything in them.

      I knew about The Plague Dogs by reputation—and, again, meant to mention it—but I've actually never seen it. Maybe the UC and I will watch it together for a future episode.

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