Watership Down: A Children’s Film?

Easter Sunday is a day of rest, where the whole family sit and watch television after eating an unhealthy amount of Easter eggs, while Mum’s roast beef is cooking in kitchen. However a certain TV scheduling has created an uproar with British parents. The case in question, is Channel 5 putting Watership Down on in the afternoon. Watership Down is known for its brutal representation of the life and death of rabbits. The animated film with an all star cast, features scenes of blood, death and horrific imagery. However the question asked is whether this is suitable for children to watch. It was passed as a U in 1978 and the BBFC have mentioned that this decision has led to complaints every year by parents saying the film should of been a higher rating.

Now this film has always been a issue on whether it really is a children’s film because of the horrific imagery and portrayal of life and death. However animation is at its best when it showcases the realities of life. We don’t have to look that far in the animation vault. Bambi, Dumbo, Lion King just to name a few, are all classics that deal with death in a way that could be described as horrifying and saddening but is this a bad thing? The matter of life and death is the fundamental trial of life. I have always subscribed that children should be introduced to that concept because I have been in a position as a child that I have had a family member pass away and the medium of animation is the perfect way of passing over this message. Should we really bubble wrap our kids away from the actualities of reality.

The protection of children debate has been one that has exponentially grew in recent years.This could be argued due to the expansive nature of the internet and young children having access to the wide and ‘corrupting’ influence of it. Children’s welfare is in the spotlight of this argument. The issue of Watership Down being played in the afternoon on a Sunday is just a strand of this debate. So how do we solve this? Does animation have to be watered down to light fare of bubbles, rainbows and candy floss? If we did this, it would be insulting to our children. We underestimate the intelligence of children, yes there favourite thing to do in the whole wide world maybe to run around in circles, pretending to be a hummingbird. However it is not out of the question they’ll be able to process the matter of life and death. Another great example of this is the film Up by Disney Pixar. In the first 15 minutes of the film the two introduced characters tackle life and death in a montage that is saddening, horrific but educational and life affirming.

The question of whether Watership Down is a children’s film should not even be asked. It is a great children’s film about finding a new home and life in the beautiful Hampshire countryside. Just because it tackles the harsher realities of life should not mean we restrict this film for children. There are violent moments, there are some graphic imagery but none too upsetting to a child. Watership Down is a crowning achievement in British animation and should be celebrated in its themes not criticized for them. I say let your kids watch this film as it is no more harrowing then what they see on the news daily.

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