The Velveteen Rabbit (2023)

The Velveteen Rabbit (2023)

A perennial childhood favorite gets a fittingly cozy and touching adaptation in this seasonal special

7.5

Movie

United Kingdom
English
Animation, Family, Fantasy
2023
FEMALE DIRECTOR, JENNIFER PERROTT
Alex Lawther, Bethany Antonia, Clive Rowe
44 min

TLDR

Warning: tears may be shed.

What it's about

With the help of his beloved stuffed toy (voiced by Alex Lawther), William (Phoenix Laroche) learns that every goodbye is a chance for a new hello.

The take

A beloved children’s story gets its umpteenth adaptation here, this time from the screenwriter of 2018’s Watership Down — who proves that it’s a story worth retelling. This version of The Velveteen Rabbit is mostly faithful to Margery Williams’ original 1920s-set tale, but it does pad the plot out with a backstory of sorts about the shy little boy at its center. We’re introduced to William on the last day he spends at his school before moving to another town; the filmmaking gently plays on memories of the scariness of that first-ever goodbye, starting us off on a tender melancholy note that sets the tone for the rest of the 45-minute-long seasonal special.

For his first Christmas in the family’s new house, William is given a cuddly toy bunny in which he finds the comfort and company he misses so acutely. If you had a beloved plaything as a child, chances are you wished they’d come alive with all the might that little you could conjure up — nostalgia that this adaptation taps right into when the rabbit comes to life via mixed animated styles. The sincere emotion of the duo’s commitment to each other — involving sickness and self-sacrifice — is thus difficult to resist, no matter how grown up you are.

What stands out

The Velveteen Rabbit features stop-motion, 2D animated sequences, and more modern CGI to bring the bunny to life. These styles aren’t used haphazardly: there’s a clear logic to them, with the toy being rendered in cutesy stop-motion, the imaginary escapist adventures he goes on with William taking place in a style referencing the hand-drawn illustrations featured in the original book, and digital CGI used in place of real animals later on. The switches — especially between the first two styles — allow the movie to play on both nostalgia and imagination, a dual-handed approach that deepens its emotional impact.

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