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Uploaded on Aug 31, 2011
(1978) An English adventure drama animated film written, produced and directed by Martin Rosen and based on the book by Richard Adams. It was financed by a consortium of British financial institutions. Originally released on 19 October 1978 the film was an immediate success and it became the sixth most popular film of 1979 at the British box office.
It featured the voices of John Hurt, Richard Briers, Harry Andrews, Simon Cadell, Nigel Hawthorne and Roy Kinnear, among others, and was the last film appearance of Zero Mostel, as the voice of Kehaar the gull.
Art Garfunkel's British No. 1 hit, "Bright Eyes," which was written by British singer and songwriter Mike Batt, was also included. The musical score was by Angela Morley and Malcolm Williamson
The film was originally to be directed by John Hubley, who died in 1977. His work can still be found in the film, most notably in the "fable" scene. He was replaced by Martin Rosen, his directorial debut.
After the genesis story rendered in a narrated simple cartoon fashion, the animation style changes to a detailed, naturalist one, with concessions to render the animals anthropomorphic only to suggest they have human voices and minds, some facial expressions for emotion and paw gestures. The animation backgrounds are watercolours. Only one of the predators, the farm cat, is given a few lines, the rest remaining mute.
The backgrounds and locations, especially Efrafa and the nearby railway, are based to the diagrams and maps in Richard Adams's book. Most of the locations in this movie either exist or were based on real spots in Hampshire, England and surrounding areas.
Although the film was fairly faithful to the novel, several changes were made to the storyline, mainly to decrease overdetailed complexity and improve pace and flow of the plot. In addition, the order in which some events occur is re-arranged. Unlike many animated features, the film faithfully emulated the dark and violent sophistication of the book. As a result, many reviewers took to warning parents that children might find the content disturbing.
This attitude extended to when the animated TV series was marketed with the producers making an effort to reassure parents that the violence was softened and that the main characters would not be permanently harmed in their adventures.
Some marketers in the U.S. were also worried that the main promotional poster appeared too dark and may scare some children. The poster is actually showing Bigwig in a snare (his distinctive hair is clearly visible), and the image on the poster does not appear in the film, which has a far bloodier depiction of the scene.
The musical score was by Angela Morley and Malcolm Williamson, Morley replacing Williamson after the composer had fallen behind and only composed the prelude and main title theme in sketch form. A list of the musical cues for the film can be found on the composer's website, which also gives information about the different composers working on the project.
The soundtrack also featured Art Garfunkel's British No. 1 hit, "Bright Eyes," which was written by British singer and songwriter Mike Batt (although in a different arrangement from the one released as a single). Batt also wrote other songs for the film which were not used. The composer recorded three songs with vocals by Art Garfunkel, but only "Bright Eyes" made it to the film. The song "When You're Losing Your Way in the Rain" has a very similar feeling and arrangement, and was recorded by ex-Zombies vocalist Colin Blunstone in 1979. Art Garfunkel's was heard years later, on the TV series soundtrack released in 2000. The song (like many others which appeared on the TV soundtrack) was never used in the show.
Another song, "Watership Down," was written by Gerry Beckley of America for use as the theme song. It was never used, but the band recorded it for their 1976 album, Hideaway. An alternative mix can be found on the box set Highway.
To date, the film has received a generally positive critical reception, with an 81% 'Fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and a rating of 67% from select critics. The film was nominated for Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1979. In 2004, the magazine Total Film named Watership Down the 47th greatest British film of all time and it was also ranked 15th in the "100 Greatest Tearjerkers."
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