Thursday, October 12, 2006
One of my favorite pieces of animation
"All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and when they catch you, they will kill you... but first they must catch you."
- from the beginning of the film, Watership Down
When I read Watership Down as a child I was deeply moved, but I was especially taken by this animated introduction to the movie version of the story. Stylistically, it stands in stark contrast to the rest of the (traditionally animated) film, with the exception of a few lyrical moments scattered throughout that exhibit the same stylistic flourishes.
I still get goosebumps watching this as an adult, and it reinforces in my mind the profound messages that can be relayed through simple, pared down, conceptual animation. I believe it was inspired by the UPA animation style of the fifties and sixties, and I'm not sure if we'll ever see animation as simple yet so profound again. It also reminds me of the Hubley family's animated works, which also have a deceptively simple looking visual style. However, there is nothing simple about the design and themes within this animation.
Thematically, it cuts so deep on so many ethereal levels that you can flip to nearly any page in a history book and see a parallel. Its Native American motifs, Inuit forms, and African stylings suggest the abuse, eradication, or attempted genocide of several more innocent societies that populate Earth.
It's even relatable to Art Speigelman's Maus series of graphic novels, which depict the Jews of WWII as vulnerable mice in a world of Nazi predators.
I also can't resist giving El-ahrairah (the rabbit prince) a homosexual slant, comparing him to how our culture has treated gays in the past and present. It comforts me, because in this animated myth, Frith blesses El-ahrairah with his own tools and tricks for survival, proving that all the world's creatures have a place on this Earth.