Watership Down: Deluxe Edition Martin Rosen

That Watership Down sits comfortably on the line between adult and children’s entertainment has always been the story’s biggest conversation piece but the fact that it’s beloved by just about anybody who’s read Richard Adams’ novel renders such discussions pointless. The same goes for Martin Rosen’s 1978 film version of the book; the director himself says in a featurette that when they began making the movie, they weren’t sure which market to appeal to so they just went for straight adaptation. Rarely does the film match the book — it’s almost impossible to better it — but Rosen pulled it off, though just barely, as he struggled to find producers and distribution to secure a release, he recalls. Set in the English countryside, the story surrounds a team of rabbits who, on the vision of the clairvoyant Fiver, flee their warren for safety when man schedules a bulldozing of their homes. The journey traverses a series of obstacles and dangerous circumstances, culminating in a climactic battle with the evil General Woundwort in a bid to end his supremacy over a helpless warren the protagonists are looking to settle in. Watership Down is a breathtakingly accomplished work that doesn’t skim on the philosophical underpinnings and humanistic nuance of Adams’ book, despite being a cartoon. There is ethereality in how the story is told and illustrated, largely due to the spiritual undertone; it’s certainly a sign of the ’70s but even though it’s a little dated in style compared to today’s standards, it’s remarkably comforting to take in. Rosen admits that originally he had considered a live action feature with puppets mostly because he had next to no experience as an animator, or even as a director, but obviously he found the right people to help out. Along with editor Terry Rawlings, he discusses much of the film’s history, including the chart-topping hit, "Bright Eyes,” which apparently singer Art Garfunkel was not a fan of despite its overwhelming success. Plus: storyboard comparison. (Warner)