Martin Pope, one of the special's producers, explains it's about the "power of imagination."
Fact checked by Sarah Scott
The story is about a boy and his favorite toy, a stuffed rabbit who are inseparable—until the boy comes down with scarlet fever and, by doctor’s orders, all his toys and books must be burned. Both the boy and the rabbit are devastated—until a fairy saves the rabbit and makes him “real.” In case you haven't yet read the book with your child, I’ll spare the final moments that, at least for me, truly bring on the waterworks.
Now The Velveteen Rabbit has been adapted into a new special available Wednesday, November 22nd on Apple TV+—just in time for some emotionally charged family viewing over Thanksgiving weekend. Read on for a sneak peek of the special.
The book was published in 1922, making it more than 100 years old, but Parents spoke with one of the special's producers Martin Pope, who felt now was the perfect time to revisit The Velveteen Rabbit.
“It's about the power of imagination," he explains. "When children are with their own toys, they know that those toys are real. The toys understand them in ways that adults don't, and they go on adventures together.”
What's unique about this movie is it mixes animation with live action—which Pope says was crucial to the storytelling. The original illustrator of The Velveteen Rabbit, William Nicholson, was said to have a natural sympathy for children that inspired his illustrations. Helena Bonham Carter, who voices the Wise Horse, knows Nicholson’s grandson Desmond Banks and introduced him to the production team.
“We worked very closely with Desmond Banks and the estate while bringing to life those very beautiful drawings, and obviously the incredible text by Margery Williams,” explains Pope. “Because it's a classic, we couldn’t change it. People in the past have tried to do a take on it, but why? It's great.”
The special stays true to the original book since it takes place in the 1920s—though the creators discussed many time periods as possibilities. “For us, a child's experience is the same in the 1920s, the 1970s, or today,” says Pope. “It could be at any different time because for the child and the toy, they're living their life however they are. They're not thinking that they're in a period film.” And, Pope believes that many aspects of Margery Williams' original story needed to stay put and would seem odd in the present day.
Another timeless aspect? The emotion all the characters evoke—but especially that of the young boy, named William. William is played by a young actor named Phoenix Laroche, making his film debut.
“There is a very emotional moment where William is ill and he and the rabbit are considering what will happen—is he going to survive the night? It’s a beautiful scene and Phoenix did it absolutely wonderfully,’ says Pope. “One of the grips, who has worked on hundreds of sets, came out of the rehearsal and said to me, ‘That little boy is the best actor I've ever seen.’ He had tears in his eyes and was so moved.”
Pope encourages families to watch The Velveteen Rabbit together on Apple TV+ as it was made for that experience. “When I was a child, television was viewed as the enemy. I think that now we realize that television is one of the great forms of sharing experiences and being able to bring up issues and talk about things,” he says.
One thing Pope hopes families connect to and can discuss is the idea, as stated in the film, that 'hello and goodbye' are the same thing. “When you say goodbye to one thing, you say hello to another. It's a really great view of the world,” he explains. “I do hope that people think about how they can view the world imaginatively after watching the film.”
And while the power of imagination is an important takeaway, so is the understanding that love is actually about selflessness. “The boy and the rabbit move on—but they're never going to lose the love they both have for each other,” explains Pope. “It's just going to change.”
In a special sneak peek of The Velveteen Rabbit, the toys Car (voiced by Lois Chimimba), King (voiced by Paterson Joseph), and Lion (voiced by Clive Rowe) make fun of Rabbit (voiced by Alex Lawther) for not looking real.
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Read the original article on Parents.