Peter Rabbit may be one of those children’s films that pay little attention, either because it is similar to many other works produced in recent years, or because it has not been very successful at the box office, such as the Paddington case, directed very successfully by Paul King which also mixes live action and animation through humans interacting with talking animals. However, the show shows changes in regard to works directed at children in recent times, and one of the easiest ways to perceive these changes is to understand clichés of children’s productions.
Peter Rabbit is based on the British book Petter Rabbit, written and illustrated by Beatrix Potter, published in 1902. Like the Boneyard of Looney Tunes, the work shows a rabbit taken, being precursor of this type of animal arrogant that causes confusion. While Bugs Bunny disobeys everyone, doing what he wants, Peter is a little more innocent and, in this case, does not obey his mother. This feature demonstrates a child’s work that values the family dynamics in the first place.
In the story, as Peter’s father was put on a rabbit meat pie after visiting Mr. McGregor’s garden, his mother asks that all her children avoid the place. However, the levada animal does not obey. Mr. McGregor the hunt and Peter have difficulty escaping. When he finally gets home after a lot of running, the bunny gets sick. His mother then gives tea to Peter to improve, while his sisters, who had obeyed, eat delicious food.
Both the art type and the plot, which has a clear moral (who obeys parents and behaves well is presented at the end), have made the book a hit for children, especially as a bedtime story. The film, on the contrary, brings a different style and shows how many current producers reinterpret children’s tales, often changing what is expected by the genre.
The first 10 minutes of Peter Rabbit resemble the story of the book. But as soon as Mr. McGregor can get the bunny, he has a heart attack and dies. Peter, at first confused, soon celebrates and pretends that he himself caused the tragic event, in a supposed fight against the old man. This shows a not-so-innocent rabbit (perhaps not at all innocent), and who behaves more like an adolescent than a child. Even though McGregor is a rude person who does not like the animals that visit his garden, Peter’s behavior makes it more difficult to identify with the character. When he remembers his father in a sad scene, it becomes clear the lack of empathy of the bunny towards the others.
To overcome the lack of identification with the character, the feature brings references to popular songs and dances, something that became cliche in children’s films. Characters dance to the rhythm of contemporary music while making an incredible mess, with the sole purpose of making the audience laugh quickly and easily. And this is often effective: it’s really funny to see animals dancing like humans. But right after that, the question remains: what’s left over in a movie where the main character is not so easy to identify?
If book morality is the reward that comes with obedience to parents, film production further highlights Peter’s acceptance to form a new family with McGregor’s grandson. The focus of this reinterpretation of the old work, then, ceases to be the family, to become the welcome of friends and strangers who, at first, seemed to antagonize the character. Although this morality may still be interesting to the children’s audience, it is more complex and difficult to understand among the younger ones.
(This article original language is portuguese. This translation was made with Google Translate)