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Desperately Seeking Peter Rabbit: Sony Pictures Misses the Mark

 

Following swiftly upon the heels of Netflix’s much panned Anne of Green Gables: Sturm und Drang (Not the title of the film, but you get the idea), in which her mean adoptive father dies of a heart attack after beating Anne senseless, a creepy man with suggestions of molester or pedophile almost kidnaps her before she is saved by the film’s conflicted and bizarre incarnation of Matthew Cuthbert, the patriarchy is strong in the person of the local vicar who wants Anne to stay at home and “learn proper housekeeping until she marries,” and there are undertones of mania and overtones of lesbianism breaking out all over the place.

OK, that first paragraph wasn’t exactly a sentence (I see that, Ricochet Editor), but I got so worked up about the violence done to a beloved childhood classic that I was in danger of losing the thread (not a feeling I’m used to), or of becoming, at the very least, undiagrammable (a cardinal sin). So, best quit while I’m ahead.

Now we have the new “Peter Rabbit” movie which, as far as I can see, has almost nothing to do with Beatrix Potter, and almost everything to do with “play[ing] to a modern audience for a family film by turning the movie into a joke machine with the subtlety of a manic Madagascar movie,” according to this review from Tulsa World.

Right. Because beloved tales that have stood the test of time for decades or more than a century, and which have taken millions of children to places of safety, imagination, adventure, and love, just aren’t smart or good enough for the modern young mind.

In a startlingly tone-deaf move this time, though, the Peter Rabbit crew have run afoul of political correctness and the intersectionality gods in at least one of their entertaining brainwaves.

You see, Mr. McGregor (no, not the real one. He’s dead. His hateful nephew Tom, who has taken over the lettuce patch), is allergic to blackberries. So there’s a scene in the movie where the nasty rabbits, led by that rascal Peter, pelt him with blackberries until one flies into his mouth. Tom collapses in a heap, goes into anaphylactic shock, and rescues himself only by stabbing himself in the leg with an EpiPen.

Way to go, Sony Pictures. Children’s movie making at its best. Or a campaign ad for Joe Manchin. Not sure which. Probably doesn’t matter.

Anyway, there is a massive backlash against bullying and making light of food allergies on the one hand, and accusations of “snowflakery” on the other, all leading to the predictable groveling Sony apology:

Sony Pictures says Sunday in a joint statement with the filmmakers that “food allergies and are a serious issue” and the film “should not have made light” of a character being allergic to blackberries “even in a cartoonish, slapstick way.”

The studio and filmmakers say that they, “Sincerely regret not being more aware and sensitive to this issue, and we truly apologize.”

Umm. Yeah. And so you should.

Not so much for a tasteless and insensitive scene about bullying, food allergies, and the EpiPen ad, as for, once again demonstrating your utter lack of imagination and originality, and for showing that you corrupt and diminish everything you touch. And for, very likely, turning off a generation of children and their parents to the magical world of Peter Rabbit and his friends. Good job. Hope you lose a bundle on this one.

For a rare exception to the practice of mangling and perversely misdirecting a beloved children’s book into a shallow and unsettling movie, look no further than Babe (nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1996. I’m sorry it lost to Braveheart, much as I enjoyed the sight of Mel Gibson’s bare bum.) One of the few absolutely perfect movies ever made. Apparently, though, they made it, and someone either forgot the formula, or broke the mold. Sad.

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There are 43 comments.

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  1. Contributor

    Hardly want to click “like” on this one, given how awful is your account of what was done to Anne of Green Gables and the Peter Rabbit stories.

    My wife and I homeschooled our six children, the older three through high school and the younger three through grade school. I say she and I, but in fact she did the teaching. My duty and joy was to read aloud to the children every night. And read we did, scores of books, most repeated years later for the younger children. Anne of Green Gables and the Potter books were among them, and favorites.

    My youngest turns 18 a week from today. Reading to children is the thing I miss most about having young ones.

    • #1
    • February 12, 2018 at 7:26 am
    • 8 likes
  2. Coolidge

    She, you write with a pen tipped with acid. I like that. (I’m not sure that sentence works in the digital age. Wait a minute, of course it does; it’s a metaphor. Never mind.)

    Kent

    • #2
    • February 12, 2018 at 7:38 am
    • 3 likes
  3. Thatcher

    This could lead to a re-imagining of all the old favorites.

    The Wind in the Willows: The reason that Badger lives so far back in the forest is to conceal his meth lab operation.

    • #3
    • February 12, 2018 at 7:43 am
    • 9 likes
  4. Thatcher

    IIRC, Babe was the last “children’s movie” our family saw together, as our daughters were 8 and 11.

    And it’s also nice to use Saint-Saëns Symphony #3 (Organ) music.

    • #4
    • February 12, 2018 at 7:44 am
    • 3 likes
  5. Thatcher

    Oh, for the love of Pete! If the end of revisionist/PC remakes has to come about by attrition, let’s start now: Boycott! Hit them in the wallet…Sheesh!

    • #5
    • February 12, 2018 at 7:48 am
    • 5 likes
  6. Thatcher

    Harriet the Spy: Harriet is reassigned to the Assassination Bureau.

    • #6
    • February 12, 2018 at 7:55 am
    • 5 likes
  7. Member

    Whenever you see the words “Sony Animation” pop up on the screen, you can be pretty assured that whatever comes next is going to be a travesty.

    Compare it to the wonderful job that StudioCanal did on the Paddington movie adaptations.

    To wit: Paddington was directed by Paul King, who has worked extensively in British comedy, including shows like Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, The Mighty Boosch, and the film Bunny And The Bull. By contrast, Peter Rabbit is directed by Will Gluck, whose credits include such illustrious titles as The John Larroquette Show, Andy Richter Controls The Universe, Easy A, Friends With Benefits, and the recent remake of Annie.

    Cough.

    • #7
    • February 12, 2018 at 8:05 am
    • 8 likes
  8. Moderator
    She Post author

    Henry Racette (View Comment):
    Hardly want to click “like” on this one, given how awful is your account of what was done to Anne of Green Gables and the Peter Rabbit stories.

    My wife and I homeschooled our six children, the older three through high school and the younger three through grade school. I say she and I, but in fact she did the teaching. My duty and joy was to read aloud to the children every night. And read we did, scores of books, most repeated years later for the younger children. Anne of Green Gables and the Potter books were among them, and favorites.

    My youngest turns 18 a week from today. Reading to children is the thing I miss most about having young ones.

    I love reading to kids, too. My granddaughter is, perhaps, the world’s greatest living expert on the tales of Beatrix Potter. In addition to reading and re-reading the books dozens of times, my sister bought her, very early on, the CD collection of the stories, read by notable British actors and entertainers. Granddaughter would not ride in the car without one of her “stories” playing on the CD, and I realized the effect of this one day when she was making up her own BP story about “Mopsy,” and a blackberry-picking expedition, in which the narration was all done in my granddaughter’s normal voice, complete with normal American accent, but all the characters, when they spoke, sounded like Maggie Smith. Most charming thing I’ve ever heard. I wish I’d had the wit to pull out my iPhone and record it.

    • #8
    • February 12, 2018 at 8:07 am
    • 7 likes
  9. Moderator
    She Post author

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):
    Whenever you see the words “Sony Animation” pop up on the screen, you can be pretty assured that whatever comes next is going to be a travesty.

    Compare it to the wonderful job that StudioCanal did on the Paddington movie adaptations.

    To wit: Paddington was directed by Paul King, who has worked extensively in British comedy, including shows like Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, The Mighty Boosch, and the film Bunny And The Bull. By contrast, Peter Rabbit is directed by Will Gluck, whose credits include such illustrious titles as The John Larroquette Show, Andy Richter Controls The Universe, Easy A, Friends With Benefits, and the recent remake of Annie.

    Cough.

    Oddly, Babe was produced by George Miller, of Mad Max fame. He also wrote the screenplay. I remember hearing him, in an interview around the time the movie came out, saying that he wanted to make a movie that he would like his own children to go and see. I wonder if that might be the difference between the movies that work and the movies that don’t.

    • #9
    • February 12, 2018 at 8:09 am
    • 7 likes
  10. Member

    She: For a rare exception to the practice of mangling and perversely misdirecting a beloved children’s book into a shallow and unsettling movie, look no further than Babe (nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture in 1996. I’m sorry it lost to Braveheart, much as I enjoyed the sight of Mel Gibson’s bare bum.)

    Note: Babe was produced by independent Australian production company Kennedy Miller, and only distributed by Universal Pictures. Also note, the special effects were done using a combination of animatronics and trained animals, rather than animation.

    Aside: Ironically, the director of Babe (Chris Noonan) made a biopic of Beatrix Potter called Miss Potter.

    Again, the moral of the story is, never ever sell the rights to a beloved children’s story to Sony. Never ever ever. In my dreams I imagine how great a properly-produced Smurfs movie could be. The source material is so rich.

    • #10
    • February 12, 2018 at 8:14 am
    • 5 likes
  11. Moderator
    She Post author

    Early in the movie, Wilbur steps on Charlotte, killing her. He spends the rest of the movie wracked with guilt, and in therapy, trying to rid himself of his toxic masculinity.

    PS–ever wonder why there are so few female characters in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories? Then there’s that one where Piglet lets Pooh move in with him. Hmmm.

    • #11
    • February 12, 2018 at 8:17 am
    • 5 likes
  12. Moderator
    She Post author

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    She, you write with a pen tipped with acid. I like that.

    Thanks for noticing, @kentforrester! It’s been said of me that I have only two lethal weapons, a tongue and a pen. I do try to restrain myself in my old age, though.

    • #12
    • February 12, 2018 at 8:20 am
    • 2 likes
  13. Member

    She (View Comment):
    Oddly, Babe was produced by George Miller, of Mad Max fame. He also wrote the screenplay. I remember hearing him, in an interview around the time the movie came out, saying that he wanted to make a movie that he would like his own children to go and see. I wonder if that might be the difference between the movies that work and the movies that don’t.

    Staying away from Sony Animation seems pretty key, at the very least. Their filmography is a litany of the decade’s worst animation:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sony_Pictures_Animation#Filmography

    Other companies have been able to make it work. Blue Sky Studios (owned by 20th Century Fox) did a pretty great job with The Peanuts Movie, the Ice Age franchise, and The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Dreamworks Animation has some pretty great stuff with the Shrek franchise, Kung Fu Panda, and How To Train Your Dragon. And then there’s, of course, Pixar.

    Disney and Warner Bros Animation aren’t as great as the others, but they’re still not nearly as bad as Sony. I still give Warner some credit for giving us the wonderful The Iron Giant, even though that came out almost 20 years ago, and Batman Mask Of The Phantasm which is now 25 years old.

    Sony Animation is the devil.

    Heck, even the Garfield movies (20th Century Fox, but not Blue Sky Studios) aren’t as bad as what Sony excretes!

    (On the other hand, Fox also puts out the Alvin & The Chipmunks movies, which give Sony a run for their money when it comes to sheer awfulness.)

    • #13
    • February 12, 2018 at 8:24 am
    • 3 likes
  14. Member

    I take back everything I’ve said about Sony Animation. They are, apparently, developing a Manimal movie. They are hereby redeemed. All is forgiven.

    ;-)

    • #14
    • February 12, 2018 at 8:53 am
    • 1 like
  15. Thatcher

    The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends, created by Diane Jackson, is maybe the most faithful animation in spirit and painstaking artistic execution that I’ve seen in past 40 years.

    • #15
    • February 12, 2018 at 9:18 am
    • 4 likes
  16. Member

    She (View Comment):
    Early in the movie, Wilbur steps on Charlotte, killing her. He spends the rest of the movie wracked with guilt, and in therapy, trying to rid himself of his toxic masculinity.

    PS–ever wonder why there are so few female characters in the Winnie-the-Pooh stories? Then there’s that one where Piglet lets Pooh move in with him. Hmmm.

    How about a remake of Animal Farm that promotes the superiority and efficiency of collectivized organic agricultural practices?

    • #16
    • February 12, 2018 at 9:19 am
    • 4 likes
  17. Contributor

    Quake Voter (View Comment):
    The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends, created by Diane Jackson, is maybe the most faithful animation in spirit and painstaking artistic execution that I’ve seen in past 40 years.

    I agree. The series was a family favorite.

    I still remember the intro: the woman painting, the sudden storm, and ending in a cup of tea while the rain poured down outside. I love the English weather and the people and culture it helped to create, and that captured it perfectly.

    • #17
    • February 12, 2018 at 9:24 am
    • 4 likes
  18. Member

    I was in Disney World two years ago. I had a wonderful time, but I was amused to see the complete devotion of Disney to the intellectual world of the Left. Everything there touched on themes of global warming, endangered animals, “green” and “sustainable” agriculture and building means and methods, “man” as the evil interloper in Mother Earth’s otherwise-perfect kingdom, multiculturalism, evolution explains everything, and there is no God anywhere anymore.

    I understand how this happens in the entertainment businesses. It’s a marketing ploy–the marketers think that because they hear this stuff all time, it must be the case that most people believe all of it, and the marketers want to play to the biggest market they can. It’s also a result of the liberal arts colleges where their creative talent comes from producing brainwashed artists.

    But what makes me laugh is that the Left despises Disney anyway. The Left looks down on Disney as a money-grubbing corporation. It’s a typical abuse situation. Disney is trying desperately to please the bullies on the Left, selling their soul in the process, and those bullies will never respect them anyway. It’s kind of sick and sad at the same time.

    • #18
    • February 12, 2018 at 9:25 am
    • 7 likes
  19. Moderator
    She Post author

    Quake Voter (View Comment):
    The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends, created by Diane Jackson, is maybe the most faithful animation in spirit and painstaking artistic execution that I’ve seen in past 40 years.

    Yes, that one is lovely.

    • #19
    • February 12, 2018 at 9:27 am
    • 2 likes
  20. Member

    MarciN (View Comment):
    I was in Disney World two years ago. I had a wonderful time, but I was amused to see the complete devotion of Disney to the intellectual world of the Left. Everything there touched on themes of global warming, endangered animals, “green” and “sustainable” agriculture and building means and methods, “man” as the evil interloper in Mother Earth’s otherwise-perfect kingdom, multiculturalism, evolution explains everything, and there is no God anywhere anymore.

    I understand how this happens in the entertainment businesses. It’s a marketing ploy–the marketers think that because they hear this stuff all time, it must be the case that most people believe all of it, and the marketers want to play to the biggest market they can. It’s also a result of the liberal arts colleges where their creative talent comes from producing brainwashed artists.

    But what makes me laugh is that the Left despises Disney anyway. The Left looks down on Disney as a money-grubbing corporation. It’s a typical abuse situation. Disney is trying desperately to please the bullies on the Left, selling their soul in the process, and those bullies will never respect them anyway. It’s kind of sick and sad at the same time.

    Well, ol’ Walt was always a big believer in the power of progressive technocracy. It’s been the governing ethos of EPCOT since its inception.

    Also, It’s A Small World After All is the most-performed song of all time (largely because it’s been on a continual loop since 1964).

    • #20
    • February 12, 2018 at 9:28 am
    • 5 likes
  21. Member

    On the other hand, Walt didn’t get along very well with Robert Moses, which is a notch in Walt’s favour.

    Perhaps we can say that Disney has always embraced the ethos of Corporate Progressivism as an alternative to Government Progressivism.

    • #21
    • February 12, 2018 at 9:40 am
    • 5 likes
  22. Member

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):
    On the other hand, Walt didn’t get along very well with Robert Moses, which is a notch in Walt’s favour.

    Perhaps we can say that Disney has always embraced the ethos of Corporate Progressivism as an alternative to Government Progressivism.

    I really admire Walt. Careful with bashing my hero. :) :) :)

    • #22
    • February 12, 2018 at 9:43 am
    • 1 like
  23. Member

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):
    On the other hand, Walt didn’t get along very well with Robert Moses, which is a notch in Walt’s favour.

    Perhaps we can say that Disney has always embraced the ethos of Corporate Progressivism as an alternative to Government Progressivism.

    I really admire Walt. Careful with bashing my hero. :) :) :)

    I appreciate that when Walt wanted to create his own personal city of tomorrow he went and bought the land to do it, as opposed to the many government apparatchiks around the world who think existing cities and other people’s property are their own personal playthings.

    That being said, the track record for planning and building cities from scratch is still pretty abysmal.

    • #23
    • February 12, 2018 at 9:46 am
    • 1 like
  24. Moderator
    She Post author

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    I appreciate that when Walt wanted to create his own personal city of tomorrow he bought the land to do it, as opposed to the many government apparatchiks around the world who think existing cities and other people’s property are their own personal playthings.

    That being said, the track record for planning and building cities from scratch is still pretty abysmal.

    Some of the more successful ones are probably those built around a product as model towns for the employees, like those of the 19th century chocolate barons and philanthropists like Hershey and Cadbury.

    • #24
    • February 12, 2018 at 10:37 am
    • 3 likes
  25. Member

    Someone, please, tell me where in this book there’s a story about bulls escaping. Or hedgehogs(!)?

    The Story of Ferdinand (Picture Puffins) by [Leaf, Munro]

    • #25
    • February 12, 2018 at 10:58 am
    • 3 likes
  26. Member

    Although, I dare some studio to make an accurate depiction of this book, Especially the bit where the trillions of cats fight and kill each other until there’s only one left.

    • #26
    • February 12, 2018 at 11:02 am
    • 1 like
  27. Member

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):
    On the other hand, Walt didn’t get along very well with Robert Moses, which is a notch in Walt’s favour.

    Perhaps we can say that Disney has always embraced the ethos of Corporate Progressivism as an alternative to Government Progressivism.

    I really admire Walt. Careful with bashing my hero. :) :) :)

    I appreciate that when Walt wanted to create his own personal city of tomorrow he went and bought the land to do it, as opposed to the many government apparatchiks around the world who think existing cities and other people’s property are their own personal playthings.

    That being said, the track record for planning and building cities from scratch is still pretty abysmal.

    I didn’t say I liked what Disney became. :) The corporation has taken some turns that troubled me very much.

    But I remain a fan of Walt. I like dreamers. :)

    • #27
    • February 12, 2018 at 11:08 am
    • Like
  28. Moderator
    She Post author

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):

    MarciN (View Comment):

    Misthiocracy, Joke Pending (View Comment):
    On the other hand, Walt didn’t get along very well with Robert Moses, which is a notch in Walt’s favour.

    Perhaps we can say that Disney has always embraced the ethos of Corporate Progressivism as an alternative to Government Progressivism.

    I really admire Walt. Careful with bashing my hero. :) :) :)

    I appreciate that when Walt wanted to create his own personal city of tomorrow he went and bought the land to do it, as opposed to the many government apparatchiks around the world who think existing cities and other people’s property are their own personal playthings.

    That being said, the track record for planning and building cities from scratch is still pretty abysmal.

    I didn’t say I liked what Disney became. :) The corporation has taken some turns that troubled me very much.

    But I remain a fan of Walt. I like dreamers. :)

    Snow White is another of those perfect movies. As is its message, which I articulate as: “A girl who, no matter her poor circumstances, is kind, pleasant and loving, will always be beautiful on both the outside and the inside, and will stand a good chance of achieving her heart’s desire. On the other hand, if she’s jealous and vindictive, her internal ugliness will leak to the outside for all to see, and she will die a miserable, agonizing, and lonely death. And serve her bloody well right.”

    Ah. Immutable truths. Those were the days.

    • #28
    • February 12, 2018 at 11:18 am
    • 5 likes
  29. Thatcher

    She: Not so much for a tasteless and insensitive scene about bullying, food allergies, and the EpiPen ad, as for, once again demonstrating your utter lack of imagination and originality, and for showing that you corrupt and diminish everything you touch.

    She,

    Do save this sentence in memory. You will be able to use it so often when reviewing the latest attempts at art.

    A culture of the perverse, by the perverse, and for the perverse.

    Regards,

    Jim

    • #29
    • February 12, 2018 at 11:46 am
    • 5 likes
  30. Moderator
    She Post author

    James Gawron (View Comment):

    She: Not so much for a tasteless and insensitive scene about bullying, food allergies, and the EpiPen ad, as for, once again demonstrating your utter lack of imagination and originality, and for showing that you corrupt and diminish everything you touch.

    She,

    Do save this sentence in memory. You will be able to use it so often when reviewing the latest attempts at art.

    A culture of the perverse, by the perverse, and for the perverse.

    Regards,

    Jim

    Hi, Jim

    Yep. And thanks. Always good to hear from you, for old time’s sake, if nothing else. Hope you’re doing OK.

    Regards

    She

    • #30
    • February 12, 2018 at 11:50 am
    • 1 like
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