The Velveteen Rabbit Parent Guide
This sweet, gentle adaptation of the beloved children's book is an early Christmas present from Apple TV+.
Parent Movie Review
Change can be painful when you’re shy. William (Phoenis Laroche) and his family have just moved to a new home in the country and the withdrawn boy is hesitant to befriend neighboring children or his schoolmates. His only confidante is the Velveteen Rabbit (voiced by Alex Lawther), a glossy brown bunny found in his Christmas stocking.
As his loneliness grows, William increasingly devotes his time and affection to his toy rabbit. The two go on imaginary (animated) adventures, burrowing in tunnels and following a treasure map. The Velveteen Rabbit soon becomes the favorite toy, and wholeheartedly returns the devotion he receives. There’s only one problem – kids are more vulnerable than toys, and when disease strikes, the bunny will have to decide how deeply he loves his dearest friend.
Fans of Margery Williams will note that the screenwriters of this adaptation have made some significant changes to the beloved book, but I don’t think they are much of a problem. It’s always hard to push a picture book to fill movie runtime requirements, even for as short a film as this. What matters is whether or not the adaptation captures the spirit of the book, and this movie has done so to an impressive extent, delivering tenderness, empathy, and imagination in spades.
One of the major preoccupations of the book and the movie is what it means to be real. The sage of the nursery is the Wise Horse, thankfully no longer referred to by the book’s creepy name of the Skin Horse. Voiced by Helena Bonham Carter, the Wise Horse protects the Velveteen Rabbit from bullying toys and teaches him about the process of becoming real. “When a child really loves you,” the horse says, “then you become real.” Thus the rabbit’s journey to becoming real is an exploration of love, selflessness, courage, loyalty, and growth. It’s a touching story, well told.
At 44 minutes, this is a short film but the production values are solid. The animated sequences aren’t impressive, but the locations are enchanting, the 1920s setting is convincing, and the casting is better-than-average for a children’s Christmas movie. Young Phoenix Laroche does a fine job as the sensitive, wistful young William. Alex Lawther’s vocal talents also bring the beloved rabbit to life.
The Velveteen Rabbit is a sweet Christmas gift from Apple TV+ to family audiences. The film is filled with compassion for the challenges of childhood, particularly shyness, loneliness, and adapting to change. It manages to see the world from a child’s perspective, putting William’s emotions and perspectives center screen. This is a gentle story, one that will speak to children while giving their parents a hit of nostalgia. It’s not perfect, but it still delivers a touch of magic – and isn’t that what we want in a family film?Directed by Jennifer Perrott, Rick Thiele. Starring Phoenix Laroche, Alex Lawther, Helena Bonham Carter. Running time: 44 minutes. Theatrical release November 22, 2023. Updated November 22, 2023
Watch the trailer for The Velveteen Rabbit
The Velveteen Rabbit
Rating & Content Info
Why is The Velveteen Rabbit rated Not Rated? The Velveteen Rabbit is rated Not Rated by the MPAA
Violence: There are brief moments of peril in imaginary adventures. A child becomes seriously ill and the doctor is concerned that he might die. A sick person’s possessions and toys are sent outside to be burned in a bonfire to prevent contagion. There is some minor verbal bullying between toys. A toy rabbit suffers damage such as tears and wear.
Sexual Content: None
Alcohol / Drug Use: None
Page last updated November 22, 2023
The Velveteen Rabbit Parents' Guide
The toys spend a lot of time talking about what it means to be “real”. What do you think it means to be real? Why does the Velveteen Rabbit become real? When do you think he becomes real? What makes us love our toys or other possessions? Have you ever loved a toy? Why? What impact did that have on your life?
Loved this movie? Try these books…
The movie is based on The Velveteen Rabbit, written by Margery Williams. The original illustrations were by William Nicholson although there are other versions that have been illustrated by other artists.
Fans of The Velveteen Rabbit will likely appreciate The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld. This sweet picture book tells the story of a sad child who finally receives needed comfort from a rabbit with the ability to listen.
Starting a new school is difficult for most kids, and especially for those who are shy. Annie Silvestro and Dream Chen tell an encouraging school of overcoming school jitters in Butterflies on the First Day of School.
Quiet preschoolers will enjoy Deborah Feldman’s picture book Shy. This book features a bird who’s so shy she has trouble creeping into the pages of the book.
There are also many books on the topic of sentient toys. Elevated to the status of children’s classics are A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh and the other stories involving Christopher Robin and his assortment of stuffed toys.
If you’re looking for a seasonal twist on the genre, Rocking Horse Christmas by Mary Pope Osborne tells the tale of a rocking horse who is sentient and loves the adventures he has with his boy – until the boy grows up and forgets him. For another Yuletide tale, you can turn to Nutcracker by E.T.A. Hoffmann.
Kate DiCamillo enters the genre in The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane, the emotionally rich story of a vain china rabbit who learns to love.
For whimsy and humor it’s hard to beat Bill Watterson’s comic collections, beginning with The Essential Calvin and Hobbes.
Related home video titles:
When her mother is hospitalized, a lonely girl abandons the imaginary amusement park they created together. Wonder Park tells the story of what happens when the park becomes real.
Ron struggles to fit in at middle school. A defective electronic toy becomes the key to helping him find friends in Ron’s Gone Wrong.
When a kind tailor who has cared for the mice in his workshop is taken ill while working on an important commission, the mice return the favor and help him out. The Tailor of Gloucester is a 20+ minute animated adaptation of the Beatrix Potter Christmas tale and can be watched here.
Few film franchises tackle the “toys are real” trope better than Toy Story. The original film was followed by Toy Story 2, Toy Story 3 (which follows a scared child starting kindergarten), and Toy Story 4.
You’re never too old to be saved by your childhood toys. In Christopher Robin, the “silly willy nilly old bear” comes to the rescue of a workaholic with misplaced priorities. Their childhood adventures are retold in The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Winnie the Pooh, and Piglet’s Big Movie.