Our Article Writer, Olivia Church, shares her opinion on Peter Rabbit’s new revamp, questioning whether straying from tradition is always a good thing. Illustrations by Margarita Louka.
Sometimes you simply can’t mess with tradition: I don’t mean to start a rant, but on this occasion I’m going to have to. Have you ever experienced some nights when your brain has the urge to remain fully on, while the rest of your body tells you that you should really go to sleep? I had this problem a few nights ago. Despite the aching tiredness behind my eyes I ended up on YouTube. I scrolled through several suggested bloopers, interviews and reaction videos, but nothing really caught my eye. Film trailers came up a few times and they always seem like a good option to go for. There was one trailer that I thought would be one of those films that everyone would look forward to. However, Once the trailer had finished I was left completely shocked and dumbfounded. It wasn’t a horror film, nor a gripping drama – it was a rabbit called Peter.
If you haven’t already seen it (in which case, I suggest you do) British children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter’s most famous character from her beloved books is to be made in to a multi-million-pound movie due for release next year. For those who loved Renée Zellweger’s ‘Miss Potter’ vibe – it will be enough to make you grimace. Peter Rabbit will be voiced by James Corden and will also have appearances including Suicide Squad’s Margot Robbie and Irish actor Domhnall Gleeson. Gleeson and Robbie have both recently starred in a movie called ‘Goodbye Christopher Robin’. It charts the darker side of the implications of success that stemmed from a little boy and his bear. Unlike the ‘Peter Rabbit’ trailer, it comes across as a measured interpretation of a classic that takes into account the historical importance of A. A. Milne’s creation.
From what we can gather from the trailer, Peter, looking relatively close to his original appearance, is introduced to us by bounding through the quaint English countryside until knocking over a group of birds like a bowling ball- this is where the mood changes. Queue the upbeat music, Hollywood advertising, electric guitars, a very boisterous Peter (who is meant to be a young boy), Domhnall playing a young and close shaven Mr McGregor, and even an all-animal house party that includes target hedgehog throwing (but please don’t try this at home).
This isn’t the first time that James Corden has got involved in new film interpretations of memorable books. Back in 2015, Corden’s narration skills was criticised in the adaption of Roald Dahl’s ‘Esio Trot’, despite great performances from Dame Judy Dench and Dustin Hoffman. While Corden has had a long and tough road to fame, perhaps his involvement and even the idea of a ‘modern Peter Rabbit’ has overshadowed what is truly important in the retelling of a classic story? Selling something so precious like the English countryside to big producers in America means there will always be some tweaks here and there. But is this film going to be tweaked too far? I think so.
Potter’s written and illustrated work has long remained a beacon in children’s literature and has delighted British audiences the most and appealed to young readers overseas. I’m sorry if I’ve been sounding very British, but despite good intentions this movie is unlikely to gain the reception that it desires and will be a wholly inaccurate image to project to young people of a timeless character.
What is our obsession with making the old new? Is there this fear that the old is no longer able to engage young people in the way that it might have done before? Modernisation in the children’s entertainment sector has even had an impact on Lego recently. Lego’s sales have dropped for the first time in 13 years and has resulted in huge job losses and revenue. Could this have something to do with the Lego film and video games perhaps? It is an ongoing debate that children are being lured by iPhones, tablets and mobiles, away from interactive material like Lego or the classic ‘climbing of trees’.
In the UK, tv programmes that we remember from our childhood have been revamped by producers who seem to think that the originals lack the ability to stand the test of time Shows that have been changed include: Postman Pat, Fireman Sam, Dora the Explorer and Bob the Builder to name a few. Postman Pat’s trusty companion, the cat now has its own show called ‘Guess with Jess’. There was something so appealing about a felt cat that seemed to meow on occasion. Now, Jess is able to interact with her new animal friends and begin new adventures.
One of the main reasons that Beatrix Potter had the success that she did is due to her ability to capture children’s imaginations and show an earlier period of Britain at its very best. Hopefully next time, any big producer wishing to infuse a modern twist- into what should be untouched pieces of history- will approach it with more care and engagement with the original narrative. Leaving them alone completely would also be appreciated.
Words by Olivia Church, Illustrations by Margarita Louka