April 5, 2009


Looking for DVDs that entertain AND inspire little ones? A new rendition of "The Velveteen Rabbit," directed by Michael Landon, Jr., and voiced by Jane Seymour, Tom Skerritt, Ellen Burstyn and others, is now available at Amazon.com. The new VR is a delightful mix of live action--set in Victorian times--and animation. Because it's based on the classic children's book by Margery Williams (written in 1922), VR, the movie, has substance, adventure, loads of imagination, and rich truths beneath its surface.

A lonely little boy whose mother is dead and whose father is cold and distant, is sent to live with his equally cold grandmother. His only friend is a stuffed bunny he finds in the "magic attic." Whenever he wants, Toby can disappear into a wonderful world (animation) of his own making where Rabbit (and Swan and Horse) come to life. There, Toby finds warmth, play and friendship. Only it isn't real. Rabbit longs to join Toby forever in the real world but doesn't know how. When Toby contracts scarlet fever, Rabbit learns that death is real, and he has to make a choice whether to let his human friend die, or give his own life for him. Of all the lessons to be learned from this story, "Love makes us real," is the brightest nugget.

And we can't know where love will lead us until we actually lay down our lives/put love in action. Love involves a choice, a threshold, a line to be crossed, a point of no return.

The sad scenes in VR are age appropriate (ages 3-8). All is seen through Toby's eyes, who experiences emotions that children can readily identify with. They may shed a tear or two, but they won't be crying at the end. VR gently introduces children to death (both Toby's mother's and his own near-death experience), and Swan is the matronly character who explains it all. The young actor playing Toby is superb, as is the voice of the incredibly cute animated Rabbit (sounds like Linus from "The Peanuts").

The pacing is slow and even, as one idea, one plot point at a time is presented, making it easy for little ones to follow, contemplate and retell. VR is an excellent vehicle to talk to children about imagination and the nature of all virtual reality (all media-created reality) compared to reality. VR is a quality edition to a young (or not-so-young) DVD library. Like Dickens' stories, there's a Christian logic at work here. Love is what it means to be human, and humans CAN change, no matter how fixed, crusty and stony their hearts may seem.

It is said that our worldview is formed very early from the books we read as children. And re-read and re-read: "One more time, Daddy!" Have you ever watched a totally engrossed little face that is reading or being read to? You can almost hear the gears trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle of life together.

As we grow up, maybe it's better not to leave our magic attics too far behind.

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