I can't remember how old I was when I first read The Velveteen Rabbit. I was young enough to not quite understand what Scarlet Fever meant or why all the possessions of the child at the center of the story, including his beloved stuffed rabbit, had to be burned. The story didn't seem dark per se, but it did seem dangerous and mysterious. And even at that young age, I sensed the stuffed rabbit's quest to be real as serious and important. The story felt grown-up in that way that is irresistible to children. I was hooked.
Indeed, many children (and adults, for that matter) have fallen under the spell of Margery Williams' tale, first published in 1922. The new adaptation by Michael Landon Jr. and Family 1 Films is the latest of in a long line of people telling this story over and again—on stage, in short films, through animation. Landon gamely suggests his version is only "inspired" by The Velveteen Rabbit. And while this might be an important caveat for purists, given the relatively slight nature of the source material, some imagination is required to fill a feature length presentation.
In Landon's telling, young Toby is adrift in the world, ignored by his workaholic father and pawned off for a holiday with his begrudging grandmother. He finds the all-important Rabbit in a box in his grandmother's attic, an unopened and forgotten present from his deceased mother. The attic is a magical place where, as it turns out, generations of Toby's family have gone to let their imaginations run wild. The magic of the attic is a kind of salve on the pain of feeling unloved.
In the attic, Toby imagines that Rabbit is his best friend, and together they invent a wonderful world, complete with the biggest tree house you've ever seen. While ...