Beatrix Potter would have disapproved of Peter Rabbit film, biographer says

Film starring the voice of James Corden received mixed reviews from critics, but the author would likely have taken a harsher view

Roisin O'Connor
Saturday 10 March 2018 11:06
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Peter Rabbit Clip - Wet Willy

Beatrix Potter would have disapproved of the recent film adaptation of her book The Tale of Peter Rabbit, according to her biographer.

Matthew Dennison, who wrote the biography Over the Hills and Far Away in 2016, said the beloved children’s author and illustrator had a very clear idea in her head of how her characters were represented in the books, and in merchandise.

“Very early on in her career, she decided to design dolls based on her characters, so that no one else could get it wrong,” he told The Guardian.

“She was not exactly possessive, but she had a very clear idea in her head of how the books should be. They came about through really close, careful work. There was nothing accidental or spontaneous about them. And she was a bit beady – she was tough with her publishers on things like how much white space or text there was. Every single detail she really thought about.”

Dennison added that the film changes the essential character of its eponymous hero, voiced by James Corden: “Peter Rabbit emerges as a bully, and there really isn’t any evidence for that in the story,” he said.

Sony, which adapted Peter Rabbit for the big screen, apologised after it came under fire for a scene which was accused of mocking the sometimes life-threatening conditions of allergy sufferers.

The controversial scene in question sees Peter and his gang of bunny companions attack the nephew of his arch-nemesis Mr McGregor, Tom (Domhnall Gleeson), with blackberries, after discovering he’s highly allergic to them. With one even landing in his mouth, Tom begins to have a severe reaction, before quickly stabbing himself in the leg with an Epipen.

Several groups for allergy sufferers emerged to condemn the scene, prompting #boycottpeterrabbit to start circulating on social media.

American group Kids with Food Allergies Foundation warned parents on Facebook about the film, adding: “Making light of this condition hurts our members because it encourages the public not to take the risk of allergic reactions seriously, and this cavalier attitude may make them act in ways that could put an allergic person in danger.”

Sony Pictures released a statement admitting that it should “not have made light of Mr McGregor being allergic to blackberries” and said it regretted not being more aware and sensitive of the issue.

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