Unlike Disney’s „Bambi“ and the works of Don Bluth, „Watership Down“ makes no effort to soften the brutal side of nature, much less humanity’s wanton disregard for other living beings. („Men have always hated us,“ a rabbit says at one point. „No — they just destroyed the warren because we were in their way,“ another replies.) The animals in the film still posses an element of stylization yet are otherwise realistic in their features, with distinctly inhuman facial expressions and physical builds. At certain points, however, Rosen and his animators forgo realism entirely in favor of abstraction, allowing them the depict the horrors of rabbits being killed by predators or buried alive in their burrows in a way that’s distressing and nightmarish without being overly graphic.
Another thing that sets „Watership Down“ apart from similar animated movies is that it doesn’t fully anthropomorphize its heroes. In its pleasingly stylized prologue, the creation myth imagined by the film’s rabbits is recounted through moving hieroglyphs, yet it never explicitly parallels that of any human religion or mythology. Nor, for that matter, do the rabbits or any other creatures come to see the world in the way a person would when it concerns their grasp of logic, gender, or even the laws of physics. Instead, „Watership Down“ comes closer than probably any other movie to properly imagining what it might be like to actually exist as an animal in our confusing reality.