Still rabbiting on: The enduring appeal of Peter Rabbit – Beatrix …

Posted by Big Rat on Campus on Jan 23, 2018 in Rat News | Subscribe

He was a superstar on both sides of the Atlantic before Mickey Mouse and has been delighting children for a hundred years.

Now at last, Peter Rabbit will take the lead in a full-length film adventure.

The character born in Victorian author Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit is hopping on to the big screen in March.

And he has been given a modern twist voiced by James Corden.

James Corden voices the cheeky hero, Peter Rabbit
(Image: Getty)

A trailer for Peter Rabbit shows the cheeky hero throwing a wild party for his woodland pals in the home of the man who wants to do him in – Mr McGregor.

Fans may be divided about the new film but what is beyond doubt is the worldwide popularity of the bunny in the blue coat with brass buttons.

The popular character is set to make his film debut in March
(Image: Sony Pictures)

In the simple and wonderful story, young Peter defies his widowed mother’s warnings about raiding Mr McGregor’s vegetable garden, even though his father ended up in one of Mrs McGregor’s pies.

His sisters Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail obey their mum but Peter can’t resist the tasty lettuces, French beans and radishes and narrowly escapes the pot.

He runs off home and, feeling poorly after his escapades, is given camomile tea by Mrs Rabbit and put to bed.

James Corden leads a stellar cast including Margot Robbie, Matt Lucas, Elizabeth Debicki and Daisy Ridley
(Image: Sony Pictures)

The film, a mixture of live action and animation, also stars Little Britain’s Matt Lucas, 43, as the voice of Benjamin Bunny.

Peter’s sisters are voiced by The Night Manager star Elizabeth Debicki, The Wolf of Wall Street’s Margot Robbie, both 27, and Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley, 25.

Comedian Matt Lucas voices Benjamin Bunny
(Image: Getty)

Writer Beatrix Potter was born in 1866 to wealthy parents and was interested in animals from an early age. She had pet rats, rabbits and hedgehogs.

Potter created Peter in 1893 in an ­illustrated letter to her former governess’s five-year-old son.

She was inspired by her childhood pet rabbits Benjamin Bouncer and Peter Piper.

The Wolf of Wall Street’s Margot Robbie plays Peter’s sister Flopsy
(Image: Getty)

Potter walked her rabbits on a lead and said her “affectionate companion” Peter, a Belgian buck rabbit, was “very naughty” and would “lie before the fire on the hearth rug like a cat.”

She said: “He was clever at learning tricks, he used to jump through a hoop, and ring a bell, and play the tambourine.”

Benjamin inspired a story about Peter’s cousin, Benjamin Bunny.

Star Wars’ Daisy Ridley plays Cottontail
(Image: Getty)

In her journal, Potter said she fed him hemp seeds after selling sketches of him, making him “intoxicated”. He also got toothache after her father gave him sweets.

A walled garden at The Lingholm Estate on Derwent Water in the Lake District is thought have become the fictional kitchen garden where Peter eats the forbidden veg. Potter spent summers there and would ­observe and sketch wildlife for hours.One drawing, which illustrated a letter, was of a red squirrel named Nutkin, later becoming The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.

The Night Manager star Elizabeth Debicki plays Mopsy
(Image: PA)

By 1901, eight years after Potter first wrote about Peter, she began talking to family friend and clergyman Hardwicke Rawnsley about publishing an illustrated children’s book. She failed to find a ­publisher so brought out 250 copies herself which she mostly gave away. But with Hardwicke’s continued ­encouragement, she secured a deal – with Frederick Warne.

Potter died in December 1943, aged 77, after a bout of bronchitis. Her husband William Heelis died two years later.

They left 4,000 acres to the National Trust with the provision that the breed of sheep they encouraged, herdwicks, must always be allowed to graze.

Potter’s lead shepherd Tom Storey ­scattered her ashes there in secret.

He said: “I’ve never told anybody where the place is. She wasn’t daft. She knew folks would go and look at the place if they knew.”

A watercolour by Beatrix Potter who was inspired by her childhood pet rabbits Benjamin Bouncer and Peter Piper
(Image: PA)

Peter Rabbit lives on through the stories, ­merchandise, TV ­adaptations and as the star of a top tourist attraction in Bowness-on-Windermere in the Lake District.

The books have been ­translated into 35 languages. If the film is a hit, expect another mega franchise linked to the name Potter.

Peter Rabbit is released in cinemas on March 16.

Loves lost and found

When The Tale of Peter Rabbit was published in 1902, Beatrix Potter was still waiting for the right person to marry.

Romance blossomed when she began exchanging letters with her book editor Norman Warne.

In the next ten years she wrote and published books including The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin, The Tale of Mrs Tiggy-Winkle and The Tale of Jemima Puddle-duck.

Beatrix Potter first created Peter Rabbit in 1893 in a letter to her former governess’s son
(Image: Getty)

Potter was 39 when Warne proposed, upsetting her class-obsessed parents, who disapproved of him because of his “lower status”.

She needed their permission to accept. Then she kept their engagement quiet.

Her biographer Margaret Lane wrote: “Only her intense reserve concealed from everyone, even from her watchful parents, the depth of feeling which the relationship had stirred.” Tragically, just five weeks later, Warne died of leukaemia.

Grieving Potter moved into 17th century Hill Top in her beloved Lake District, from where she continued to write illustrated children’s books. Her wealth allowed her to invest in more property in the Lake District, including working farms.

She hired shepherds for her flocks of herdwick sheep, becoming an expert breeder and helping to save them from extinction. In 1913, aged 47, she wed lawyer William Heelis and stayed happily married until her death 30 years later.

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