If you’re a ’90s baby or earlier, then The Runaway Bunny was likely one of the most formative books of your early childhood. The 1942 picture book was written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Clement Hurd, the duo behind the other major children’s bestseller, Goodnight Moon. You may have forgotten elements of the plot since then, but the iconic pictures are probably etched in your mind, just waiting to be unearthed. Whether you have kids yourself now, or are just feeling nostalgic after moving out of your parents’ house (again), the HBO Max adaptation of The Runaway Bunny should be a part of your nighttime routine.
Narrated by Tracee Ellis Ross, the animated special is a faithful adaptation of the book. It alternates between black and white scenes and the bunny’s colorful daydreams. “If you become a bird and fly away from me, I will be a tree that you come home to,” the bunny’s mother says. Perhaps the most ingenious addition to the HBO Max original is the music, which features popular, yet timely tracks like Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby” and a cover of Bob Dylan’s “Make You Feel My Love,” woven into each dream sequence. With a runtime of about 25 minutes, the short film is nearly as affecting, concise, and ideal for bedtime as the original book.
The success of this adaptation begs the question: Is this the beginning of a shift from paper bedtime stories, to short animated films? Let’s hope not, since there’s nothing like turning the shiny pages of a physical picture book. Nonetheless, this short film adaptation of the bestselling book offers a completely different experience for children, and their parents. For one, The Runaway Bunny has its own comforting narrator, allowing parents to have a more hands-free bedtime ritual. Even better, the music and soothing animations make for a dynamic and creative alternative to the traditional hardcopy.
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