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The Velveteen Rabbit

Content Caution

The Velveteen Rabbit 2023


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Emily Tsiao

Movie Review

William isn’t happy about moving. He doesn’t want to live in a bigger house or go to a different school or make new friends. He likes things just the way they are.

Unfortunately, it’s not up to William.

Because he’s so shy, he struggles to make new friends or make a good impression on his teachers. And a bigger house doesn’t mean it’s better, just lonelier.

But then, on Christmas morning, he’s given a toy rabbit.

William loves Rabbit and plays with him every day, forgetting to make new friends in his fun.

But what William doesn’t know is that Rabbit loves him too. And more than anything, Rabbit wants to become real so that William will finally have a friend to call his own.

Positive Elements

William is incredibly shy. It makes it difficult for him to make friends, even though he really wants to. However, Rabbit helps fill that void. Despite the fact that the more William plays with him, the more Rabbit gets worn out, Rabbit continues to give of himself. And during a dire moment, Rabbit makes a sacrificial act, putting William’s needs ahead of his own desires.

Rabbit is rewarded for his kindness toward William. But more than anything, both William and Rabbit learn what it means to truly love someone unconditionally. They learn how to be brave. And they learn that saying goodbye to something or someone you love doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Rather, saying goodbye can make way for new beginnings.

William’s family and his nurse, Momo, love him very much. They’re encouraging and supportive, even when they sometimes disagree about what’s best for him.

When Rabbit gets bullied by some of William’s toys, the Wise Horse (a rocking horse) stands up for Rabbit. She later tries to help Rabbit keep out of harm’s way.

Spiritual Elements

We’re told about the magic of make-believe. And it’s very clear that William’s active imagination is what makes all his adventures with Rabbit seem so real.

But when humans aren’t around, toys really do come to life in this story, moving and speaking to one another (and to animals, as well).

However, these toys also understand that they aren’t living, breathing beings, they’re just toys. They all long to become real, which they believe will happen when a child truly loves them.

[Spoiler Warning] Rabbit is later told that the love of a child won’t make him real. Rather, when he acts with unconditional love and kindness, he’ll be made real. A fairy (who sprouts from the ground as a rose after Rabbit sheds a tear) knows that Rabbit has fulfilled this criteria, and she uses her magic to transform him from a toy into a real rabbit.

While playing, William builds a “fairy house” in the hope of luring a fairy to his yard. And he gives a “fairy blessing” (really just a little rhyme asking fairies to come play). William also believes in Father Christmas (which his parents encourage).

William’s family attends church for Christmas. And we hear several Christian Christmas carols.

Sexual Content


Violent Content

During some of William and Rabbit’s make-believe adventures, they’re chased by a sharp-toothed wolf, nearly crushed by a collapsing tunnel and forced to leap over a river of piranhas. (Though, in the real world, there’s no danger present at any time.)

William becomes very ill, and the doctor isn’t sure whether he’ll recover. We hear that William’s uncle nearly died from a similar illness, and that everything he touched while he was sick was burned after. And Rabbit is warned that if William touches him during this time, Rabbit will be burned to stop the illness from spreading.

[Spoiler Warning] Rabbit is deeply frightened and saddened by the prospect of being burned, understanding that it means death.

Crude or Profane Language

There’s no harsh language, but someone does exclaim, “For heaven’s sake!”

Drug and Alcohol Content


Other Negative Elements

Some of William’s toys are mean to Rabbit because they’re jealous of how much William likes him.

William overhears his parents arguing about the fact that he doesn’t have any friends, and this causes him to become quite upset.


The Velveteen Rabbit (or How Toys Become Real) is a beloved children’s book written by Margery Williams.

Now, I never read the book myself when I was growing up. But if it’s anything like this short film from Apple TV+, I probably would have been sobbing.

I was shy like William when I was young, so making friends was hard for me. And I often preferred retreating to my room to play with toys instead.

But what makes this story so wonderful are the lessons children can learn from it—lessons about bravery, friendship and love. And more importantly, we can all learn that saying goodbye doesn’t have to be a bad thing. Sometimes, it just allows us (like it does for William) to say hello to new things instead.

Parents familiar with the story will already know there are some magical elements to look out for. Toys come to life and a fairy makes an appearance. And some of William’s toys can be quite mean to the Velveteen Rabbit.

However, the film’s strong focus on imagination should make these elements navigable (at least for all but the most sensitive youngsters). And the important lessons that William and Rabbit learn certainly make it worth consideration.

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Emily Tsiao

Emily studied film and writing when she was in college. And when she isn’t being way too competitive while playing board games, she enjoys food, sleep, and geeking out with her husband indulging in their “nerdoms,” which is the collective fan cultures of everything they love, such as Star Wars, Star Trek, Stargate and Lord of the Rings.