If you live outside of Europe, there's a good chance you never watched The Animals of Farthing Wood. For the sake of your childhood, that's probably a good thing. Produced by the European Broadcasting Union and based on a book series, Farthing Wood resembles plenty of other unremarkable early 90s cartoons. The substantial difference being that this cartoon was unafraid to show its characters being tortured, eaten and otherwise murdered at the hand of both man and nature.
Plenty of kids shows and movies have "that one moment" that's burned into your memory forever. That poor toon shoe slowly disintegrating into The Dip during Who Framed Roger Rabbit undoubtedly left a mental scar on young witnesses; but it's especially memorable because the rest of the movie isn't nearly that bleak. Same goes with Bambi. The joyful meet-cute with the butterfly made the death of Bambi's mother all the more shocking.
But Farthing Wood doesn't bother coddling viewers. It gets right down to the dirty work.
Over 39 episodes, the cute and cuddly critters of Farthing Wood are killed in a variety of different ways. Some are relatively expected and tame. Above you can see a man pointing a shotgun at a doomed bird. Though seeing its horrified face is unpleasant at best, we are spared by a classic cutaway that switches the scenery just before the shot rings out. Not unlike the aforementioned incident with Bambi's mother. Upsetting, but tolerable.
Then there's moments like this.
You could argue this happens in nature all the time. Foxes, with or without a natural mohawks, have mangled innocent bunnies since time immemorial. But this is a show for children. That bunny talks. It had a life, a personality, a past. And if this scene is anything to go by, that bunny also had a friend who burst into tears at seeing the life torn out of his companion. So yes, in a way this is teaching kids about real animals -- but it's also implicitly telling viewers that people you love can and will be ripped away from you at a moment's notice.
And hey, at least it's not like we saw any blood or anything. They don't show gore in kids cartoons.
Holy shit! The camera at least had the decency to cut away before the bullet found that bird, but what we have here is a clean headshot on an escaping deer. Blood spatter and all. In plain sight. On a show aimed at kids.
That's not even the most graphic thing the show depicts, either.
What looks like a clip out of Hellraiser is in reality yet another depraved scene from The Animals of Farthing Wood. What in the holy hell is happening here? Well, it's exactly what it looks like. Several dead mice are impaled all over this prickly bush, their blood staining the plant, while a hungry bird looks on. The latest slaughter float on this nightmare parade is again based on a real thing that happens in nature; a bird called a shrike does in fact skewer its victims on pointy branches to gorge on later. You know what though? A lot of fucked up things happen in nature. The pitcher plant can lure in mice, drown them in special fluids and dissolve their bodies for consumption -- but that doesn't mean you have to show it in between commercials for Polly Pocket.
Farthing Wood has plenty of similarly grisly moments, but the most traumatic by far happens on the freeway.
Yes, those are hedghogs trying to cross the road, and as you've probably already figured out, they're not going to make it. We've already seen the demise of multiple rodents at this point, but the execution of this execution will wreck you for the rest of the day. All without one drop of blood.
See, the main premise for the first season of the show is the titular Animals of Farthing Wood migrating to White Deer Park. The aforementioned freeway is one of the most perilous obstacles on their journey, though most of the animals make it across without incident. Among the last to make the crossing, Mrs. Hedgehog notes how difficult it is to fight her base animal instincts to freeze up, even though the cars are barreling towards them. That's when she sees her husband, Mr. Hedgehog, catatonic in the center of the road.
Mr. Hedgehog can't help it. He's paralyzed, trapped by his own faulty instincts in the middle of a busy freeway. Even though he can't move his body, Mr. Hedgehog calls out to Mrs. Hedgehog, pleading with her to go on, telling her that she must fight the classic hedgehog urge to curl up in the face of danger.
Mrs. Hedgehog can't bring herself to leave Mr. Hedgehog alone on the asphalt. In the end, they both curled up.
There are many other heartbreaking moments on the show, from a badger expiring of old age to a fox dying before his time, but this one hits home the hardest. Mrs. Hedgehog made the choice to help her mate during a crisis, but at the cost her own life. It's hard to think about what any of us would do in a similar situation. I guess it's a good thing we don't live in a cartoon.
Tristan Cooper is going to go curl up and die on Twitter.