BBC One and Netflix partner to produce watered-down ‘Watership’

What is “Watership Down” if it’s not traumatizing small children? Fans of the vocal stylings of Ben Kingsley and, also, bunnies have reason to rejoice as BBC One and Netflix announced Thursday a four-part computer-generated animated miniseries adapting Richard Adams’ classic adventure novel “Watership Down.” However, some might find elements of the new interpretation less than faithful.

The book, originally published in 1972, told the tense and often violent tale of a rabbit warren and two bunny brothers, Hazel and Fiver, on a mission to relocate themselves and as many of their friends as possible to a safe haven, a home not beset by construction or dogs or other mean rabbits, who are terrifying.

The BBC One/Netflix collaboration will feature four hourlong episodes with the voice work of prominent British actors including Kingsley as General Woundwort, James McAvoy as Hazel, and John Boyega as Bigwig, among others. The Guardian reports that the project will have a budget of nearly $30 million.

The miniseries is being written by Tom Bidwell, best known as the scribe for British teen dramedy “My Mad Fat Diary” and directed by Noam Murrow of “300: Rise Of The Empire,” a pairing that probably makes sense for an adaptation of loving if troubled rabbits who often find themselves snared by the violent nature of life.


The tale was adapted into an animated film in 1978 that fully captured the tone and tenor of the books and was pitched more toward an adult audience, featuring vicious rabbit fights, fields of blood and the gory fate of snared bunnies.

But fans of the original film may be disappointed with comments executive producer of the miniseries Rory Aitken made to The Telegraph about the level of brutality in their interpretation.

“The thing about ‘Watership Down’ is that it’s an epic adventure story,” Aitken said. “It’s grown this reputation for being scarring and horrific and brutal, and actually that’s not what the essence of the story is.”

But really, what is childhood without a horrifying, traumatic film experience? Is cutting around the bloody reality of nature really going to strengthen the next generation of children? Are kids today too soft?


Probably not.

On the bright side, Aitken did announce the miniseries’ intent to strengthen the roles of the female rabbits, an element of Adams’ original novel that often garners criticism. In the original story, the lady rabbits were little more than ditzy breeding stock. Tiny, hopping wombs, if you will. Aitken assured fans however that the miniseries will feature “female characters more prominent and heroic than ever before.”

Executive Producer Josh Varney told the Guardian, “Most people’s frame of reference is the movie from the late ‘70s but the book is a 400-page epic and we have got four hours of TV to really let the story and the characters breathe.”

Yes, but the question is, “Will they bleed?”

“Watership Down” is scheduled to air in 2017. The series will premiere on BBC One in the UK and Netflix worldwide.

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