Watership Down rabbits get 3D makeover in first images from the BBC’s ambitious Christmas animation

The heart-wrenching children's story has been updated by the BBC and Netflix with a cast including James McAvoy, John Boyega and Olivia Colman

Watership Down

Watership Down will bounce back on to screens this Christmas with an A-List cast including Olivia Colman, James McAvoy and John Boyega – and now we have our first look at how all our favourite rabbits have been transformed for the new BBC and Netflix mini-series.

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This adaptation of Watership Down has been in the works for at least four years, and is set to take us back into the world of Richard Adams’ children’s adventure novel – with a lot more CGI animation than the original 1978 movie.

Watership Down - coming to BBC One this Christmas

Written by Tom Bidwell, it follows the tale (or tail) of a small group of rabbits as they escape the destruction of their warren and the intrusion of mankind, seeking a safe place in order to build their new home. Along the way they go through harrowing trials and experience the dangers of temptation.

The new images feature our protagonist Hazel, voiced by James McAvoy, alongside his little brother Fiver (Nicholas Hoult) whose prophetic visions ensure the bunnies’ escape from certain destruction.

Fiver (Nicholas Hoult) and Hazel (James McAvoy) ask Bigwig (John Boyega) if he can speak to The Threarah in Watership Down
Fiver (Nicholas Hoult) and Hazel (James McAvoy) in Watership Down (BBC)

Then there’s Bigwig (John Boyega) with a tuft of hair on his head, and Clover and Strawberry. In the new series these are voiced by Gemma Arterton and Olivia Colman, although Strawberry was actually originally a male rabbit in the book.

Strawberry (voiced by Olivia Colman) in Watership Down
Strawberry (voiced by Olivia Colman) in Watership Down (BBC)

Newly-announced members of this star-studded cast include Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya (as Bluebell) and Rosamund Pike (as The Black Rabbit Of Inlé).

Doctor Who actor Peter Capaldi will take to the skies as the seagull Kehaar, a black-headed gull who befriends the rabbits.

Then there’s Kingsman star Taron Egerton as El-Ahrairah, Mackenzie Crook as Hawkbit, Humans actress Gemma Chan as Dewdrop, and The Crown’s Jason Watkins as Captain Orchis.

Sergeant Sanfoin (Craig Parkinson), Captain Campion (Lee Ingleby), Hyzenthlay (Anne-Marie Duff), Nettle (Charlotte Spencer) and Bigwig (John Boyega)
Sergeant Sanfoin, Captain Campion, Hyzenthlay, Nettle and Bigwig in Watership Down (BBC)

Rory Kinnear will play Cowslip, Craig Parkinson will play the fierce Sergeant Sainfoin, Henry Goodman joins as Blackavar, and Tom Wilkinson plays Threarah.

Innocent’s Lee Ingleby is Captain Campion, Charlotte Spencer is Nettle, and Daniel Rigby steps up as Dandelion.

Already announced are Sir Ben Kingsley as the rabbits’ main antagonist General Woundwort, Freddie Fox as Captain Holly, Anne-Marie Duff as Hyzenthlay, and Miles Jupp as Blackberry.

Clover (voiced by Gemma Arterton) in Watership Down
Clover (voiced by Gemma Arterton) in Watership Down (BBC)

Alongside the first-look images, the BBC as also revealed that Stay With Me singer Sam Smith has created an original song called Fire On Fire which was inspired by Richard Adams’ classic 1972 novel.

It will serve as the theme for the two-part festive series, and was recorded with the BBC Concert Orchestra at London’s Abbey Road Studios.

Ben Irving, Executive Producer for BBC1, said: “It’s a real testament to the calibre of this adaptation of Watership Down that it has attracted such an exciting roll call of names to bring these much loved characters to life.

“Now – in Sam Smith – we have one of the world’s most successful recording artists, with the perfect new song to serve as the series’ theme. BBC1 viewers are in for a treat this Christmas.”

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Watership Down will air on BB1 this Christmas, and on Netflix outside the UK


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