Right on time for Christmas, BBC1 and Netflix have teamed up to adapt Richard Adams’ classic novel Watership Down, which tells the story of a group of rabbits fleeing human violence and the impending destruction of their home.
Here’s everything you need to about the show and its starry cast, including James McAvoy, John Boyega, Nicholas Hoult and Olivia Colman.
- Watership Down author Richard Adams dies aged 96
- Watership Down remake in development at the BBC
- Why would you put another generation through the trauma of Watership Down?
When is Watership Down on TV?
Watership Down will air as two feature-length (1 hour 40 minute) episodes on BBC1 on Saturday 22 December at 7pm and Sunday 23 December at 7.20pm.
The series will air on BBC1 in the UK, and be released on Netflix for international viewers.
What is Watership Down about?
Watership Down is set in rural England and tells the story of a group of rabbits that escape their warren after Fiver (Nicholas Hoult), a seer, is haunted by visions foreseeing their home’s destruction.
The group, led by Fiver’s brother, Hazel (James McAvoy), sets out on a treacherous journey towards a promised refuge: Watership Down.
Watch the trailer for Watership Down below.
Matthew Read, BBC Drama Commissioning Editor, says, “Before there was Harry Potter there was Watership Down; Richard Adams’ novel is one of the most successful books of all time and one of the biggest selling books in history.
“It is fantastic to have the opportunity to bring a modern classic to a mainstream BBC1 audience with such an incredible roster of actors alongside the talented team overseeing the animation.”
Who is in the cast of Watership Down?
The new adaptation boasts a seriously starry voice cast for the CGI animated rabbits.
In addition to X-Men’s Nicholas Hoult and James McAvoy as Fiver and Hazel, the cast includes: Ben Kingsley (Shutter Island, Iron Man 3) as General Woundwort, John Boyega (Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens, Attack The Block) as Bigwig, and Gemma Arterton (Made In Dagenham) as Clover.
It also includes Miles Jupp (Rev, The Thick Of It) as Blackberry, Freddie Fox (Pride) as Captain Holly, Olivia Colman (The Night Manager, The Lobster) as Strawberry, and Anne-Marie Duff (Suffragette) as Hyzenthlay.
Former Doctor Who star Peter Capaldi has also been confirmed for the new Watership Down animation.
He joins a number of new additions including Get Out’s Daniel Kaluuya, Rosamund Pike, Taron Egerton, Mackenzie Crook, Gemma Chan and Jason Watkins.
Check out some photos of the cast recording their vocals for the adaptation below.
Will this series be as scary as the film?
The 1978 film, starring John Hurt, is notorious for its haunting scenes of graphic violence, which sees beloved bunny characters mercilessly killed-off — traumatising a generation of children in the process.
However, the BBC1 series’ executive producer told The Telegraph, this adaptation “will not just tone down the levels of on-screen violence to make it more appropriate for children, but give a boost to its female characters.”
Olivia Colman’s character, Strawberry, was originally a buck, or male rabbit, in Adams’ original novel.
Where is Watership Down set? Is it a real place?
Richard Adams actually set his story in a real-life location close to the area where he grew up as a child. Located in the north of Hampshire near Newbury, Watership Down rises fairly steeply on its northern flank, but slopes gently to the south, and may or may not be home to a warren of rabbits.
The actual geography and appearance of the real Watership Down has been re-created as closely as possible using VFX, with the help of drones to map and photograph the area – as well as frequent visits by the production team.
Director Noam Murro explained at a BFI screening in London, “It was very important to me, and I think for everybody, to make sure that the British countryside is represented properly, because this is part of the heart of what this is all about. So from the way it looks, to the plants, and whatever lives there, it had to be authentic.”
Adams’ daughter Juliet was also involved in making sure the production got things spot-on, sending over photographs of the countryside from her childhood.