In March of last year, BBC announced that it was developing it’s own take on Watership Down, Richard Adams’ classic children’s novel and the basis for the infamous 1978 film adaptation. Not much else was divulged then, other than that this adaptation was to be CG-animated and produced in the form of a four-part event miniseries. It would also not shy away from the book’s dark subject matter, a brave decision given some of the controversy that followed the original film’s violent sequences. But then, perhaps, that may be why BBC is going a different route.
A press release, broken by Deadline and Variety, revealed that BBC’s Watership Down adaptation was headed to Netflix, where the show will make its worldwide debut sometime in 2017 (it will air on BBC One in the UK, as originally planned).
In an impressive bid to ensure a modern adaption that does the book justice, BBC recruited some top talents to make it all happen. The TV adaptation will be directed by Noam Murro (300: Rise of an Empire) and co-directed by Pete Dodd (Fantastic Mr. Fox), with Tom Bidwell (My Mad Fat Diary) writing the series.
An equally A-list lineup of British actors will be getting behind the microphone as well. James McAvoy, who will be seen for the third time as Professor Xavier in X-Men Apocalypse, leads the cast as the voice of Hazel. Joining him in the recording booth is McAvoy’s fellow X-Men co-star Nicholas Hoult as Fiver. Ben Kingsley, fresh off his turn as Bagheera in Disney’s live-action The Jungle Book adaptation, joins the cast as General Woundwort. John Boyega, an up-and-coming actor propelled to stardom thanks to Star Wars: The Force Awakens, will tackle the role of Bigwig. Finally, Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters) rounds out the main cast as Clover.
Rounding out the secondary cast is Miles Jupp (Blackberry), Freddie Fox (Captain Holly), Olivia Colman (Strawberry), and Anne-Marie Duff as Hyzenthlay.
The show is being produced as a co-production between BBC One and Netflix. Murro will produce under his Biscuit Films banner, along with UK film company 42. ITV Studios Global Entertainment will distribute the series internationally under its first-look deal with 42.
Pete Dodd and producer Hugo Sands will lead the show’s CG animation team, who will work alongside Dublin-based Brown Bag Films.
“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,” said Matthew Read, BBC Drama Commissioning Editor. “It is fantastic to have the opportunity to bring a modern classic to a mainstream BBC One audience with such an incredible roster of actors alongside the talented team overseeing the animation. This fantastic take on the novel will unite the whole family, and bring this classic story to a new generation.”
“Adapting this much-loved novel in a fresh and innovative way is a truly exciting opportunity,” added 42 co-founder and exec producer Rory Aitken. “Telling the story over four hours of CG animation allows us to explore the characters from the novel and their adventure in a way not previously achievable on screen.”
Larry Tanz, VP of global television for Netflix and the show’s executive producer, had this to say: “We jumped at the chance to get in early and work alongside the BBC and 42 to bring this classic English tale to our members around the world. This novel presentation of Adams’ work pairs great talent with beautiful animation and will delight existing fans and capture a whole new audience for this timeless story.”
(Image courtesy of 42)
What do you think? Are you looking forward to BBC One/Netflix’s retelling of Watership Down?
Edited by: Hannah Wilkes