The BBC and Netflix are teaming up to co-produce a new series based on Watership Down.
Richard Adams’ bestselling story, set in the idyllic rural landscape of southern England, is a tale of adventure, courage and survival – and, if you ever saw the previous feature film based on the book, a harrowing traumatic experience that scarred your childhood forever. It follows a band of rabbits on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, towards a promised land and a more perfect society.
The new animated mini-series, produced and developed by 42 and Noam Murro’s company Biscuit Films, promises to bring an “innovative interpretation” to the novel and will be split into four parts. The show will premiere on BBC One in the UK and on Netflix outside of the UK.
Written by My Mad Fat Diary’s Tom Bidwell and directed by 300: Rise Of The Empire’s Noam Murro, the cast is as star-studded as it gets, with James McAvoy voicing Hazel, Nicholas Hoult voicing Fiver, Sir Ben Kingsley voicing General Woundwort, John Boyega voicing Bigwig, Gemma Arterton voicing Clover, Miles Jupp voicing Blackberry, and Olivia Colman voicing Strawberry.
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 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.”
Larry Tanz, Vice President Global Television, Netflix and Executive Producer, adds: “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.”
The drama is created in CG by the animation team, led by Pete Dodd (Fantastic Mr Fox, Frankenweenie) and Hugo Sands; along with the animation studio Brown Bag Films, based in Dublin.
The partnership between the BBC and Netflix continues a growing trend for both organisations; the BBC recently co-produced its adaptation of The Night Manager with AMC, while Netflix is increasingly seeking to co-finance productions to build its library of content it can release worldwide to all of its subscribers without worrying about negotiating territorial rights. “I wish we had done the deal with The Night Manager,” Netflix’s Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, told RadioTimes.