Watership Down (2018 TV series)

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Watership Down
Title screen for the first episode
Adult animation
Based onWatership Down
by Richard Adams
Written byTom Bidwell
Directed byNoam Murro
Music byFederico Jusid
Opening theme"Fire on Fire" (written and performed by Sam Smith)
Ending theme"Fire on Fire" (written and performed by Sam Smith)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
United States
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes4
Executive producers
  • Rory Aitken
  • Eleanor Moran
  • Ben Pugh
  • Josh Varney
  • Georgia Dussaud
  • Cecil Kramer
EditorAndrew Walton
Running time50–51 minutes
Production companies42
Biscuit Filmworks
DistributorITV Studios Global Entertainment (International)
Budget£20 million
Original networkBBC One (United Kingdom)
Netflix (international)
Picture format2:1 1080i
Audio formatStereo
Original release22 December (2018-12-22) –
23 December 2018 (2018-12-23)

Watership Down is an adult CGI-animated adventure fantasy drama directed by Noam Murro. It is based on the 1972 novel of the same name by Richard Adams and adapted by Tom Bidwell.[1] It was released on 22 December 2018 in the United Kingdom and internationally on Netflix the next day.[2][3] The BBC broadcast comprised two back-to-back episodes per day.

The music video for "Fire on Fire" (from Watership Down) by Sam Smith was released on 21 December 2018.[2]

Voice cast[edit]


In July 2014, it was announced that BBC would be airing a new animated serial of Watership Down based on the 1972 novel and the 1978 film.[4] In April 2016, it was announced that the series would be a co-production between BBC and Netflix, and would consist of four one hour episodes.[5] The series has a budget of £20 million.[6] The rest of the voice cast was announced in November 2018.[7]


Originally set for release on 25 December 2018,[8] Watership Down was released on 22 December 2018, on BBC One in the UK and on 23 December 2018 on Netflix, internationally.[9][3][2]


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release dateUK viewers
(millions) [10]
1"The Journey"Noam MurroTom Bidwell22 December 2018 (2018-12-22)4.64
According to Richard Adams's Lapine mythology, the world was created long ago by a god called Frith, who represents the sun. When the rabbits begin multiplying out of control, Frith creates predators in order to hunt them down. However, he bestows great talents upon the rabbits, led by a prince named El-ahrairah (the "Prince with a Thousand Enemies"), to ensure their survival with a parting advice to him. In the present day, in a Sandleford Warren in Hampshire, England, a rabbit named Hazel wakes his younger brother Fiver from a vision, where he sees machines coming to destroy the warren. Hazel warns their chief rabbit, who dismisses him. The brothers convince some rabbits to leave the warren with them, but they are overrun by soldiers, led by captain Holly, who consider them mutinous. Bigwig, a large and strong rabbit, helps them escape. In the forest, the group is chased by a party ordered to hunt them down, only escaping by crossing a river. A strange rabbit named Cowslip visits the group, offering to let them spend the night in his warren. Although it is full of well-fed rabbits, morale and numbers are strangely low. Sensing that the warren is plagued by death, Fiver convinces Hazel to leave, causing Bigwig to shun them both. Moments later, he is caught by a snare and starts to suffocate. When Fiver asks for help, Cowslip reveals that those snared are given to a farmer in exchange for protection. The rabbits free Bigwig before leaving, with a doe named Strawberry joining them. Soon after settling on Watership Down, an injured Holly arrives and confirms Fiver's vision. The audience is then introduced to Efrafa, an abandoned coal mine near the down led by General Woundwort, a massive, scarred rabbit.
2"The Raid"Noam MurroTom Bidwell22 December 2018 (2018-12-22)4.64
The next morning, Holly recounts his travels to find the group; after surviving the destruction of Sandleford at the hands of humans, he traveled across the country looking for the group before coming across an injured rabbit who warns Holly about a warren named "Efrafa". Knowing that there will be fighting between the bucks over the one doe they have, Bigwig suggests raiding a nearby farm to recruit the does there, but Hazel disagrees. A seagull with an injured wing suddenly crashes in front of the group, and Hazel insists on befriending the bird in order to ask him to look for does. Hazel goes with Fiver and Bigwig to raid the farm. They attempt to free a doe named Clover and her friends, but they retreat after being attacked by the farm cat. Kehaar the gull flies off, returning and informing the rabbits of a nearby warren. Holly, Blackberry, and Bluebell head for the warren. However, they are stopped by Efrafan soldiers and brought before General Woundwort, where their request for does is denied and they are imprisoned. The following night, Holly's group makes a break for it. Simultaneously, Hazel goes alone back to the farm, but finds that the cage has been moved inside the farm. He sneaks through the farmhouse and finds the does, freeing them. When the cat attacks them, Bigwig and Fiver come to the rescue, but they are chased throughout the house while the farmers are alerted. While attempting to save Clover, Hazel is shot in the leg by the farmer and collapses into a storm drain. In a state of limbo, Hazel is visited by the Black Rabbit of Inlé, the Lapine grim reaper, and she assures him his time has not yet come.
3"The Escape"Noam MurroTom Bidwell23 December 2018 (2018-12-23)5.65
Entering a vision in his dreams, Fiver realizes that Hazel is alive. As the rabbits bicker over how to go back for Hazel, Clover sneak offs and finds Hazel in the drainage ditch. She leaves Hazel to seek help but is captured by Efrafan soldiers and taken to Efrafa. Bigwig finds Hazel and helps him return to Watership Down, where Kehaar plucks out the shotgun pellets in Hazel's leg with his beak. A plan is hatched to infiltrate Efrafa and save Clover and the imprisoned does at Efrafa, with Bigwig chosen to infiltrate the warren and act as an Efrafan guard while Kehaar provides air support for the rabbits to cover for the escape. At Efrafa, Clover is inducted into the ranks of the does. She is called to General Woundwort's quarters, where she is offered the role of the queen. Bigwig arrives at Efrafa pretending to be a wandering rabbit and is inducted into their ranks as a soldier. Bigwig finds Clover and tells her of their plans to escape. After earning the trust of Hyzenthlay, the leader of the Efrafan does, Bigwig attempts an escape from the warren alongside them, but they are caught while waiting for Kehaar, who never shows up. Hyzenthlay is accused of the escape plan and sentenced to execution. Bigwig is ordered to act as executioner in order to prove his loyalty to Efrafa. He declines, fighting off the soldiers and helping the does escape from Efrafa. They reunite with Hazel's group but are surrounded by Efrafan soldiers. Woundwort walks forward, challenging Bigwig to a battle to the death.
4"The Siege"Noam MurroTom Bidwell23 December 2018 (2018-12-23)6.78
A flashback revealing the origins of General Woundwort opens the episode. In the present, Woundwort faces Bigwig and the Watership Down rabbits escaping from Efrafa, shortly before Kehaar comes to the rescue and fights off the Efrafans. Hazel and the group escape and hide in a nearby human village. The next morning, the rabbits thank Kehaar for his bravery, who counts the debt paid from his recovery before flying off, promising to return in future. The rabbits then return to Watership Down, although their victory is short-lived after coming across an Efrafa scouting party sometime later. Watership Down prepares to fight Woundwort and his Efrafan army. The warren is stormed, and many are wounded, with Holly getting killed. After Fiver has another vision, he and Hazel head to the farm, where they decide to free the farm dog and lead it back to the warren while Bigwig fights Woundwort. Arriving at the farm, Fiver frees the dog but is captured by the farm cat. Hazel reluctantly abandons his brother and lures the dog back to the warren, where it faces off with Woundwort. Both animals lunge for each other, although Woundwort's fate is left unknown. The farmer's daughter returns Fiver to the wild, allowing him to come home. This event convinces Hazel of the humans' capacity for good. Years pass and the warren is prospering, with families made among the rabbits and Kehaar visiting his friends. One evening, an elderly Hazel enjoys silence by a creek. An older Fiver, sensing that Hazel will soon die, says goodbye to his brother. Hazel is then visited by the Black Rabbit of Inlé, who invites him to join her Owsla, assuring him of Watership Down's perpetual safety. Hazel accepts being reassured and passes away peacefully. Outside the warren, Bluebell tells the members of the warren Hazel's story. Fiver listens to the story while looking up at the sky, where there’s a rabbit-shaped cloud floating, symbolizing that Hazel's spirit will be running forever, ending the episode.


Watership Down received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for the narrative, performances of its voice cast and soundtrack, but receiving some criticism for its somewhat tamer tone and the quality of the computer animation, described as "soulless"[11] and "clunky".[12] On Rotten Tomatoes, the drama has an approval rating of 77% based on reviews from 22 critics, with its critical consensus reading "Though its animation leaves something to be desired, Watership Down is a faithful adaptation that will resonate with viewers of any age."[13] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100 based on five critics, indicating "generally favourable reviews".[14]

The Guardian and The Independent both gave it two stars out of five, calling the production "tame, drab and deeply unsatisfying."[15] and "spectacularly ho-hum – less tooth and claw than head shake."[16]

The Times was more positive, giving it three stars out of five, writing "this was a meaty, lovingly made production that, spread over two days, felt far too long,"[17] while The New York Times noted that though the adaptation "fails its potential, it benefits from strong voice performances and a solid central story. Even this easy-listening version, which lays on the romance, jokes and limp dialogue, has moments of grandeur and the sweep of a fantasy epic."[18] Despite the negative reviews, it got four stars from the Daily Telegraph, they said that it had an "emotional bite".

The drama won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program. It also got nominated for a Daytime creative arts Emmy awards for outstanding directing, sound editing, sound mixing, graphic design and music direction.[19]


  1. ^ Jafaar, Ali (27 April 2016). "'Watership Down': BBC & Netflix Team On Miniseries With James McAvoy, Nic Hoult And John Boyega". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Sam Smith – Fire On Fire". YouTube. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Watership Down". Netflix Media Center. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  4. ^ "Watership Down to be adapted on TV". Digital Spy. 10 July 2014. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  5. ^ Ritman, Alex (27 April 2016). "Netflix Bags Global Rights for 'Watership Down' Adaptation With John Boyega, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  6. ^ Plunkett, John (27 April 2016). "BBC and Netflix team up for new Watership Down production" – via www.theguardian.com.
  7. ^ White, Peter (1 November 2018). "'Watership Down': Rosamund Pike, Peter Capaldi, Gemma Chan & Taron Egerton Join Cast As First Images Revealed". Deadline. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  8. ^ Travers, Ben (28 December 2017). "The 18 Netflix Original Series to Be Excited About in 2018". IndieWire. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  9. ^ Trumbore, Dave (4 December 2018). "First Trailer for New 'Watership Down' Series Is a Nightmare in All the Wrong Ways". Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  10. ^ "Four-screen dashboard". BARB.
  11. ^ "Watership Down revival slammed as "tame" and "confusing" by critics – but the all-star voice cast gets glowing reviews". Radio Times. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  12. ^ Prudom, Laura. "WATERSHIP DOWN REVIEW". IGN. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  13. ^ "Watership Down: Minseries". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  14. ^ "Watership Down (2018)". Metacritic. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  15. ^ Mangan, Lucy (23 December 2018). "Watership Down review – CGI rabbits can't save this Christmas turkey". Retrieved 12 February 2019 – via www.theguardian.com.
  16. ^ "The BBC's Watership Down reboot simply isn't scary enough". The Independent. 10 December 2018. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  17. ^ Midgley, Carol (24 December 2018). "TV review: Watership Down; King Gary". Retrieved 12 February 2019 – via www.thetimes.co.uk.
  18. ^ Poniewozik, James (20 December 2018). "Review: A Watered-Down 'Watership Down' on Netflix". Retrieved 12 February 2019 – via NYTimes.com.
  19. ^ "Daytime Emmy winners 2019: Full list of Creative Arts winners on Friday night". GoldDerby. 3 May 2019. Retrieved 5 May 2019.

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