As if reviving television shows and movies from our childhoods wasn’t enough, it seems as though our school-assigned readings are bobbing to the surface of the Netflix-remake world.
In a rare-combination collaboration, Netflix and the BBC are joining forces to create an epic four-part miniseries based on the novel Watership Down, Deadline reports. The series, which will bear the same name as its inspiration, is financed and backed by the creative teams at the British production house, 42, and will feature animation rather than live-action—before fans of the modern Jungle Bookremake get too excited.
Though somewhat forgotten by current culture, Watership Down—written by English author Richard Adams in 1972—was a classic favorite among children, especially those hailing from across the pond.
The book is about a group of rabbits who abandon their home warren when one rabbit, a runt named Fiver, has epileptic and violent visions of humans developing the land, thereby killing every single animal. Fiver convinces his friend, Hazel, to join him on his flee for his life, and the two then persuade several others to join them before the massacre begins to seek out a better life. Watership Down is chock full of adventure, political strife and commentary, as well as heroic battles. While not the tamest novel for children, it sold millions upon millions of copies all around the globe.
“Before Harry Potter, there was Watership Down,” said BBC Drama Commissioning Editor Matthew Read. “…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.”
Though the series itself is still in early days, several banner actors and actresses have already been brought on to voice some of Watership Down’s beasts. Star Wars: The Force Awakens’s lead John Boyega has been tapped and signed, as well as Gemma Arterton, Nicholas Hoult, Ben Kingsley, and James McAvoy.
Taking the lead behind the animation is Fantastic Mr. Fox’s Pete Dodd, Hugo Sands, and Irish animation studio Brown Bag Films, which brought to life
Tom Bidwell, who crafted the words for the award-winning series My Mad, Fat Diary, will write the script for the entirety of the four-part miniseries. Noam Murro, who directed 300: Rise of an Empire, will serve as director. Aitken, Eleanor Moran, Ben Pugh, and Josh Varney will act as executive producers through 42, and Murro and Read as well for Biscuit Films and BBC respectively.
“Adapting this much-loved novel in a fresh and innovative way is a truly exciting opportunity,” says Aitken, who also founded 42. “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.”
What Aitken refers to is the original movie adaptation of Watership Down, released in 1978 and starring John Hurt and Richard Briers. The film was also animation, though hand-drawn, and most notably, the movie called upon Art Garfunkel of Simon and Garfunkel to create a song to backdrop a frankly psychedelic scene later in the movie. “Bright Eyes” skyrocketed to No. 1 on the British charts because of it.
The Watership Down miniseries will air on BBC One for all viewers in the UK and on Netflix for everyone else. An actual air-date is yet to be determined.