Richard Adams’ beloved novel — and the infamously traumatising 1978 animated adaptation — about a group of rabbits in search of a new home is getting an all-star re-imagining from Netflix and the BBC. In? Better roles for female characters. Out? Apparently, some of the novel’s shocking moments of brutality.
The BBC has been circling a new adaptation of the 1972 novel since 2014, but this week’s announcement of a partnership with Netflix will see the four-part CGI series hit the streaming service and UK television simultaneously in 2017. There’s already an incredibly impressive cast associated with the project, including James McAvoy, John Boyega, Sir Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton and Nicholas Hoult.
Despite its extensive mythological rabbit civilisation, its religious symbolism and its dystopian themes of individualism in opposition to the corporate state, Watership Down is possibly best remembered for its incredible violence — especially the animated movie, which has horrified young kids with its bunny-on-bunny violence for decades.
It’s something the new adaptation won’t quite be so well known for, apparently — in an interview with The Telegraph, the series’ executive producer confirmed that the new show will “tone down the levels of on-screen violence to make it more appropriate for children”, while boosting the female parts from the original book (something modern critics have heavily critiqued). But won’t toning down the violence be missing a large part of the story’s point?
We’ll find out next year when the new Watership Down arrives on Netflix and BBC One.