The first look images have arrived for the BBC's Watership Down TV miniseries, with James McAvoy and John Boyega among those voicing rabbits in this rendition of the classic survival adventure story. The original 1972 Watership Down novel by Richard Adams was previously adapted for the big screen as an animated movie in 1978. That film featured an all-star voice cast of British actors (led by John Hurt and Richard Briers) and is as celebrated as it is infamous for its dark tone, violent content, and adult themes.
Written by Tom Bidwell (My Mad Fat Diary) and directed by Noam Murro (300: Rise of an Empire), the Watership Down miniseries is described as being an "innovative interpretation" of Adams' original book. The story once again takes place in the landscapes of southern England, as a band of rabbits attempt to find "a promised land and a more perfect society" after humans intrude upon their native Sandleford Warren. McAvoy and his X-Men costar Nicholas Hoult are lending their voices to the rabbit brothers Hazel and Fiver, who lead their companions on this harrowing journey full of predators and unexpected dangers.
The BBC has now announced the full voice cast for Watership Down. In addition to previously confirmed cast members like Boyega (as Bigwig), Ben Kingsley (as General Woundwort), and Gemma Arterton (as Clover), the miniseries' ensemble includes Daniel Kaluuya as Bluebell, Rosamund Pike as The Black Rabbit of Inlé, Peter Capaldi as the seagull Kehaar, Taron Egerton as El-Ahrairah, Gemma Chan as Dewdrop, Mackenzie Crook as Hawkbit, Jason Watkins as Captain Orchis, Rory Kinnear as Cowslip, Craig Parkinson as Sainfoin, Henry Goodman as Blackavar, Tom Wilkinson as Threarah, Lee Ingleby as Captain Campion, Charlotte Spencer as Nettle, and Daniel Rigby as Dandelion. You can check out the first images from the series, below.
It has further been announced that Oscar-winner Sam Smith is performing an original song titled "Fire On Fire" for the Watership Down miniseries (which will air as two feature-length specials on BBC One). Smith, who cowrote the song with Steve Mac and recorded it with the BBC Concert Orchestra, issued a statement as part of the announcement, saying that he is "excited and honoured" to be involved in retelling a story that is "so powerful and timeless".
As mentioned, the 1978 animated Watership Down is pretty well known for being one of the darkest "kids movies" ever released, from its multiple rabbit deaths to its overtly spiritual themes and political subtext. Directors such as Guillermo del Toro has spoken openly about the film's influence on their own sociopolitical fables, while filmmakers like Zack Snyder and Wes Anderson have acknowledged that it helped inspire them to make their own violent animated animal adventures like Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga'Hoole, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and Isle of Dogs, respectively. The Watership Down miniseries has a lot to live up to, in other words, but it's certainly off to a good start with its voice cast, which is positively overflowing with great character actor talent.
Watership Down premieres on BBC One in the UK this Christmas. It will stream through Netflix outside of the UK sometime thereafter.