Watership Down is an animated television series, adapted from the novel of the same name by Richard Adams. It was a co-production of Alltime Entertainment of the United Kingdom and Decode Entertainment of Canada, and produced by Martin Rosen, the director of the 1978 feature film adaptation.
Watership Down aired for 39 episodes and three seasons from 1999 to 2001, on both YTV in Canada and CITV in the UK, though the latter did not broadcast the third season. It starred several well-known British actors, including Stephen Fry, Rik Mayall, Phil Jupitus, Jane Horrocks, Dawn French, John Hurt, and Richard Briers, among others. Stephen Gately sang a new arrangement of Art Garfunkel's "Bright Eyes", which had been included in the 1978 feature film, while Mike Batt (who wrote "Bright Eyes") and the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra contributed a completely new score. In 2003, composer Eric Robertson as well as David Greene and Mike Batt were nominated for a Gemini Award for Best Original Music Score for a Dramatic Series for their work on the show.Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television.
Some episodes from the adaptation were released on VHS and later, DVD. In October 2005, a Region 2 DVD box set of all three series was released in the UK.
- Season 1 aired 28 Sep 1999 - 21 Dec 1999
- Season 2 aired 3 Aug 2000 - 26 Oct 2000
- Season 3 aired 11 Sep 2001 - 4 Dec 2001
The full series (all three seasons) can be seen on YouTube.
Following the basic plot of the novel, Watership Down follows the lives of a group of rabbits as they leave their endangered warren in search of a safe new home. They travel across the English countryside, braving perilous danger, until they find a hill called Watership Down, where they begin a new warren. However, they are endangered by another warren, Efrafa, which is led by the authoritarian General Woundwort, and they are soon forced to defend their home and lives.
Voice cast Edit
Watership Down was voiced by many familiar faces in the world of British film and television. John Hurt, the voice of Hazel in the film, was reappointed for the series as the voice of General Woundwort, and Richard Briers, the voice of Fiver in the film, appeared in the series as Captain Broom. Comedienne Dawn French, Jane Horrocks, Stephen Fry, Phil Jupitus and Rik Mayall all provided voices, as Buttercup, Hannah, Cowslip, Dandelion and Kehaar, respectively. To a lesser extent, the late former Boyzone member Stephen Gately, who performed the re-working of "Bright Eyes", provided the voice of Blackavar, and comedy actor Stephen Mangan provided the voice of Bigwig and later, Silverweed, replacing Tim McInnerny who provided Silverweed's voice for one episode in Series 1. Actor Kiefer Sutherland was involved and played the role of a new rabbit called Hickory, but only for 3 episodes, to be replaced in Series 3 by Rob Rackstraw who also provides the voice for Captain Campion and various other characters. By Series 3, most of the celebrity voices were gone and were replaced by new actors, with only a few of the original cast having decided to stay and reprise their roles and provide additional voices.
- Kate Ashfield - Primrose (Seasons 1 and 2 only)
- Rob Rackstraw - Campion, Hickory (Season 3 only), additional voices
- Andrew Falvey - Fiver
- David Holt - Vervain, additional voices
- Phill Jupitus - Dandelion (Seasons 1 and 2 only)
- Stephen Mangan - Bigwig, Shale, Silverweed (Season 3 only)
- Lee Ross - Hawkbit
- Elliot Henderson-Boyle - Pipkin (Seasons 1 and 2 only)
- Ian Shaw - Hazel (Seasons 1 and 2 only)
- Stephen Gately - Blackavar
- Anthony Jackson - Kehaar, Cowslip (Season 3 only, both roles)
- John Hurt - General Woundwort (Seasons 1 and 2 only)
Major Characters Edit
Fiver – A small runty rabbit who had visions of the destruction of the Sandleford warren lead him to leave, along with his older brother Hazel and several other rabbits. His visions come in rhymes and he often feels responsible for foreseeing terrible things or blaming himself for their outcome, But he is intelligent to other rabbits. He and Hazel are very close and almost always together.
Bigwig – A rabbit who was formerly an officer in the Sandleford Owsla, so-called because of the large amount of hair surrounding his face giving him the appearance of a lionhead rabbit. The largest and most powerful of the Sandleford survivors, he is often blunt and impatient for dangerous action and fighting. Nearly getting killed in episode 3, he realizes that Fiver is right more often than not. He quickly befriends Kehaar and often asks for his help on Hazel's behalf. Hazel often selects him for the most dangerous missions, such as the infiltration of Efrafa and guarding the run against General Woundwort, a stand that nearly kills him. Later, he becomes captain of the Watership warren's "free-and-easy" Owsla.
Blackberry – A clever doe who has skills in herbs. Also referred to as the digging expert. She is the only doe to go to Watership Down with Hazel and the others. Later in the series she falls in love with Campion. She is devastated when she thinks Campion is dead, but is rejoined with him when she is taken prisoner in Darkhaven. At the end of the series she and Campion return to Watership Down together.
Dandelion - Dandelion is strangely one of the slowest of rabbits and, though still an accomplished storyteller, is more of a joker and wise guy and provides much of the series' comedy relief. He is also a good friend of Hawkbit (despite his coming to actual blows with Hawkbit over a former Efrafan doe named Heather whom they both were trying to court; while they were competing over her, she went off with Moss, a former corporal in the Efrafan Owsla who was the buck of her choice and who was elected Chief Rabbit of a new warren).
Pipkin - he is a very young and adventurous rabbit eager to prove himself in the eyes of the bigger companions—particularly Hazel and Bigwig. While the youngest of the Watership Down rabbits, he has the gift of making friends with everyone, including other animals in the Down area (hedgehogs, local fowl, bats, mice, and once a lamb) to the point that when he is in trouble they will immediately join together with the Watership Down rabbits to come to his rescue; even General Woundwort found he was not immune to Pipkin and refused to kill him, saying that it would be like killing a part of himself. During the last season Pipkin grows up to be a responsible rabbit, even leading the 'Junior Owsla'.
Hawkbit – He is a pessimistic, grouchy and sarcastic rabbit who always has a biting comment for every situation, but is a dependable member of the warren whenever help is needed. An outstanding example of the effect Hazel has upon those rabbits who would otherwise have been totally disregarded in the warren hierarchy, He later becomes a good friend of the more cerebral Dandelion and during the last season settles down with Clover.
Holly – Former captain of the Sandleford Owsla Holly has only a minor role and is mostly used as a background character for two seasons, However he has some roles as the new Owsla trainer in the last season.
Clover – she is the only rabbit to escape from the farm, albeit not too willingly. She and Hawkbit settle down at the ending of the series.
Blackavar – A rabbit with very dark fur. He is obsessed with escaping from Efrafa. Together with Primrose, He frequently attempts to escape only to get captured again by the Efrafan Owsla. With Hazel's help he finally succeeds and once free, He joins Hazel's warren atop Watership Down. After the escape, he is used as a minor background character.
Strawberry - An orange, chubby rabbit who leaves Cowslip's warren after meeting Hazel and Bigwig and joins them in Watership Down. Initially lazy from his time with Cowslip, He later proves to be an accomplished digger and serves in Bigwig's Owsla.
Captain Broom - The former captain of the Redstone Owsla. He joins the Watership Down rabbits after being retrieved by Hazel and Primrose. He usually bores them with his tall tales, but does have wisdom (his knowledge about sheep helps avert a disaster) and can be relied upon in a crisis.
Kehaar – A black-headed gull who is forced by an injured wing, to take refuge on Watership Down. He is characterized by his frequent impatience, guttural accent and unusual phrasing. Eventually, after Hazel and the others befriend him, He flies over the countryside in an attempt to discover other warrens where the rabbits might find does to mate with. He discovers the Efrafa warren and after helping the rabbits he meets a gull called Gluk and flies to the city to settle down with her because she likes life in the city better.
Hannah is a mouse. She is a good friend of Kehaar and has a kind of love/hate relationship with Bigwig who feels she is too small to be of any use in a fight, but her bravery more than makes up for her size. After Kehaar's departure, Hannah tries to learn magic to help her friends on the Down. But she realizes that Silverweed used her magic to himself to save the Down.
Snowdrop is a white kit. One of Hazel and Primrose's kits.
Mallow is a dark tan kit. One of Hazel and Primrose's kits.
Gilia is a tan kit. One of Hazel and Primrose's kits.
Cowslip's Warren (The Warren of the Shining Wires)Edit
Cowslip - the so-called leader of the warren, there is some doubt as to whether he is insane or totally evil. Hazel, Fiver and Bigwig first encounter him when they accompany Captain Holly to recover an injured Sandleford rabbit left there, only to learn the warren's terrible secret when Bigwig nearly becomes a victim and that the missing rabbit was a victim. He becomes angered by Hazel's warren when they help a group of his rabbits escape from his warren, and even helps Woundwort to get his revenge on them, however, as he himself states, "I'm a plotter, not a fighter" and he uses both sides for his own gain. Later he trades his seer, Silverweed, to Woundwort in exchange for the destruction of his escaped rabbit's warren. '
Silverweed– he is a seer with mental abilities similar to Fiver, in particular possessing the ability to see into another rabbit's mind by touch. He is traded to Woundwort to help him seek his destiny, but later ends up on Watership Down and becomes a good friend of the rabbits there, even sacrificing most of his youth to help save the warren from Woundwort.
Hickory - was one of the rabbits who were liberated from Cowslip's warren by the Watership Down rabbits. He and several other rabbits including his mate Marigold, decided to live inside Primrose's old home of Redstone. They lived peaceful lives until Woundwort and Vervain (under the alias of Wheatstock and Chaff respectively), arrived there and wanted to try and turn Redstone into a warren controlled by force and not reason. At first Hickory was taken in by Woundwort's guise and it wasn't until it was too late that he found out the truth. Thanks to a bargain he made with Cowslip, who wanted revenge on his deserters, Woundwort tricked Hickory and the others rabbits at Redstone to stay put while their warren gets demolished by man, but Hazel and the others saved them in time. Hickory was re-united with Marigold and they all now live with Hazel and the others on Watership Down.
Marigold - is Hickory's mate and the mother to his kittens. She was actually the first rabbit to see through Woundwort's guise when he first came to Redstone with Vervain. Knowing that he was dangerous, Marigold risked everything to seek help from Hazel and the other Watership Down rabbits who all arrived just in time to save Hickory and his rabbits.
Flax - is a friend of Hickory's; it's unknown if he had a rank of some sort in an owsla or not. But he does appear on occasion to talk to Hickory.
General Woundwort – He serves as the primary antagonist of the series. A brutal and tyrannical leader who sees himself as the one doing everything for the best of his warren, Woundwort strives to destroy Hazel and his 'outsiders' because of the hope for free life they represent for his own subjects. He has black, ragged fur and is blind in his left eye. He deeply respects Campion, even after his betrayal by him, and he often punishes and threatens Vervain, but still values him as an adviser and loyal subject despite this. He shows a soft side briefly after Pipkin tells him that his parents were killed by a weasel (a fate that Woundwort himself went through), and for a brief moment before Efrafa's destruction sees himself for what he is and what he has brought Efrafa to. After the destruction of Efrafa, Woundwort becomes obsessed with seeking his destiny of destruction, which leads him to the warren he was born in: Darkhaven. In the end, he is taken by the Black Rabbit of Inlé along with most of the Darkhaven rabbits.
Campion – Campion sees that Woundwort's leadership is destroying Efrafa, but is torn between his feelings for the free ways of Watership Down and his loyalty to his chief rabbit. He met Blackberry and it was love at first sight, but he sacrificed himself to save his chief from a cave in. He survived and was taken to Darkhaven, as was Blackberry soon after, and they sealed their love in Darkhaven and escaped to Watership Down. He fought in the last battle against Woundwort. Afterwards, he and Blackberry settled down together.
Vervain - is a cowardly and sneaky rabbit, more adept at spying on others and threatening the weaker ones then in actual combat and is (next to Woundwort) the most hated and despised rabbit of the Watership Down story. Despite his shortcomings, Woundwort values him (though he would not show this) for his loyalty to him. Although Campion saved his life on more than one occasion, Vervain hates him with a passion and would like nothing better than to make Woundwort realize Campion is a traitor. Kehaar is particularly not fond of Vervain and calls him an 'ugly bunny'. After Efrafa's destruction, Vervain tries to live on his own but quickly loses hope, until he is saved by Woundwort. Although somewhat shocked by his master's increasing madness, Vervain continues to serve him, though more out of fear than respect, and he secretly longs to lead a different life, even if such thoughts are futile.
Moss - was one of Woundwort's corporals, who much like Campion hoped for things to improve within Efrafa. After Efrafa was liberated by the Watership Down rabbits, Moss was elected by them to be their new chief, so together with his mate Heather, they left Watership Down to start their own warren with the former Efrafan rabbits.
Heather - Moss' mate and a doe of whom Hawkbit and Dandelion once fought over before they realized she had already chosen her mate.
Aspen - An Efrafan Owsla rabbit who developed a close relationship with Vervain. However, the relationship was short lived, as Aspen was later attacked and killed by a weasel.
Gorse - An Efrafan Owsla rabbit who was on a Wide Patrol along with Campion, Vervain and Thistle. He and Thistle were killed by a fox that was chasing Bigwig.
Thistle - An Efrafan Owsla rabbit who was on a Wide Patrol along with Campion, Vervain and Gorse. He and Gorse were killed by a fox that was chasing Bigwig.
Larch - An Efrafan Owsla rabbit who was on a Wide patrol led by Vervain. He got sick on patrol and was left behind on Vervain's orders. if an elil did not get him he presumably died of the sickness.
Spartina - is one of Darkhaven's warrior does. She was chosen by Woundwort to trick the Watership Down rabbits into thinking that she is their friend, so she may spy on them and to find the location of their warren. However while she was there, Silverweed managed to see through her guise with his powers and she confessed everything to Hazel and the others, as she is beginning to have feelings for Bigwig. She returned to Darkhaven, in order to save Blackberry from being killed by Granite (under her orders), but she is soon held prisoner along with her. However she managed to escape along with Campion and Blackberry and aided the Watership Down rabbits in their fight against Woundwort. It's assumed she settles down with Bigwig at Watership Down after the final battle.
Granite - was the chief of Darkhaven, before losing his title to Campion during combat (of which later Campion gave the title to Woundwort as soon as he arrived at Darkhaven). Granite is no doubt one of the warren's strongest rabbits. He was instructed by Spartina to kill Blackberry by the next full moon, however since Blackberry once saved his life, Granite was unable to perform the deed, meaning that he does have a sense of honor. He, along with Vervain, escapes the Black Rabbit of Inle's wrath in the season finale. Shale - A rabbit from the Darkhaven Owsla. Felspar - A rabbit from the Darkhaven Owsla. Always seen with Granite, Spartina and Shale.
Duster - the farm's dog. He first appears in the first episode "The Promised Land" where he chases after the rabbits but fails in the process. He then has a small appearance in the episode "The Raid" where he barks at Hazel as he escapes from the barn. His last appearance was in the episode "Tale of a Mouse" in which he is guarding the farm's vegetable. At the end of the episode, he chases after the farm's cat, Tabitha. Duster's breed is somewhat of a Rottweiler.
Chester - is another one of the farmer's dogs. He appears in A New World, nearly sniffing out Dandelion but was called away by the farmer.
Tabitha - the farm's cat. She also first appears in the first episode "The Promised Land" where she attacks Kehaar when he is trying to steal her bowl of fish. She then had a larger role in two episodes, "The Raid" and "Tale of a Mouse". In "The Raid", she tries to attack and eat Hazel, Fiver and Pipkin when they are trying to free hutch rabbits but fails. In "Tale of a Mouse", she goes after the rabbits again, and also after Hannah. At the end, she is chased by Chester around the farm. Tabitha appears again in "The Betrayal" when she attacks Spartina in a barn in Nuthanger Farm, and is driven off Bigwig and the others. Tabitha's breed is somewhat of a Tabby Cat or a Calico cat. Unlike Duster, she can speak (except her appearance in "The Promised Land").
The official soundtrack for the series was produced by Mike Batt with the aid of the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. He had also gathered an array of stars to provide their voices for some of the songs. As well as Stephen Gately performing Bright Eyes, Art Garfunkel who had sung Bright Eyes for the film sang When You're Losing Your Way In The Rain, Cerys Matthews from the group Catatonia performed Thank You, Stars which was used in the series as a romance theme for Hazel and Primrose and Paul Carrack from the group Mike and the Mechanics performed Winter Song, though the song wasn't used, an instrumental piece was in the Winter on Watership Down two parter. Mike himself sang for the soundtrack, performing the song A View From A Hill which oddly enough was used in the series, but only in the German version and sung by an uncredited singer, and British voice actor Gary Martin provided the narration for the story of Frith's Blessing for the original release of the CD soundtrack, though in the TV series, it was Dandelion who told the tale of Frith's Blessing. The soundtrack has just recently been re-released as part of the Mike Batt Music Cube released in December 2009 by Dramatico Records. However only the orchestral pieces are on the CD and none of the recorded songs are present, probably due to copyrights involving many of the guest singers and their record labels and perhaps due to the death of Stephen Gately. The re-released soundtrack has recently became available separately from the Cube in a 2 CD set, along with the soundtrack to the film Caravans.
Differences from the novelEdit
Although the story was broadly based on that of the novel, with most characters and many incidents retained, there was an increasing divergence as the series went on, and in later episodes especially some storylines and characters were entirely new.
- El-ahrairah's name was shortened in the series to El-ahrah.
- Hyzenthlay was replaced by a character called Primrose, and her connection to Efrafa was replaced by a heritage in a warren called Redstone.
- Fiver's power of prescience became more prominent than in the book and film; he goes blank with visions, sometimes telepathic, instead of simply delivering omens, and also speaks mostly in rhyme while in this state (though he speaks normally otherwise).
- Kehaar, in direct contrast to the book, severs his gull-like instincts and becomes attached to the Watership rabbits, even pushing aside his own kind at one point.
- A new few characters were added. for instance Captain Brume,Granet, Moss, Spartina and,Aspan,
- Blackberry was changed from a buck rabbit to a doe.
- Woundwort's backstory was altered to include a connection to a warren called Darkhaven.
- The character Silverweed was given abilities similar to Fiver's and was turned into a main character for the 3rd season, unlike the novel in which he was a minor character.
- Blackavar is still alive, in contrast to the film in which he was killed by Woundwort (that is a film invention, as he survived in the book. Also his ears are intact; the book and the film both depict them as having been torn by the Efrafan Owslafa.)
- The violence is extremely toned down compared to the book and the movie, even though Season 3 had a darker tone compared to Season 1 & 2.
- The major character of Hannah the female mouse was added for the series. Although a male mouse does appear in the novel as a minor character, his personality is much meeker than Hannah's and he speaks with an Italian accent, while Hannah has a British one like the rabbits.
- Captain Vervain is totally different from how he was described in the book as he was given a more sly and cowardly personality.
- Some of the charaters from the book does not appear.
- Bob is replaced by a dog named Duster.
- Some of events that happen in the book either do not happn or take place at a different time than from the book. For example being Cowslip's Warren which is encountered after the main characters find Watership Down unlike the novel where they encounter it first.
Two warrens that did not appear in the original book were added: Redstone and Darkhaven. The Redstone warren was dug beneath the remnants of an ancient Celtic stone circle by a band of regular rabbits, but was invaded by an Efrafan patrol. The Darkhaven warren was located beside a burning tire yard with a large pit where the rabbits, extremely vicious in nature, would battle for the position of Chief Rabbit.