The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJay Russell
Screenplay byRobert Nelson Jacobs
Based onThe Water Horse
by Dick King-Smith
Produced byJay Russell
Douglas Rae
Robert Bernstein
Barrie M. Osborne
StarringEmily Watson
Alex Etel
Ben Chaplin
David Morrissey
Brian Cox
CinematographyOliver Stapleton
Edited byMark Warner
Music byJames Newton Howard
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release dates
  • 25 December 2007 (2007-12-25) (United States)
  • 8 February 2008 (2008-02-08) (United Kingdom)
Running time
112 minutes[1]
CountriesUnited States
United Kingdom
New Zealand
Budget$40 million[2]
Box office$104 million[3]

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (stylised on-screen as simply The Water Horse) is a 2007 fantasy drama film directed by Jay Russell and written by Robert Nelson Jacobs, based on Dick King-Smith's children's novel The Water Horse. It stars Alex Etel as a young boy who discovers a mysterious egg and cares for what hatches out of it: a "water horse" (loosely based on the Celtic water horse) which later becomes the fabled Loch Ness Monster. The film also stars Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin and David Morrissey.

The film was produced by Revolution Studios and Walden Media, in collaboration with Beacon Pictures, and was distributed by Columbia Pictures. Visual effects were completed by the New Zealand-based companies Weta Digital and Weta Workshop.[4][5] The Water Horse was released in the United States on 25 December 2007 and in the United Kingdom on 8 February 2008.[6]


In present-day Scotland, a couple of American tourists meet an old man who, upon request (after seeing the surgeon's photo) tells them about the Loch Ness Monster and why the photo is a fake.

In 1942 during World War II, a boy named Angus MacMorrow lives in the manor house of Lord Killin on Loch Ness with his mother Anne MacMorrow and his sister, Kirstie. Lewis Mowbray comes to work as a handyman there. Angus' father Charles, the former handyman, is a sailor in the Royal Navy, missing since his ship was sunk in the war a year earlier. Angus is unable to accept that he won't return.

One day, while collecting seashells, Angus discovers a large, mysterious egg in the sand, and an unknown creature hatches, which he calls 'Crusoe' after Robinson Crusoe. He decides to keep the creature a secret, eventually telling his sister and Lewis. Lewis explains that it is a genderless "Water Horse" that lays one egg, then dies before it hatches.

Royal Artillery troops arrive at the house, commanded by Captain Thomas Hamilton – a friend of Lord Killin. An artillery battery is set up near the lake to defend against German U-boats while the troops set up on the grounds. Meanwhile, Lewis decides Crusoe is so big they have to free it in the loch.

Captain Hamilton proclaims Lewis to be a bad influence, and Angus' mother allows him to teach Angus some discipline. After a few days of training, he escapes, returning to the lake and a full-grown Crusoe, who gets Angus to ride on its back. After some time, it begins to dive. Angus protests diving, later enjoys himself and finally overcomes his phobia.

The next day, Captain Hamilton takes the MacMorrow family to a hill overlooking Loch Ness; Crusoe is almost hit by an exploding shell during a firing demonstration. Angus interrupts to save Crusoe from injury or death, enraging Hamilton and irritating his mother, who doesn't believe him. He is punished, having to be in his room at six every night for a month.

Two fishermen who had seen Crusoe, try to take a photo of the creature for fame and fortune. When they can't photograph the real thing due to the bombardment, they create an imitation. (The result is the real-life faked photo of The Loch Ness Monster known as "The Surgeon's Photo".) It interests a few soldiers, who go out to hunt it.

Sneaking out of his room with his sister's help, Angus visits the lake, calling for Crusoe. Crusoe rises, still in shock and fear from the earlier bombardment, nearly bites off Angus's hand before sinking back into the loch. Hamilton's dog Churchill, having smelled Crusoe from the shore, alerts the soldiers of its presence before being eaten by Crusoe. Crusoe then surprises the soldiers, capsizing their boat but not before one of them sends out an SOS to Hamilton, who thinks the Germans are attacking. At the loch, Angus calls out to Crusoe, who is attacking Strunk. In his attempt to calm Crusoe, Angus wades into the lake, slips and sinks.

Crusoe rescues Angus and Lewis revives him. When his mother arrives, she finally believes him when she sees Crusoe. The nearby artillery battery soon opens fire upon Crusoe, mistaking it for a German U-boat. Angus, Hamilton, Anne and Lewis lead Crusoe to safety at the net, where Crusoe escapes into the sea.

At sunrise, Angus finally accepts his father is dead before they watch Crusoe go. It is implied that Anne is also ready to move on, having fallen in love with Lewis. Over the years, several people claim spotting it but Angus never sees Crusoe again while others say that it returns, seeking Angus.

The tourists thank the old storyteller and ask for his name, which he reveals to be Angus MacMorrow. Outside the pub, a mother calls out to her son William, who is walking down the beach. He spots a large "rock", which has an iridescent blue shell just like Crusoe's, hinting that Crusoe has left a descendant behind to become the next Water Horse.



Director Jay Russell first read Dick King-Smith's book years before the film was actually made. "With the technology where it was at the time and the cost of that technology, we couldn't get it made then," said Russell. "Technology needed to catch up. It did, and it allowed us to do things I envisioned without it costing $300 million."[7]


Filming took place in 2006 in New Zealand, Scotland and at Miramar Studios in Wellington. Most of the film was shot in New Zealand, with Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu doubling for a Scottish Loch. The filmmakers found that some of the landscape and geography there was similar to Scotland. However Russell said, "There was no way I was going to make a movie about the Loch Ness monster and not shoot at least part of it in Scotland."[8]

The scenes in and around the MacMorrow family's house were shot on the 100-year-old Ardkinglas Estate on the shores of Loch Fyne in Scotland. The owners of the estate continued to live in the house while the crew was filming there.[9]

Visual effects

Visual effects on the film were handled by New Zealand visual effects specialists Weta Digital and Weta Workshop who mainly did Crusoe. Most of the roughly 600 effects shots in the film involved Crusoe. And many of those shots involved the creature (Crusoe) interacting with water, which, in terms of the history of computer graphics, has always been a particularly difficult substance to deal with.[10] In terms of the design of the creature, Weta Digital tried to not humanise him but instead based some of his expressions on real animals such as a dog. "We wanted to create something which seemed familiar, but was unique at the same time," said Russell. "As a result, Crusoe's face is a combination of a horse, a dog, an eagle and a giraffe."[11] When creating his movements and body shape at various stages of growth, the animators referenced animals ranging from baby birds to seals to whales.[10]


Main article: The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (soundtrack)

The score was composed by James Newton Howard. Sinéad O'Connor contributed to the soundtrack with "Back Where You Belong".


The Water Horse was formerly scheduled for two different release dates in North America: 21 September 2007 and 7 December 2007.[12][13] No reason has been given as to why either date was dropped, but the film was released across 2,772 screens[14] in the United States, Canada and Mexico on Christmas Day of 2007.[15] The MPAA rated the film PG for some action and peril, mild language and brief smoking.[16]

Many release dates ranging from January 2008 to April 2008 were set for worldwide audiences including the United Kingdom (8 February), France (13 February), Russia (6 March) and India (4 April).[15]


A promotional poster for the film, featuring silhouettes of Etel's character and Crusoe on the loch, was seen as early as June 2006 during the New York Licensing Show alongside promotional art for the Disney Fairies and Kung Fu Panda.[17] Another poster that features Etel's character with Crusoe on the loch during the daytime was released in October 2007.[18] Two teaser trailers were released in quick succession in June 2007. The first was a teaser created specifically for the Rock Ness Music Festival on 9 and 10 June,[19] but was leaked onto the internet and later pulled.[20] A different trailer[21] was released to on 22 June 2007 and became the official teaser.[22] Internet promotion includes several different official different websites in the English (with individual websites for the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia), Spanish,[23] French[24] and Russian[25] languages. They were launched by Sony in early November 2007 and feature photos, video clips, a video blog, games and information on the film's plot and production.[26] Another website was created by the film's production companies,, and is dedicated to the examination of the Loch Ness Monster's existence in reality.[27] Additionally, the film has a YouTube account which features the video blogs from the official website, as well as additional video content.[28] Two sweepstakes were created for The Water Horse. The first, "See It To Believe It," awarded the winner with a family trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific. The second, "Unloch the Legend" awarded the winner with a family trip to Scotland.[29] A 15-meter "water screen" was used to project a moving image, with sound, of the Water Horse in Tokyo Bay.[30]

Critical reception

The film received generally positive reviews from critics. As of 2024, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 74% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 90 reviews with an average rating of 6.7/10, classifying the film as "fresh", reaching the consensus that "The Water Horse is a fine family film. It takes a classic tale and infuses it with extra imagination, sly humor, heart, and inventive special effects."[31] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 71 out of 100, based on 24 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[32] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A-" on an A+ to F scale.[33]

Pete Hammond of Maxim magazine gave the film 4 stars out of 5, saying "It's not only the perfect holiday movie, but perhaps the most wondrous film of its kind since E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial touched down." Hammond said the character Angus is "expertly played by Alex Etel," said the film was "skillfully directed by Jay Russell", and said the special effects were "stunning" and "rival the year's best."[34] awarded the film three and a half stars out of four, complimenting the film's "real story about complex people" and the "first rate supporting performances" of Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin and Brian Cox.[35]

Differences from reality

The film takes some liberties with Scottish geography:

The film also has some chronological inconsistencies:

Box office

The film was a moderate box office success and grossed about $9 million during its opening weekend. As of October 2010, the film has grossed a total of $103,071,443 worldwide due to gaining about $40.4 million in the United States and about $62.1 million in foreign countries, according to the website Box Office Mojo.[36]

Home media

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on 8 April 2008.[37]

See also


  1. ^ "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  2. ^ "Budget of The Water Horse". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  3. ^ | title = The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
  4. ^ "Walden Mounts Water Horse". SciFiWire. Archived from the original on 30 December 2007. Retrieved 30 December 2007.
  5. ^ "Narnia Studio Plans New Fantasy Film". IGN. 7 February 2006.
  6. ^ "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep". 19 December 2007. Retrieved 30 December 2007.
  7. ^ Miller, Gerri (21 December 2007). "Inside 'The Water Horse'". HowStuffWorks, Inc. Retrieved 21 June 2008.
  8. ^ Miller, Gerri (21 December 2007). "Inside 'The Water Horse'". HowStuffWorks, Inc. Retrieved 21 June 2008.
  9. ^ Lange, Linda (6 January 2008). "Scottish fling: Tourism expected to increase in Loch Ness region where movie 'Water Horse' was filmed". Deseret News. Retrieved 21 June 2008.
  10. ^ a b Barbara Robertson, Casting Crusoe, Computer Graphics World, January 2008, Volume 31, Number 1
  11. ^ Potosky, Mallory (18 December 2007). "Jay Russell Brings The Water Horse to Life". Movie Maker Magazine. Retrieved 18 June 2008.
  12. ^ "'Horse' Bumps Next 'Narnia' Film to 2008". Zap2It. Retrieved 30 December 2007.
  13. ^ "Film Release Information >> The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep". Retrieved 30 December 2007.
  14. ^ "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (2007) – Daily Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 26 December 2007.
  15. ^ a b "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep release dates". The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Official Website. Retrieved 30 December 2007.
  16. ^ "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 30 December 2007.
  17. ^ "NY Licensing Show: Disney's Tinkerbell show FAIRIES! KUNG FU PANDA! LEGION OF SUPERHEROES! WATER HORSE!!".
  18. ^ "New Water Horse Poster". Movie Marketing Madness. Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  19. ^ "Nessie Seen at Rock Ness!". Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  20. ^ "'The Water Horse' teaser trailer released". X-Realms. Archived from the original on 20 May 2008. Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  21. ^ "Another 'Water Horse' trailer". X-Realms. Archived from the original on 24 July 2011. Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  22. ^ "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep". Yahoo!. Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  23. ^ "Mi Mascota es un Monstruo". Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  24. ^ "Les Dragon Des Mers". Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  25. ^ "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Official Russian Website". Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  26. ^ "The Water Horse Official Website". Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  27. ^ "The Legend of the Deep". Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  28. ^ "The Water Horse YouTube account". YouTube. Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  29. ^ "The Water Horse Promotions". Retrieved 10 January 2008.
  30. ^ "Goodbye Godzilla? – Tokyo Times". 24 January 2008. Retrieved 25 January 2008.
  31. ^ "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep – Movie Reviews, Trailers, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  32. ^ "The Water Horse (2007): Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  33. ^ "Home". CinemaScore. Retrieved 30 October 2022.
  34. ^ The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Movie Movie Review and Rating Archived 5 May 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  35. ^ Fragoso, Sam (24 December 2007). "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Movie Review (2007)". Roger Ebert. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  36. ^ "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (2007)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2 March 2014.
  37. ^ The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep – DVD Sales. The Numbers. Retrieved 14 May 2012.