Watership Down
Title screen for the first episode
Adult animation
Based onWatership Down
by Richard Adams
Written byTom Bidwell
Directed byNoam Murro
Music byFederico Jusid
Opening theme"Fire on Fire" (written and performed by Sam Smith)
Ending theme"Fire on Fire" (written and performed by Sam Smith)
Country of originUnited Kingdom
United States
Original languageEnglish
No. of episodes4
Executive producers
  • Rory Aitken
  • Eleanor Moran
  • Ben Pugh
  • Josh Varney
  • Georgia Dussaud
  • Cecil Kramer
EditorAndrew Walton
Running time50–51 minutes
Production companies42
Biscuit Filmworks
Budget£20 million
Original networkBBC One (United Kingdom)
Netflix (international)
Original release22 December (2018-12-22) –
23 December 2018 (2018-12-23)

Watership Down is an adult CGI-animated adventure fantasy drama mini-series directed by Noam Murro. It is based on the 1972 novel of the same name by Richard Adams and adapted by Tom Bidwell.[1] It was released on 22 December 2018 in the United Kingdom and internationally on Netflix the next day.[2][3] The BBC broadcast comprised two back-to-back episodes per day.

The music video for "Fire on Fire" (from Watership Down) by Sam Smith was released on 21 December 2018.[2]

Voice cast

Main article: List of Watership Down characters


In July 2014, it was announced that the BBC would be airing a new animated serial of Watership Down based on the 1972 novel and the 1978 film.[4] In April 2016, it was announced that the series would be a co-production between BBC and Netflix, and would consist of four one hour episodes.[5] The series has a budget of £20 million.[6] The rest of the voice cast was announced in November 2018.[7]


Originally set for release on 25 December 2018,[8] Watership Down was released on 22 December 2018, on BBC One in the UK and on 23 December 2018 on Netflix, internationally.[9][3][2]


No.TitleDirected byWritten byOriginal release dateUK viewers
(millions) [10]
1"The Journey"Noam MurroTom Bidwell22 December 2018 (2018-12-22)4.64
According to Richard Adams's Lapine mythology, the world was created by a sun god called Frith. When the rabbits begin multiplying out of control, Frith created predators in order to hunt them down. However, he bestowed great swiftness upon the rabbits to ensure their survival. In the present day, in a warren called Sandleford Down in Hampshire, England, a rabbit named Fiver has a vision of machines coming to destroy the warren. He and his elder brother Hazel convince some rabbits to leave the warren with them, but they are overrun by soldiers, led by captain Holly. Bigwig, a strong fighter, helps them escape. A strange rabbit named Cowslip visits the group, offering to let them stay in his warren. Although it is full of well-fed rabbits, morale and numbers are strangely low. Bigwig is caught by a snare and starts to suffocate. When Fiver asks for help, Cowslip reveals that those snared are given to a farmer in exchange for food and protection. The rabbits free Bigwig and leave, with a doe named Strawberry joining them. Soon after they choose to settle in a new warren, naming it Watership Down, an injured Holly arrives and confirms Fiver's vision.
2"The Raid"Noam MurroTom Bidwell22 December 2018 (2018-12-22)4.64
The next morning, Holly recounts his travels to find the group. After surviving Sandleford's destruction by human hands, he travelled across the countryside looking for the group, before coming across an injured rabbit who warned him about a warren named "Efrafa", ruled by the enormous, scarred, and ruthless General Woundwart. Knowing that there will be fighting among the bucks over the one doe they have, Bigwig suggests raiding a nearby farm to recruit the does there, but Hazel disagrees. Kehaar, a seagull with an injured wing, suddenly crashes in front of the group, and Hazel befriends the bird in order to ask him to look for does. He flies off and returns with word of a nearby warren. Holly, Blackberry, and Bluebell are stopped by Efrafan soldiers and brought before General Woundwort, where their request for does is denied and they are imprisoned. The following night, Holly's group stages a breakout. Simultaneously, Hazel goes alone back to the farm, but finds that the cage has been moved indoors. He sneaks through the farmhouse and frees the does, but the farmers are alerted and give chase. While attempting to save Clover, Hazel is shot in the leg by the farmer and collapses into a storm drain. In a state of limbo, Hazel is visited by the Black Rabbit of Inlé, the Lapine grim reaper, and she assures him his time has not yet come.
3"The Escape"Noam MurroTom Bidwell23 December 2018 (2018-12-23)5.65
Fiver has a vision that Hazel is alive. Clover sets out alone to find him but is captured by Efrafan soldiers and taken to Efrafa. Bigwig finds Hazel and helps him return to Watership Down. A plan is hatched to infiltrate Efrafa and save the imprisoned does. Bigwig arrives at Efrafa pretending to be a wanderer and is inducted into their ranks as a soldier. Bigwig finds Clover and tells her of their plans to escape. After earning the trust of Hyzenthlay, the leader of the Efrafan does, Bigwig attempts an escape from the warren alongside them, but they are caught while waiting for air support from Kehaar. Hyzenthlay is accused of the escape plan and sentenced to execution. Bigwig is ordered to act as executioner in order to prove his loyalty to Efrafa. He declines, fighting off the soldiers and helping the does escape from Efrafa. They reunite with Hazel's group but are surrounded by Efrafan soldiers. Woundwort walks forward, challenging Bigwig to a fight to the death.
4"The Siege"Noam MurroTom Bidwell23 December 2018 (2018-12-23)6.78
The episode begins with a flashback revealing General Woundwort's origins. In the present, Woundwort confronts Bigwig and the Watership Down rabbits who escape from Efrafa. Kehaar comes to their rescue and fights off the Efrafans. The rabbits hide in a nearby human village and thank Kehaar for his bravery the next morning. The group returns to Watership Down, but their victory is short-lived as they encounter an Efrafa scouting party. Watership Down prepares for war; many are wounded and Holly is killed. Fiver has another vision and heads to the farm with Hazel. They decide to free the farm dog and lead it back to the warren while Bigwig fights Woundwort. Fiver is captured by the farm cat, and Hazel abandons him to lure the dog to the warren. The dog and Woundwort lunge at each other, leaving the fate of Woundwort unknown. The warren prospers in the years that follow, and an elderly Hazel is visited by the Black Rabbit of Inlé. She invites him to join her Owsla, and he accepts before passing away peacefully. Bluebell tells Hazel's story outside the warren.


Watership Down received generally positive reviews from critics, with praise for the narrative, performances of its voice cast and soundtrack, but receiving some criticism for its somewhat tamer tone and the quality of the computer animation, described as "soulless"[11] and "clunky".[12] On Rotten Tomatoes, the drama has an approval rating of 77% based on reviews from 22 critics, with its critical consensus reading "Though its animation leaves something to be desired, Watership Down is a faithful adaptation that will resonate with viewers of any age."[13] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 76 out of 100 based on five critics, indicating "generally favourable reviews".[14]

The Guardian and The Independent both gave it two stars out of five, calling the production "tame, drab and deeply unsatisfying."[15] and "spectacularly ho-hum – less tooth and claw than head shake."[16]

The Times was more positive, giving it three stars out of five, writing "this was a meaty, lovingly made production that, spread over two days, felt far too long,"[17] while The New York Times noted that though the adaptation "fails its potential, it benefits from strong voice performances and a solid central story. Even this easy-listening version, which lays on the romance, jokes and limp dialogue, has moments of grandeur and the sweep of a fantasy epic."[18] Despite the negative reviews, it got four stars from the Daily Telegraph, they said that it had an "emotional bite".

The drama won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Special Class Animated Program. It also got nominated for a Daytime creative arts Emmy awards for outstanding directing, sound editing, sound mixing, graphic design and music direction.[19]


  1. ^ Jafaar, Ali (27 April 2016). "'Watership Down': BBC & Netflix Team On Miniseries With James McAvoy, Nic Hoult And John Boyega". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on 28 April 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "Sam Smith – Fire On Fire". YouTube. Archived from the original on 21 December 2018. Retrieved 21 December 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Watership Down". Netflix Media Center. Archived from the original on 27 March 2019. Retrieved 26 November 2018.
  4. ^ "Watership Down to be adapted on TV". Digital Spy. 10 July 2014. Archived from the original on 23 September 2015. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  5. ^ Ritman, Alex (27 April 2016). "Netflix Bags Global Rights for 'Watership Down' Adaptation With John Boyega, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult". Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on 28 April 2016. Retrieved 28 April 2016.
  6. ^ Plunkett, John (27 April 2016). "BBC and Netflix team up for new Watership Down production". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 4 December 2017. Retrieved 28 January 2018 – via www.theguardian.com.
  7. ^ White, Peter (1 November 2018). "'Watership Down': Rosamund Pike, Peter Capaldi, Gemma Chan & Taron Egerton Join Cast As First Images Revealed". Deadline. Archived from the original on 30 November 2018. Retrieved 29 November 2018.
  8. ^ Travers, Ben (28 December 2017). "The 18 Netflix Original Series to Be Excited About in 2018". IndieWire. Archived from the original on 19 July 2018. Retrieved 19 July 2018.
  9. ^ Trumbore, Dave (4 December 2018). "First Trailer for New 'Watership Down' Series Is a Nightmare in All the Wrong Ways". Collider. Archived from the original on 7 February 2019. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  10. ^ "Four-screen dashboard". BARB. Archived from the original on 2 February 2019. Retrieved 2 January 2019.
  11. ^ "Watership Down revival slammed as "tame" and "confusing" by critics – but the all-star voice cast gets glowing reviews". Radio Times. Archived from the original on 27 December 2018. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  12. ^ Prudom, Laura (23 December 2018). "WATERSHIP DOWN REVIEW". IGN. Archived from the original on 25 July 2023. Retrieved 26 December 2018.
  13. ^ "Watership Down: Minseries". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on 8 January 2019. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  14. ^ "Watership Down (2018)". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 26 December 2018. Retrieved 25 December 2018.
  15. ^ Mangan, Lucy (23 December 2018). "Watership Down review – CGI rabbits can't save this Christmas turkey". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 30 January 2019. Retrieved 12 February 2019 – via www.theguardian.com.
  16. ^ "The BBC's Watership Down reboot simply isn't scary enough". The Independent. 10 December 2018. Archived from the original on 12 February 2019. Retrieved 12 February 2019.
  17. ^ Midgley, Carol (24 December 2018). "TV review: Watership Down; King Gary". Archived from the original on 11 January 2019. Retrieved 12 February 2019 – via www.thetimes.co.uk.
  18. ^ Poniewozik, James (20 December 2018). "Review: A Watered-Down 'Watership Down' on Netflix". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 9 January 2019. Retrieved 12 February 2019 – via NYTimes.com.
  19. ^ "Daytime Emmy winners 2019: Full list of Creative Arts winners on Friday night". GoldDerby. 3 May 2019. Archived from the original on 25 July 2023. Retrieved 5 May 2019.