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Western Animation / Watership Down (2018)

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A 2018 four-part CGI miniseries based on the novel of the same name.

A rabbit named Fiver sees a vision of his warren's imminent destruction. When his older brother Hazel is unable to convince their chief of the danger, they leave and set out on a journey to find a new home, accompanied by a few others whom they manage to convince.

Produced by Netflix and BBC One, the series features an All-Star Cast including James McAvoy as Hazel, Nicholas Hoult as Fiver, John Boyega as Bigwig, and Ben Kingsley as General Woundwort.

Contains examples of:

  • Abandoned Area: Efrafa is hidden underneath the ruins of a human building. The walls and roof have long gone but the brick chimneys remain standing; along with the "iron trees" of nearby powerlines, it gives the warren an ominous appearance.
  • Adaptation Distillation: Being a four-hour miniseries, this is distilled down less than other versions of the story. Nonetheless, several minor characters (like Pipkin) are cut and certain events (the attack of the rats, the crow attack, escaping from Efrafa) are combined. The El-ahrairah fables and human-oriented scenes are also cut. Weirdly, even though the series spends some time and effort Foreshadowing it, the escape from Efrafa by boat is also cut.
  • Adaptation Expansion:
    • Clover is given a greatly increased role; She's included in the initial envoy to Efrafa, and Woundwort becomes an Abhorrent Admirer who fancies Clover his queen. Vervain also gets a greatly expanded role, much to the sorrow of everyone who encounters him including Clover and Hyzenthlay.
    • Cowslip's Warren worships a crystal idol and has formed a Cult of Frith, whereas in the novel they just were extremely fatalistic.
    • Campion openly mutinies against Woundwort during the siege and withdraws himself and his troops.
    • Orchis, a minor character in the novels who was not featured in earlier adaptations, gets promoted to the role normally filled by Vervain, as the latter becomes something of a Disc-One Final Boss. He is also Vervain's brother here; in the novel they were not related.
  • Adaptation-Induced Plot Hole: Sandleford warren is still destroyed but with excavators. The poison gas and hunters are absent because of the Bowdlerization. Most of the rabbits would have been able to escape, which makes Captain Holly's declaration of "Zorn!" rather out of place.
  • Adaptation Relationship Overhaul: Bigwig and Kehaar were close friends in the novel, almost from first meeting. Here they hate one another, though eventually they start showing signs of becoming Vitriolic Best Buds, at least.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Lots of examples. Holly in his Heroic Sacrifice, Blackavar (instead of Dandelion) in luring the dog, Clover being an Action Girl...
  • Adaptational Intelligence:
    • Woundwort, to an extent. In the novel, Campion suggests a siege and Woundwort rejects it for mostly egotistical reasons. Here, Woundwort himself comes up with the idea of a siege and orders it done.
    • The Efrafans are far more dangerous enemies here. They are not easily fooled, suspecting Bigwig right from the start of being The Mole.
  • Adaptational Jerkass:
    • The Netflix miniseries really amps up the "Jerk" in Jerk with a Heart of Gold for Bigwig. In the novel, Bigwig was stern and prone to being a Drill Sergeant Nasty, but he's very loyal to Hazel and even acts as his advisor at times. Here, he's easily angered and very confrontational with every decision that Hazel makes.
    • Kehaar is this to an extent, gaining a more selfish side. While he offers to help the rabbits find some does after warming up to them in the novel, he abandons them once he gets better in the Netflix series, only to come back once his wing gets reinjured while scouting Efrafa.
    • El-ahrairah, kind of. He's a lot more obstinate when talking to Frith, and his famous "bless my bottom" suggestion is delivered in more of an insulting way, in the tone of someone saying "Kiss my ass."
  • Adaptational Species Change: Downplayed with breed. The dog that attacks the Efrafan rabbits is a Rottweiler, while in the novel and movie, he's a Labrador retriever.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Vervain. He wasn't exactly nice in the novel, being Woundwort's chief executioner. But here he's just an out and out Sadist as well as a Dirty Coward.
  • Adapted Out: Pipkin in particular is nowhere to be seen (though several of his traits and some of his role has been given to Bluebell), as well as large number of other, less prominent, rabbits.
  • Artistic License Biology:
    • The animators appear to have based the characters on hares, not rabbits. Rabbits have shorter legs and differently-shaped bodies than the characters who appear in the series. Possibly justified; the longer legs made the rabbits easier to differentiate and their longer faces easier to animate.
    • The rabbits have pawpads. As anyone who has ever held a real rabbit can tell you, they don't. The bottoms of their feet are covered in coarse, fluffy fur instead. It's very jarring compared to the otherwise realistic-looking (besides the proportions) models.
    • A possible example is that one of the stated reasons for warren acquiring more does is because apparently does are better at digging than bucks — which of course is not true, neither in real life, in the original novel, or in the previous adaptations. It's zig-zagged a little, though, because where as (unlike in the novel and the TV series) it's never explicitly said that this is a matter of attitude rather than ability, there are a couple of scenes that at least heavily imply it.
  • Ascend to a Higher Plane of Existence: Hazel in the epilogue, joining the Black Rabbit's Owsla and leaving no body behind.
  • "Back to Camera" Pose: A couple of posters show the rabbits from behind as they look forward, representing how they are embarking on a journey.
  • Bloodless Carnage: Quite unlike the Gorn-soaked 1970s movie, most of the deaths are bloodless. Averted, however, in the final battle between Woundwort and Bigwig, which leaves visibly bloody wounds on both rabbits.
  • Bowdlerized: Kehaar's "Piss off!!!!" in the book and the previous adaptations is absent here, though Bigwig still tells Woundwort (in Lapine) to eat shit.
  • Chekhov's Skill: Strawberry's amazing digging skills end up playing a vital role during the siege in the final episode.
  • Composite Character: Bluebell is an interesting example, because he combines traits of four characters from the book — himself, Pipkin, Silver and Dandelion. Like the Bluebell of the book, he's a Motor Mouth and a jokester who plays Plucky Comic Relief to keep the other rabbits's spirits up; like Pipkin he's a bit of a Cowardly Lion and a big supporter of Hazel; like Silver he's the only Sandleford rabbit with silvery gray fur rather than brown... and like Dandelion he's The Storyteller. The interesting part is that while Pipkin and Silver don't appear in the series, Dandelion does... it's just that he doesn't tell stories and this trait has been given entirely to Bluebell (who was a good storyteller in the book but usually took a backseat to Dandelion).
  • Dark Is Not Evil: The Black Rabbit always was presented in this way, but here she's a soft-spoken doe and anything but evil. The evil Efrafans, on the other hand, are mostly grey.
  • Death by Adaptation:
    • Captain Holly falls defending the warren from the Efrafans. Also counts as a Heroic Sacrifice.
    • Vervain, who got an Uncertain Doom ending in the novel in that he just vanished on the way back to Efrafa and nobody could say what had happened to him, is in this series hit by a train while trying to stop Holly, Bluebell, and Blackberry from escaping Erfafa.
  • Deranged Animation: Fiver's visions count as this. They look like a first-hand peek into insanity. This becomes absolutely nightmare-inducing when he starts picking up the psychic vibes from Silverweed at the Warren of the Shining Wires. At one point, he even sees the 'hole in the sky' from Tales from Watership Down.
  • Don't Fear the Reaper: The Black Rabbit is directly personified as a soft-spoken, soft-furred doe, and mentions that rabbits walk with her through eternity except for their brief lives on Earth. She also sends Hazel back after he nearly dies in the culvert from the gunshot wounds.
  • Explain, Explain... Oh, Crap!: The Efrafan rabbits have seemingly escaped Woundwort's tyranny, and Holly is training them how to use their senses to detect danger. He invites a doe to sniff the air. She scents rabbits of course, then adds, "Lots of strange rabbits..." Turns out Woundwort is mustering his force nearby for a surprise attack on the warren.
  • Gender Flip: In this adaptation, Blackberry is once again a buck, but Strawberry is now a doe, and becomes the warren's first. The Black Rabbit of Inle is also a doe in this adaptation.
  • Green Aesop: The bad side of humanity is stated again and again, where in the book it is confined to a single line.
  • If You're So Evil, Eat This Kitten!: For formal induction into the Efrafan Owsla, Bigwig is given a simple task: Execute Hyzenthlay. He promptly reveals himself as The Mole and attacks the Efrafans instead.
  • It's Personal: Captain Orchis was never fond of Hyzenthlay due to her frequent escape attempts, but when the last one causes the death of his brother by the end of the 2nd episode, Orchis is chomping at the bit to destroy her.
  • Last-Second Chance: In episode 4 Hazel points out to General Woundwort even if he wins their upcoming battle, he will still leave with far fewer bucks. Instead, Hazel offers a mutually beneficial alliance where they build a 3rd warren for the purpose of sharing resources. When one of Woundwort's captains tells him it might at least be worth considering, Woundwort just scoffs at Hazel and says he is not exactly in position to be offering a "deal" the first place.
  • Leaning on the Fourth Wall: The series ends with someone telling the Story of Hazel-Rah to the rabbit children. His words are taken directly from the opening lines of the novel.
  • Lighter and Softer: Compared to the 1978 animated movie, this series is far less gruesome, with the most horrible things happening off-screen rather than on-screen. There's also more levity, including more lighthearted banter between the rabbits — not to mention, more emphasis is put on the calmer stretches in between the dire moments, where nothing particularly terrible happens.
  • Noisy Nature: The Efrafans growl as Woundwort sends them charging en masse at Watership Down, instead of saving their breath for running.
  • No One Sees the Boss: Bigwig asks to meet the Chief Rabbit of Efrafa and is constantly fobbed off. When they finally meet face-to-face, it's because General Woundwort has turned up with his entire Owsla to kill Bigwig and recapture the does in the cliffhanger ending of "The Escape".
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!: As General Woundwort eloquently explains to Hazel, "We...Are...Going..To DESTROY YOU!!
  • Retraux: Woundwort's Troubled Backstory Flashback is filmed like a Happier Home Movie.
  • Rousing Speech: Used to contrast Hazel's leadership with Woundwort after the escape from Efrafa. Hazel inspires the escapees to keep running and fight for freedom, Woundwort intimidates his followers and tells them they shouldn't be afraid of elil because they are the elil.
  • Slasher Smile: Woundwort pastes on a blood chilling one before he attacks the dog. Orchis is quite prone to these, as befitting his Dragon status here.
  • The Storyteller: It's somewhat toned down compared to the novel, since we don't get to actually hear most of the stories, but Bluebell is very plainly treated as the group's storyteller. Dandelion, in a complete departure from his novel counterpart, is never seen telling a story.
  • Take a Third Option: Strawberry can't choose between Dandelion and Hawkbit as her mate. In the end, she chooses Bigwig.
  • Those Two Guys:
    • Hawkbit and Dandelion. They get into an argument over Clover (who chooses neither of them) and are constantly bickering with one another.
    • Blackberry and Bluebell spend most of their time together, becoming Vitriolic Best Buds.
  • Troubled Backstory Flashback: This aspect of Woundwort's origin story is emphasized. As a child he's posted to keep an eye out while his family raids a garden, but goes tharn at the sight of a fox. When the fox attacks he flees, but this only lures the fox to his warren when they are all out for silflay. The fox kills his parents and most of the rest of the warren, and gives Woundwort his distinctive facial scar.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Bluebell thinks he and Blackberry are best friends. For most of the series, Blackberry does not agree... though towards the end, he's warmed up considerably to Bluebell and the "Vitriolic" part gets downplayed.
  • Violent Glaswegian: The seagull Kehaar is now voiced by Peter Capaldi, who maintains his usual Scottish accent and puts on a definite Highlander vibe, instead of his original depiction as a Scandinavian Cloud Cuckoolander.