The British have a myriad of Christmas traditions, one of which includes the BBC’s annual Christmas televised specials. Ranging from the Gruffalo to the Wind of the Willows, BBC have since excelled in producing charming short films on a yearly basis. Yet, with the unveiling of the trailer for the upcoming Watership Down miniseries, many are wondering as to whether or not this adaptation will be any good.
Originally a novel published in 1972 by the late Richard Adams, Watership Down was a unique and fantastical tale about a group of anthropomorphic rabbits and their odyssey to find a new home back-dropped in the English countryside. Despite featuring a cast of talking rabbits and being a story intended for the authors’ children, Watership Down had some uniquely mature aspects to it, with an extensive “lapine” lore and bearing themes ranging from religion, war, survival and death, oh so much death! However, the book was met with much success upon release and is now seen as a classic piece of British literature.
Owing to this reception, it was given the animated movie treatment in 1978 with a cast comprising of John Hurt and Richard Briers among others and was released to critical acclaim. This was my introduction to the franchise and bloody hell did it scare the life out of me when I was a kid. As much as I appreciate this adaptation it certainly didn’t hold back on violence, yet it was a great film and I implore any reading this to watch it if you haven’t already. The fact that it was a cartoon did nothing to rob this piece of a sense of realism, the characters all move fluidly and very much like a rabbit would, and the makers didn’t hold back in capturing the modest beauty of the English countryside. Alas, despite its acclaim, the film has always received complaints at its unrelenting brutality in a story about cuddly, talking rabbits.
The upcoming miniseries, featuring a talented, star-studded cast ranging from veterans like Ben Kingsly and James McAvoy to new-comers like John Boyega, is the BBC’s second foray on Watership Down (with the first one released back in 1999 and concluding in 2001). With the previous series being a cheaply 2-D animated family-friendly show with the violence significantly toned back, one wouldn’t be mistaken in assuming that the BBC are rehashing much of the same.
Whilst I am eager for the story to be retold by such a brilliant cast, I really cannot get over how bad the visuals look. I mean, they’re utterly dreadful for a miniseries that’s cost £20 million to produce. Christ alive, it’s looks as if I could have played it on the PlayStation 2. The characters look robotic and lifeless, the likes of which are set against a backdrop which doesn’t seem to have finished rendering. Like, what the hell? CGI has come so far in the last few decades, it’s not an excuse when the BBC has produced some actually visually pleasant films. Or, why not use a different method of animation, like stop-motion (used to make the aforementioned Gruffalo back in 2009), after all some of the animators on this have previously worked on Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr Fox (2009) which proved to be a great avail to the world of stop-motion.
One can only speculate that the bulk of this film’s budget was flushed into the wallets of its cast, the likes of whom, I’d bet, drove a hard bargain before lending their talents.
Despite this, the miniseries has yet to come out, with a release date set for the 23rd December this year. And whilst I don’t expect to enjoy it, I am eagerly awaiting it.