“Silflay hraka, u embleer rah!”
December 4, 2018 4:20 PM   Subscribe

Watership Down [YouTube][Trailer] “It’s a tale of survival, pain, and the unyielding power of hope that rings just as true now as it did almost half a century ago. The first trailer for BBC One’s Watership Down is here, boasting an A-level cast and a powerful message about doing whatever it takes to seek a better life.” [via: io9]
posted by Fizz (79 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
 
Hooray! A cute bunny movie! Just the sort of harmless escapism I need in times like these!
posted by Huffy Puffy at 4:24 PM on December 4 [146 favorites]


Hooray! A cute bunny movie! Just the sort of harmless escapism I need in times like these!

Oh god above I hope that's sarcasm
posted by Homo neanderthalensis at 4:28 PM on December 4 [35 favorites]


I got excited for a Watership Down movie, then I saw the awful CG.

Seriously, BBC, what gives? This is like Junior year Computer Animation Degree level quality. I wouldn't put this on my demo-reel.
posted by FleetMind at 4:33 PM on December 4 [23 favorites]


You are not invited to my warren.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:36 PM on December 4 [2 favorites]


I am still traumatized from the LAST movie, which my fourth grade teacher should NOT have shown us. Those screaming bunnies will haunt me forever.
posted by leesh at 4:36 PM on December 4 [12 favorites]


Yeah this looks bad. Just watch the 2d animated version which is a masterpiece.
posted by selfnoise at 4:42 PM on December 4 [10 favorites]


so. cold.
posted by Glinn at 4:45 PM on December 4 [4 favorites]


M'sion ule hraka vrair. This is just one of those things that will always be a book and only a book for me.
posted by theweasel at 4:46 PM on December 4 [10 favorites]


Yeah I am a big Watership Down fan and I liked the original film on its own merits. This just looks... awful. Like Hop only grimdark maybe? The rabbits look totally wrong and unnatural-- they're standing up on all fours WAY too much. Rabbits are like frogs, they should be poised to BOING with those big hind feet secure on the ground, not teetering around on their toes like dogs or cats. I won't even be able to watch this, it gives me the uncanny-valley heebie-jeebies.
posted by The otter lady at 4:48 PM on December 4 [7 favorites]


Never saw the last movie though I was of an age to see it - back in the day this stuff was not so easily available. I read and liked the novel when I was 13 or 14, and someone gave me a book for Christmas when I was in high school, that was movie merchandise: The Watership Down Film Picture Book. This was a hardbound book about an inch thick, full of color stills from the movie, and a caption for each one. Not exactly the sort of reading I was hoping for when I asked for "books" as a Christmas gift, but still kinda fun.

Then it turned out that book was SUPER popular with kids I babysat, as a read-aloud to kids too young for books without pictures. And it kept them occupied for long enough to settle down and go to sleep, unlike short kid books. We didn't usually get as far as the screaming rabbits part, and with no sound effects it wasn't as traumatic anyways, for the one kid I sat with enough times to actually finish it.

I wonder if kids would still like it.
posted by elizilla at 4:52 PM on December 4 [5 favorites]


We already had a perfectly good Watership Down, and that will remain the one with which I will traumatise my children, thank you very much. If you're that desperate for a 'live action' version may I direct you to the episode Animals from the fifth season of The Goodies.

This version probably doesn't even feature Art Garfunkel's hit single off his album Songs for Dead and Dying Rabbits John Hodgman I am forever in your debt for that bit.
posted by MarchHare at 4:54 PM on December 4 [23 favorites]


Mad Max with rabbits and set in Tellytubbyland.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 5:02 PM on December 4 [9 favorites]


If you grew up in the 70s and 80s in the UK, it's pretty much guaranteed that you'll have read Watership Down at school - probably twice. And seen the film.

I've been playing Forza Horizon 4 a lot lately, so I was mentally in driving mode as soon as I saw that CG English landscape - so it was weird when the rabbits appeared.
posted by pipeski at 5:03 PM on December 4 [3 favorites]


Apparently when I saw the movie as a child, I was so annoyed they'd left out the El-ahrairah stories, I didn't have the emotional energy to spare on being traumatized by the rest of it.

Think I'll pass on this one. Who knew the warren was in the Uncanny Valley?
posted by Lexica at 5:05 PM on December 4 [3 favorites]


We didn't usually get as far as the screaming rabbits part

the book is enough for me, too, even the thought of just watching the *trailer* made me go temporarily tharn
posted by barchan at 5:19 PM on December 4 [6 favorites]


Well if rabbits are too much and you want to wind down with something else Richard Adams also wrote another book about doggos and Martin Rosen made a film out of that one as well. so you could always check that out.
posted by Artw at 5:22 PM on December 4 [24 favorites]


How can the light that burned so brightly suddenly burn so pale?
posted by HiroProtagonist at 5:34 PM on December 4 [7 favorites]


Richard Adams also wrote another book about doggos and Martin Rosen made a film out of that one as well.

I hope you make sure we're properly dead before you start, old rip-beak!
posted by Kitty Stardust at 5:37 PM on December 4 [3 favorites]


"Like Threads but with rabbits."
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 5:43 PM on December 4 [33 favorites]


When I was a kiddo my mom sat me down in front of the TV and put on what she thought was a cute cartoon about bunnies. I lived in terror of rabbits for years.

When I first watched Buffy, I truly got Anya and her whole thing, is what I'm saying.
posted by duffell at 5:48 PM on December 4 [7 favorites]


If you grew up in the 70s and 80s in the UK, it's pretty much guaranteed that you'll have read Watership Down at school - probably twice. And seen the film.

And eaten the pie!

(Sorry.)

This looks far too uncanny-valley for my taste, particularly as it seems to be so heavily influenced by the animated film - several moments in the trailer appear to be practically shot-for-shot reproductions of scenes from that.

I would love to see an artistic, highly stylised, 2-D animated adaptation of all the El-ahrairah and Rabscuttle stories from Adams’ work, though.
posted by Morfil Ffyrnig at 6:09 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


Huh. Bunnies look better in Red Dead Redemption 2, even with the f'd up HDR rendering. AV Club got it right: Pixar movies look like child’s play compared to Watership Down.
posted by prinado at 6:11 PM on December 4


The voices are promising, but the fur doesn't move.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:13 PM on December 4


The CGI looks a little dated, but overall it might be good, not getting the hate. I just re-read the book for maybe the 5th time in the last 25 years, it holds up really well, for me anyway.

It's a four-part miniseries, if that means 8 hours they'll have time for basically every event including all of the el-ahrairah's stories. Could be cool.
posted by skewed at 6:13 PM on December 4 [2 favorites]


That animation looks 15 years old. Stop motion would've been a better choice.
posted by Brocktoon at 6:15 PM on December 4 [2 favorites]


"The Fall of Efrafa were a British crust punk band from Brighton, England, active between 2005 and 2009. Their work was conceptualised around the mythology present in the novel Watership Down." [Wikipedia]
posted by sacrifix at 6:35 PM on December 4 [5 favorites]


There are theories as to why the animation looks kinda shabby.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 6:36 PM on December 4 [5 favorites]


The 1978 film had great voice acting, fine animation and a fantastic song. I'm afraid I can't find any sign of improvements in this trailer. Why couldn't they have just thrown the £20 million budget at Doctor Who instead? Then, maybe we could have had a Christmas Day epsidoe as well as the one for New Year.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 6:37 PM on December 4


Great words from the book that made me tear up a bit, and some wonderful voice casting, too.

So shall we all agree that this is best treated as a radio play?
posted by maudlin at 6:38 PM on December 4 [5 favorites]


Mark me down as another victim of Watership Down kindertrauma. We had a school assembly to watch it on the last day before Christmas vacation. None of the teachers had bothered to preview it, so it was just a cartoon movie about rabbits. JK, K, grades one and two, all in one room, all completely losing their shit. I was OK, though -- since I was such a cute little squirt, I got to sit on Miss Philp's lap, and seek comfort in her bosom. I was a precocious child...

To this day, Sister Renault cannot hear the words Watership Down without breaking into a cold sweat. I got through OK -- I was much more haunted by memories of Mickey Rooney in Pete's Dragon. Something about that guy freaked me right the fuck out.

Good times, good times...
posted by Capt. Renault at 6:40 PM on December 4 [3 favorites]


I have to say though, at least it doesn't blatantly rip off the story, mix in some different animals and slap a new name on the front.
posted by Juso No Thankyou at 6:41 PM on December 4


Let’s just pause a minute to appreciate the post title, a beleaguered stalwart antifascist’s cry of defiance. Approximate translation: “Eat shit, stink-lord!”
A battle-cry for our times.
posted by obliviax at 6:59 PM on December 4 [14 favorites]


What does it say about me that I watched the 1978 version as a kid, on purpose, repeatedly? (For a few years I would basically only rent five different movies from the video store, and this was one of them.)

I still love the animation, even now. Especially the scenes with El-ahrairah. I dunno, I'm tired of 3D-looking CG. I don't know how to judge it, and this trailer didn't strike me as a particularly bad exemplar, I just ... I'm not into the style.

I also noticed some shots in here that brought me back to the original film adaptation. It made me smile - I suspect there are some fans of that version on this team.
posted by eirias at 7:12 PM on December 4 [2 favorites]


Somehow, I never saw the movie, nor read the book, until I was in my 40s. So I wasn’t traumatized by it; rather, it just struck me as geared to a very mature audience. It really doesn’t seem to be a child’s book at all, despite having its genesis in stories the author told his daughters, and of course BUNNIES! Or, at least, it’s definitely enjoyable as well by even somewhat curmudgeonly and cynical adults.

Nevertheless, I looked up the specific setting of Watership Down in the real world and was oddly moved to realize that, a few years earlier, I’d driven within a mile of the place while visiting my godson and his family who lived in Reading at the time.
posted by darkstar at 7:23 PM on December 4


I am looking forward to next years Jungle Book / Watership Down cross over.
posted by srboisvert at 7:33 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


Stop motion would've been a better choice.

Thankfully, we'll always have the Curse of the Were Rabbit.
posted by SPrintF at 7:35 PM on December 4 [7 favorites]


Watership Down is my favorite book, but this looks like hraka.
posted by Hazelsmrf at 8:09 PM on December 4


Laika would make an amazing Watership Down and someone should pay them to do that.

Or Cartoon Saloon... that would be a very different version but cool.
posted by selfnoise at 8:10 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


Seriously, BBC, what gives?

Offensively bad depictions of talking animals are kind of a BBC tradition.
posted by Mr.Encyclopedia at 8:40 PM on December 4 [6 favorites]


When I was a kiddo my mom sat me down in front of the TV and put on what she thought was a cute cartoon about bunnies. I lived in terror of rabbits for years.

I convinced my mother to rent this from Blockbuster when I was like 6 years old. By all rights, I should have been scarred for life, but I loved the movie so much, and kept demanding my mother re-rent it, so she finally bought it for me (on VHS, naturally).

Only after purchasing it did she sit down to watch it with me. Needless to say, she was horrified. Not only by the movie she just bought for her 6 year old, but also that her 6 year old kid's favorite movie involved bunnies ripping each other's throats out.

I was a weird child.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:42 PM on December 4 [3 favorites]


More on topic, I hate this style of animation, but I will probably at least give this a shot, just because I have so much affection for the original movie and the book, both of which I've re-visited many times over the years.

What I like about the original movie animation is that it feels like a picture book come to life. It may not be perfectly lifelike, although I actually think the original does a better job with the rabbit movements than this new one. Also, a lot of the scenes in the original are rendered really beautifully.
posted by litera scripta manet at 8:46 PM on December 4 [4 favorites]


The CGI made me go tharn.

I'll stick with the book I guess.
posted by nubs at 9:29 PM on December 4


Offensively bad depictions of talking animals are kind of a BBC tradition.

Holy shit.
posted by mandolin conspiracy at 9:29 PM on December 4 [2 favorites]


o no
posted by soakimbo at 9:36 PM on December 4 [2 favorites]


I guess I haven't watched much recent animation. Do all animated movies look like crappy video games these days? Is that just the style now? Or is this particularly bad?
posted by litera scripta manet at 9:42 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


I think I read somewhere that Watership Down was basically a retelling if the Aenid. Never having read the Aenid — it doesn’t tend to make an appearance in most Computer Science curricula — I cannot verify this claim. Is there any truth to it? Or is this one of those monomyth things where all stories are one story, and the same themes continually reappear in unconnected works of literature?
posted by panama joe at 9:44 PM on December 4 [1 favorite]


My take away from this has been that as an American, why did no one tell me about the TV series. We did not get this in the States and I am annoyed as &*(^ about that. Now I get to buy a Region-free player so I can watch an almost twenty year-old cartoon. I am so psyched.
posted by Ignorantsavage at 9:46 PM on December 4


It really doesn’t seem to be a child’s book at all, despite having its genesis in stories the author told his daughters, and of course BUNNIES!

My dad read it to me as a bedtime story early enough that when the movie came out I had opinions about the adaptation, so… must have been age 6 or 7? Somehow, having him read it meant that the difficult and sad parts weren't traumatizing, I think.

That said, when I actually read The Princess Bride for myself, I was surprised to realize that the version I'd heard as a bedtime story was actually Dad's "good parts version" of Goldman's "good parts version" of Morgenstern's version (cough) so maybe he did some editing on the fly that I don't remember.

(Other bedtime stories that I remember include Ivanhoe and The Castle of Otranto.)
posted by Lexica at 10:02 PM on December 4 [2 favorites]


I just finished watching Bee & Puppycat. It was delightful and -independently- 2D and gorgeous. You can still do 2D things in the 21st century dang it. 3D is expensive and hard to make pretty. Abjure abjure abjure, sad face emoji.
posted by Going To Maine at 10:26 PM on December 4 [2 favorites]


The CG is so bad that I half expected Hazel to lead his group to the island of Sodor.
posted by JamesBay at 10:31 PM on December 4 [9 favorites]


For me, the problem with CGI is in that it so often is just an attempt to make impossible things look as close to real as they can, where real has no aesthetic value in itself other than hoped for verisimilitude. It's purposefully unimaginative in any greater sense under the assumption the audience is only interested in or able to accept things if they look "real".

The history of animation is one of stylized imagery, where the attempt isn't to make things look real as such, but to suggest reality while also adding a meaningful aesthetic to the work to provide an added layer of feeling to it. Some of that history, no doubt, came from not being able to recreate the real in the kinds of stories animated films showed, but that limitation was turned to a benefit by adding feeling to the work that reality doesn't by itself convey. Some animation of course is crap and some verisimilitude in video games and in some films is impressive for providing an uncanny sense of reality. What is irksome though is the expectation that CGI has to look "real" and follow the same rules as live action filmmaking when computer animation is capable of stylization and audiences can, or should be able to, accept heightened reality, impossible images and actions when they serve the purpose of the story and hold to their own internal logic.

The things that make anime, Hong Kong action films, Indian CGI fantasies and normal 2D animation often so enjoyable is that they deny the reality of physics and create their own rules for how things can look and act. The trend towards demanding reality in CGI isn't for the better in itself and carries an incoherence about it for trying to hold some of its world to the demands of physics and our normative experience while readily denying the same in the very premises of their stories. They limit the emotional possibilities in animation to that of what live action can already create, using lighting effects and only extending action as we see it rather than making full use of other imaginative effects. It's banal and counter artistic in many ways, but that's the demand they've created and now have to keep trying to fulfill as audiences usually expect it with CGI.
posted by gusottertrout at 12:37 AM on December 5 [17 favorites]


Apparently this took 4 years to make, so perhaps the rising profile of certain voice actors meant that animation budget kept getting reduced in favour of voice talent budget and feature length animation is an industrial grind anyway.. hence the less than optimal uncanny valley cgi...
posted by Faintdreams at 1:39 AM on December 5


thatwhichfalls: "Mad Max with rabbits and set in Tellytubbyland."

Thumperdome!
posted by chavenet at 2:11 AM on December 5 [9 favorites]


And eaten the pie!

When the original movie came out I had just moved to Hackney, and the local butcher had a sign in his window over a pile of dead rabbits reading "You've seen the film, you've read the book, now try the pie".
posted by Fuchsoid at 2:48 AM on December 5 [10 favorites]


Maybe when they say "an A-level cast” they mean "made by high school students"?
posted by Joe in Australia at 3:34 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]


This could've been "Basil Brush Meets a Bunch of Rabbits" and maybe it should've.
posted by delfin at 4:02 AM on December 5


I don't get all the hate. I mean, at the time it seemed amazing, but in retrospect the beloved classic Ratatoing looks like shit too.
posted by duffell at 4:03 AM on December 5 [1 favorite]


The CG in just the thumbnail looked so bad that I could not bring myself to press play on the video.
posted by Gev at 4:36 AM on December 5


I see the old Walking With Dinosaurs team from the BBC never improved. It would help just to fill the scenes with some assets so it doesn't look so weirdly empty and undetailed.
posted by opsin at 6:02 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]


Well if nothing else this has gotten me to start reading the book for the first time since I was a teen, and it's utterly delightful.
posted by selfnoise at 6:19 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]


The problem here is not that the rabbits don't look realistic. It's that they look like bad CGI.

You could totally make rabbits that work for Watership Down with good CGI. Watch the first 10 seconds (before hilarity tries to ensue) of Peter rabbit running in the Peter Rabbit trailer. Defrock that rabbit, remove just a touch of the whimsy and bounce in his run, grimdarkify it by like 25%, and you'd have a perfectly cromulent (sorry, I don't know the lapine) Hazel.
posted by condour75 at 7:06 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]


> "I think I read somewhere that Watership Down was basically a retelling if the Aenid."

Yes, this is absolutely true. The parallels are far too detailed to be coincidental. A particular clue is the unusual number of times the rabbits have to cross water of some kind; it corresponds with the journeys by ship in the Aeneid. But there are many others (e.g., Hazel and Aeneas both take a mystical journey to the underworld, etc.)

Basic plot of the Aeneid:

A small group of people flees a doomed city. They stop at a new city which welcomes them, but something is wrong with it and they cannot stay there. They travel further to a new land, where they must fight for their place, and finally found their own great city.

Basic plot of Watership Down:

A small group of rabbits flees a doomed warren. They stop at a new warren which welcomes them, but something is wrong with it and they cannot stay there. They travel further to a new land, where they must fight for their place, and finally found their own great warren.
posted by kyrademon at 8:23 AM on December 5 [7 favorites]


hey travel further to a new land, where they must fight for their place, and finally found their own great city.

Not to mention that the mission to Efrafa is explicitly to get females, which is part of Roman legend, although I'm not sure if the rape of the Sabine women is included in the Aeneid.
posted by suelac at 8:36 AM on December 5 [3 favorites]


And with a reported budget of 20 million pounds, the BBC’s biggest buy-in with Netflix to date, I’m gonna go ahead and guess that much of that capital went to landing the voice talent.

"I'm only going to watch this rabbits-getting-murdered cartoon if I can hear Doctor Who, Strawberry Fields and Professor X doing the yelling and screaming."
posted by The Card Cheat at 8:41 AM on December 5 [4 favorites]


This is one of my all-time favorite books, but I haven't seen the movie since the early eighties when I was a wee ghost and it was on TV on Easter and my Mom thought it was an Easter special and plopped me in front of it. Nightmares for months, you guys.
posted by odd ghost at 8:46 AM on December 5


Richard Adams also wrote another book about doggos and Martin Rosen made a film out of that one as well. so you could always check that out

Sure—and as a palate cleanser, why not top it all off with Grave of the Fireflies?
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:11 AM on December 5 [8 favorites]


Offensively bad depictions of talking animals are kind of a BBC tradition.

That's not the beavers of Narnia I was thinking of when one spoke of "offensively bad depictions".
posted by hanov3r at 9:35 AM on December 5


I saw the original in the theater at age 5. I love it but it terrified me. To this day is I still find it very haunting.
The animation in this new version looks unfinished. Or like a less than top notch video game.
posted by Liquidwolf at 9:47 AM on December 5


> "That's not the beavers of Narnia I was thinking of when one spoke of 'offensively bad depictions'."

The Loin, the Witch, and Her Lack of Wardrobe was never an official BBC production, although it did briefly air on BBC4.
posted by kyrademon at 10:08 AM on December 5 [7 favorites]


I think the pageant-grade costumes and video effects of the late 80s Narnia remain rather charming. And really, I'd far rather see McAvoy and company dashing about in bunny ears and furry capes than whatever this is.
posted by Iridic at 10:11 AM on December 5


First serious book I read. 1975, dude in the red Ann Arbor bookmobile let me renew it. Smoked a pipe and had that book grace.

It moved me. The book that interested me in reading for the real reason.
posted by clavdivs at 10:32 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]


Hey, Clavdivs, that red bookmobile saved my life over in Whitmore Lake in 1970-77. My mother used to defend Nixon to the driver, who would have none of it. "Watership Down" was an eye-opening thing to read as a kid, since it gave you an inkling that the books you had been reading had unearned happy endings. I also had more respect for rabbits.
posted by acrasis at 11:52 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]


I'm afraid the Tailchaser's song movie is going to look as bad as this... That's one of my favourite books from my childhood...
posted by Pendragon at 11:54 AM on December 5 [2 favorites]


True story: Watership Down has been one of my favorite books since I was a kid. As such, it was the first book that the then-future-mrs.-allkindsoftime and I read out loud together. What I didn't tell her is that it's also one of those very few books that it's hard for me to finish the last couple pages of without choking up.

We were on a grassy hill next to a pool at the International School of Kenya when we were finishing it, on a bright Sunday afternoon. I was reading and I got a page from the end and couldn't finish it, so she had to while I turned into a liquid. All I could say when she finished the last page as I mopped my face was "Fucking rabbits."

That's when she knew I was the one, so a few months later the inscription she got engraved on the inside of my wedding ring was, of course "Fucking rabbits."

I lose my ring on a regular basis so there is both a jeweler in Bozeman, Montana where this recurring order is I'm sure a running joke of some uniformed sort, and possibly a small collection of random people who have found a titanium ring with this inscription in its beautiful cursive script and wondered what the hell?
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:53 PM on December 5 [17 favorites]


(I now refer to her as the mudder of my child.)
posted by allkindsoftime at 1:54 PM on December 5 [1 favorite]


Meh. It's no Cat Shit One.
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 9:59 PM on December 5


And if you liked Watership Down, you'll be pleased to know its creators went on to delight audiences with even more fuzzy animal hijinks in 1982's rollicking The Plague Dogs!
posted by Trinity-Gehenna at 10:11 PM on December 5


"The Fall of Efrafa were a British crust punk band from Brighton, England, active between 2005 and 2009...

Oh good, I needed something to replace the Hrududu Factory CD that I lost.
I was once an indie pop kid, just like you... It happened last week. Yeah, I'm living in a burrow now but I'm getting used to it.
posted by Gordafarin at 6:45 AM on December 6


Oy. I am not looking forward to this, and not because of the CGI. All of the dialogue sounds like someone watched Braveheart too many times.
posted by restless_nomad at 7:41 AM on December 6


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