Watership Down

Adaptations

Film

In 1978 Martin Rosen wrote and directed an animated film adaptation of Watership Down. The voice cast included John Hurt, Richard Briers, Harry Andrews, Simon Cadell, Nigel Hawthorne, and Roy Kinnear. The film featured the song "Bright Eyes", sung by Art Garfunkel. Released as a single, the song became a UK number one hit.[44]

Although the essentials of the plot remained relatively unchanged, the film omits several side plots. Though the Watership Down warren eventually grew to seventeen rabbits, with the additions of Strawberry, Holly, Bluebell, and three hutch rabbits liberated from the farm, the movie only includes a band of eight. Rosen's adaptation was praised for "cutting through Adams' book ... to get to the beating heart".[45]

The film has also seen some positive critical attention. In 1979 the film received a nomination for the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.[46] Additionally, British television station Channel 4's 2006 documentary 100 Greatest Cartoons named it the 86th greatest cartoon of all time.[47]

Television

From 1999 to 2001, the book was also adapted as an animated television series, broadcast on CITV in the UK and on YTV in Canada.[48] It was produced by Martin Rosen and starred several well-known British actors, including Stephen Fry, Rik Mayall, Dawn French, John Hurt, and Richard Briers, running for a total of 39 episodes over three seasons. Although the story was broadly based on that of the novel and most characters and events retained, some of the story lines and characters (especially in later episodes) were entirely new. In 2003, the second season was nominated for a Gemini Award for Best Original Music Score for a Dramatic Series.[49] In July 2014, it was confirmed that the BBC would be airing a new animated series based on the book.[50]

Theatre

In 2006, Watership Down was adapted into a theatrical production by Rona Munro for the Lyric Hammersmith in London. Directed by Melly Still, the cast included Matthew Burgess, Joseph Traynor, and Richard Simons, and ran from November 2006 through January 2007.[51] The tone of the production was inspired by the tension of war: in an interview with The Guardian, Still commented, "The closest humans come to feeling like rabbits is under war conditions ... We've tried to capture that anxiety."[52] A reviewer at The Times called the play "an exciting, often brutal tale of survival" and said that "even when it’s a muddle, it’s a glorious one."[53]

In 2011, Watership Down was adapted for the Lifeline Theatre in Chicago by John Hildreth. This production was directed by Katie McLean Hainsworth and the cast included Scott T. Barsotti, Chris Daley, Paul S. Holmquist, and Mandy Walsh.

Role-playing game

Watership Down inspired the creation of Bunnies & Burrows, a role-playing game centred around talking rabbits, published in 1976 by Fantasy Games Unlimited.[54] It introduced several innovations to role-playing game design, being the first game to allow players to have non-humanoid roles, as well as the first with detailed martial arts and skill systems. Fantasy Games Unlimited published a second edition of the game in 1982, and the game was modified and republished by Steve Jackson Games as an official GURPS supplement in 1992.

Music

The song "Bright Eyes" was written by Mike Batt and performed by Art Garfunkel for the 1978 film adaptation of the book Watership Down. In addition to this song, numerous bands or musicians have made reference to Watership Down in their music:

  • Italian power metal band Trick or Treat released the first of their planned two Watership Down concept albums in 2012. The album is called Rabbits' Hill Pt. 1. The tracklist includes a cover of the song "Bright Eyes" originally written by Mike Batt.
  • American folk rock trio America performed a song titled "Watership Down", released by Warner Bros. Records in April 1976 on their Hideaway album. Composed by singer/songwriter Gerry Beckley, the song's lyrics refer obliquely to the story elements, including the phrase "you might hear them in the distance, if your ear's to the ground."
  • Swedish progressive rock musician Bo Hansson recorded a suite named "Rabbit Music" which was based on the book, as part of his 1975 album Attic Thoughts. Two years later, Hansson released an entire album devoted to the novel, titled Music Inspired by Watership Down.
  • The British post-hardcore band Fall of Efrafa is a concept band who has recorded a trilogy of albums based loosely around the mythology of Watership Down. This trilogy is known as The Warren of Snares and consists of the albums Owsla (2006), Elil (2007) and Inlé (2009).[55][56]
  • The British electro group Ladytron shot a music video for their single "Ghosts", off their 2008 album Velocifero, which featured many references to Watership Down.
  • American art-rock band ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead has a song on their 1998 self-titled album called "Prince with a Thousand Enemies".
  • American hip-hop group Common Market recorded a song called "Watership Down" on their 2008 EP Black Patch War.
  • New Jersey-based hardcore punk band Bigwig takes its name from the character in the novel. The cover art of its first album, Unmerry Melodies, features a rabbit resembling Bigwig, and the song "Best of Me" features a sample from the film Watership Down.[57]
  • American rapper Sole, on his album Selling Live Water, references the story of El Ahrairah in the tunnel in the chorus of his song "Tokyo".
  • American singer-songwriter Vanessa Carlton's 2011 album Rabbits on the Run was inspired by Watership Down and A Brief History of Time.[58]
  • The song "Honey and the Bee" by Owl City contains the lyrics "The crow and the beanfield", referencing the title of chapter 9.

Radio

In 2002, a two-part, two hour dramatization of Watership Down by Neville Teller was broadcast by BBC Radio 4.

Audiobooks

In the 1970s, the book was read by Roy Dotrice, with musical background — music by George Butterworth performed by Academy of St Martin in the Fields under the direction of Neville Marriner.

In 1984, Watership Down was adapted into a 4-cassette audiobook by John Maher in association with the Australian Broadcasting Company's Renaissance Players. Produced by John Hannaford and narrated by Kerry Francis, the audiobook was distributed by The Mind's Eye.[59]

In 1990, a 16-hour, 11-cassette recording read by John MacDonald was published by Books on Tape, Inc. of Santa Ana, CA. ISBN0-7366-1700-0

Andrew Sachs recorded a 5 and a half hour abridged version of the story for Puffin Audiobooks.

In 2010, Audible.com released an unabridged digital download of the book, narrated by the multiple award-winning Ralph Cosham.


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