Watership Down started off life as a book, published in late 1972. It was the brainchild of British author Richard Adams. The book was based upon real places in the Berkshire countryside, and followed the adventures of a group of rabbits struggling to find a new home in safety, after the visions of one of the rabbits brought warnings of great danger.
6 years later, in 1978, the book was turned into a lavish film production by Nepenthe Productions, directed by Martin Rosen. A wide variety of celebrities provided voiceovers, including John Hurt as Hazel, and Richard Briers (Famous for his role in The Good Life) as Fiver. The animation took several years, but it was worth it. The film became an international hit, with the theme song 'Bright Eyes', wrote by Mike Batt, and sung by Art Garfunkel reaching the number one spot in the UK. The film itself stuck pretty near to the storyline described in the book, with all the trouble and violence included.
After that, nothing much happened for several years. In 1996, a second book was released known as 'Tales From Watership Down'. I have now read the book (thanks Loganberry =:P), and I can agree with the general opinion about how it lacks the spark (or even just a plot!) that the original had!
Then in 1999, is where I really take up on the story. Two companies bought the rights to Watership Down, and decided to make it into an animated series. First of all was Alltime Entertainment. A british-based media company, with a large portfolio of projects, and the ones to actually own the rights. (In fact, according to them, the company was originally formed to exploit the rights to WD). The other partner in the project was Decode Entertainment. They're a Canadian company(although they have offices in the UK), probably best known at the moment for the slightly warped series Angela Anaconda.
The production of the series became a huge project, attracting massive media attention. Once again, a long list of celebrities were lined up to provide the voice over cast. John Hurt even returned, this time as the voice of Woundwort, as did Richard Briers, as Captain Broom. As for the musical side of things, Mike Batt, famous for his 'Wombles' songs, was brought back to work on the Watership Down music a second time. Many fantastic pieces were wrote, and performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (no cheap computer-generated music here!!) in the UK. Stephen Gately provided the vocals for the new version of 'Bright Eyes' and everything was set. While the audio was produced in the UK, the video was animated in Canada by Funbag Animation Studios. This time round, the storylines varied from the book hugely, with things rearranged, and much of the violence removed because of the younger target audience!
In the Autumn of 1999, Watership Down first hit the UK screens. The series was picked up by CITV in the UK, and YTV in Canada. The first series ran up to December 1999, ending on a cliffhanger. There was then an agonising (IMO) break of 5 months before the second series aired in the UK in May 2000 (conveniently about 2 days before my birthday!).
After that, everything suddenly fell silent. The website disappeared almost instantly (and it has bounced up and down since, albeit with a different address). In the UK, none of the episodes have never been shown again to this day. However, the series was not quite finished. In 2001, a third series of 13 more episodes was produced. Strangely, this was referred to by the companies as the second series, with the first 2 series becoming known as 'series 1'. This was never picked up in the UK, probably as CITV by this time had slashed all budgeting invested in such experimental programming, preferring to stick to using Nickleodeon's programmes. I now know for certain that it did air in Canada in English (and has done as recently as 2003), and the German speaking countries in ...er... German. Trust me to be stuck in the worst country in the world for TV!
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