I never read the novel Watership Down, and I didn’t actually know anything about it, before I watched the new animated Netflix limited series adaptation of it.
The main reason I watched the series was because I saw it had rabbits in it and it was rated PG, so I figured it was a go to watch with my kids – and I was mildly interested since I knew it was based on a novel that was at least somewhat classic.
What is “Watership Down”about?
A lot more than a bunch of bunnies.
The main characters of “Watership Down” are a group of anthropomorphized rabbits who live in a community that’s about to be destroyed by human construction. Sounds like it could be the setup for a typical lighthearted animated story, the likes of Over the Hedge. But this is an entirely different kind of story.
These rabbits have their own folklore, idioms, hierarchy, culture. They use big words that don’t always make sense immediately to us, and their world is anything but bright and jokey.
Fivver is a rabbit who has strange visions of the future. His vision of their home being destroyed leads him and his brother, and eventually several other rabbits, off on a search for a safe new home.
Along the way, the rabbits encounter dangers and trials in the form of other animals, humans, and darkest of all, other rabbits who are rather on the evil side.
I liked “Watership Down” quite a bit…
I think mostly because there’s really not much else like it. It’s very unique in how dark it is for an animated series.
“Watership Down” is also compelling and interesting, with pretty enjoyable characters, and a few plot twists.
One of my favorite aspects was the side character Bigwig. He starts out as kind of a hot-headed, blowhard bruiser of rabbit. But by the end he’s grown and developed into a noble, heroic sort of guy – er, rabbit.
But it might not be for everyone…
The darkness of the story might be too heavy for some younger viewers.
My kids liked it quite a bit, but they’re exposed to talk of animal death on a pretty regular basis (since we have farming family members) so it didn’t seem like a tragically big deal to them when certain animals die in the series.
So obviously, there’s some violence and peril here. There’s also some brief mild language, and then the rabbits’ mythology might be a little confusing for young Catholics. The rabbits reference “Frith” who seems to be their god, which might be a bit hard for Catholic kids to grasp if they haven’t been exposed to mythology.
I don’t know how the series compares to the book since I never read it. But standing alone, the series is pretty good. Not at all what you typically expect from an animal cartoon, but definitely good in its own unique way.