Netflix Bags Global Rights for 'Watership Down' Adaptation With John Boyega, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult

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John Boyega, James McAvoy and Nicholas Hoult

The animated BBC One miniseries also has Ben Kingsley, Gemma Arterton and Olivia Colman adding their voices.

A generation of Brits may have been left traumatized by the gory and somewhat tear-jerking feature-length animated adaptation of Watership Down in 1978 (many questioned its U rating at the time), but the major names now cast in the latest take on Richard Adam's classic allegorical bunny adventure will likely bring people back for more.

First announced last year by British broadcaster the BBC and due to air in 2017, the four-part CGI miniseries will now see John Boyega, James McAvoy, Nicholas Hoult and Ben Kingsley voicing a group of rabbits — led by the brave Hazel (McAvoy) and visionary Fiver (Hoult) — with Netflix also having come aboard to premiere the drama globally outside the U.K.

A co-production between BBC One and Netflix, the new 4x1 hour interpretation of Watership Down is being developed and produced by growing U.K. production and management company 42, behind the upcoming Hoult-starring actioner Collide and Taylor Schilling/Sam Worthington sci-fi The Titan, alongside Noam Murro’s Biscuit Films. Murro, who helmed Smart People and 300: Rise of an Empire, also is set to co-direct alongside Peter Dodd.

Written by BAFTA-nominated Tom Bidwell, the series also will feature the vocal talents of Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace), Freddie Fox (Pride), Anne-Marie Duff (Suffragette), Miles Jupp (The Thick of It) and Olivia Colman (currently seen on AMC's acclaimed spy thriller The Night Manager).

The novel, which was first published in 1972 and went on to sell more than 50 million copies, is set in the idyllic rural landscape of southern England and follows a band of rabbits on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries towards a promised land and a more perfect society.

"Before there was Harry Potter there was Watership Down," said the BBC's drama commissioning editor Matthew Read in a statement. "Richard Adams’ novel is one of the most successful books of all time and one of the biggest selling books in history. It is fantastic to have the opportunity to bring a modern classic to a mainstream BBC One audience with such an incredible roster of actors alongside the talented team overseeing the animation."

Added Larry Tanz, Netflix's vp global television, who also is serving as executive producer: "We jumped at the chance to get in early and work alongside the BBC and 42 to bring this classic English tale to our members around the world."

Rory Aitken, partner and exec producer for 42, suggested that adapting the story over four hours allowed them to "explore the characters from the novel and their adventure in a way not previously achievable on screen.”

Watership Down's CGI animation team is being led by co-director Dodd (Fantastic Mr. Fox, Frankenweenie) and producer Hugo Sands, along with the animation studio Brown Bag Films, based in Dublin. It is being executive produced by Aitken, Josh Varney, Ben Pugh and Eleanor Moran for 42, Murro for Biscuit Films and Read for the BBC.

It will be distributed internationally by ITV Studios Global Entertainment.

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