Watership Down

Martin Rosen (1978)

I have recently had the pleasure of reading Richard Adams’ 1978 novel Watership Down, and have decided that it is now among my top-three favorite novels of all time. I highly recommend reading the novel and then watching this beautifully done animation. Thanks for watching!

Richard Adams was an English novelist and writer of the books Watership DownShardik, and The Plague Dogs. Adams originally began telling the story that would become Watership Down to his two daughters on a long car trip. They eventually insisted that he publish it as a book. He began writing in 1966, taking two years to complete it. In 1972, after four publishers and three writers’ agencies turned down the manuscript, Rex Collings agreed to publish the work. The book gained international acclaim almost immediately for reinvigorating anthropomorphic fiction with naturalism. In 1974, two years after Watership Down was published, Adams became a full-time author.

Watership Down is a survival and adventure novel set in southern England, around Hampshire. The story features a small group of rabbits. Although they live in burrows in their natural wild environment, they are anthropomorphized, possessing their own culture, language, proverbs, poetry, and mythology. Evoking epic themes, the novel follows the rabbits as they escape the destruction of their warren and seek a place to establish a new home, encountering perils and temptations along the way.

The British animated adventure-drama film adaptation of Watership Down was released in 1978 and was written, produced, and directed by Martin Rosen and based on the 1972 novel by Richard Adams. It was financed by a consortium of British financial institutions and was distributed by Cinema International Corporation in the United Kingdom.

It features the voices of John Hurt, Richard Briers, Harry Andrews, Simon Cadell, Nigel Hawthorne and Roy Kinnear, among others, and was the last film work of Zero Mostel, as the voice of Kehaar the gull. The musical score was by Angela Morley and Malcolm Williamson. Art Garfunkel’s hit song Bright Eyes was written by songwriter Mike Batt.

Animation Supervisor: Philip Duncan

Animation Director: Tony Guy

Senior Animators: Arthur Humberstone, George Jackson, Tony Guy, and Philip Duncan

Animators: Edric Raddage, Bill Littlejohn, Ruth Kissane, John Perkins, Ralph Ayres, Brian Foster, Chris Evans, Marie Szmichowska, Alan Simpson, Colin White, Doug Jensen, Bill Geach, Spud Houston, and Barrie Nelson


  1. Yeah, not bad, just not a maverick in the area of humanity and how it was viewed. Definitely a maverick in animation and then later learning from mistakes and changing is all that matters. Nobody’s perfect, obviously, but evolving from one state to a better one is what really truly matters, for sure.

  2. I think he was, at least in some way. But despite these shortcomings, he still revolutionized animation and eventually did right to his employees. It’s important to know these things. It helps us to grow as a society. I don’t think Disney was a bad man, but he was a man that made mistakes and learned from them, and I think he grew from them as a result.

  3. Ooh…interesting! Yeah, what would an abstract version have looked like? Hmm….
    Well, as for Disney….when I brought up the fact that he was also supposed to be somewhat racist….my friend didn’t want to hear anything about that. She sort of passively denied it then directed the conversation in a different direction. I don’t blame her. I wouldn’t want my favorite heroes torn down either. But I don’t think it’s a myth or rumor: I do think he was sort of a *man of his time* in that area, feeling superior to other certain folk. Which makes it all the more ironic to be the creator of Disneyland, the happiest place on earth, because it means….happy for whom, exactly? Only certain people. Very similar to how our Constitution espouses all this equality and freedom, blah, blah, blah, but it was only aimed at white men–white men with property, at that! So all these lofty ideas like the happiest place and equality for all….are conditional at best. Just delusional lies at the worst. Ha ha. Sorry. Just ignore me if I’m a bummer ! ! !

  4. I wouldn’t say I’m the biggest Disney fan. The history is interesting though. People didn’t really like working for him and would often strike. Women were also not treated fairly and weren’t given opportunities to advance their careers into animation and were stuck in the inking and coloring departments.

    Disney was also considering going in a more abstract or experimental direction, much in the way of Fantasia and Dumbo, but in the end decided to pursue cutesie realism. I kind of wish he would have pursued a more abstract approach, but whatevs.

  5. Yeah! I saw the movie they made about her and her dealings with Disney. I thought it was really good! But then again, everyone’s perspective is different–like the world loving La La Land and me hating it. When I told a friend of mine how I liked it, she disagreed strongly, because she happens to be a sort of Disney expert and aficionado and knew all about P.L. Travers, ha ha.

  6. I also love Emma Stone as an actor. I didn’t know you lived in LA. I work as a theatre stage tech so I get the whole suspension of belief. Mary Poppins wasn’t a favorite of mine growing up. I really didn’t appreciate it until I was older. The new one was good also. Never read the books. Did you know the author originally hated Disney’s take on Mary Poppins and almost didn’t allow it to happen. It took a lot of patience on Disney’s part to talk her into it.

  7. If you like musicals, you’ll love La La Land. But I think a lot of people who don’t actually live here (LA) really got into it ’cause they could suspend disbelief more than Angelenos. Just the opening alone that they tout as so brilliant sets my teeth on edge!

    Anyway–Mary Poppins. I did like that growing up, but it wasn’t a favorite. Not sure why. Read that book too! I remember tracing over the drawings in the book to duplicate them ’cause I liked the artwork….

  8. Yeah, you’re right, actually. It’s much, much bigger than an animal story. That’s why I got so pulled into it, I remember, and so invested in the “characters.”

    About musicals–I hate myself! I’m like the only one in the world who was less than thrilled with La La Land!
    But I’ll always have a very tender spot for Oliver!, Annie, Grease, Willie Wonka, and Bugsy Malone!

  9. Yeah, I never read the book, but bought it a while back. Figured now would be a good time to get started on a few books I haven’t had the chance to read yet. I feel like this isn’t really an animal story so much as it is a story of spirituality and community, a symbol of our own lives maybe and the desire to be free. Man, I love musicals. But I’m a theatre nerd.

  10. That’s pretty cool that you posted the entire movie up there!
    I read this book as a teenager and loved it. Really good story.
    Weirdly, though, as I got older, I became disenchanted with animal stories.
    Same thing happened with musicals, which I used to love, but now cannot stand, lol !!
    But this one is a classic.

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