Earlier this week, Netflix dropped a surprise announcement that it’s adapting author Brian Jacques’ iconic Redwall books into a new animated movie and TV franchise. Based on the 22-book children’s series that was published from 1986 through 2011, the books span generations of sword-fighting anthropomorphic mice, rabbits, badgers, and other woodland creatures living at the titular Redwall Abbey.
While the show was previously made into a TV series back in the late ‘90s, it’s never been adapted with the scale (or presumably, the budget) of a Netflix feature film. Many of us here at The Verge are longtime fans of the series. Here’s how we’re taking the news.
What were your initial thoughts on a Redwall adaptation?
Chaim Gartenberg: I think my initial reaction was “OMG” followed by a lot of screaming from my internal seven-year-old. I grew up reading the Redwall books. I remember the original being one of the first “real” books I ever read. And the entire series just has this shining, golden spot in my memory. They’re wholesome, lovely books full of daring adventures, clever puzzles, and where good always triumphs over evil. What’s not to like?
Jay Peters: I was elated when I first saw the news of the Redwall remaster. I was a devoted fan of the books for years as a kid, devouring each new entry in the series as soon as I could. But if I’m being honest, I couldn’t tell you a single plot point from any of the books right now. Hopefully, that doesn’t matter for the new series; as long as it features adorable forest creatures in epic battles and enjoying decadent feasts, I’ll be happy.
Adi Robertson: I’m partly in the same boat: I read the books religiously, but I remember very little about their actual plots. They really hit the part of my brain that loved dollhouses and other miniature things. Unlike Jay and Chaim, though, I remember enjoying that they could be kind of bloody and creepy — we’re not talking Watership Down or anything, but I remember a lot of eerie fortresses and mad kings.
Mitchell Clark: Yeah, I have to agree. While I remember books like Triss being light-hearted adventures, I know there were some pretty dark ones like Marlfox and parts of Salamandastron — assassins, bloodlust, the whole nine yards. As an adult, and given Netflix’s reputation, I’ve wondered if they’ll get into the darker parts, but I’m honestly kind of hoping they keep it aimed more at kids, and that it’ll inspire some of those kids to pick up the book series.
What makes Redwall a good choice for a TV show?
Jay: There’s lots of swashbuckling action and heroic tales, which consistently makes for pretty good TV. I’m sure many of the characters will be fuzzy and adorable, making the show even more watchable. And Netflix has a lot of source material to pull from, given there are approximately 1,000 books in the series.
Chaim: So many books. But part of the brilliance is that they’re all (for the most part) fairly standalone, so adapting each one could be its own project.
Mitchell: Fantasy has been very in lately, but it’s usually not aimed at kids. It’s a good series that has a lot of elements that really let your imagination run wild, and I think that’ll be very fun. It could also lend itself to a really neat art style. There’s always a lot of talk of tapestries and paintings in the books.
What parts or books in the series are you most looking forward to seeing?
Russell Brandom: It’s been a good 20 years since I read these books, but two scenes stand out. First, the outright terror of Matthias standing off against Asmodeus in the first Redwall hooked me like nothing else. The snake hypnotism is a great use of the central animal-fantasy conceit, and the fact that Asmodeus isn’t the primary villain makes the encounter that much more unsettling. The second — spoilers for Mossflower, I guess? — is Tsarmina in the sinking castle at the end of the second book, a legitimately haunting image if you have any fear of drowning, which I definitely did at the time. (Cats hate water! So true.) I’ll have to wait for the Martin the Warrior prequel series to see that one on-screen, though.
Chaim: I’m kind of hoping for some good, fuzzy, Lord of the Rings-style battles. Show us some Badger Lords, please.
Any concerns about making a Redwall show?
Mitchell: There’s just so much lore, backstory, and regular stories told over the series that I hope Netflix and the show’s creators have come up with a specific story they want to tell within the universe. I’m not sure I want to see them try to tackle the whole thing. I’d rather be left wanting more than overstuffed.
Chaim: It’s a good point, but it seems like they’re starting (relatively) small: a movie based on the first book, and a TV series focused on Martin the Warrior, which makes sense to me. Martin’s story is a broader one, spread across a number of books, while the first book is relatively self-contained.
Adi: I remember the books relying a lot on Tolkien-style species-based morality, and that’s objectively weird, and I’m not sure how the show will deal with it! I was going to soften this by saying that I remember some good foxes or something, but the Redwall Wiki informs me that foxes are “without exception villainous vermin,” so I guess that settles that.
Russell: I’m going to throw in a practical concern here. Part of the fun of the books is imagining this wide range of animals interacting both as friends and enemies, with rabbits, badgers, mice, crows, and various obscure mustelids interacting more or less as equals. But if you have to draw canonical versions of these characters, the size differential becomes a problem. Mice are just much, much smaller than crows, cats, weasels, rats, and most of the other common Redwall antagonists.
Sword or no, even the bravest mouse cannot realistically take down an animal more than 10 times its size, so choreographing the fight scenes is going to be a serious problem if we stay even slightly close to natural proportions. But at the same time, an undeniable draw of the series is picturing mice holding swords in their little mouse hands, which becomes less fun if you stray too far from the sort-of photorealistic animals depicted on the classic book covers. It’s a real bind!
CGI? Hand-drawn animation? Lion King-esque faux live action? How would you want to see a Redwall show realized?
Mitchell: I hate to be boring, but it’s gotta be hand-drawn. I think that’ll work best for the fantasy setting, and while I don’t need it to have the same art style as Over The Garden Wall, I’d like the vibe to be similar, if that makes sense.
Chaim: Anything but “realistic” CGI, please. These books are... pretty violent, which I’m worried would translate really badly to a realistic style. No one needs to see a mouse murder a bunch of rats with a sword in faux-live-action, especially not the family-friendly target audience.
Jay: I want hand-drawn, but I expect CGI. Netflix, if it’s not too late: please, make the show hand-drawn.
Russell: Given the surreal nature of the setup, I think they could also get away with computer-assisted 2D animation, along the lines of what Cartoon Saloon does. But definitely not 3D and definitely not photo-realistic. Nobody wants to see another Lion King.
Some Deeper’n’Ever Turnip’n’Tater’n’Beetroot Pie or some strawberry cordial?
Mitchell: While I don’t love beetroots, strawberries are extremely out of season right now, so rustle up what roots you can from the cellar, aye chap?
Adi: Anything except clotted cream, because A) the large amount of dairy-based food in Redwall has always raised questions to me about where exactly the milk is coming from in a series about humanoid animals (I vaguely remember “aphid milk” being an answer at one point?), and B) I still don’t really know what it is.
Jay: Honestly, I’d try any of it. If the show is successful, maybe Netflix can make a Redwall-themed cooking show spinoff.
Adi: Either way, Redwall Feast TikTok is gonna be great.