The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

"The Water Horse" redirects here. For other uses, see Water horse.
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jay Russell
Produced by Jay Russell
Douglas Rae
Robert Bernstein
Barrie M. Osborne
Screenplay by Robert Nelson Jacobs
Based on The Water Horse
by Dick King-Smith
Starring Emily Watson
Alex Etel
Ben Chaplin
David Morrissey
Brian Cox
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Oliver Stapleton
Edited by Mark Warner
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • December 25, 2007 (2007-12-25) (United States)
  • February 8, 2008 (2008-02-08) (United Kingdom)
Running time
111 minutes[1]
Country United States
United Kingdom
New Zealand
Language English
Budget $40 million[2]
Box office $103,071,443

The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (stylised on-screen as simply The Water Horse) is a 2007 American-British-New Zealand family fantasy drama film directed by Jay Russell. The screenplay, written by Robert Nelson Jacobs, is an adaptation of Dick King-Smith's children's novel The Water Horse. It stars Alex Etel as a young boy who discovers a mysterious egg and cares for what hatches out of it: a "Water Horse" (loosely based on the Celtic water horse) which later becomes the fabled Loch Ness Monster. The film also stars Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin, and David Morrissey. The film was produced by Revolution Studios and Walden Media, in collaboration with Beacon Pictures, and was distributed by Columbia Pictures. Visual effects, which included the computer-generated imagery of the water horse (named "Crusoe" by Etel's character) were completed by the New Zealand-based companies Weta Digital and Weta Workshop—visual effects companies who worked with Walden Media before on the productions of The Chronicles of Narnia films.[3][4] The Water Horse was released in the United States on December 25, 2007 and in the United Kingdom on February 8, 2008.[5]


In present-day Scotland, an American tourist couple go into a bar where they meet an old man who tells them a story about the Loch Ness Monster.

In 1942 Scotland, a boy named Angus MacMorrow lives in the large manor house of Lord Killin on the shores of Loch Ness with his mother Anne MacMorrow (the housekeeper), his sister, a cook, a maid and an old gamekeeper. Later, they are joined by Lewis Mowbray, who comes to work as a handyman in the manor. Angus' father Charlie —Killin's former handyman— is now a sailor in the Royal Navy and has been missing since his ship was sunk in the war a year ago; Angus is unable to accept that it is unlikely he will ever come home.

One day, while collecting seashells, he discovers what appears to be a large mysterious egg in the sand, which he leaves it in his father's shed. When he returns later, an unknown creature hatches (which he calls 'Crusoe' after Robinson Crusoe) that becomes the fabled Loch Ness Monster. Angus keeps the creature a secret, but eventually tells his sister and (reluctantly) Lewis about it. Lewis explains to Angus that it is a genderless "Water Horse" that lays one egg, then dies before it hatches.

The next day troops of the 12th Medium Regiment Royal Artillery arrive at the house, commanded by Captain Thomas Hamilton — a friend of Lord Killin, who is serving with the Royal Air Force. An artillery battery is set up near the lake as defence against possible attacking or hiding German U-boats and the troops set up camp on the grounds of the house. An anti-submarine net is also raised at the mouth of the lake to prevent the possible entrance of German U-boats into the lake.

One night, when the men are invited into the house for dinner, Crusoe breaks free, and roams the house, running into the cook's bulldog "Churchill" which chases him into the dining room. Unnoticed, Churchill is blamed for the mess. Meanwhile, Crusoe spends the night in a fountain feeding on the fish, where the next day, Lewis finds he has grown so big that he and Angus have no choice but to let him roam wild in the loch.

Captain Hamilton proclaims Lewis to be a bad influence, and persuades Angus' mother to allow him to teach Angus some discipline and make a soldier out of him. However, after a few days, Angus escapes and returns to the lake, where Crusoe grown as an adult, encourages Angus to ride on its back. After some time, it begins to dive underwater, coming to the surface from time to time for breathing. Angus, having aquaphobia, protests diving, but later enjoys himself (finally overcoming his phobia of the sea).

The English Captain takes the MacMorrow family to Loch Ness to impress Anne; Crusoe suffers from shock after almost getting hit by an exploding shot from a cannon ("Victoria") shot on the lake during a firing demonstration. Angus interrupts to save Crusoe from injury or death, but enrages Hamilton and irates his mother in the process. Angus is slapped in the face, yelled at and confined to his room for a month as punishment for acting out for his apparent imaginary companion and blowing up the cannon, interrupting the demo.

Two old fishermen who previously saw Crusoe, attempt to take a photo of the creature for fame and fortune. When they realize that they won't be able to photograph the real thing thanks to Victoria, they decide to create an imitation. (The result is the real-life faked picture of The Loch Ness Monster known as "The Surgeon's Photo".) The photo piques the interest of a few soldiers, who venture out on the lake at night to hunt it.

Kirstie, Angus's sister lets him sneak out of his room and to the lake. Churchill, having caught Crusoe's scent at the shore where he reconciled with Angus, alerts the soldiers of its presence; Crusoe surfaces, only this time he has the advantage in size. The cook notices that the barking suddenly stops where it is presumed that Crusoe devoured Churchill or scared him off. The surprise attack proves futile for the soldiers, as Crusoe easily capsizes their boat. Angus attempts to calm Crusoe down and wades into the lake where he loses his footing and sinks. Crusoe comes to Angus' rescue and saves his life. When his mother arrives, she finally believes in her son when she sees Crusoe. However, new guns from the nearby artillery battery open fire upon Crusoe, mistaking it for a German U-Boat. Crusoe attempts to jump over the anti-submarine net but instead crushes it with its weight and escapes from the lake.

At sunrise with his mother, Angus finally accepts his father's fate as they watch Crusoe's departure from afar in the open sea. It is implied that Anne is also ready to move on, having fallen in love with Lewis, himself an honorably discharged veteran (whom Hamilton earlier accused of being a deserter or coward, considering himself a superior suitor and father figure).

Over the years, several people claim to have seen Crusoe, but Angus never saw it again. The tourists ask the old storyteller's name, which he reveals to be Angus MacMorrow. Outside the pub, a mother calls out to her son, who is walking down the beach and spots a rock, which has an iridescent shell beneath just like Crusoe's, hinting that Crusoe has died, leaving a descendant behind to become the next Water Horse.



Director Jay Russell first read Dick King-Smith's book years before the film was actually made. "With the technology where it was at the time and the cost of that technology, we couldn't get it made then," said Russell. "Technology needed to catch up. It did, and it allowed us to do things I envisioned without it costing $300 million."[6]


Filming took place in 2006 in New Zealand, Scotland and at Miramar Studios in Wellington. Most of the film was shot in New Zealand, with Queenstown's Lake Wakatipu doubling for a Scottish Loch. The filmmakers found that some of the landscape and geography there was similar to Scotland. However Russell said, "There was no way I was going to make a movie about the Loch Ness monster and not shoot at least part of it in Scotland."[7]

The scenes in and around the MacMorrow family's house were shot on the 100-year-old Ardkinglas Estate on the shores of Loch Fyne in Scotland. The owners of the estate continued to live in the house while the crew was filming there.[8]

Visual effects

Visual effects on the film were handled by New Zealand visual effects specialists Weta Digital and Weta Workshop who mainly did Crusoe. Most of the roughly 600 effects shots in the film involved Crusoe. And many of those shots involved the creature (Crusoe) interacting with water, which, in terms of the history of computer graphics, has always been a particularly difficult substance to deal with.[9] In terms of the design of the creature, Weta Digital tried to not humanize him but instead based some of his expressions on real animals such as a dog. "We wanted to create something which seemed familiar, but was unique at the same time," said Russell. "As a result, Crusoe’s face is a combination of a horse, a dog, an eagle and a giraffe."[10] When creating his movements and body shape at various stages of growth, the animators referenced animals ranging from baby birds to seals to whales.[9]


The score was composed by James Newton Howard. Sinéad O'Connor contributed to the soundtrack with "Back Where You Belong".


The Water Horse was formerly scheduled for two different release dates in North America: September 21, 2007 and December 7, 2007.[11][12] No reason has been given as to why either date was dropped, but the film was released across 2,772 screens[13] in the United States, Canada and Mexico on Christmas day of 2007.[14] The MPAA rated the film PG for some action and peril, mild language and brief smoking.[15]

Many release dates ranging from January 2008 to April 2008 were set for worldwide audiences, including France (February 8), the United Kingdom (February 13), Russia (March 6) and India (April 4).[14]


A promotional poster for the film, featuring silhouettes of Etel's character and Crusoe on the loch, was seen as early as June 2006 during the New York Licensing Show alongside promotional art for the Disney Fairies and Kung Fu Panda.[16] Another poster that features Etel's character with Crusoe on the loch during the daytime was released in October 2007.[17] Two teaser trailers were released in quick succession in June 2007. The first was a teaser created specifically for the Rock Ness Music Festival on June 9 and 10,[18] but was leaked onto the internet and later pulled.[19] A different trailer[20] was released to on 22 June 2007 and became the official teaser.[21] Internet promotion includes several different official different websites in the English (with individual websites for the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia), Spanish,[22] French[23] and Russian[24] languages. They were launched by Sony in early November 2007 and feature photos, video clips, a video blog, games and information on the film's plot and production.[25] Another website was created by the film's production companies,, and is dedicated to the examination of the Loch Ness Monster's existence in reality.[26] Additionally, the film has a YouTube account which features the video blogs from the official website, as well as additional video content.[27] Two sweepstakes were created for The Water Horse. The first, "See It To Believe It," awarded the winner with a family trip to the Aquarium of the Pacific. The second, "Unloch the Legend" awarded the winner with a family trip to Scotland.[28] A 15-meter "water screen" was used to project a moving image, with sound, of the Water Horse in Tokyo Bay.[29]

Critical reception

The film received generally positive reviews from critics. As of 2014, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 74% of critics gave the film positive reviews, based on 89 reviews, classifying the film as "fresh", reaching the consensus that "The Water Horse is a fine family film. It takes a classic tale and infuses it with extra imagination, sly humor, heart, and inventive special effects."[30] Metacritic reported the film had an average score of 71 out of 100, based on 24 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[31]

Pete Hammond of Maxim magazine gave the film 4 stars out of 5, saying "It's not only the perfect holiday movie, but perhaps the most wondrous film of its kind since E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial touched down." Hammond said the character Angus is "expertly played by Alex Etel," said the film was "skillfully directed by Jay Russell", and said the special effects were "stunning" and "rival the year's best."[32] Roger Ebert awarded the film three and a half stars out of four, complimenting the film's "real story about complex people" and the "first rate supporting performances" of Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin and Brian Cox.[33]

Poetic license

The film does take some liberties with Scottish geography:

The film also has some chronological inconsistencies:

Box office performance

The film was a moderate box office success and grossed about $9 million during its opening weekend. As of October 2010, the film has grossed a total of $103,071,443 worldwide due to gaining about $40.4 million in the United States and about $62.1 million in foreign countries, according to the website Box Office Mojo.[34]

Home video

The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray on April 8, 2008, with 646,841 units sold in the opening weekend for a total of $12,678,084. As of 2012, 1,611,757 units had been sold for a total of $30,598,707.[35]

See also


  1. "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  2. "Budget of The Water Horse". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 6 April 2012.
  3. "Walden Mounts Water Horse". SciFiWire. Archived from the original on December 30, 2007. Retrieved 2007-12-30.
  4. "Narnia Studio Plans New Fantasy Film". IGN.
  5. "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep". Retrieved 2007-12-30.
  6. Miller, Gerri. "Inside 'The Water Horse'". HowStuffWorks, Inc. Retrieved 2008-06-21.
  7. Miller, Gerri. "Inside 'The Water Horse'". HowStuffWorks, Inc. Retrieved 2008-06-21.
  8. Lange, Linda (2008-01-06). "Scottish fling: Tourism expected to increase in Loch Ness region where movie 'Water Horse' was filmed". Deseret News. Retrieved 2008-06-21.
  9. 1 2 Barbara Robertson, Casting Crusoe, Computer Graphics World, January 2008, Volume 31, Number 1
  10. Potosky, Mallory (2007-12-18). "Jay Russell Brings The Water Horse to Life". Movie Maker Magazine. Retrieved 2008-06-18.
  11. "'Horse' Bumps Next 'Narnia' Film to 2008". Zap2It. Retrieved 2007-12-30.
  12. "Film Release Information >> The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep". Retrieved 2007-12-30.
  13. "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (2007) – Daily Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-12-26.
  14. 1 2 "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep release dates". The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Official Website. Retrieved 2007-12-30.
  15. "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep". The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved 2007-12-30.
  16. "NY Licensing Show: Disney's Tinkerbell show FAIRIES! KUNG FU PANDA! LEGION OF SUPERHEROES! WATER HORSE!!".
  17. "New Water Horse Poster". Movie Marketing Madness. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  18. "Nessie Seen at Rock Ness!". Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  19. "'The Water Horse' teaser trailer released". X-Realms. Archived from the original on 2008-05-20. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  20. "Another 'Water Horse' trailer". X-Realms. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011. Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  21. "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep". Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  22. "Mi Mascota es un Monstruo". Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  23. "Les Dragon Des Mers". Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  24. "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Official Russian Website". Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  25. "The Water Horse Official Website". Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  26. "The Legend of the Deep". Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  27. "The Water Horse YouTube account". Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  28. "The Water Horse Promotions". Retrieved 2008-01-10.
  29. "Goodbye Godzilla? – Tokyo Times". Retrieved 2008-01-25.
  30. "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep – Movie Reviews, Trailers, Pictures – Rotten Tomatoes". Retrieved 2014-03-02.
  31. "The Water Horse (2007): Reviews". Retrieved 2014-03-02.
  32. The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Movie Movie Review and Rating Archived May 5, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  33. Fragoso, Sam (2007-12-24). "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep Movie Review (2007) | Roger Ebert". Retrieved 2014-03-02.
  34. "The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep (2007)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2014-03-02.
  35. The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep – DVD Sales. The Numbers. Retrieved 2012-05-14.
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