Christmas telly doesn’t normally interest me. Apart from getting some good films on the Beeb, there’s not much worth watching as all the good series’ take a break for a few weeks to free up the slots.
But there was one thing I did take an interest in: The Gruffalo, a half-hour animation based on the children’s book of the same name. I’m not one for children’s stuff, but I thought, why not?
It was broadcast Christmas Day, and I didn’t catch it then (though I did get the last few minutes of it, albeit with running commentary/argument from the family) but thanks to good old Auntie and her iPlayer, I managed to watch it.
I’m glad I did.
It’s a whimsical tale of a mouse, voiced by James Corden (the rotund one from Gavin and Stacey and Lesbian Vampire Killers, both with his “comedic” partner Matthew Horne) who strolls through a forest looking for some food, where he encounters a fox (the veteran Tom Wilkinson, known for his roles in Batman Begins and RocknRolla among other productions), a snake (comedian and voice-over artist extraordinaire Rob Brydon, the Welsh one from Gavin & Sta….) and an owl (John Hurt, the extremely un-famous actor known for very little) and stops them from eating him by telling them of The Gruffalo (a seemingly fictional monster), and how he likes eating all of them respectively.
Things take a turn when mouse encountters a real-life Gruffalo, played by a possibly typecast Robbie Coltraine, and he is about to be eaten, when he has a cunning plan to stop this, and prove to the fox, the owl and the snake that he was telling the truth, as they had compared notes and found him to be telling lies to stop being eaten. This is all told by a mother squirrel, Helena Bonham Carter (Tim Burton’s missus and an accomplished thesp in her own right) to her two young children as they are hiding in their nest from a bird of prey.
Visually, it’s a real treat. Bright colours and really detailed textures, plenty of movement juxtaposed with the serenity of the forest during a bright sunny day, it looks like you could reach out and touch it, but it maintains that child-like quality of being a cartoon, though it’s more subtle than you might at first think. It’s also got something for us adults, as most CGI animations do, but they’re more visual than through dialogue; it’s subtle things and little bits and pieces that children might not fully get.
The animation is excellent. Done in CGI, but often looking like it’s been made out of wood or if Aardman did a bit of straight claymation, it’s a superb look which embraces the technology with superior production values that would make Pixar quake in their big Disney boots. I tip my Santa hat to the animators at Studio Soi in Germany, and the producers at Magic Light Pictures. Wonderful job guys.
The score is brilliantly done, gives a real feeling for the atmosphere, but it’s friendly and accessible and complements the fantastic sound effects, making it all the more proessional-looking and sounding.
It is a chiefly British affair and a nice fairytale with appeal for everyone and it’s a heart-warming tale. I’m glad to see that this feature got a DVD release, because it’s so much better than the usual Christmas drivel and boring yet highly condescending kids TV.
Note: Sorry about the lateness of this post. It was actually written within days of seeing the programme in December last year, and it was published once, but I thought I’d bring it to life again on here.