Friday 6 December 2019

The BBC One Christmas Animated Special Boxing Day Film 2019

On Thursday my 2 boys and I caught the tram into Manchester for a very special event. We were invited to a preview screening of BBC One’s Christmas animated special, Mimi and the Mountain Dragon. Based on the tale by Sir Michael Morpurgo, the story has been brought to life by a huge team, and it was made right here in Altrincham.

Mimi And The Mountain  Dragon BBC One animated film reviw

We were super lucky because not only were we going to be among the very first people to see the film, a long way ahead of it's BBC One Boxing Day screening, but the crew behind the film would be there.

My boys have both spent a large portion of this last school year studying Sir Michael Morpurgo, reading some of his books and looking at how his life experiences have shaped his writing. I was under an embargo, so I couldn't say anything until we were on the way there or they'd have told all of their mates at school.

There was a short introduction and then we watched the film. It's beautiful and perfect for the animated Christmas special. If you don't know the story of Mimi and the Mountain Dragon, the main players are a village which lives in fear, and a little girl.

The villagers are scared of the Mountain Dragon and they make noise to scare it away. One day Mimi, a young girl, discovers a baby Mountain Dragon in her woodshed. She knows it needs to go home, and sets out on her journey to save the little dragon. No good deed passes a mother Mountain Dragon by, and when the village need her, she returns the goodwill.

We all loved it. I could see tears were shed and everyone had a grin at the end. This is a tale of hope, friendship and understanding, and as Mr Morpurgo told us afterwards, it's based on a real town which he visited some years ago, in the Engadin Valley in Switzerland. It's a Christmas time story, and it's perfect for Christmas.

Afterwards there was a Q&A with some of the leading team behind the film, and it was an incredible honour to be there. On the panel were author Sir Michael Morpurgo himself, screenplay writer Owen Sheers, Oscar award-winning composer, Rachel Portman, illustrator Emily Gravett and the head of the studio who created the film, Factory’s MD Phil Chalk. Also in the audience were the heads of co-producers Leopard Pictures and the Halle Orchestra, which supplied singers who recorded the soundtrack with the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra.

Mimi and the mountain dragon panel morpurgo portman gravett sheers

I honestly didn't appreciate how much goes into making an animated film beforehand, and nor did my children. It took 8 years! 8 years of to and fro, edit and amend, repeat and redo. That really is a huge commitment and a lot longer than I expected.

Mr Morpurgo's original tale had very little necessary language, but a lot of story, and was retold using illustrations based on Emily Gravett's drawings, an original narrative score created by Rachel Portman, and spoken narration from Michael Morpurgo.

It was Owen Sheers job to translate the original book into a format that worked for screen, and he has done an excellent job. The music carries the story and there is intonation and emotion in every note. It's only mild peril, but you appreciate how scared Mimi is and the challenge she faces to return the baby dragon. You also understand the fear of the villagers, and Mimi's family.

I've been reviewing children's books for many years and I'm a big fan of Emily Gravett's illustrations, so I was as excited to see her as I was to see Michael Morpurgo. Her style is soft and cosy, her characters have little red cheeks and beautifully expressive faces, and I can see why Michael Morpurgo asked her to join his team. It suits so well.

It was great to know that the team was brought together by Michael Morpurgo himself. I often watch animated children's stories and wonder whether the author is happy with the result - in this case we can have no doubt. Mr Morpurgo is clearly delighted with Mimi and the Mountain Dragon, in fact he said of Owen Sheers "he's added to the power of the story".

I had a true moment of parental pride during the Q&A. My 11 year old leaned over and told me he had a question. I wasn't sure what to expect, so asked him to tell me first, and it was a good one. He waited until 'any more questions' was asked and in front of that amazing panel asked Sir Michael Morpurgo "did you know at the beginning that it was going to take 8 years?".

The answer, after everyone had stopped laughing, was a resounding "no". It was an excellent question and led to 10 minutes of discussion about just how complex it had been and how many times something hadn't worked, and had to be done again. Not a bad question at all for an 11 year old.

meeting michael morpurgo Mimi And The Mountain  Dragon BBC One animated film reviw

We were lucky enough to be able to speak to Mr Morpurgo afterwards, and hear an ad-hoc unaccompanied rendition of the main song, from the young girl who sang it so beautifully in the film. She was terribly nervous, but pitch and note perfect - and shown here at the right hand side of the photo.

Michael Morpurgo Mini and the mountain dragon review BBC Boxing Day Childrens animation

It was a fabulous evening and I feel very lucky to have been there, as do my boys, who met one of their heroes. He didn't disappoint. It was also a fabulous short film, and we will be watching on Boxing Day. As my boys said to Mr Morpurgo "we have to watch it with Dad".

BBC One’s Christmas animated special, Mimi and the Mountain Dragon, will be on your TV BBC One at 3.20pm on Boxing Day, 26th December.


  1. Ohh! I haven't heard of this and I do love the BBC animated shows. It sounds like you had a great day. Well done your boy with the question. hehehe x

  2. Aww that sounds like such a wonderful feature. I know my oldest is a huge Michael Morpurgo fan. xx


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