One of the highlights of the televisual output over Christmas, if not the highlight, was this wonderfully told and expertly executed sequel to 2009’s BAFTA and Oscar nominated, The Gruffalo.
The Gruffalo’s Child, based on the 2004 best seller, sees the titular daughter of the lovable beast warned of the dangers of the “Big Bad Mouse”, a horrific monster living out in the nearby woods. But, kids are kids and she chooses to ignore the warnings and explores her local habitat, leading to numerous meetings and misunderstandings.
Illuminating these characters with much charm and humour are Helena Bonham Carter, Rob Brydon, Robbie Coltrane, James Corden, John Hurt and Tom Wilkinson. A fine, fine cast that any production would be envious of. But, full credit must go to Harry Potter‘s Moaning Myrtle, Shirley Henderson, who plays the child of the piece.
The Scottish actress immerses herself so deeply into the voice of the mini-Gruffalo (a Grufflette?) that it’s truly bewildering to even contemplate that we aren’t listening to the sounds of a child. Henderson delivers a masterclass in the form.
Elsewhere, the talent is equally as impressive. Directors Uwe Heidschötter and Johannes Weiland fill every frame with a breathtaking beauty and the technical aspects of this film are astonishing on the eye, particularly the lighting during the night scenes. The camera work, not content with simply portraying these wonderful vistas and characters, becomes incredibly dynamic in parts, notably when the Gruffalo’s child finds herself trapped on the ice.
Capping it all off, is a mesmerising and heart-warming soundtrack from French composer, René Aubry. The sparse orchestral and acoustic sounds match the exquisite imagery but also complement the emotional pull and the adventure of the tale.
There’s not a fault to be had in the production and, once the thirty minutes end, you’ll find your life is just that much better off for having witnessed such a pretty piece of perfection.
Accompanying the main feature is a decent selection of special features. Pleasingly, the Christmas BBC One ident, featuring the Gruffalo and child, is included along with a rather eye-catching and elegant artwork extra titled, In Search of the Big Bad Mouse. This is a sublime gallery of colour conceptions for the film from artist Aurelien Predal that’s very easy to overlook, but should definitely be drunk in.
The main companion piece is a brief, but highly informative look at the genesis of the story, featuring contributions from the Gruffalo’s creator’s Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler. We get to see the pair acting the story out in front of enthralled school children and hear their thoughts on the story’s journey. Tech boffins will be pleased to see the behind-the-scenes artistry involved in using traditional 2D models side by side with computer-generated characters.
A lovely, if short, compilation of features that adds to the power of its main feature. This is simply a film you need to own in your collection; for yourself and for generations to come.
You can rent or buy The Gruffalo’s Child at Blockbuster.co.uk.