TBI Kids: Lupus Films on unwrapping a “rich world” for ‘Mog’s Christmas’

Mog’s Christmas

London-based animation studio Lupus Films is diving back into the works of Judith Kerr for an adaptation of the classic children’s book Mog’s Christmas for Channel 4 this December.

It’s not the first foray into this world for joint-MDs Ruth Fielding and Camilla Deakin who, in 2019, brought another of Kerr’s stories, The Tiger Who Came To Tea, to the same UK broadcaster for the festive season.

An impressive voice cast, including Benedict Cumberbatch, Claire Foy, Adjoh Andoa and Miriam Margolyes, was announced as being attached to the project last month, and TBI caught up with Fielding and Deakin at the Annecy Festival recently to hear more about their plans for Kerr’s beloved property.

Camilla Deakin

Building relationships

The first Mog story, Mog The Forgetful Cat, was published in 1970, with almost 20 stories written about the bothersome feline and her owners over the next 50 years. The most recent story, Mog’s Birthday, was published in 2020.

Author and illustrator Kerr passed away in 2019 during production of The Tiger Who Came To Tea, but Fielding and Deakin had worked with Kerr, her children and publisher HarperCollins on the project and following that collaboration, pitched and were given the go-ahead to bring Mog to the screen.

Incredibly, for such a popular children’s property, this is the first time that the Mog books have been adapted for television, aside from a commercial for supermarket brand Sainsbury’s in 2015.

“I think with classic books like that, the publishers and the authors are very careful with their beloved properties, and they don’t option them lightly. They want to wait for the right person or the right company or the right team to come along,” said Deakin.

“We were lucky enough to adapt The Tiger Who Came To Tea and we had such a brilliant relationship with HarperCollins and with Judith and with Judith’s children – I think we kind of earned the chance to do another adaptation with them.”

Ruth Fielding

Potential to return

This adaptation of the 1976 book Mog’s Christmas follows the cat’s misadventures after feeling a little ignored over the festive season, with the TV special retaining the same hand-drawn animation style as Kerr’s books.

While no further instalments have yet been confirmed, Fielding tells TBI that their hope is that Mog’s Christmas, which is being distributed by Universal Pictures Content Group, will be “the first of hopefully many Mog specials.” Deakin and Fielding feel that the stories lend themselves to specials, rather than a series.

With a list of credits that also includes adaptations of We’re Going On A Bear Hunt, The Snowman And The Snowdog and the upcoming The Storm Whale trilogy, Lupus has plenty of experience adapting popular children’s fiction.

“With all the books that we adapt, we’ve always had a relationship with them prior to optioning them. I read the Mog books to my kids – The Tiger Who Came To Tea we read ourselves as children,” said Deakin. “The Mog books, what’s nice about them is that Judith wrote them over a period of time and covered a lot of really heartwarming family scenarios. The world of Mog is a rich world, and we’d love to explore more.”

With a spot secured in the Christmas schedule and a mischievous cat familiar to audiences who may have read Kerr’s books at any point over the past half a century, the special could be a slam dunk co-viewing opportunity.

“That sort of appointment to do something together, sit down as a family and watch a programme together, what better than a classic book that’s been on the bookshelves for the last 40-50 years?” suggests Fielding.

“I think all our films, we aim for co-viewing,” adds Deakin. “Partly by being very respectful and true to the source material and partly by not talking down to the audience and making sure that the storytelling and the animation and the voice performances are the best possible quality. Because I think adults really appreciate that as well as children.”

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