Muriel Thomas, director of International Distribution at Magic Light Pictures
An essential part of BBC One's holiday schedule is its animated "Christmas Special," produced yearly by UK production company Magic Light Pictures. "Christmas Day 2023" marked the debut of "Tabby McTat," an animated film based on Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler's book about a busker and his beloved cat, which was a smash hit, with 3.4 million live viewers tuned in for its live premiere and 8 million people watched overall after the first 28 days. With several foreign broadcasters having already secured presales for the film, "Tabby McTat" is the new star of Magic Light's slate.
"The Smeds & The Smoos," "Zog, Zog & the Flying Doctors," "The Gruffalo," "The Gruffalo's Child," "Room on the Broom," "Stick Man," "The Snail & the Whale," "Superworm," and "The Highway Rat" are among the past animated specials from Magic Light. Like "Tabby McTat," all of the films are based on novels by Donaldson and Scheffler and have been, and continue to be, hugely successful worldwide year after year. "While the specials can be acquired individually, there is a strong tendency to bring all the specials together as there is always a high demand for engaging stories and high-quality specials," Muriel Thomas, Magic Light's Distribution Director, stated. "On linear broadcasters, the specials are often scheduled around school holidays or another main event throughout the year. They always do well as they are also ideal for co-viewing, and it is no surprise, they are regularly repeated year after year", she added.
"With eleven specials now, the trend has been to keep them together, bringing a new one every year for the audience to enjoy watching back to back on either linear or on-demand and get immersed into those wonderful stories with unique and charming characters under the banner 'The Gruffalo and Friends," Thomas pointed out. That goes back to "The Gruffalo," the first special that debuted in 2009. It is now fourteen years old and still widely distributed worldwide due to its timeless nature and its reputation as a classic film. It is the bedrock that all the specials are built on. "The Gruffalo will always remain relevant in terms of story, while the quality of the animation strands are vibrant and fresh," said Thomas. "It reaches new audiences every year. This year is its 25th anniversary, so we have a whole new generation of children discovering this title from their parents who read it to them and older siblings who fell in love with the film."
The animated preschool series "Pip & Posy," which recently launched its second season on Sky Kids and Paramount-owned Channel 5's channel Milkshake! in the UK, continues to be a significant focus for Magic Light. The series follows the adventures of two friends whose lives revolve around friendship and play. The second season has been acquired by numerous international broadcasters, such as ZDF in Germany, RAI in Italy, and many more, launching the international rollout for 2024. Magic Light also recently finished a 26x5' miniseries to accompany the main series "Let's Learn," which debuted in the UK towards the end of 2023. "'Pip & Posy' has been a big success in the UK, and our international partners are pleased with its performance. Feedback from the first season has been solid in key territories. Friendship and play are key themes that resonate anywhere in the world and have global appeal for pre-schoolers. We're launching our master toy with Bandai this February, and the plan is to build this further in other territories," Thomas said.
Magic Light has also expanded into cinema, a strategy that will continue to grow further this year, particularly internationally. "The opportunity to bring the specials to the audience on a big screen has built up over the years in different countries like France and the UK," Thomas said. "We always want to explore cinema distribution in other territories because it's a different experience, and the audience appreciates seeing our films on the big screen. It creates an event and an outing for kids, often creating memories and complements watching them on TV."
By Romina Rodríguez