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TONIGHT: “The Gruffalo” Premieres in the US


The Gruffalo, a holiday special based on a children’s book by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, makes its US debut TONIGHT on ABC Family at 7pm/6c. The half-hour CG/stop motion mix was directed by Jakob Schuh and Max Lang at Germany’s Studio Soi and produced by London-based Magic Light Pictures. The film also debuts in Canada next Wednesday, December 15, at 6:30pm on TVO.

The filmmakers are posting pieces of Gruffalo pre-production art on their blog every day during the month of December. I’ve yet to see the special, but have been hearing plenty of raves about it throughout the past year, and have watched it pick up award after award including Best TV Special at Annecy, Best European Program of the Year at Cartoons on the Bay, Best Short Film for Children at Anima Mundi, and Best Television Animation Made for Children at Ottawa. The film was also nominated for a BAFTA and is currently on this year’s Oscar shortlist for best animated short.

If you’ve seen it already, share your thoughts in the comments.

Trailer and hi-res still gallery follows the jump.

(click on images for larger versions)

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  • The film’s a winner. The voices rise above everything else with some brilliant performances by extraordinary actors. The animation is some of the best I’ve seen in cgi. There’s a beautiful and sensitive walk that the lead mouse has when strolling through the woods.

    I’d highly recommend this film to anyone.

  • Looks fantastic and makes me significantly less curmudgeonly about the Oscar short list. Hope to see it soon!

  • Saw it last Christmas on BBC 1. About as good adaption of the book as you could imagine. Looks just like it too. If you like the book, you will like this.

  • Definatley looking forward to this one.

  • jaymo

    The gruffalo meant great relief for me, since exceptional animation from germany is a rare thing, it seems. There’s a lot of love put into the piece and it’s a perfect example of a succesful marriage of 3D characters and real miniature sets. I was lucky getting detailed insight on the making of this during FMX 2010 in Stuttgart.

    The only thing I found odd is that I had to order it in the UK, there’s no german release of it. But since the original voices are superb, this will only matter for my daughter. Maybe this can teach her some english…

    Hope there will be more in this manner from Studio SOI.

    Three thumbs up!

    • jaymo

      As i have just read on SOIs website the gruffalo has just been adapted to german, is airing on christmas eve on ZDF and will be available on DVD in mid january.

    • Bobo Schmitz

      German release will be this Christmas.
      You can see “Der Grüffelo” on ZDF, December 24th at 10.40 in the morning.

    • The DVD will be available in Germany from January on as the German TV premiere is scheduled this year on december 24th at 10:40 in the morning.
      Just look for it in any online bookstore.

  • Jabberwocky

    Dammit. This looks really interesting and yet I don’t have TV so I can’t watch it. D: Maybe it’ll be up on hulu…

    • Tim Hodge

      Yup, it’s on Hulu!

  • This film is a little gem. The mix of CG and real sculpted sets is really unique, and the overall feel of stopmotion is really refreshing. Soi is such a great studio!
    My only comment would be about the rythm of the film which feels a bit slow and linear ( That’s what I can remember from seeing it last christmas). But it can be explained because it’s so close to the book, which isn’t a bad thing.
    Thumbs up! I hope it’ll do good at the Oscars!

    • LK

      Aha! I was so sure the sets were sculpted, they looked fantastic!

  • This is terrific. We had it screened on the BBC here in the UK last Christmas Day and it’s a really charming and simple film; a great example of how to structue a short film.

  • I wasn’t impressed by this when I first experienced it on TV though found it nice enough when I later saw it in a cinema for it’s environments and compositions, music is decent enough as well and it’s always nice to see gentleness enchanting children rather than the quick-fire references to films they haven’t seen and flatulence jokes that Hollywood execs. seem to think does. But I’ve never understood how it’s warranted such high praise: though it evidently gets it and not just a free pass on the popularity of the picture book. I don’t remember there being any vinyl toys in the illustrations, which is what the characters look like, and it wasn’t padded out beyond the breaking point of the momentum of it’s folk-song story by a requirement to fill a half-hour slot (though I’m thankful it wasn’t a feature) and I found the voice acting a little on the stilted side.

    Maybe I think of the text too much as a song to align it with the filmic treatment here. That, and I consider James Corden to be gifted with one of the most annoying voices known to British TV (and considering the competition, that’s really saying something); it wouldn’t be the first time that the voice of a major character has made a well-liked film intolerable for me. But more than anything I couldn’t shake the feeling while viewing the special that, no offence to the animation, which has everything mentioned, that its style of direction could be something truly amazing if applied to puppets in live-action, that I’d be interested to see that theoretical special. Somehow, in fact it makes sense that that would allow me to let go of what my idea, as someone interested specifically in animation, of an adaptation of the book would feel like. Still just don’t find that vinyl look (which is perfect in Pocoyo which I love; not so for something set in deep, dark wood) or that voice appropriate.

  • I’ve watched this about half a dozen times with my wife and our two-year-old daughter. (A friend worked on it, and lent me the DVD.) We all love it! It’s charming and sweet, and just a tiny bit subversive. The character design and animation have that unique Studio SOI charm that I’m starting to really love.

    The pacing is definitely slow compared to the frenetic editing of most animated features these days. But I found that very refreshing, especially when watching it with a toddler. Combined with the lush environments, atmospheric lighting, wonderful music and sound design, the result is nothing short of hypnotic.

    Beautiful film. Totally deserving of the Oscar nom, possibly even a win.

  • Ben

    I just finished watching it on TV and found it to be very enjoyable. The visuals were wonderful!

  • I just watched it. I’m not familiar with the book at all, but as an animated piece, it was quite nice. It is well done throughout, but the animation in the snake was especially superb.

  • CallmeZ

    Everything about it is so Charming, it’s unbelievable such ‘non-american’ (sorry can’t find other word) and innocent but clever features are not made.

  • Richard Gadd

    Saw this last Christmas when the Beeb aired it. It is quite slowly paced – as remarked above it does feel a little stretched to fill the half hour – but it gets away with it with the sheer charm. Also – and this is the acid test for this sort of thing – my two 4 year old grandaughters were absolutely entranced all the way through. Shows that it doesn’t have to be frenetic to keep the full attention of small children

  • Woody

    I saw this on the BBC last year and although I think it looks great with some nice visual touches, I just think the stretching out of the story and constant, overlong breaks between verses really take away from the rhythm of the book.

    Like many people commenting, I’ve read the book countless times to my son and I feel that part of the charm of the story is lost in this version. I think there are far better, longer stories by the same author/illustrator pairing which would work better as animated shorts of this sort of length – I’m hopeful that this will open the door for “The Snail and the Whale” or “Tiddler,” for example, animated by the same team.

    Frankly I’m also a bit bored with Robbie Coltrane being the first port of call for any large, scary character in family/kids viewing.

  • Ethan

    I loved it. Very refreshing to see a short so good without any hint of pretension, it’s well directed, well written, amazing design, great voices. I liked the dreamy shallow depth of field. I smiled at every rhyme. Very cute.

  • Ethan

    Oh, and great animation too :)

  • Ethan

    … and great music !