British illustrator Raymond Briggs now has a critically acclaimed cast to lead the animated adaptation of his 1998 graphic novel Ethel and Ernest.
Oscar-nominee Brenda Blethyn and winner Jim Broadbent will star as the voices of Briggs’ parents, whose unassuming lifespans take center stage in Ethel and Ernest’s biographical tribute. Although both actors have significant stage, television and film experience, they’ve also amassed a nice amount of voiceover work in animation: Blethyn has appeared as Mama Heffalump in Disney’s Tigger & Pooh and a Musical Too and Pooh’s Heffalump Movie, as well as The Wild Thornberrys Movie, while Broadbent has appeared in Robots, Arthur Christmas, and Animals United, among others.
Blethyn and Broadbent are joined in the film by Luke Treadaway, Virginia McKenna, June Brown, Pam Ferris, Simon Day, and Roger Allam, as well as Harry Collett, voice of Buzzbee in Disney Junior’s animated series The Hive, who stars as young Raymond.
Now in production, the hand-drawn animated feature, which chronicles the elder Briggs’ decades of marriage from the 1920s to the 1970s, is set for broadcast on the BBC in 2016. Ethel and Ernest will join a rising tide of comics-based animated films, such as Ignacio Ferreras’ Wrinkles and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis — that (thankfully) have nothing to do with so-called superheroes. Viewing the passing of eventful British history through the lens of his unassuming parents, a maid and a milkman, the working-class ideals and milieu of Ethel and Ernest could refocus audiences on the true heroes in our midst — our families and friends who bring us into and through the world.
The film will be directed by animation veteran Roger Mainwood, who has animated on the adaptations of Briggs’ other well known animated film like the beloved short The Snowman and nuclear holocaust tale When the Wind Blows. Executive produced by Briggs (among others) and produced by Lupus Films, the co-production involves contributions from Cloth Cat Animation in Wales and Melusine Productions in Luxembourg.
“It’s a real privilege to be directing the feature film of Ethel and Ernest, which many consider to be Raymond Briggs’ masterpiece,” said Mainwood. “Time will tell if the end result does the book justice, but so far Raymond has loved everything he has seen. We are also delighted with the quality of the voice cast. Brenda and Jim are absolutely bang on as the title characters and the other actors bring an enormous amount of charm and character to their roles.”