After many long days at work on her self-taught animation project, budding author Lorna Gibson will get to see her story light up screens around the U.K. when Mr. Bear’s Christmas debuts on BBC this month.
The stop-motion special is adapted from her self-published storybook The Tales of Mr. Bear, and explores the importance of friendship through a cast of woodland character gathering to enjoy the holiday.
“Watching animations at Christmas was a big part of my childhood. I’m thrilled that children will be doing the same with Mr. Bear this year, thanks to the BBC,” Gibson shared.
Gibson’s 11-minute amateur production — crafted from felt, wool and foam and shot on an iPhone in the spare bedroom at her parents’ house using a £5 stop-motion app — is being unwrapped for a wider audience thanks to the attachment of celebrated author, actor and presenter Stephen Fry (Wilde, Gosford Park, The Hobbit).
After teaching herself to needle felt the puppets and props, followed by six months of shooting and editing, Gibson was inspired to contact Fry’s voiceover agent by a dream in which the former QI host signed a back-of-envelope contract to do the project. Fry watched the short, and recorded the storybook text at home for Gibson.
“When this project first came to my attention, I see I replied ‘this sounds lovely,’ and indeed it is,” Fry recalled. “I am delighted that Mr. Bear’s Christmas shall reach a wide audience during its broadcast over the festive season.”
Gibson, a 40-year-old illustrator and head of Toots Design (tootsdesign.co.uk), sent the result in to the BBC and caught the eye of programming executives, who agreed terms with Gibson and Fry to schedule Mr. Bear’s Christmas to air on CBeebies on December 13, 17 and 23, and stream on iPlayer. The special will also receive a screening alongside The Snowman, to their respective soundtracks played live by the Halle orchestra, at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall on December 22 and 23.
“Bringing Mr. Bear to life from pencil sketch to BBC screening has been a labor of love, a great passion and worth every challenge along the way,” said Gibson, who hails from Tarporley in Cheshire. “I was delighted when Stephen agreed to do the voiceover for Mr. Bear’s Christmas. and having the BBC show my animation of the story is a dream come true.”
Kate Morton, Head of BBC Children’s Commissioning 0-6 years, said, “We thought the film was really lovely and the story was delightful. We loved the animation style; it feels really warm and cozy, and perfect for Christmas.”
Mr. Bear’s Christmas was enhanced by the work of Buckinghamshire composer Andrew Pickering, who wrote and performed its soundtrack, and local Cheshire lighting professional Dan Beckett, each of whom agreed to support the project at no cost.
Tune into CBeebies December 13, 17 and 23 to watch Mr. Bear’s Christmas, also available on iPlayer this holiday season.