The creators of Mog’s Christmas describe the hand-drawn process behind bringing the classic storybook to life on screen. Robert Shepherd reports

In Christmases past, Lupus Films has brought The Snowman and the Snowdog, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and Judith Kerr’s The Tiger Who Came to Tea to life for Channel 4 seasonal specials using traditional hand drawn techniques. Its latest for 2023 is the animated adaptation of Kerr’s Mog’s Christmas, a tale that follows a mischievous cat causing chaos on Christmas Eve but ultimately saving the day. 

“It came off the back of us making Tiger for Channel 4 in 2019,” says Ruth Fielding, co-founder of Lupus. “We wanted to work with the broadcaster again so when we delivered Tiger, we started thinking about what’s next. We already knew and loved Judith’s series of Mog books so that seemed a perfect place to start.”

Gwawr Lloyd, drama commissioning editor at Channel 4 selected Mog’s Christmas.

Robin Shaw, the award-winning director whose credits include We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and the aforementioned The Tiger Who Came to Tea, directs Mog. Kerr who had worked with Lupus on the Tiger adaptation, sadly passed away in 2019, aged 95, so Lupus wasn’t able to work with her on Mog but did consult with Kerr’s children on the film.

“Working with Judith was great, she completely understood the process of turning stories from books into films,” Shaw says. “She came to the studio, saw the animatics, was helpful with the script and story.” He says there was no difference working with her estate through her children Tacy and Matthew. “Their sole purpose in all of this is to protect the integrity of their mother’s work, which is also what we want to make sure we do.”


Modern-day filmmakers have access to the best technology, but Shaw and Lupus prioritise authenticity.

“We use TVPaint because it’s the closest thing I’ve found to working on paper” says Shaw. “It’s just all about the drawing – the software doesn’t have loads of special things that you can add to it. You look at the book and Judith’s artwork and, aside from the boarding, you have to find ways of very laboriously, but as time efficiently as possible, following the style of the artwork frame by frame.”

And that takes a special team. “There’s a whole gang of people, some I’ve known for years who I used to work with on paper, but also lots of younger people who are new to the industry. They can’t believe that we’re hand painting frame by frame – digitally, I know, but it’s still hand painting.” 

Book adaptations often yield to creative liberties for drama, but Joanna Harrison adapted her screenplay directly from source.

Shaw says “all the narration from the book is there” and that provides the backbone to the whole story. “The biggest thing is how the human characters are fleshed out and each given their own idiosyncrasies and silliness as seen through Mog’s eyes,” he adds. “But watching the film, you won’t think ‘oh that bit’s been stuck on, that wasn’t in the book’. I don’t think you’ll be aware of any difference.” 


The 22-minute film, taking 18 months from script to delivery (10 months for animation), comprises 16,574 hand-drawn frames, 206 hand-painted backgrounds, created by 63 artists. Lupus recently initiated an animation training scheme, supported by The JGA Group, where trainees contributed to Mog’s Christmas at Lupus’ Islington studio.

 “We’ve trained some art workers and some of them did background paint as well,” adds Fielding. “These drawing and painting skills are traditional skills that are not necessarily taught on university courses, so we provided some on the job training together with JGA. We took on a cohort of 12 and then we gave five jobs at the end of the project. It’s our way of giving back.”

Kerr would have marked her centenary in June and publisher Harper Collins is throwing a party to mark it, along with the launch of Mog’s Christmas. “I think probably she’d have been raising a glass of sherry, whisky or something to celebrate the launch of Mog’s Christmas because she was a great one for family, celebrations and parties,” says Deakin.


Broadcaster Channel 4

Production Lupus Films production in association with Tabby Tales, HarperCollins Children’s Books and Universal Pictures Content Group

Commissioners Gwawr Lloyd, Drama Commissioning Editor and Caroline Hollick, Head of Drama

Producers Camilla Deakin and Ruth Fielding 

Executive producers Juliet Matthews (HarperCollins Children’s Books), Judith Kerr’s children Tacy and Matthew Kneale and Ann-Janine Murtagh. 

Director Robin Shaw 

Writer Joanna Harrison 

Cast Adjoa Andoh, Claire Foy, Benedict Cumberbatch, Miriam Margolyes, Maggie Steed, Zawe Ashton, Charlie Higson, Gareth Berliner, Amelie Law, Teddy Skelton. Tacy Kneale, Judith Kerr’s daughter, plays Mog

Jon Creamer

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