Channel 4 has commissioned Quentin Blake's Clown – based on the classic 1996 children's book – for December 2020. Produced by Eagle Eye Drama (the production company recently launched by the team behind global drama brand Walter Presents), the animated Christmas special is based on a popular book by one of Britain's most illustrious and well-loved authors/illustrators, Sir Quentin Blake.
Illustrator-turned-author, Blake is best known for his illustrations for Roald Dahl's children's novels, but has a longstanding career in illustrating other people – and his own – books.
Inspired by the book of the same name (and one of Sir Quentin's favourites amongst his titles), Quentin Blake's Clown is a half-hour animation bringing to life the adventures of a little toy clown, thrown away with a load of old discarded toys, as he goes on a journey to find a new loving home for himself and his friends. "Missing: a speedy little clown with carroty fingers, blue and white trainers, a green peaked cap and saucer-shaped eyes. Have you seen him anywhere?"
The book won the International Bologna Ragazzi Award, the Smarties Book Prize and was a shortlisted title for the Kate Greenaway Medal.
Created with traditional hand-drawn animation techniques to capture the style of Quentin Blake's artwork, the programme will be narrated by Helena Bonham Carter and is part of a long and established tradition of Channel 4's animated Christmas specials such as The Snowman, The Tiger who Came to Tea, and We're Going on a Bear Hunt.
Accompanying the programme will be a short 'making of' special feature with contributions by Quentin Blake, Helena Bonham-Carter and the key animators and executives, giving insight into the creative process.
Quentin Blake said: "Clown has always been one of my favourite characters, and it's wonderful now to see him off the page and running about on his own."
Channel 4 Head of Drama, Caroline Hollick said: "We're delighted that this Christmas, Channel 4 will show this enduring tale of a box of once much-loved, now discarded toys and Clown's impassioned journey to find them all a new home. Quentin Blake's unique style of drawing has been delightfully realised in animation form by the extremely talented team at Eagle Eye Drama. I'm excited to be part of such a dynamic European collaboration, and we're very pleased that Helena Bonham-Carter has agreed to bring her distinctive, rich voice to the story."
Executive Producer Massimo Fenati commented: "Quentin Blake's Clown is a charming and heart-warming story, and bringing to life Sir Quentin's exquisite, inimitable style for the screen is an inspiring creative task. An exciting jigsaw-puzzle of incredibly gifted animators from all over Europe have embraced this creative challenge enthusiastically and everyone on the team feel privileged to be working from such wonderful source material."
Eagle Eye Drama's Chief Creative Officer Jo McGrath added: "Eagle Eye Drama's core mission is championing and creating unique and inspiring scripted projects – across all genres and forms. We are delighted to be adding Quentin Blake's Clown to our growing production slate and hope this will be the first of many animation projects we can bring to life."
Jackie Edwards, Head of Fund from the BFI's Young Audiences Content Fund commented: "We're so proud of the range of projects we've funded this year, nurturing stories and concepts we feel will enrich television for young audiences. The Young Audiences Content Fund exists to support the creation of stories that represent, reflect and inspire the UK and we're so excited to be able to help bring the uniquely special talents of Sir Quentin Blake to screen this Christmas."
Commissioned by Channel 4 Head of Drama Caroline Hollick, and supported by a grant from the BFI's Young Audiences Content Fund, the programme will be directed by Luigi Berio and Executive Produced by Massimo Fenati, with Eagle Eye Drama's Jo McGrath and Walter Iuzzolino overseeing the project as joint creative directors. International distribution will be handled by New Regency.