Updated December 10

Now that you have seen (and heard!) the new trailer, here is a bit more background on how Charlie Mackesy’s book came to life on your screen, from Animation Magazine:

Animating an Amiable Fable in ‘The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse’

About three years ago, Charlie Mackesy’s charming illustrated book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse won the hearts of millions of readers around the world. The book, which follows the simple tale of a friendship between the four protagonists as the young boy searches for his home, also inspired a half-hour animated film, which will premiere on Apple TV+ (worldwide) and BBC (U.K.) this Christmas . . .

(Director Peter) Baynton says he was quite taken by the way the book balances levity with gravity. “It has a truthfulness to it,” he says. “The book has a timeless quality; in some ways it’s old fashioned, like you could have just discovered it from 80 years ago, despite it being only a few years old now. Something about the landscape they’re in made me excited, too; it is almost a fifth character playing a steadying and peaceful presence. And thematically, friendship, togetherness, questioning the big things and small things in life with openness and fragility — what wonderful things to explore in animation . . .”

According to producer Cara Speller, the production took about two years to complete, from the day they started working on the script to the final day of post-production. “Across the whole production, we had 120 artists from 20 different countries — and nine different time zones!” she says.

Baynton says the visual design team looked at lots of photography of Northumberland in Northern England, and landscapes under snow and in various weather and lighting conditions for inspiration. “We wanted to capture a truthfulness of light and landscape that Charlie would recognize from his childhood growing up there,” he points out. “We also looked at Impressionist paintings of landscapes in snow. For the character animation, huge amounts of footage of foxes and horses, as mentioned above, inspired the performances of the animators . . .”

Note from Stella: the following section is my favorite part

“Obviously when you make a film or write a book or do anything of that nature, people will take all manner of things you never intended to or couldn’t foresee or even imagine — and everyone responds differently to everything,” says Mackesy. “My hope from where I sit is obviously that people will enjoy it and feel better for watching it … feel more hopeful, more comforted, more loving towards themselves and others. But I largely hope that they feel different afterwards in a good way.”

Baynton agrees. “I hope the short film offers comfort for anyone who needs it, joy, happiness and a sense of togetherness,” he says. “And hopefully, they’ll feel they’ve watched something beautiful and honest!”

Read the entire article for more details on how the animators transformed Charlie’s words and paintings into a animated film, a process that includes tons of research, an original music composition from Isobel Waller-Bridge, two directors, and a fantastic team of producers. Oh, and there are more stills from the film, too.

You know me: I geek out on the details involved in bringing stories to the screen, especially those that originate on the page, as this one does. I find the entire process fascinating. I imagine you would rather watch the movie itself, though, and you can, on December 25!

So once again, Happy Holidays to you and to our favorite Irishman, currently portraying The Horse. heart

Screencap from the trailer

Updated December 9

And now, at last, we have the official trailer for this lovely film, just released by Apple TV+ today!

Hearing all of the voices for the first time is so much fun! And Gabriel Byrne gives The Horse a sense of humor and a sense of gravitas — perfect! heart

December 7

Christmas starts here! This is going to be so much fun. If, like me, you are already watching your favorite holiday movies, including titles like Little Women and Carrie Pilby, both featuring our favorite Irishman, then you are probably in the mood to add a new title to that festive list–and now you can! The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse will fill your screen on Christmas Day and I am very happy to remind you that:

Gabriel Byrne IS the Horse

From Virgin Radio

Charlie Mackesy joined The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky to talk about the animated short film adaptation of his bestselling book, The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse, which will be coming to BBC One and BBC iPlayer this Christmas.

The animated version will bring to life Charlie’s original story of the unlikely friendship of the four much-loved characters [as] they journey together in the boy’s search for home. Charlie told Chris: “It was strange to suddenly see him move and try to get him to shuffle around. And the mole too! How was the mole going to move? That was a big question.”

Speaking about the star-studded cast, Charlie explained: “Tom Hollander is the mole. What a joy!

“He has a velvety voice, like a mole voice and is funny, but also can suddenly switch to deep pathos, really at the click of a finger. So his range is amazing, and he was wonderful. 

“And then we’ve got Gabriel Byrne as the horse. I actually wrote him a letter, and said, ‘We’re struggling to get hold of you. I did this little book, and we’re doing this film. Do you fancy doing the horse?’ And I got a phone call.

“He said, ‘Charlie, I am the horse,’ but there was more colourful language!”

Another big name, Idris Elba, also provides a voice. “Idris is the fox,” Charlie said. “Incredible voice.” 

I knew it. I just knew it. I said exactly the same thing when I first heard the news that Gabriel would participate in this project. Well, I thought. He must play the Horse. He’s perfect for it. Heck! He IS the horse.

And so he is.

Gabriel lives in Maine now. He’s used to the snow.
Did I tell you the Horse is my favorite character? I did? Oh.

Be sure to visit the Virgin Radio article and listen to Charlie’s interview.

New Artwork

From Radio Times UK

Illustrator Charlie Mackesy drew this cover exclusively for RT and chats all about his best-selling book, which has been adapted for the screen.

In the latest Radio Times magazine, check out our preview of the best shows this Christmas – a quick glance reveals an enticing mix of the new and the old. The BBC’s big family treat is a charming animation of Charlie Mackesy’s heart-warming picture book The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse.

The illustrator exclusively drew this week’s RT cover and tells us in the new issue how his book began as a series of messages on his social media feed about the enduring power of kindness and our ability to sustain each other during times of need.

Published just before lockdown, it became a word-of-mouth hit during the pandemic, selling almost two million copies worldwide. With stars such as Gabriel Byrne, Idris Elba and Tom Hollander providing the voices, we think you will thoroughly enjoy it.

Original cover artwork by Charlie Mackesy


Suddenly, there are videos to share with you!

The two shorts published by the BBC on their YouTube Channel are from the completed film, I think, and they offer a tantalizing look at what we will see on December 25. No voices in these, but the animation, music, and sound effects work seamlessly to tell a very “short” and touching story.

Two Shorts from the BBC

Spend some quality time with this lovely foursome

This is one hour of the 2 shorts above + a gorgeous tableau of everyone walking by a river at sunset. Music, animation, sound effects, and still no voices. But again: so tantalizing. And relaxing and revivifying. A lovely way to calm down after a long day of shopping, decorating, working–whatever is filling your days now!

The publisher of the accompanying book for the film would like you to give it as a Christmas gift, please, and isn’t that a lovely idea?

Where and When to Watch

The holiday treat will air on Christmas Day. In the UK, you can view it on BBC and the BBC iPlayer. And in the United States, it will stream on Apple TV+. I hope you have a chance to watch it because I think that, just like the book, it will be very special indeed. star

Happy Holidays to you! heart


  1. Corazón de Irlanda

    Not on BBC-A? BOO!

  2. Anyone got Gabriel Byrne email address

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