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Bumbling Zog will melt everyone’s hearts, says creator Julia Donaldson

A scene from Zog (Orange Eyes Ltd / Magic Light Pictures Ltd)
A scene from Zog (Orange Eyes Ltd / Magic Light Pictures Ltd)

FAMILIES around the country will settle down together to watch children’s classic Zog on Christmas Day.

It’s the latest treat from best-selling children’s author Julia Donaldson, who insists she never takes adaptations of her books being part of Christmas for granted.

“I’m really thrilled and always excited but you really aren’t sure,” Julia told iN10. “And I really don’t write the books with a view to them being adapted for TV.

“With the Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child and Room on the Broom I did screenplays – which they totally changed. But I think it gave them an idea of what I wanted and we do get a bit of a say.

“They do come and ask if there’s anything we’re not happy with. Then it gets tweaked a bit.

“But I can’t think what they’ll look like, that’d just be one more headache.”

The “we” is Julia’s long-time illustrator Axel Scheffler and it obviously is very much a team.

“Like Julia, I just have to think that I’m illustrating a picture book and nothing more,” said Axel.

Author Julia Donaldson (Oli Scarff/Getty Images)

Zog, written by Julia in 2010, is an enchanting half hour of animation about an accident-prone dragon. He always gets himself into mischief and scrapes at Dragon School and now, in his fifth year there, he has to capture a princess.

“I do love the films but the most exciting thing for me is that it makes more people turn to the books,” insists Julia.

“I’m always nervous before I watch any of them, just in case I don’t like it.

“With Zog I managed to have a sneaky preview on my computer before I saw it on a big screen at a screening and I was really happy with it.

“Second time round you notice some of the little touches and the musical score always adds so much.”

© BBC / PA
Sir Lenny Henry narrating Zog (BBC / PA)

As always there’s a stellar vocal cast involved including Sir Lenny Henry, Tracey Ullman and Game of Thrones star Kit Harington.

“I was so impressed by Lenny Henry’s narration,” admits Julia. “I’ve only seen him in other acting roles before, so it was interesting to hear his narrating voice.

“It’s very Shakespearian and he really gets the inflection just right. And Tracey Ullman makes her dragon seem so kind.”

Although she has just turned 70 Julia says she has no plans to put her feet up, with more writing and a UK theatre tour in 2019.

And we’ll be in for a festive treat then, too, with The Snail and the Whale already confirmed for BBC1 next Christmas.

Zog, BBC One, Christmas Day, 4:50pm