Festive traditions need to be updated from time to time, otherwise we’d be stuck with the same old turkey, party hats and carols written in the 19th Century to get us through the season of goodwill.
Luckily, an annual TV favourite has arrived over the past few years. First we had The Gruffalo in 2009, then The Gruffalo’s Child two years later, followed by Room On The Broom in 2012.
Then there was Stick Man, The Highway Rat, Zog, The Snail On The Whale and Zog And The Flying Doctors.
Julia Donaldson’s much-loved children’s books have become as much part of the Christmas TV line-up as as the annual rammy on Albert Square, although for the 73-year-old author it’s not something she planned.
“I suppose it has become quite the tradition, really,” she says.
“I’m sure there are plenty of people who still watch The Snowman every year – not all my stories are very Christmassy but, touch wood, up until now they have always been shown on Christmas Day.
“We always watch the animation, but it’s a bit mind-blowing to think that there are all these millions of people in the UK watching at Christmastime too.”
Donaldson’s books are adored by children, and her own grandchildren are among that audience.
“For a long time I thought I’d love to do a book about insects and bugs and garden creatures, but I couldn’t really think of a hook to hang it on,” she explains.
“But then, separately from that, I thought I’d never done a superhero book – probably at the stage that one of my grandchildren was really into Batman and Superman and Spider-Man themselves. So then I just put the two things together: my superhero would be this worm.”
Having a granny who’s one of the most lauded authors in the UK must be a source of joy but for Donaldson’s grandchildren they might just be a bit young to appreciate quite how talented she is.
“I have nine grandchildren and they’re all under 11!” she added. “I think it’s when they go to school that they start feeling a sense of – I hope – pride. Obviously when they’re very little, they just (think) ‘Granny writes these books’.”
Superworm tells the story of a long, strong worm (voiced by Matt Smith) with amazing skills and a big heart who keeps on saving the day. But what happens when he gets too full of himself?
For Oscar winner Olivia Colman, taking on the role of narrator was almost as easy a choice as, well, actually doing the performance.
“The voice acting is the last bit of the jigsaw – these incredibly talented artists have been working away for two years on these exquisite drawings,” she says.
“The actor comes in at the end and just tries to do their beautiful work justice. And the narrator’s actually the easiest bit!” For Colman, Donaldson’s books have been a family mainstay for her three children.
“I was excited to play the narrator because I love all the Julia Donaldson books,” she adds.
“I’ve read them to my children over the years and I love watching them at Christmas time when they’re on the telly.
“The films are just lovely and they come out at the time of year when you can all be cosy and at home and watching something together.”
Superworm, BBC1, Christmas Day, 2.30pm
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