There are a few regulars amidst the annual viewings schedules. Whether it’s a trip in the TARDIS, or a merry jaunt down to Albert Square, there is a certain amount of comfort in our festive televisual traditions. A relative newcomer to the tradition, however is Magic Light Pictures, who have, over the last few years, secured their place amidst the holiday greats. Annually adapting the wonderful story books of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler, MLP have garnered a number of awards and Oscar nominations for their retellings of Room on the Broom, The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child.
This year’s festive delight comes in the humble form of Stick Man, an anthropomorphic stick (voiced by the ever-wonderful Martin Freeman) who lives in the family tree with his stick lady wife and three adorable twigs. A real family man, Stick Man strives to give his bundle the perfect Christmas, but is hindered by all of the everyday problems that come with being a stick. After being mistaken for the perfect pooh-stick, Stick Man begins a perilous journey home across land and sea, foiled at every turn by passers by using him as a dog’s toy, a snowman’s arm and even the mast for a sandcastle.
Things seem hopeless for our little wooden hero until a chance encounter with Santa (a perfectly cast Hugh Bonneville) whisks him back home just in time for Christmas morning.
With their trademark stop-motion-like CGI, MLP have once again produced a truly enchanting film for the whole family. The array of charming woodland creatures (voiced by Rob Brydon, Russell Tovey and Sally Hawkins) are each instantly memorable despite their all-too-fleeting screentime, the highlight being a bickering couple of swans whose marital turmoil can only be resolved by the perfect twig for Mrs. Swan’s nest. Jennifer Saunders’ beautiful narration also brings the story together wonderfully.
What really makes Stick Man special though is the rather serious nature of the tale. Freeman’s Stick Man is a father desperate to return home for Christmas. Indeed, watching the film, one cannot help but compare his misadventures to those of Steve Martin in Planes, Trains and Automobiles (though Stick Man as a protagonist is certainly much more likeable than Neal Page!). Through Freeman’s emotive voice work, Rene Aubry’s instantly catchy score, and MLP’s intoxicating animation, we are given a truly wonderful blend of ingredients for the perfect festive treat.
Humble, moving and delightfully funny, Stick Man is definitely one of this year’s holiday highlights.
Dir: Jeroen Jaspaert, Daniel Snaddon
Scr: Julia Donaldson, Axel Scheffler
Starring: Martin Freeman, Jennifer Saunders, Hugh Bonneville, Rob Brydon, Sally Hawkins, Russell Tovey
Prd: Martin Pope, Michael Rose
Music: Rene Aubry
Run time: 27 mins
Stick Man airs on BBC1 on Christmas Day