The Snail and the Whale, the latest Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler animated short-film adaptation, is now streaming for the first time in Africa on Showmax.
Animated in Cape Town by Triggerfish for Magic Light Pictures, The Snail and the Whale premiered on BBC One over the Christmas period to four-star reviews and more than 7.5 million viewers. RadioTimes calls the 26-minute animation “visually spectacular…a lovely treat to watch as a family”.
This is the story of a tiny snail with an itchy foot, who travels the world on the tail of a great big, grey-blue humpback whale. It’s a tale of shimmering ice and coral caves, of shooting stars and enormous waves, and of how the snail, so small and frail, saves the life of the humpback whale.
“Although it was first published in 2003, this story now seems more relevant than ever,” said RadioTimes, highlighting the “environmental message which kids will surely take to heart” and “a lovely friendship between two wildly different creatures”.
The Snail and the Whale is directed by two-time Oscar nominee Max Lang and multi award-winning South African Daniel Snaddon. This is their second Donaldson-Scheffler collaboration, following on from the success of Zog, which earned the keen but clumsy dragon gold stars everywhere from the Shanghai International TV Festival to New York International Children’s Film Festival in 2019 — not to mention nominations for International Emmy, Kidscreen, and Annie awards in 2020.
“For anyone who’s ever felt overwhelmed, like the world is too big for you to make a difference, ‘The Snail and the Whale’ is an encouragement that even though you feel small – and may even be small – what you do still matters,” said Snaddon. “The important thing is to keep hoping and to keep trying.”
The Snail and the Whale is voiced by star British acting talent, with two-time Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins as Snail, Rob Brydon as Whale, Cariad Lloyd as Teacher and Dame Diana Rigg, and Tracy Bond as the narrator.
“I Skyped in for the voice recordings,” says Snaddon. “As a kid from the Lowveld, Skype is a huge blessing because it stops you feeling too starstruck. I’m used to seeing Sally and Diana on screen, and they’re still just on a screen, so you can have a normal conversation.”
“ ‘The Snail and the Whale‘ is a longstanding favourite in our house,” said Brydon. “It’s an epic journey across the globe, where the tiniest creature and the mightiest mammal experience the vastness of our planet together.
“Both characters go on such a heart-warming, emotional and ultimately life-changing journey together,” Hawkins added. “It’s a very beautiful and important friendship for them both.”
The Snail and the Whale’s environmental theme particularly resonated with her.
“The protection of our oceans is everything,” she said. “I hope this animation will inspire family audiences everywhere in helping to take care of our beautiful earth and its creatures for future generations and beyond.”
For Snaddon, Donaldson [who is known as an author of many picture books and children’s books] is more than just a supplier of night-time stories that are always a pleasure to read.
“For our family, she’s changed our lives,” he admits. “I was working in advertising before this, and I didn’t have a clear pathway to making my own films, so I’m just so grateful that we as a family have been part of spreading the magic of her stories. She’s a national treasure in Britain and I’m in awe of her and Axel and the imprint they’ve made on the British psyche.”
The Snail and the Whale is the fifth in a string of BBC Christmas adaptations from Magic Light and Triggerfish, following the multi award-winning Donaldson-Scheffler adaptations Stick Man (2015), The Highway Rat (2017) and Zog (2019), as well as the Oscar-nominated Roald Dahl adaptation Revolting Rhymes (2016).
Before teaming up with Triggerfish, Magic Light also made three previous Donaldson-Scheffler adaptations: the Oscar-nominated The Gruffalo (2009), the Bafta and Emmy winner Room on the Broom (2012), and Annecy winner The Gruffalo’s Child (2011), among other hits. All eight family classics are now streaming on Showmax.