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Monday 22 September 2014

Irish animators pull Peter Rabbit from hat

Dave Kenny

Published 14/10/2012 | 05:00

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An Irish animation company is to breathe new life into Beatrix Potter's classic character, Peter Rabbit, for the BBC.

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Brown Bag Films has been tasked with giving the quintessentially English bunny a modern makeover -- by using Indiana Jones and Harry Potter as inspiration.

"It's Harry Potter meets Beatrix Potter," series director David McCamley told the Sunday Independent.

"Each episode is an original story rather than one taken from Potter's books. The brief was to mix the thrill of Indiana Jones, camaraderie of Harry Potter, wit of Fantastic Mr Fox and the adventure of Peter Pan, welded on to the Dangerous Book For Boys.

"It's the first new adaptation in nearly 20 years and we're thrilled to be doing it for the BBC. We're hoping to make the stories appeal equally to boys and girls, so Peter is getting a new female friend called Lily Bobtail.

"Along with Benjamin Bunny, they form the main characters," said McCamley, who also directs Brown Bag's Noddy in Toyland.

"Their friendship is a little like the relationship between Harry Potter, Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger -- only furrier."

The series will also feature Potter's other classic characters, from Jemima Puddle-Duck to Mrs Tiggy-winkle.

"The storyline may be modern but we were determined to stay faithful to the original illustrations of the characters. The crew lavished love and affection on the project, to do Beatrix Potter justice," said McCamley.

The animation series -- which has been developed by Silvergate Media -- was made in Brown Bag's Smithfield studio and produced by former Dreamworks production manager, Erik Vignau. It will air on CBeebies and US Nickelodeon this Christmas in a 22-minute 'special', where Peter Rabbit will be introduced to a new generation of children.

McCamley is delighted -- and relieved -- to finally see it make it to the small screen.

"I've been working on this for three years and had to keep it a secret. It's great to be able to finally talk about it," he joked.

This is Brown Bag's fourth adaptation of a classic children's book for television. Along with Enid Blyton's Noddy, they have also brought Ian Falconer's Olivia, and Niamh Sharkey's Happy Hugglemonsters to life. The latter airs worldwide this autumn on the Disney Channel.

The announcement caps a monumental week for the Irish animation industry. On Monday, Brown Bag's The Octonauts and Dublin's Boulder Media's The Amazing World of Gumball were both nominated for International Emmy awards.

Brown Bag Films already has two Oscar nominations for Give Up Yer Aul' Sins (2002) and Granny O'Grimm's Sleeping Beauty (2010). The Octonauts -- which features the underwater adventures of a team of cuddly animal explorers -- was also nominated for Bafta and Ifta awards in 2011.

Sunday Independent

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