BBC hopes the animation will help introduce children to classical music

Sir Michael Morpurgo’s children’s book Mimi and the Mountain Dragon will be set to a score by Rachel Portman

The BBC has commissioned a musical animation of Sir Michael Morpurgo’s children’s book Mimi and the Mountain Dragon. It will be narrated through by a score composed by Oscar-winning composer Rachel Portman, to be recorded by the BBC Philharmonic and the Hallé’s family of choirs, and be broadcast on BBC One this Christmas period.

The film was commissioned by Jan Younghusband, Head of BBC Music Commissioning for Television, who had initially approached Morpurgo to write a children’s story that could be set to classical music. ‘At the BBC we have a proud heritage of finding new ways to introduce children to classical music,’ Younghusband said, ‘stretching right back to Benjamin Britten’s Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, The BBC’s Ten Pieces project and now Mimi and the Mountain Dragon.’ 

Mimi and the Mountain Dragon tells of a village living in fear of a mighty dragon. One winter, a little girl finds a baby dragon asleep and makes a perilous journey to return it to its mother – the dragon the villagers fear. Explaining how he came up with the idea, Morpurgo recalled: ‘Many years ago, in the Engadine Valley in Switzerland, I saw village children in red hats, cracking whips, ringing cowbells, banging drums, creating a great cacophony of noise, as they paraded up through the village. I asked why this was happening. They are driving away wicked spirits, I was told. So began my story of Mimi and the Mountain Dragon.’ 

Morpurgo – a former Children’s Laureate whose works include War Horse – will introduce the film. Portman’s achievements, meanwhile, embrace a vast number of soundtracks for television and films, including Chocolat and The Cider House Rules, as well as The Little Prince, a children’s opera. The film, based on original illustrations by Emily Gravett, and adapted for screen by novelist, poet, and playwright Owen Sheers, will be made by Leopard Pictures and animation studio Factory.

Mimi and the Mountain Dragon will feature as part of a wider year-long BBC focus on literature across television, radio and online, as well as a festival in partnership with libraries and reading groups around the UK.