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Benedict Cumberbatch and David Oyelowo Cast in Animated ‘The Tiger Who Came to Tea’

Half-hour special from Lupus Films, airing on Channel 4 this Christmas, brings classic children’s book to life with distinctive hand-drawn animation style.

Channel 4, Lupus Films and HarperCollins’ have announced the voice cast for their upcoming animated film, The Tiger Who Came to Tea, which is set to air this Christmas. Based on the classic children’s book by Judith Kerr OBE, the half-hour film will bring the vivid images and irresistible story of this classic picture book to life.  

Benedict Cumberbatch (Brexit: The Uncivil War, Sherlock, Avengers: Infinity Wars), Tamsin Greig (Tamara Drewe, Friday Night Dinner, The Guilty, Episodes) David Oyelowo (Les Miserables, A United Kingdom, Nightingales) David Walliams (Walliams & Friend, Little Britain, Come Fly With Me) and Paul Whitehouse (Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing, The Fast Show) will portray the characters of Daddy, Mummy, Tiger, Narrator and Milkman respectively, while seven-year-old newcomer Clara Ross will make her TV debut as Sophie. 

Published by HarperCollins Children’s Books and produced by Lupus Films, The Tiger Who Came to Tea tells the story of what happens when the doorbell rings as Sophie and her Mummy are sitting down to tea in the kitchen. Confronted with an unexpected guest – a big, furry, stripy tiger – they invite him inside where he proceeds to eat everything in sight before making a timely exit, just before Daddy gets home.

Inspired by the author’s daughter, The Tiger Who Came to Tea was first published in 1968 and has sold over 5 million copies. Lupus Films' distinctive, hand-drawn animated style will bring the story to life, introducing the characters to a whole new audience. Channel 4 will broadcast the one-off half-hour special this Christmas.

“I couldn’t be more thrilled to be playing a small part in bringing Judith Kerr’s timeless children’s classic to the screen for another generation to enjoy,” remarked Cumberbatch.

Oyelowo added, “Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to play the iconic tiger from The Tiger Who Came to Tea? He’s a big cat of few words because - he’s too busy eating! - but I relished all of the growling, chomping and slurping, which called on me to find my inner cat.”

“I knew Judith well and I really adored her,” Walliams noted. “She was an incredible inspiration - her work is so brilliant. The book is a thing of beauty – there isn’t a word out of place, the illustrations are just gorgeous. I really wanted to be a part of it and I was chuffed that she wanted me to narrate. I’m so proud to be associated with it because it’s a stone cold classic. Just like the book has been around for over 50 years, hopefully the animation will have this incredible longevity too.”

Greig shared, “The story has a universal appeal. It’s about encountering the other and the danger of the unknown adventure. What drew me is that Mummy is not their imposing authority, but she’s agreeing to go on the journey with her daughter, and be a child with her.”

“I wanted to get involved because it has fond memories for me and a close association with my girls,” Whitehouse reminisced, “I first read the book to my eldest daughter who is now 26, and I’ve got quite a young daughter as well that I now read it to. It’s one of the not-that-many books where the girl is the central character … I’ve read it to all my four girls, so it’s never been out of my life!”

“I do like reading books because they take you to an imaginary world, and this book is really nice,” Ross said. “I like all the characters and that an animal can talk because in real life, how can an animal talk? I’m really excited that my voice is going to be animated and I can’t wait for it coming out at Christmas on Channel 4.”

Channel 4 head of drama, Caroline Hollick, commented, “We’re delighted to have assembled such a fantastic cast to tell this wonderful and much-loved children’s classic. It really does promise to be a fabulous festive treat for all the family.”

Lupus Films producer, Ruth Fielding, added, “We are thrilled to have attached such an amazing cast to bring to life the characters in this timeless family favorite. It’s a real honor to be working with such a glittering array of talent who are going to help make this animation truly special.”

“We are delighted to be working with such a brilliant cast who will introduce this treasured story to a whole new generation and honor the extraordinary woman who created it,” concluded HarperCollins Children’s Books executive publisher, Ann-Janine Murtagh.

The Tiger Who Came to Tea is produced by Lupus Films' founders Camilla Deakin and Ruth Fielding together with HarperCollins Children’s Books, Murtagh, Katie Fulford, and Mia Jupp with direction by Robin Shaw (Co-Director of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, assistant director of The Snowman and The Snowdog).

The book has been adapted for the screen by Joanna Harrison (co-director of We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, Co-Writer and art director of The Snowman and The Snowdog). It was commissioned for Channel 4 by their head of drama, Caroline Hollick, and their executive of drama, Chloe Tucker. Universal Content Group is managing the international TV distribution, home entertainment and theatrical rights.

Channel 4’s last children’s classic, We’re Going on a Bear Hunt, also produced by Lupus Films, was the channel’s most watched program of 2016 with over eight million viewers over the holiday period.

Source: Channel 4