December 2019 Mr Bear’s Christmas began life as a little story I had printed into small books and put in the post as a surprise Christmas to my mailing list. Back then I had about 300 subscribers and it gave me so much joy to post out the little heartwarming stories to say 'thank you' for being with me that year.
Summer 2020 I had wanted to make a 3D Mr Bear and found someone able to needlefelt one for me. The day he arrived, I fell in love. I created a few simple stopmotion videos on my iPhone and once he waved at the camera, he truly came to life for me. Immediately, I envisaged being able to animate Mr Bear’s Christmas. “All” I needed to do was create all of the characters and some simple sets.
With some encouragement to make the characters myself, a friend bought me a book on needlefedlting. And so, I set about making all of the characters and most of the set from wool. On a tiny budget in a small room at my parent’s house, I began filming with the windows blacked out with bin bags.
While I was winging it, I encountered some wonderful chance connections to people who helped transform this film. See below to read more about Dan Beckett and Andy Pickering who both helped me no end.
December 2020 I had recorded the VoiceOver for Mr Bear’s Christmas myself in my bedroom. It wasn’t the best sound quality but it worked well enough to release the film onto Youtube in time for Christmas 2020, with the help of Andy Pickering cleverly editing the sound. I celebrated with champagne and dressed up in black-tie for the ‘premiere” with my family on the sofa at home. It was such a wonderful feeling seeing Mr Bear come to life on the TV, especially with the set still in place down the hall.
July 2022 A heartwarming dream in which Stephen Fry agreed to narrate Mr Bear’s Christmas led me to pick up the phone and enquire whether he would be interested in Narrating my animation. To my delight, he said yes. With Mr Fry’s beautiful narration, it wasn’t long until the BBC acquired the festive film for CBeebies and Iplayer shown on Christmas Day 2022. You can watch it here (UK only) or scroll down for the Youtube link which is available worldwide.
December 2022 Mr Bear had his TV Debut on the BBC and orchestral debut at The Bridgewater Hall with the Hallé Orchestra. Both were just incredible to see and I'm so grateful for these phenomenal opportunities which have come my way.
It has truly been an adventure bringing this to life. It's a joy to share it with you. I have been working on animating a second story from The Tales Of Mr Bear - Mr Bear's Day Out which is due to be released Winter 2023. I was fortunate to access a grant to help me buy a camera for this film which helped me so much. I can't wait to share it with you.
Watch Mr Bear’s Christmas (Narrated by Lorna)
Here is a short interview about the making of the film, the things that inspired me to make it, the hurdles I overcame to make it happen and fun I had along the way:
It may sound like the start of an Oscars speech, but truly I couldn't have done this without the kindness of my parents who let me take up a room in their house to build the sets, accepting my request to black out all of the windows for a few months! I am forever grateful for their help.
I was also incredibly fortunate to be connected to these two wonderful humans who made this film come to life more than I could ever have hoped or imagined. They are both fantastically talented and it was a joy to work with them.
The beautiful soundtrack to Mr Bear's Christmas was composed and performed by Andrew Pickering. I met Andy through a chance connection which arose from sharing my dreams out loud. I couldn't have imagined anything better, he used only the good notes, and made Mr Bear's Christmas come alive so perfectly. Andy took so much care to understand the characters and the sentiment behind each scene and absolutely nailed each one.
It turned out that I was living just around the corner from a lighting specialist who works on professional animations and he rescued me from trying to light my sets with bedroom lamps. Dan so very kindly gave up his time to help me light the set and lent me his lighting equipment while I shot the film. It was such a treat to be able to ask Dan lots of questions about what it was like to work on professional animation sets. I could feel my eyes light up as techniques from my childhood favourites were referenced into conversation - The Wind In The Willows, Brambly Hedge, and I realised how much of an impact they'd had on me growing up.