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Julia Donaldson: ‘Lovely’ idea Tabby McTat could make politicians ‘more humane’

Tabby McTat author Julia Donaldson (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)
Tabby McTat author Julia Donaldson (Kirsty O’Connor/PA) Tabby McTat author Julia Donaldson (Kirsty O’Connor/PA)

Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson has said it is “a lovely thought” that the animated adaptation of her children’s book Tabby McTat “could help some politicians become a bit more humane”.

The book by the acclaimed writer, 75, explores the friendship between a singing cat and a homeless busker named Fred.

It is the latest of her books to be adapted by Magic Light Pictures as a Christmas special for the BBC, following hits such as The Gruffalo and Zog.

An image from animated adventure Tabby McTat
An image from animated adventure Tabby McTat The Tabby McTat film is adapted from Julia Donaldson’s book (Magic Light Pictures Ltd 2023/PA)

Asked if the story could engender more kindness in people, Donaldson said it “would be nice” if the film could encourage kindness and explained that she had not thought a lot about Fred’s background and the fact he is homeless.

“Fred was just a busker,” she said.

She added: “That’s a lovely thought, that a film like this could help some politicians become a bit more humane.”

On Monday former Home Secretary Suella Braverman was sacked following a series of controversial comments, including describing homelessness as a “lifestyle choice” for some.

The Royal Television Society Programme Awards
The Royal Television Society Programme Awards Susan Wokoma voices a cat called Sock in the film (Ian West/PA)

Enola Holmes actress Susan Wokoma, 35, who voices a cat called Sock in the film, said any parallels between the story’s depiction of homelessness and current political debate on the subject is “coincidental”.

She explained: “Where this world was set in the book wasn’t London. That’s something that’s happened afterwards.

“So it’s all these really coincidental things that have happened before said politicians said what they said.”

She added: “I think at the crux of this story is compassion for everybody.”

Donaldson, who said she comes from “a long history of busking”, added that she thinks publishers might have been worried about the homelessness angle as it was once suggested to her that she could re-write the book and make it about two cats.

Gavin And Stacey’s Rob Brydon voices Fred in the film and said watching it made him “quite emotional” as “it’s a really, really heart-warming story.”

Barbie European premiere and photocall – London
Barbie European premiere and photocall – London Rob Brydon voices Fred in Tabby McTat (Ian West/PA)

Doctor Who star Jodie Whittaker, who described the film as a “tearjerker”, also features as the narrator.

She said: “I’m a fan of this story – I’ve been reading it at bedtime for quite a while so I’ve had quite a lot of practice and I think that I’ve done myself proud.”

The film follows Tabby McTat and Fred before the two are unexpectedly separated and Tabby McTat has to embark on a journey across the streets of London.

Lending their voices to the film alongside Wokoma, Whittaker and Brydon, are Gangs Of London actor Sope Dirisu voicing Tabby, Peep Show’s Cariad Lloyd as Prunella and The Thick Of It actress Joanna Scanlan as Pat.

Tabby McTat will air on BBC One and BBC iPlayer and is directed by Sarah Scrimgeour and Jac Hamman, known for their work on TV movie Superworm, based on Donaldson’s book.