UK TV review: The Snail and the Whale
Ivan Radford | On 26, Dec 2019
From Zog and Room on the Broom to The Highway Man and The Gruffalo, Magic Light Pictures and BBC One are now as much a staple of Christmas as turkey, cranberry and not talking about politics. And so they sail back on to our screens this festive season with another adaptation of a Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler book: The Snail and the Whale.
Once named the favourite kids’ book of Gordon Brown, the story is a simple but sweet one: it follows a snail (Sally Hawkins) and, well, a whale (Rob Brydon), who become unlikely but loyal friends. The oh-so-tiny snail longs to see the world has no way of doing so – until, one day, a kindly humpback gives her a lift on his tale. Trouble strikes, though, when he winds up beached. Can the small snail pluck up the courage to make a big difference?
Brydon has lent his voice to all of Magic Light’s Donaldson shorts, and it’s a pleasure to hear his rolling baritones given the chance to do more than narrate (voiceover duties here go to Diana Rigg), and the always-brilliant Sally Hawkins is an ideal counterpart as the often overwhelmed snail who grows in stature, courage and hope.
Their journey together may not have the rich depth of the two classic Gruffalo shorts, or the humour of the wittily rhymed Highway Rat, but directors Max Lang and Daniel Snaddon (and the animators at Triggerfish) make up for the short film’s slight nature with some of the best visuals Magic Light have produced to date; the lush ocean landscapes are brought to life with vivid colours and contrast, from the toothy-grinned sharks to the aquatic flora and fauna.
The result is a gorgeous celebration of friendship, with a gentle environmental message, that makes a seaworthy addition to the Magic Light fleet.
The Snail and the Whale is available on BBC iPlayer until January 2021.