Martin Freeman and Hugh Bonneville team up to bring Julia Donaldson’s Stick Man to BBC1 for Christmas

Sherlock meets Downton as the stars collide to bring the Gruffalo author's magical tale to life - with Jennifer Saunders, Russell Tovey, Rob Brydon and Sally Hawkins in tow

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Sherlock’s Martin Freeman and Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville are teaming up to bring children a bit of Christmas magic this year, as they lend their voices to BBC1’s special festive adaptation of picture book Stick Man.

The enchanting children’s tale – written by Gruffalo author Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler – is being adapted for the small screen by Oscar-nominated entertainment company Magic Light Pictures and will feature as part of the BBC’s big Christmas line-up.

Freeman will voice Stick Man, while Bonneville will lend his booming tones to Santa, but they’re not the only big names on board. Jennifer Saunders will serve as the narrator, with Russell Tovey, Rob Brydon and Oscar nominee Sally Hawkins completing the all star cast.

Stick Man lives in the family tree with his Stick Lady Love and their stick children three, and he’s heading on an epic adventure across the seasons.

As he’s taken further and further from home, he runs from a playful dog, gets thrown in a river, escapes from a swan’s nest and even ends up on top of a fire. Will he get back to his family in time for Christmas?

“What a treat to have voiced the hero in this beautifully animated film” says Freeman, who is delighted to be on board. “We enjoyed reading Stick Man as a family for a number of years and my children always loved the scale of his epic journey.”

“Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s books are simply wonderful and the film adaptations bring their own extra magic. This one is going to be really special though, filled with festive charm and a delight for viewers of all ages!”

And as for Bonneville? Well, he’s equally thrilled: “It has been a pleasure to work on this charming film, with its terrific cast and superb animation team. I’m looking forward to seeing my jolly Santa come to life this Christmas.”

Michael Rose and Martin Pope, co-founders of Magic Light Pictures say they’re “delighted that so many fabulous acting talents have committed to this project”, which will be their fourth adaptation of one of Donaldson’s books.

“Their vocal performances make the characters come alive and have inspired the entire animation process. Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s wonderful books offer amazing material for adaptation, and we’re thrilled to be collaborating with both of them and the BBC for the fourth time.”