The creators behind Channel 4’s rollicking adaptation of Judith Kerr’s beloved children’s book The Tiger Who Came To Tea, have revealed that the late author was heavily involved in the early stages of the animated film, even changing lyrics to the film’s theme song Hey Tiger!, sung by Robbie Williams.
Lupus Films, the same animation house behind previous festive hits like We’re Going on a Bear Hunt and The Snowman and The Snowdog, pitched directly to Kerr and her editor for the rights to the book and to jointly develop the film with publisher Harper Collins.
Speaking at a press screening of it, Lupus Films producer Ruth Fielding said that while the “burden of responsibility is huge,” she and her fellow producer Camilla Deakin “weren’t worried because we had Judith… and she was involved right from the very beginning, she was involved in the script, she saw the design, she was involved in choosing the cast, in the lyrics for the songs. We weren’t worried that we would do a bad job, because we had her help.”
Asked what Kerr’s immediate response was during the initial pitch, Fielding said: “Oh, she knew what she wanted. There’s no doubt about that.”
Don Black, the lyricist behind ‘Hey Tiger!’, a song written especially for the film, said that Kerr (who died earlier this year aged 95) made changes and suggestions to the song’s lyrics.
After hearing a line that included references to a hot-dog stand, Black revealed that “[Kerr] said, ‘That sounds very American’. It’s not American, it is British. ‘Choose an ice-cream from the ice-cream van’ is what [the lyric] became.”
The festive animated treat boasts an all-star voice cast, including Oscar-nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (Avengers: Infinity War), David Oyelowo (Les Miserables), David Walliams (Walliams & Friend), Paul Whitehouse (Mortimer and Whitehouse: Gone Fishing) and Tamsin Greig (Friday Night Dinner), playing Daddy, Tiger, Narrator, Milkman and Mummy respectively.
Of Kerr’s thoughts on the Channel 4 film, Fielding added: “I think one of the reasons why Judith wanted to adapt this book into a film now… was because she wanted to reach more children around the world and one sure way of doing that is to make a film, which is likely to reach more children in more countries all around the world than perhaps a book would.”
The Tiger Who Came To Tea will air on Christmas Eve at 7.30pm on Channel 4