AN ANIMATED tale featuring the vocal talents of Irish actor Gabriel Byrne has proved a ratings hit for the BBC over the holidays, melting the hearts of viewers in the process.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse is a hand-drawn traditionally animated film based on Charlie Mackesy's book.
Byrne voices the Horse, while he is joined by stars Idris Elba (the Fox) and Tom Hollander (the Mole) with newcomer Jude Coward Nicoll voicing the Boy.
Premiering on BBC One on Christmas Eve, the half-hour special attracted 4million viewers, making it the most-watched BBC programme that day.
The poignant and heartfelt story follows the unlikely friendship of a boy, a mole, a fox and a horse as they journey together in the boy's search for home.
In a five-star review for the Independent, Megan Gray said: "This 30-minute story will leave you feeling hopeful and probably a little teary.
"Emerging from it unaffected is just about impossible."
Following its broadcast, viewers took to social media to give it the thumbs up.
"I just cried for basically the entirety of this," Outlander star Steven Cree posted on Twitter.
"Stunningly drawn and such a beautiful story."
I just cried for basically the entirety of this. Stunningly drawn and such a beautiful story. @charliemackesy
BBC One - The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse https://t.co/3V5hx2WJFZ
— Steven Cree (@MrStevenCree) December 26, 2022
TV presenter Liz Bonnin, who grew up in Ireland, called the show 'the most beautiful thing you'll watch this Christmas'.
Meanwhile, actor Jolyon Rubinstein called it 'a future classic'.
"Spellbinding, magical, utterly wonderful," he posted on Twitter.
"A future classic. Bravo.
"If you missed out on The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse then make some time with the family and children of all ages to share the joy."
Spellbinding, magical utterly wonderful. A future classic. Bravo. If you missed out on The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse then make some time with the family and children of all ages to share the joy. https://t.co/NnQDKwUmjK
— Jolyon Rubinstein (@JolyonRubs) December 24, 2022
Joel Phillimore, star of ITV's The Bay, said the film was 'absolutely stunning'.
"What beautiful, beautiful animation. I'm a blubbering wreck," he added.
The film was produced by, among others, Star Wars director JJ Abrams and Hannah Minghella of Bad Robot Productions.
Commenting on the adaptation, Mackesy said he hopes it brings 'love and laughter' to viewers.
"The journey of making the film of The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse with my ridiculously talented and kind animation team has been a magical one," he said.
"It's so great to think the story will be in the nation's homes this Christmas — and I really hope it helps bring comfort, love and laughter."
Viewers in Britain can watch the film on the BBC's iPlayer platform, where it is available for one year.
Viewers outside of Britain can watch it on Apple's subscription service Apple TV+.