A Firry Tale: The alternative Christmas ‘ad’ you really need to see

How a grandson and the original Paddington animator brought a 94-year-old nana's poem to life, and made her dream come true...

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Don’t get us wrong – here at MFM HQ we’re a tiny bit obsessed with the latest crop of Christmas adverts.

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But it seems that each year, an alternative ad made by a member of the public (that, to be fair, is never actually advertising anything) captures our hearts even more ❤️

For us, in 2017, it’s this touching Christmas Tree cartoon, made by a filmmaker for his Nana, and the sweet origin story behind it.

Watch it here…

(And no, not just because one of our writers voices one of the animated trees ?)

94-year-old Vera Sykes had long dreamed of seeing her festive poem, A Firry Tale, illustrated and narrated in a short film.

“I just woke up in the night with the poem in my head,” Vera told MFM on the phone. She couldn’t remember how many years old it was – but it was definitely a fair few.

“What made me write it, I have no idea. I never think about writing poems…” (She’s actually had plenty of poems published in the past!)

A Firry Tale, specifically, follows a family of Christmas Trees who are cut down by a cruel woodsman, before reuniting in an enchanted forest, each having fulfilled their Christmas purpose ???

christmas trees

And as her grandson Garry told us, she’d always dreamed of her Christmas Tree fam as cartoons, and was constantly asking him and his dad when they could be made. For years.

Perhaps not quite knowing the effort that goes into making a full cartoon ?

“She’d wanted it done as a film for years,” Garry told MFM. “But everything had to come together for it to be right.”

vera sykes

(Here’s Vera pictured a few years ago, and in 1982 with a baby Garry ?)

Garry started making the budget-less project happen before Christmas 2016: he found volunteer voice artists for the narrator, Mother Fir, Father Fir and Baby Fir, recorded the voiceovers, created backdrops and found music for the film, and edited it together.

But, not much of a drawer (by his own admission), he was unable to create the actual characters needed to turn the poem into moving image.

Enter award-winning animator Sheila Graber – best known for creating the animations for Paddington Bear, Mr and Mrs Brown and other cut outs in the classic ‘80s cartoon series.

She was SO touched by Vera’s dream to see her poem illustrated, she took on the project as a labour of love, and created the necessary artwork for the tree characters to come to life…

a firry tale

Sheila coming to the rescue was a bit of a Christmas miracle, you could say ?

By Christmas Day 2016, the 4-minute long short was finally complete, and shown to Vera for the very first time.

She was more than overjoyed to finally see her story on screen:

“Oh, I was delighted, delighted…” she told us. “The scenery was beautiful. The lady, Sheila, made a lovely job of it. It’s lovely.”

The voice of Mother Fir just couldn’t resist playing the vid for the whole MFM team – and all of us at MFM HQ agreed that it’s pretty amazing how the film came together to make Vera’s wish come true.

It’s got all the hallmarks of a sweet, heartwarming Christmas ad. It’s got the twinkly music, the beautiful illustrations, and a perilous story with an uplifting ending that just might bring a tear to your eye… ?

tree

Lovely stuff ❤️

Have your say

Which was your favourite Christmas ad this year, and do you get a bit choked up by the family-oriented Christmas vids out there? We know we do…

Share your thoughts on Facebook, Twitter or in the comments below

Sheila Graber’s latest labour of love saw her illustrate the children’s book Luna The Moon Pig, by Suzy Davies, soon to be available on Amazon

Images/Video: Vimeo/Garry Sykes

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