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Magic Light Pictures

Programming Profile

Brand-building with Magic Light Pictures


Michael Rose, joint MD at UK animation studio Magic Light Pictures, talks about the company’s strategy for turning shows into brands, and offers a glimpse of the company’s MipJunior slate via C21’s Digital Screenings.


Magic Light Pictures is probably best known as the Oscar-nominated production house behind many of the BBC’s recent animated Christmas specials, such as The Gruffalo, Zog and Superworm.


Last year the company launched its first animated series, Pip and Posy, on Paramount-owned Channel 5’s Milkshake! children’s block and on Sky Kids, with the show achieving fantastic ratings and international success.


The series is about two best friends whose lives revolve around a wonderful world of play. Based on the picture books illustrated by Axel Scheffler, the illustrator of The Gruffalo, it aims to show preschoolers how to build lasting friendships with kindness, resilience and flexibility.


Michael Rose,
Magic Light Pictures

Pip and Posy has attracted 3.7 million viewers on Milkshake! this year and is a top-20 rated children’s show overall across all channels. On YouTube, Pip and Posy has amassed over 10 million total views, while the series has reached more than 20 million people on Facebook and Instagram.


Outside of the UK, Pip and Posy has been picked up in 29 different territories, in 21 different languages including major markets Germany, France, Italy and Australia. And in addition to the series, Magic Light is rolling out a number of consumer products based on the show, including puzzles, games and activity books.


“We’ve been absolutely thrilled by the successful debut of Pip and Posy,” says Magic Light joint MD Michael Rose. “It’s regularly been in the top three most watched programmes on Milkshake! in the mornings. It’s now on Nick Jr too, where we understand it’s performing extremely well, and Sky Kids is absolutely delighted with the performance.”


Pip & Posy
Pip & Posy

Magic Light’s strategy for Pip and Posy has been to grow and establish the property into a TV brand by having full control and ownership of the marketing, distribution, licensing/merchandising (L&M) and social media. “At Magic Light our mantra is to focus on a few things and do them really well. So we’ve made a massive investment in the marketing of the show,” Rose says.


“Pip and Posy is in a very competitive space, but we believe we have something special and want to give it the very best chance of becoming a brand. So that means right from the start, controlling social media, investing in content for YouTube and finding interesting, innovative ways to connect the characters with the audience. It’s early days but I believe we’ve made a very strong start.”


Magic Light will be taking Pip and Posy to MipJunior in October, where the company hopes to further expand the show’s international reach. At the Cannes market, the prodco will also be promoting this year’s BBC animated Christmas special, The Smeds & the Smoos.


“The Smeds & the Smoos is our 10th half-hour special based on the books written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler. It’s an absolutely delightful story of two families of aliens. Contact between them is strictly forbidden, but Janet, who is a young Smed, and Bill, who is a young Smoo, start to form a bond that transcends the established boundaries,” Rose says.



“It’s a wonderful story about how we live in harmony with each other and how we accept each other. It’s a really lovely, heart-warming tale for the times we’re in.”


The other nine Donaldson/Scheffler adaptations from Magic Light comprise last year’s Christmas special Superworm (which was the third most watched show over Christmas with over seven million viewers) and previous holiday specials The Gruffalo, The Gruffalo’s Child, Stick Man, Room on the Broom, The Snail & the Whale, Zog, Zog & the Flying Doctors and The Highway Rat.


According to Rose, those specials have gone on to sell into 180 countries around the world, and he expects The Smeds & the Smoos will do the same.


The Gruffalo
The Gruffalo

Magic Light will be showcasing all its Donaldson/Scheffler adaptations at MipJunior, in addition to its 2016 Christmas special Revolting Rhymes, based on Roald Dahl’s classic book.


Acknowledging that “linear TV still gets a huge audience in the UK,” Rose notes that Magic Light’s launch channels tend to be public service broadcasters in key territories. However, he adds that the prodco’s shows are also popular on streaming platforms and are finding a home across UK cinemas.


“We’ve worked with the pubcasters over the years on the specials, but we’re also doing deals with streamers internationally and all kinds of other platforms. It’s really about the best way to reach the audience in each territory,” the exec says.


Stick Man
Stick Man

“As much as possible, and as we’ve done in the UK, we look for a linear launch window to build the audience and then also for a way in which the audience can access the whole show via streaming. That could be linked to the main broadcaster or it could be an independent partner.”


Magic Light has already begun development on its next animated Christmas special for 2023, which will begin production in the new year. The prodco will also be focusing on completing season two of Pip and Posy and continuing to build the IP into a brand through further sales and L&M.


“The growth we’ve seen on social media for Pip and Posy is really big and we only launched 15 months ago. We’re seeing so much that suggests it can become a brand,” Rose says.


Room on the Broom
Room on the Broom

The exec adds that Magic Light is also in the early stages of development on “a couple of other IPs. We will continue to progress those and will hopefully bring one or more of those to market in 2023,” he says.


Additionally, Magic Light is pushing its marketing efforts for The Gruffalo in Germany, where Rose says the brand has been growing over the past five years. “The Gruffalo remains a major brand in the UK and is growing internationally as well. Germany is already our second biggest market for the property and we’re increasing our focus there to build it over the next few years,” he says.


“As a company we love both very high-quality production and brand-building. The two go hand in hand.”

More programming profiles

  • 26-01-2024

    Magic Light Pictures’ latest holiday special debuted last month and here the company’s marketing director, Marc Ollington, and distribution director, Muriel Thomas, outline how its specials are a year-round business.


    As each new year rolls around, UK prodco Magic Light Pictures celebrates the success of its latest animated Christmas special, which has become a much-anticipated staple of BBC One’s festive line-up.


    Marc Ollington
    Marc Ollington,
    Magic Light Pictures
    Muriel Thomas
    Muriel Thomas,
    Magic Light Pictures

    Last year was no different, following the Christmas Day premiere of Tabby McTat, an adaptation of celebrated author/illustrator duo Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s picture book about a busker and his pet cat. The film earned itself a spot in the top 10 programmes watched on Christmas Day, according to Magic Light marketing director Marc Ollington, with around 3.4 million live viewers for its premiere TX, and up to seven million in total after one week consolidated.


  • 22-09-2023

    Michael Rose and Martin Pope, the duo behind Magic Light Pictures, look back at their 11 adaptations of Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s much-loved picture books and reveal how they plan to take the brands into the future.


    It is widely acknowledged that reading books to children delivers profound emotional and learning benefits. But there’s also evidence that it is a source of inspiration to the readers too. How many times over the years, for example, have film and TV producers said their creative ‘eureka’ moment came via the time-honoured ritual of a bedtime story?


    Take Michael Rose and Martin Pope, the co-founders of award-winning London animation studio Magic Light Pictures. Back in the mid-2000s, they were both reading Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s much-loved picture book The Gruffalo to their respective children. Determined to adapt the book into an animation film, they spent the next four years convincing publishers, agents and the authors that they could be trusted with this cherished property.

  • 30-01-2023

    Magic Light Pictures is best known for its animated Christmas specials on BBC One and now it’s diversifying, execs from the company reveal.


    As Magic Light Pictures celebrates its 20th birthday, 2023 is shaping up to be a big year for the UK prodco, which has made TV specials loved by many millions of kids around the world.


    The award-winning London company, founded by joint MDs Martin Pope and Michael Rose, has produced 12 of the BBC’s Christmas animated specials, including 10 films based on the story books by Britain’s best-selling author and illustrator, Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler.


    Its most recent, The Smeds & The Smoos, had more than 8.5 million linear viewers last December, with many more streaming this beautiful film on BBC iPlayer. This success is the culmination of two decades of hard work, creativity and smart stewardship from Pope and Rose.

  • 17-02-2022

    With its holiday hit Superworm wriggling its way into millions of festive front rooms last Christmas, UK animation house Magic Light Pictures is lining up new content for 2022 and beyond.


    UK-based Magic Light Pictures, founded in 2003 by joint MDs Martin Pope and Michael Rose, has built up a strong reputation in the kids’ and family space, particularly for its animated Christmas specials for the BBC. With classics like The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child under its belt, the prodco has won three international Emmys and two Baftas and has been nominated for four Oscars.


    “We formed the company because we wanted to make high-quality programmes with a focus on the family audience,” Rose says.

  • 14-09-2021

    After a bumper year for the animation industry in general, Muriel Thomas of Magic Light Pictures reveals the UK company’s slate for this year and discusses plans for international expansion, as part of its C21 Digital Screenings showcase.


    While the events of last year sent many TV production houses into meltdown, the animation industry overall was less affected. Rather than shooting on location, CGI animators were able to keep working from their homes. Despite many challenges, productions could continue.


    The UK’s Magic Light Pictures – best known for producing Oscar-nominated animated specials based on Julia Donaldson and Axel Schleffer’s books, such as The Gruffalo and Room on the Broom – benefitted from this along with other animation houses and was also able to keep ahead of the gradually flattening curve through its position as both a producer and distributor.

  • 29-01-2021

    Magic Light Pictures’ joint MDs Michael Rose and Martin Pope and head of international distribution Muriel Thomas showcase their C21 Digital Screenings playlist, discussing why young audiences deserve quality content and reveal details of their new project.


    Launched in 2003, Magic Light Pictures (MLP) originated from joint MDs Michael Rose and Martin Pope’s mutual desire “to produce imaginative, thought-provoking and exciting entertainment for children and families worldwide,” says Pope.


    Previously, Rose had set up the feature film division at Aardman Animations and Pope was a live-action producer, working with industry heavyweights including Alan Bennett and John Schlesinger at the BBC. “We shared an interest in focusing increasingly on the family market, as we realised it’s an incredibly important audience who deserve to be well served by the best there is,” says Pope.


    “What’s wonderful about this audience is they are so clear-sighted; they can sniff out anything that feels inauthentic. It’s important to work with writers and directors who have a clear sense of what they’re trying to say and deliver it in a congruent way.”