The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse

Charlie Mackesy’s bestselling book The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse is being adapted into a short film by the BBC

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Beloved the world over, Charlie Mackesy’s international bestseller The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse became a beacon of hope during trouble times – and now the BBC is making it into a short film.

Over the past couple of years, a British illustrator by the name of Charlie Mackesy became an online sensation. If you don’t know his name, you’ll no doubt be familiar with his heartfelt pen-and-ink sketches, the most famous of which is a drawing of a boy talking to a horse. “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever said?” asks the boy. “Help,” says the horse.

Originally a series of drawings that Mackesey had been posting to his Instagram account in 2019, the illustrations struck a chord with their gentle but universal messages. A few months later, they became an internationally bestselling book, The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse, which followed the unlikely bond between four friends as they journey together on the boy’s search for home.

When the coronavirus pandemic took hold in 2020, Mackesey’s illustrations became a worldwide phenomenon when they were used as a symbol of hope and comfort in schools, prisons and hospitals. Without being aimed at a particular demographic, Mackesey’s book resonated with people around the world for its themes of kindness and togetherness, love and friendship and, in particular, the moving way his characters give voice to mental health issues.

It was during the pandemic, in fact, that Stylist commissioned Mackesey to create an illustration around the lack of human touch during this global health crisis for a special magazine cover. The evocative artwork, One Day, which depicted two women hugging each other, captured a moment in time that we’ll never forget.

After finding a way to speak to millions of people in the hardest of times, Mackesey’s beloved book is now being adapted by the BBC into an animated short film due to air this Christmas.

According to the BBC, the animation will capture the spirit of Mackesy’s original book and reimagine his illustrations in full colour with hand-drawn traditional animation.

Breathing life into the book’s protagonists is an award-winning cast of actors including Tom Hollander as the mole, Idris Elba as the fox, Gabriel Byrne as the horse and newcomer Jude Coward Nicoll as the boy.

“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,” said Charlie Mackesy. 

“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.”

Dec recommends The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy.
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox and The Horse by Charlie Mackesy.

“Charlie Mackesy’s heart-warming and inspirational story brought to life through NoneMore Productions’ and Bad Robot Productions’ beautiful animation, is about the importance of love, kindness and friendship,” added the BBC’s chief content officer Charlotte Moore.

“It’s the perfect fit for Christmas on the BBC and a reminder to us all about what really matters in this world.”

Something tells us that we’ll definitely need a supersize box of tissues on standby when this hits our TV screens at Christmas. Until then, the book’s messages of kindness, asking for help, and supporting each other through life’s ups and downs remain as relevant as ever. 

Images: BBC; Ebury

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Christobel Hastings

Christobel Hastings is Stylist's Entertainment Editor whose specialist interests include pop culture, LGBTQ+ identity and lore.