there's a key hole, there must be a key.
And I think I might just have it...
mice of Brambly Hedge are preparing for their traditional midwinter
celebration, and everyone will soon be gathering
in the great hall of the
old Oak Palace. Primrose and Wilfred are in the
thick of things, helping
to tress the special midwinter log which will
be brought inside and lit
in celebration, but our jolly pair soon find
themselves summoned aside,
whereupon they learn that something terrible
has happened. Conker has
lost his voice. It means he can't recite the Midwinter
Poem which is central
to the festivities. Primrose and Wilfred will
have to take his place.
The Midwinter Poem was said to have been written
by the great explorer
mouse Cumulus Nimbus. He had promised his
sweetheart, Rosa, that he
would return from his travels on Midwinter
day so they might be wed. But
as the hour waned, there was still no sight
of this heroic mouse, so his
bride-to-be turned to his poem for solace.
And as she recited the last of his
words, so Cumulus arrived on the wind to claim
The mice have no proof that this tale actually
happened, but Cumulus'
words warm the heart and help turn their thoughts
to the forthcoming Spring.
Wilfred and Primrose are left in no doubt
of its importance to the Brambly
Hedge inhabitants. So they're soon off to
practice their recital. But Midwinter
is not a quiet kind of day and there are constant
mother - Lady Daisy - stops baking her midwinter
biscuits long enough to
suggest they try the old attic storeroom. There's
no reason for anybody to
be going up there. Oh, but that same attic
is full of distracting things...
old toys and belongings, and a bundle of letters..
and a key which
opens a hidden door.. which leads to a winding
staircase.. And a
merry midwinter adventure in the upper echelons
of the Palace...
"The Secret Staircase" is the fifth
in the sequence of Brambly Hedge films
produced by the folks at HIT Entertainment. The
first four seasonal specials
were animated by Cosgrove Hall, but from here
on HIT's newly-formed
facility HOT Animation took up the reins
- though you'd be hard pressed to
see the join, because once again, Jill Barklem's
mousey stars are brought
to life quite brilliantly.
There's a twinkle about this production, from
the offing. It's there in the
frost-glittered scenery and in Robert Lindsay's
cosy narration, as
we close in on the mousey families, busying
themselves about the
titular hedge. Each mouse is exquisitely dressed
in tailored clothes
and knitted woolen scarves. They twitch and
blink and sniff about their
business, and as each speaks in turn the voice
that's matched to them
with perfection... Yes, the Brambly Hedge
films are so very special...
The decoupage Hall is magnificently tall and
the palace kitchen is brimming
with miniature pies and cakes and accouterments...
Wilfred and Primrose's
attic adventure leads them to a series of
spectacular cobewebbed rooms
that are dressed so evocatively, you half
expect to find a mousey Miss
Havisham skulking in the shadows...
Each of the Brambly Hedge films has its own
"The Secret Staircase" draws its
appeal from nipping, frost-filled days,
and hearty Winter fires. The lighting throughout
is quite superb. There
are twilight mauves and dusky purples in those
exterior scenes, and
warm and cosseting hues within the Hall, chasing
away the cold.
As the festivities begin, the mice carry little
lamps that warm their
whiskers and we're led inside to the now bedecked
Hall, where we
encounter a host of mice big and small, dressed
in their finest. At one
point, this viewer counted fourteen miniature mice
on camera, nibbling
sugar-dusted pastries or supping bramble wine.
One could go on. There is a breathless sophistication
about these films.
They recreate a place and period as perfectly
as a BBC costume drama.
In it's own mousey way, it's like watching
a miniature "Cranford"...
Hedge: Spring Story
Hedge: The High Hills
Hedge: Sea Story
Hedge books at Amazon.co.uk
Hedge on DVD
"The Secret Staircase" is
included in this four film compilation:
Hedge: The Classic Collection
2 / "The Secret Staircase", "The High Hills",
/ HIT Entertainment
/ January 2004
Then there are these two releases:
Hedge: Spring Story
2 / HIT Entertainment
/ April 2007
compilation DVD includes "Winter Story"
2 / HIT Entertainment / December 2005
a HOT Animation production
for HIT Entertainment PLC
in association with the BBC
based on the books by Jill Barklem
exec producers: Theresa
Plummer-Andrews (for the BBC)
Hall (for Cosgrove Hall)
Fawkes, Peter Orton (for HIT)
& sup director: Jackie
sup animator: Paul
Laban, Andy Joule,
McCartney, Jud Walton,
Howson, Mike Cottee
Hayns, Bethan Jones,
Lloyd, Darren Marshall,
Scattergood, Bridget Smith,
Sutcliffe, Mark Thompson,
Geraldine Corrigan, Karen Betty, Clare
Fletcher, Lucy Beckett
Richard Sykes, Jeff
art direction: Yvonne
prod consultant: Mike
prod assistants: Bella
Reekie, Macushla Carney
for HIT: Karen
asst camera: Shirlaine
dubbing mixer: Aard
post production: Shane
Warden, Trevor Brown
Robert Lindsay (narrator)
Neil Morrisey (Wilfred Toadflax)
Charlotte Coleman (Primrose Woodmouse)
Jim Broadbent (Basil)
June Whitfield (Mrs Apple)
Michael Williams (Mr Apple)
Rosemary Leach (Lady Daisy Woodmouse
/ Old Mrs Eyebright)
Anton Rodgers (Lord Woodmouse)
Alun Lewis (Mr Toadflax)
Noreen Kershaw (Mrs Toadflax / Mrs Crustybread)
Kate Harbour (additional voices)
David Holt (Teasel /additional voices)
World of Brambly Hedge
The official site including some
handy details on the
development of the films...
The studio behind the hedgerow...
They made the mousey models and