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  Short British Films &  TV Specials
Brambly Hedge: The Secret Staircase

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Brambly Hedge:
The Secret Staircase   (1998)
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   producers:  HOT Animation for HIT Entertainment
                      in association with the BBC
   animation:  stop-motion animation
      run time:  25mins

    "If there's a key hole, there must be a key.
     And I think I might just have it... here!"


    The 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 her.

    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 interruptions. Primrose's
    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...

     Merry Mice from Brambly Hedge: The Secret Staircase

    "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 cozy 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 wonderful atmosphere.
    "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"...

     Broadcast info

     "The Secret Staircase" premiered on BBC1, on 26th December 1998...


    See also

    Series overview

    Brambly Hedge: Winter Story

    Brambly Hedge: Spring Story
     Brambly Hedge: The High Hills

    Brambly Hedge: Sea Story

    Brambly Hedge: Poppy's Babies


     Further reading

    Brambly Hedge books at


     Brambly Hedge on DVD

     "The Secret Staircase" is included in this four film compilation:

Brambly Hedge: The Classic Collection
                Region 2 / "The Secret Staircase", "The High Hills", "Sea Story"
                and "Poppy's Babies" / HIT Entertainment / January 2004

    Then there are these two releases:

     UK DVD Brambly Hedge: Spring Story
Region 2 / HIT Entertainment
/ April 2007

Christmas Children's Favourites
                This compilation DVD includes "Winter Story"
                Region 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:

supervising director:





sets, decoupage
& miniatures:

art direction:
prod consultant:
editorial consultant:
prod assistants:
production manager
for HIT:
model lighting
assistant camera:

dubbing mixer:
generated images:

post production:

Theresa Plummer-Andrews (for the BBC)
Kate Fawkes, Peter Orton (for HIT)
Brian Little

Jackie Cockle
Jocelyn Stevenson
Ernie Wood

Paul Couvela
George Laban, Jud Walton,
Jacky Howson, Andy Joule,
Monica McCartney, Mike Cottee
Mackinnon and Saunders
Georgina Hayns, Bethan Jones,
Allison Lloyd, Darren Marshall,
Michelle Scattergood, Bridget Smith,

Stuart Sutcliffe, Mark Thompson,
Caroline Wallace
Geraldine Corrigan, Karen Betty,
Clare Elliot
Jon Fletcher, Lucy Beckett

Richard Sykes,
Jeff Spain, Rick Kent,
Samantha Hanks, Simon Walmsley,
Lucy Burscough
Yvonne Fox

Barbara Biddulph
Mike Robinson
Jane Fior
Bella Reekie, Macushla Carney

Karen Davidsen

Joe Dembinski
Shirlaine Forrest
Zyggy Markiewicz

Aad Wirtz

Colin Ralph
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 Appple)
    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 (additional voices)


     On the web

     The World of Brambly Hedge 
     The official site including some handy details on the
     development of the films...

       HOT Animation
     The studio behind the hedgerow...

 Mackinnon & Saunders
     They made the mousey models and props...

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© HIT Entertainment Ltd & Jill Barklem / F2013