Macmillan Children’s Books and Magic Light Pictures come together to celebrate Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler’s The Gruffalo with a full programme of birthday publishing, partnerships and nationwide events.
January 2024 will mark the start of an astounding year of activity to celebrate the 25th Birthday of The Gruffalo. Created by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler and first published by Macmillan Children’s Books on 23rd March 1999, The Gruffalo was immediately acclaimed as ‘a modern classic’ (Roger McCrum, Observer) and recognition for the picture book continued to grow. It was voted the Nation’s Favourite Bedtime Story in a Radio 2 poll in 2009, in 2020, teachers listed the book as one of the top five most useful titles to support reading for pleasure and most recently, in summer 2023, a survey found that The Gruffalo is the first book read by parents to one in eight children in the UK.
This beloved story with its cast of immediately recognisable characters is a global phenomenon. Sales of The Gruffalo and The Gruffalo’s Child (2004) storybooks are now over 18 million copies around the world, and across all the brand publishing sales have reached 38 million copies. The original picture book is also translated into 107 languages and dialects.
The BAFTA-nominated animated film premiered on Christmas Day, BBC One, to an audience of 10 million. The film, produced by Magic Light Pictures, has been distributed to over 180 countries and won a multitude of awards including the Prix Jeunesse 50th anniversary award for Best Children’s TV Fiction Programme of the Last 50 Years. Magic Light also manages the international licensing programme with over 80 licensees across a wide range of categories.
Julia Donaldson, says: “It’s hard to believe that the Gruffalo is a quarter of a century old. Nowadays it’s not all that unusual for parents to tell me that they remember the book being read to them. Although that makes me feel rather old, it’s actually great to know that families all over the world are sharing the story, and that grown-ups reading aloud are putting on different voices to entertain their children. (I’ve been assured that the Gruffalo is a Brummie and Australian, and that the Mouse is from Edinburgh and Sweden.) I never tire of acting the Mouse myself, and over the years have recited the lines in French, German, Italian and Spanish. Last year at the Edinburgh Fringe I learnt to tell the story in British Sign Language and it was lovely after the show when parents told me their deaf children had enjoyed the performance. So I wish not just the Gruffalo and the Mouse but the three predators – the fox, Owl and Snake – a very happy birthday.”
Axel Scheffler, says: “The Gruffalo and the Mouse have come a long way in the last twenty five years and it is hard for me to imagine all the children and families around the world who regularly read the story, often in their own language. When I first read Julia’s story and did the first sketches we had no idea what The Gruffalo would become and how many young readers would read and love the picture book in the following years. It is always a great pleasure for me to meet children at my signings and to hear how much they love the Gruffalo and his world. In one form or another, The Gruffalo is a large part of their day, as the characters have moved from the books and onto the TV, stage and with various merchandise. The Gruffalo is a big part of their daily lives, as he is in mine!”
Celebration publishing will kick off in January with a new gold foiled anniversary edition of The Gruffalo paperback. This new look paperback design will contain never-before-seen new content – including a very special downloadable recording of The Gruffalo song that is sung by Julia Donaldson herself.
MCB is also publishing new titles to introduce the youngest readers to the Deep Dark Wood, including a brand new pop-up book, with a lift-the-flap format, and a new easy to use sticker book, publishing in April and January respectively. This new publishing for younger readers follows on from the hugely successful The Gruffalo push and pull format, which will also receive a new gold foil look for the anniversary year. All celebratory publishing will carry the brand new 25th anniversary logo.
Magic Light has exciting plans to celebrate the anniversary both with existing partners including Forestry England and Chessington World of Adventures Resort, as well as exciting new partners, to be announced soon! The Gruffalo and Friends Clubhouse in Blackpool will host celebration events throughout the year and cinema partnerships will screen the award winning film at special screenings across the country.
A range of licensed merchandise will be available all year round including apparel from John Lewis, Sainsbury’s and a beautiful baby collection from MORI; celebration table partyware from Smiffy’s; birthday cards and gifting from Danilo; and luxury wooden toys. Magic Light will be exhibiting at BLE on stand C205, continuing to build the much loved brand for future anniversaries!
Belinda Ioni Rasmussen, MD of Macmillan Children’s Books, says: “It is a privilege to be the home of The Gruffalo, the nation’s favourite bedtime story, and we are very proud to be celebrating this milestone anniversary with Julia and Axel. The Gruffalo wouldn’t be the modern phenomenon he is today without Julia’s brilliantly clever rhyming story and Axel’s warm and witty illustrations. Their joint talents have created the perfect contemporary fairy tale that appeals to both young and old. With a David and Goliath story at its heart, The Gruffalo has now introduced a generation of children to the joys of stories and reading for pleasure. We look forward to building many more young readers over the next twenty-five years.”
Michael Rose, MD of Magic Light Pictures, said “The Gruffalo film premiered on BBC One on Christmas Day 2009 and has been a family favourite ever since. Martin Pope and I were inspired to produce the film after reading the book to our own children night after night. We wanted to do justice to Julia’s wildly imaginative story, and to place the viewer inside the world of Axel’s iconic illustrations. At the time we also launched a licensing programme which has since grown into a successful evergreen property with a huge range of products, live experiences and attractions. We are delighted at how the brand has flourished and reached so many millions of families the world over, and we’re proud to be part of this most wonderful 25 year classic story.“
Macmillan Children’s Books and Magic Light are developing a year-long programme of promotional activity, including a focus at the Bologna Book fair celebrating The Gruffalo’s success with international publishing partners. In June, a series of twenty-five birthday parties in bookshops nationwide will launch, with the beloved Gruffalo costume making appearances. Extensive consumer advertising, high profile partnerships and a national PR campaign will also run throughout 2024. There will also be event kits for booksellers, libraries and schools, including stickers, posters and activities. Further celebratory activities will be announced as the year progresses. Tall Stories Theatre Company will have a major new tour of their classic stage adaptation of ‘The Gruffalo Live’ in 2024, to coincide with the book’s 25th anniversary celebrations.
The Gruffalo Facebook page will continue to develop engagement with fans throughout the year, and there is more activity later in 2024 as The Gruffalo’s Child 20th anniversary is celebrated in autumn.