The Gruffalo creators are back with Superworm, their ninth festive special – that’s one more than Eric and Ernie. The Christmas TV royalty talk tinkering with Olivia Colman’s script … and the perils of mega success

Meeting Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler is a little like meeting the royal family. To learn anything about them is to be bombarded with an avalanche of statistics. In this country alone, a Julia Donaldson book sells every 11 seconds. In 2014 it was reported that 40p in every pound spent on children’s picture books went on a Donaldson title. And her work with Scheffler has taken on a rabid life outside of literature, too. Go to the woods and you’re likely to discover a Gruffalo trail. Chessington World of Adventures theme park is essentially a Donaldson/Scheffler temple, brimming with themed rides and marauding characters.

And, let’s not forget, they are also the reigning king and queen of Christmas Day. Starting with The Gruffalo in 2009, one of their books has been sumptuously animated and proudly placed in every BBC One Christmas schedule. This year, Superworm – about an earthworm superhero captured by a wizard lizard – has received the treatment, narrated by none other than Olivia Colman and with Matt Smith as the titular creepy crawly. In grand Donaldson/Scheffler tradition the animation is bright and tactile, and the storyline has been augmented with a rich seam of festive melancholy. On a Christmas day dripping with repeats, this will not only go down as the BBC’s stand-out offering, but is also their ninth Christmas special. If you’re counting, Morecambe and Wise only managed eight.

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