Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse, was shot in Wales during COVID, and aired on Sky One and NOW TV over Christmas, drawing a cumulative audience of 3.12m
Described as a ‘magical festive adventure’, the film is inspired by the story of when a six-year-old Roald Dahl meets his idol Beatrix Potter. Produced by Hartswood Films for Sky Studios, the Sky Original was supported by Creative Wales, and shot at locations across south Wales including St Fagans National Museum, Gwili Heritage Railway Station and at Seren Stiwdios in Cardiff.
Wales Screen (part of Creative Wales) suggested to the producers that St Fagans National Museum of History would be an ideal location for the drama, sending reference images of some of the buildings fairly early on in the process. Filming subsequently took place in the summer of 2020 and eagle-eyed viewers might be able to spot some popular locations from the 100-acre site with scenes featuring the iconic Oakdale Workmen’s Institute and the Gwalia general Stores.
But faced with such uncertainty and restricted working conditions due to COVID, how did the production get off the ground? And why Wales?
Dawn French, who played Beatrix, said:
“I was delighted when they said we were going to shoot in Wales. I was born in Wales. Any chance I have to come back to Wales is good news for me.”
Jessica Hynes plays Sofie Dahl:
“Wales is a beautiful place, and Cardiff is a fantastic place to film, there is so much here. It’s been a lovely, lovely time.”
Roald & Beatrix: The Tail of the Curious Mouse was one of the first productions to start shooting in Wales after the news of COVID hit last March. It was also one of the first productions that gained support from Creative Wales, set up by Welsh Government in January 2020 with responsibility for business support and funding.
According to Creative Wales, studio availability was a key factor in the decision making around location and as soon as the brief was out there, the Creative Wales screen team were poised to help.
Gerwyn Evans, Deputy Director for Creative Wales said:
“Studio space was a key requirement for this drama, as the pandemic was forcing productions to move away from using small interior spaces on location to construct sets on a sound stage instead. We were on hand to help secure suitable studio space which provided a safer environment for everyone concerned.”
Working safely and securely is always the number one priority. Working closely with UK industry partners, Creative Wales published guidance for a phased return for the Creative Industries in Wales.
Roald & Beatrix Producer Elaine Cameron said:
“The biggest challenge really was working in the middle of a pandemic. We knew everything was going to be a little bit slower, because we had lots of protocols we had to go through to keep everyone safe. Director David Kerr certainly enjoyed the experience. “We hit the ground running”, said David: “Every day in this job was a delight for me. I just looked forward to every single day on the set.”
Bringing A-List stars to Wales isn’t the only legacy for this hit production. The role Creative Wales plays not only ensures business support for those production companies wanting to work here, but also focuses on the positive impact the production has on Wales. Since wrapping, the direct economic impact of Roald & Beatrix is expected to be in excess of £2m.
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, said:
“Roald & Beatrix was a much-needed Christmas treat for viewers. We are a nation of storytellers and we have a rich cultural heritage in Wales so I’m delighted that Creative Wales worked with producers to secure locations and studio space, giving viewers a glimpse of what we have to offer.
“The sector is to be praised for the innovation and resilience it has shown throughout the year in adapting operations to continue productions in a COVID safe way. Our mission is to continue to forge relationships to attract more and more productions here in 2021”