Julia Donaldson on her ‘rare sequel’ story that hits home in 2020

Author Julia Donaldson on the timely adaptation of her sequel story, Zog and the Flying Doctors, about a do-gooding dragon and his caring friends

Buckle up for a roar-some ride across magical lands as a new animated adventure inspired by author Julia Donaldson and illustrator Axel Scheffler’s children’s book, Zog and the Flying Doctors, swoops onto BBC1.

Narrated by Sir Lenny Henry, the stunning 30-minute sequel to BBC1’s 2018 film Zog is produced by Donaldson and Scheffler’s longtime collaborators, Magic Light Pictures.

The action follows the do-gooding dragon (voiced by W1A’s Hugh Skinner) as he teams up with Princess Pearl (Patsy Ferran) and Sir Gadabout (Daniel Ings) to form a life-saving trio and care for creatures including a sunburnt mermaid, a distressed unicorn and a sneezy lion.

But when Pearl’s uncle, the king (Gavin & Stacey star Rob Brydon), decides princesses can’t be doctors, he locks her up inside the palace. Can Zog and Gadabout save her – or will she save herself?

Here, author Julia Donaldson – whose much-loved stories include The Gruffalo, Stick Man, Room on the Broom and more – tells us about bringing the adventure to life…

This is the eighth adaptation of one of your stories, Julia. What can you tell us about Zog and the Flying Doctors?

Julia Donaldson: “This story is a rare thing for me – a sequel. Normally, I don’t like writing sequels as they present a lot of challenges and people can often say they’re not as good as the original. But Zog ended on a beginning, with the dragon, Pearl and Gadabout flying away to have adventures, so it just lent itself to a sequel.”

A sunburnt mermaid receives help from the life-saving trio

A sunburnt mermaid receives help from the life-saving trio

How does it feel seeing it come to life on screen?

JD: “Magic Light Pictures are very respectful and involve Axel and I from the beginning, so we’ve seen every step of development. But I love seeing the end film because the wonderful music adds so much to the mood. I also love how they’ve developed the characters in the film, with Zog and Gadabout being quite rivalrous before becoming true partners in the end.”

The story has an empowering message, doesn’t it?

JD: “I didn’t consciously think about this when I wrote it, but I’ve had letters from parents and teachers saying it has a strong message for young people, girls in particular who have career ambitions that might get thwarted, but they persevere. So let’s hope it has a good influence on young people.”

Sir Gadabout tends to a sneezy lion

Sir Gadabout tends to a sneezy lion

Themes of healthcare and being trapped inside are also pertinent…

JD: “Yes, although we had no idea there would be this virus when we first planned to adapt the story. But the film does seem to echo our celebration of the NHS. It’s uncanny.”

Zog and the Flying Doctors airs on BBC1 on Christmas Day at 2.35pm

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