What the press said…

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Reviews of Ethel and Ernest when the book was first published:-

‘Briggs’s enchanting labour of love…A guaranteed bestseller’The Independent

‘Ethel and Ernest has a historical sweep and a sure command of social detail not often found in contemporary fiction.’Blake Morrison, Daily Telegraph

‘Briggs’s techniques are deceptively simple,  yet terribly moving. The book is a considerable achievement, both simple and complex, emotional and dispassionate.’ – Steve Bell, The Guardian

‘A classic.’ – The Evening Standard

Raymond at his desk - July 2010

One of the world’s best loved illustrators…

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Preparatory sketch for a panel from the book Ethel and Ernest by Raymond Briggs

Ethel & Ernest is an entertaining and heart-warming story about two people who fall in love, set against the background of immense social change in the mid 20th Century.
The story is based on Raymond Briggs’ award-winning book* about his parents and charts the journey of their relationship over four decades. Its universal appeal comes from exploring big events through the detail of Ethel & Ernest’s lives, and the story of their love will touch the heart of everyone who sees it.
Raymond Briggs is one of the world’s best loved children’s  illustrators, and his 21 books have all been huge successes. His Midas touch extends to the animated adaptations of his work, with five incredibly popular TV Specials and one feature film, which have been distributed throughout the world.
His best known book is The Snowman, which has sold over 3.2 million copies in the UK and internationally. The TV adaptation of The Snowman was nominated for an Oscar® and has sold over 10 million video and DVD units worldwide.

*Ethel and Ernest won the “Best Illustrated Book of the Year” at the 1999 British Book Awards.

For a full list of Raymond’s work visit this British Council website:-


Finished illustration as it appears in the book - P.30

The Author

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Raymond Briggs is one of the world’s best-selling children’s book authors and illustrators, loved and admired by children and adults alike.  His hilarious and beautifully crafted books have brought him great success internationally, particularly in Japan where he has achieved cult status.  

Raymond Briggs_July 2010

The Raymond Briggs franchise, based on a series of 21 books, 1 animated movie and 5 TV Special adaptations, is a hugely successful one.  His best known book The Snowman has sold around 3.2 million copies worldwide and is available in 13 different countries.  It was adapted into an animated TV Special which was subsequently nominated for an Oscar® for best animated short.

The film of The Snowman has become a national institution for British children, broadcasting on Channel 4 every Christmas, and the story has also been turned into a hugely successful stage show which regularly tours the world and runs every Christmas in The West End of London.  The merchandise market for The Snowman licensed products has grown year on year, increasing by 210% in the last 5 years.  It is currently worth around £5 million annually in the UK alone. Since launch, The Snowman DVD has sold over 10 million units worldwide and continues to sell well each year.  In Japan The Snowman DVD is handled by Aniplex (formerly Sony Visual Works), in the US by Sony Home Video, and in the UK by Universal. 

Raymond Briggs has won many awards including the prestigious Kate Greenway Medal and Smarties Prize.  Ethel & Ernest is considered by many critics to be his best book.  It was published by Random House in 1998 and won Best Illustrated Book Of The Year at the 1999 British Book Awards.  The book has since sold in the region of 250,000 copies in the UK, and is also published in the US, France and Japan. Since 2008 Raymond has been working closely with director Roger Mainwood on the screen-play for Ethel & Ernest.

Raymond Briggs interview  http://www.teachers.tv/videos/raymond-briggs

The Producers

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Producer – John Coates

(Since this entry was made we are sorry to have to report that John passed away on September 16th 2012 aged 84. Camilla Deakin and Lupus films have now taken over as the producer and production company on the film.)

No other animation producer has had such a long and successful track record as John Coates, whose studio TV Cartoons is one of the world’s best known animation studios. TV Cartoons launched in 1957 to make animated commercials and went on to produce The Beatles TV series and the Yellow Submarine movie during the 1960s. The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends, The Wind in the Willows, and The Willows in Winter followed, along with many other award winning and Oscar nominated films and TV specials such as The Snowman , Father Christmas, The Bear , When the Wind Blows and Famous Fred.  ( For The Snowman website visit www.thesnowman.co.uk )

See a video of John Coates presenting his Desert Island Flicks at Encounters Short Film Festival, Nov 2009



Producer – Camilla Deakin

Formerly the Commissioning Editor for Animation at Channel 4, Camilla Deakin formed her own animation production company Lupus Films* in 2002. Camilla has produced both animation and live-action shows for the BBC, Channel 4, Five, and ITV, as well as Executive Producing a number of short films for Channel 4 and the UK Film Council. She was Executive Producer of a 52 part CGI re-make of children’s classic The Pinky and Perky Show for the BBC and France 3 and her most recent series is pre-school show The Hive, which will be shown on Disney channels in over 150 territories worldwide during 2011/2012.  Lupus Films is currently in production on a sequel to Raymond Briggs’ classic animation The Snowman. It will be aired at Christmas 2012 on the 30th anniversary of Channel 4.


The Director

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The Director – Roger Mainwood

Roger Mainwood is one of the UK’s leading animation directors and has worked on most of TV Cartoons’ award winning animations, from Raymond Briggs’ classics The Snowman, When the Wind Blows, and Father Christmas to the Prix Jeunesse winning Granpa. He directed Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Two Bad Mice and Johnny Town Mouse and was animation director on The Tailor of Gloucester, The Wind in the Willows, and Willows in Winter. He has also directed episodes of the comedy series Stressed Eric for the BBC, and recent work includes directing the pre-school series Meg and Mog for ITV and animation director on Little Princess for Five, both of which were nominated for Children’s BAFTAs.

The Executive Producers

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 Executive Producer – Robbie Little

Robbie Little is co-president, with Ellen Little, of The Little Film Company*. Between them they have played a role in financing, producing, and/or distributing over 300 films. The Little Film Company is a worldwide motion picture sales and marketing company based in Los Angeles that also finances, executive produces and distributes independent feature films.  Most recent successes include the adaptation of Michael Hoffman’s “The Last Station,” which earned Academy Award nominations for its stars Helen Mirren and Christopher Plummer; and the Academy Award winning film “Tsotsi,” written and directed by Gavin Hood.  Executive producer credits also include Julie Taymor’s “Titus” with Anthony Hopkins and Jessica Lange; Anthony Fabian’s award winning South African film “Skin.”  The company’s most recent productions include Fred Schepisi’s “Eye of the Storm” starring Geoffrey Rush, Judy Davis and Charlotte Rampling; and the adaptation of the best-selling South African novel “Spud”, starring John Cleese and Troye Sivan in the title role.


Executive Producer – Raymond Briggs

For the first time Raymond Briggs will be an Executive Producer on the film adaptation of one of his books. Several of Raymond’s books have been made into half hour TV specials, most notably The Snowman. One book, When the Wind Blows, was made into a feature film and had a cinema release in 1986. But never before has Raymond had such a close relationship with the adaptation of his work. Asked by The Guardian newspaper in 2007 what Raymond thought was his greatest achievement he replied “Writing a mini-biography entirely in dialogue: Ethel and Ernest.” 

Who will play Ethel and Ernest?

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Brenda Blethyn


 Ethel is played by BRENDA BLETHYN whose starring role in Mike Leigh’s Secret and Lies propelled her to fame. It won her the award for Best Actress at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival, a BAFTA, a Golden Globe, and an Academy Award Nomination. She also shone in films such as A River Runs Through It , Little Voice, Pride and Prejudice, Atonemnet and most recently London River.

Jim Broadbent

Ernest is played by Academy Award winner JIM BROADBENT, one of Britain’s most versatile character actors. He is best known for his roles in Moulin Rouge, Bridget Jones, and Harry Potter as well as his Academy Award winning performance as John Bayley in the bio-pic Iris.  His most recent acclaimed appearance was in Another Year (dir. Mike Leigh 2010).

Jim Broadbent at the top of his  game:


“Sometimes there are bits of perfect casting, and then there is casting that is above even that. That’s what we have here”  – from http://uk.imdb.com/news/ni4327245/





Visiting Raymond _ July 2010

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I visited Raymond yesterday to give him an update on how things were progressing. He was pleased to hear that we were looking good for an early 2011 start. I was also checking out his work space for a live action opening to the film which we hope to be shooting.

Raymond Briggs and Roger Mainwood_July 2010

Lots of funny objects around the house plus a really nice painting of Ethel and Ernest on some cupboard doors. Raymond said he painted it while waiting for an answer from his publisher as to whether they would go ahead with his Ethel and Ernest book.

Raymond's painting of Ethel and Ernest

Raymond lives in a house nestling at the foot of the Sussex Downs in a beautiful part of the world which was recently designated  National Park status.  His house is famously described by Ethel in the book as “a dump!”.  Raymond of course begged to differ, and has lived there very agreeably for the past 40 years.  It was here that all his most famous works were created from The Snowman right through to Ethel and Ernest.

Raymond working at his desk_July 2010

Raymond Briggs and TVC

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Raymond Briggs


Above is a link to an article from the Independent newspaper (Dec 2007) called ‘How we Met : Raymond Briggs and John Coates’.

It describes the relationship built up between Raymond Briggs and the London animation studio TVC which was founded in 1957.  John Coates, head of TVC has produced four adaptations of Raymond’s books.

The Snowman (1982) – dir. Dianne Jackson

When the Wind Blows (1986) – dir. Jimmy T Mirukami

Father Christmas (1991) – dir. Dave Unwin

The Bear (1998) – dir. Hilary Audus

John Coates and Dave Unwin

Above is John (on the right) with Dave Unwin, the director of the TV adaptation of Raymond Briggs’  ‘Father Christmas’ . The photo was taken at John’s 80th birthday celebration held at one of his favourite London restaurants, L’Etoile in Charlotte Street. The TVC studio was also situated in Charlotte Street during the 1980s and 90s, and most of the Raymond Briggs adaptations were created during that period.

John Coates and Anne V Coates_Annecy 2007

Here is John with his sister, Anne V Coates, at the Annecy Animation Film Festival in 2007.  John was celebrating TVC’s 50th anniversary.  In the same year John’s sister, who is an Oscar winning film editor, was awarded BAFTA’s highest honour , the Academy Fellowship. (photo: Loraine Marshall)

ETHEL and ERNEST – The Movie



British illustrator and author Raymond Briggs’ masterwork “Ethel and Ernest” is an intimate, hilarious, and moving graphic novel of his parents’ life. A film adaptation for cinema release is currently (July 2010) in a pre-production phase. It will be produced by TVCartoons, the London animation studio headed by John Coates (The Yellow Submarine, The Snowman, Granpa, Father Christmas, Famous Fred, When the Wind Blows, Wind in the Willows, The World of Peter Rabbit and Friends)

The film adaptation is an engaging and affectionate depiction of two ordinary Londoners, Ethel and Ernest, living through extraordinary events and immense social change.

Their marriage spans some of the most defining moments of the 20th century. From their first chance encounter in 1929, we see through their eyes the build up to World War 2, the trials of the war years themselves, the joy of VE day, the post war austerity of the1950s, the coming of modern conveniences like the telephone, fridge, and TV, through to men landing on the moon in the 1960s.  Their deaths, within months of each other, in 1971, are depicted without sentimentality. Yet it is an emotional blow for the viewer, who has grown to know and love these two very different characters.

Both Ethel and Ernest are from working class backgrounds, but whereas Ethel’s greatest fear is to be thought of as “common”, Ernest is proud of his roots and seeks justice for the working man through his socialist ideals.  These differences cause much of the comic friction in the film, with Ernest often being left dumbstruck by Ethel’s withering replies.

Through a series of domestic vignettes, a vivid sense of life in Britain over four decades is conjured up, interspersed with scenes of strong character-led comedy.

Starting in the 1930s, we follow the couple as they decide to get married and Ethel leaves her employment as a Lady’s Maid and Ernest takes up his appointment as a milkman.  Ethel who is 5 years older than Ernest longs for a family and at the age of 38 she is overjoyed when she finds that she is pregnant. Ethel gives birth to a baby boy, and Raymond Briggs becomes their only and much loved son.

The war years show how Raymond had to be evacuated to relatives in Dorset, and how Ernest helps with the war effort as a part time fireman. We see scenes of the London Blitz, hear Winston Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech, and watch as Raymond and Ernest come under attack from German “doodlebug” bombs.

Ration-book Britain finds Ethel and Ernest comically bickering about whose Government, Tory or Labour, is doing the best. Meanwhile young Raymond has earned himself a place in the local grammar school, and this brings out Ethel’s snobbery in exchanges she has with her nosey neighbour Mrs Bennett. When Raymond decides to leave the grammar school early and go to art school both his parents are horrified.

The film is enlivened by hit songs from each decade that will spark fond memories for many, while entrancing those hearing them for the first time. But Ethel and Ernest is more than a chance to indulge in nostalgia. Its universal appeal comes from exploring big events through the detail of ordinary people’s lives, and the story of their love will touch the heart of everyone who sees it.

ETHEL and ERNEST _ The Movie.

Producers: John Coates and Camilla Deakin.

(Since this entry was made we are sorry to have to report that John Coates passed away on September 16th 2012 aged 84. Camilla Deakin and Lupus films have now taken over as the producer and production company on the film.)

Executive Producers: Robbie Little and Raymond Briggs

Director: Roger Mainwood

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