Voice cast of Raymond Briggs’ adaptation also includes Luke Treadaway and Virginia McKenna.
Oscar-winner Jim Broadbent and Brenda Blethyn are to voice the lead characters of Ethel & Ernest, a new hand-drawn animated feature based on Raymond Briggs’ classic graphic novel and tribute to his parents.
Production is underway on the film, set for theatrical release in 2016, and the cast also includes Luke Treadaway as Raymond, Olivier award winner for The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and star of Fortitude; Virginia McKenna (Born Free, A Town Like Alice), June Brown (EastEnders), Pam Ferris (Matilda), Simon Day and Roger Allam.
The film will also showcase the voice of 11-year-old Harry Collett as young Raymond, who provides the voice of Buzzbee in Disney Junior’s animated series The Hive.
Ethel & Ernest marks the feature debut of Roger Mainwood, who worked as an animator on Briggs’ classic short The Snowman and was lead animator on the 2012 sequel, The Snowman and the Snowdog.
It is produced by Lupus Films in association with Ethel & Ernest Productions, Melusine Productions and Cloth Cat Animation and supported by the BFI, BBC, Film Fund Luxembourg, Ffilm Cymru Wales and the Welsh Government,
The BBC will handle the TV broadcast of the film in the UK.
Based on the lives of Briggs’ parents - lady’s maid Ethel and milkman Ernest - the award-winning book follows their four decades of marriage from the late 1920s to the early 70s, as they live through the Depression, the Second World War and the dawn of television.
In a statement about the film, Briggs said: “My mother’s reaction would no doubt have been: ‘Oh, Ernest! We’re going to be on the pictures! We might even be at the Odeon in Wimbledon!’”
Mainwood said the film was considered by many “to be Raymond Brigg’s masterpiece”.
“Time will tell if the end result does the book justice, but so far Raymond has loved everything he has seen,” added the director.
Broadbent said: “It’s such a beautiful book by a wonderful artist. It’s truly inspiring; a great, honest story of a whole generation. It’s lovely and irresistible.”
Blethyn added: “I adore working with Jim Broadbent. We’ve worked together before and it’s great to come back together to play these wonderful characters.
“They lived through two wars and it’s so, so reminiscent of my own parents’ life in so many ways. Ethel even looks like my mum.”
Treadaway said: “It’s an honour to be asked to play Raymond Briggs. I loved ‘The Snowman’ and also ‘Fungus the Bogeyman’ growing up.
“Raymond has written this love letter to his parents and the whole time of their lives and it just seemed like a beautiful story. I can’t wait to watch it all put together.”
The hand-drawn animated feature film is produced for Ethel & Ernest Productions by Lupus Films’ Camilla Deakin and Ruth Fielding (The Snowman and the Snowdog, The Hive).
Raymond Briggs is an executive producer on the film, Stephan Roelants will produce for Melusine Productions and Jon Rennie is executive producer for Cloth Cat Animation.
International sales are being handled by The Little Film Company with Robbie Little also acting as executive producer.