The TV adaptation of Charlie Mackesy’s bestselling illustrated book The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse was the most watched BBC programme on Christmas Eve, the corporation said.
An average of four million people tuned in to watch the author and illustrator’s distinctive images reimagined with hand-drawn traditional animations for the BBC One short film about kindness, friendship, courage and hope.
Mackesy told the PA news agency: “It’s difficult to find words to say how I feel about this news.
“I’m very moved and grateful that so many watched it. I really hope they enjoyed it. Thank you so much everyone — I could never have dreamt of this.”
The film enlisted Hollywood star Idris Elba as the voice of the fox, and Tom Hollander, whose credits include The Night Manager and Bohemian Rhapsody, as the mole.
Veteran Irish actor Gabriel Byrne featured as the horse and newcomer Jude Coward Nicoll was the boy.
The short film was produced by Star Wars director JJ Abrams and Hannah Minghella of Bad Robot Productions, with an original score by composer Isobel Waller-Bridge, sister of Fleabag star Phoebe.
The Boy, The Mole, The Fox And The Horse was published in 2019 and explores the friendship between the four titular characters as they journey together in search of a home.
It was that year's Waterstones book of the year and was shortlisted for the British Book Awards’ non-fiction lifestyle book of the year.
Mackesy, 59, previously worked with Nelson Mandela on a lithograph project, The Unity Series, and also helps support a honey social enterprise in Zambia.
His latest exhibition based on the book features about 60 original artworks in ink and paint for sale alongside floor-to-ceiling murals at Sotheby’s cafe.